On the general subject of university change

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

On the general subject of university change

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Greg Scheckler wrote:
Fred, do you actually have the data to support these claims???

I can't speak for Fred, but I'll tell you what I think about it.

My suspicion is that you're just making up some false demons. If you have the data, why not post it here or with ARC? To demonstrate that most universities actively sabotage classical realist ideas, or most enforce other art ideals, or most don't have adequate curricula, etc., you'll need to establish national and international data. A lot of people certainly are angry about various kinds of art, or even their own lack of training when they were students, but the anger is not proof.

Well, I don't know how I could prove to you that when I was in school I was begging to learn good skills in drawing, painting, and sculpting and was told that such concerns were foolish and were proof that I "didn't get it" and that there was something seriously wrong with me if I didn't love John Cage, Picasso, and Pollock, but I assure you that it did happen. They kept hidden from me any information about Brahms, Mahler, Parry, Rachmaninoff, Bouguereau, Leighton, and Gérôme too, and I didn't discover them except in bits and pieces in my early experiences if at all on my own, and I can't exactly prove that to you either, but that happened too.

Don't you think you would convince more people by showing verifiable data than otherwise? (I know, the data won't work as marketing -- it can be dry and dull -- but it's what you need to get beyond the sales pitch).

Where in the world would one come up with such a comprehensive batch of data other than through a lengthy research project based on information provided by the schools themselves? I don't claim that my own information is some kind of massive telephone book of raw data, but let me put it this way. I have never seen a major university arts curriculum that was remotely adequate, and I get emails constantly from students complaining about the inadequacy of their curriculum and teachers (much like the ones we have seen posted here). I see an endless stream of exhibitions, prizes, articles, and academic papers coming out of universities championing the most idiotic (supposedly) artistic concepts and works, and of the fifty or so recent MFA graduates I have spoken with on artistic topics not one of them has what I would call an adequate grasp of the basics unless they learned it somewhere other than the university. Now, I can't tell you the names of all of the people I have talked to about this or exactly which university curricula I have seen over the years, or the exact number of emails I have received on this topic, etc. but this isn't some academic study with a million dollar budget attempting to verify the obvious, it's my observation of the facts on the ground as I have experienced them. I gather that you think there's something suspect about such observations?

But let's say that we stopped putting on salons, stopped running scholarship contests, stopped growing the ARC Museum, and so on and just spent a year collecting the raw data on all of these issues and issued a report. Do you really think that anyone in academia would care? Or that they would do anything about it? I don't.

I bet most professors would listen to the data, and more importantly, the administrators certainly do, especially the economic data (such as what you've hinted at regarding sales of realist works in the last century, enrollment trends, etc).

Really? You have a far higher opinion of them than I do. I spent quite a number of years trying to reform even a little of the corruption and irrationality out of just one small university and my efforts came to nothing. Yes, I gathered the data. Yes, I made the results perfectly clear. Yes, I was quite diplomatic (I had to be, my grades depended on it), but it accomplished nothing. They are never going to find putting themselves out of a job or admitting mistakes no matter what data you may provide. They'll always find some sophistic self-justification and use their behind the scenes political scheming to stop any change for the better unless it just happens to further entrench them in power.

You seem like a decent fellow with worthwhile things to say and I'm happy to have you here on the list of course, but I am amazed that you can have such a positive evaluation of academia as a whole. Don't you find the dearth of competence and intellect in the universities stifling?

--Brian