The Power Line Show, Ep 188: “This Cannot Go On”—The Breakdown of Higher Education, with John Ellis

This may well be one of my favorite episodes out of all 188 that we’ve done to date—certainly one of the most interesting.

John Ellis

My guest this week is John M. Ellis, distinguished professor emeritus of German literature at UC Santa Cruz. Prof. Ellis is out with a terrific new book, The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, The Damage It Does, & What Can Be Done About It. This slim book makes for depressing reading indeed, covering the landscape of our ideologically corrupt colleges and universities. What needs to happen to change things? Is the financial crisis of higher education brought on suddenly by the coronavirus a reason for hope that college leaders might cut some of the nonsense out of necessity? Are more robust campus policies to protect free expression sufficient to the scale and nature of the problem? (Likely not.)

But along the way we take a detour into some of Prof. Ellis’s earlier work, especially his important 1989 book Against Deconstruction, which delivered a significant body blow to that malignant intellectual fad. In fact I think it is no exaggeration to say that Prof. Ellis’s book, along with a handful parallel efforts, went far in derailing that noxious fad. Alas, it has been succeeded by even more perverse postmodernist hermeneutics (Just saying that almost gives you an intellectual hernia), forming much of the basis of the insidious identity politics of the present moment. Prof. Ellis offers some great war stories about fighting against the deconstructionists back in the day. And I offer a few of my own thoughts in my show summary at the end.

You know what to do now: listen here, or download the episode from our hosts at Ricochet, or from your favorite podcast platform.