A normal person wishing to understand what has become of academia in recent years, has several starting points, including of course DeSouza's "Illiberal Education", Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind", and a far more intense and all-encompassing book in the Quirck/Bridwell book "Abandoned: The Betrayal of the American Middle Class Since WW-II".
Martin Anderson's "Imposters in the Temple" is another item to add to that little list.
The basic job of colleges and universities should be teaching. There still are schools at which that holds true, but they are an exception at present. Anderson describes the trivial pursuits which have replaced teaching as the major objective of many if not most professors, in many if not most schools:
"For most professors, the surest route to scholarly fame (and some fortune) is to publish in the distinguished academic journals of their field. Not books, or treatises, for these are rare indeed, but short, densely packed articles of a dozen pages or so.Anderson, of course, is describing a sort of a ritualized and formalized version of what college frats sometimes refer to as a "circle jerk".
"The successful professor's resume will be littered with citations of short, scholarly articles, their value rising with the prestige of the journal. These studious articles are the coin of the realm in the academic world. They are the professor's ticker to promotion, higher salary, generous research grants, lower teaching loads, and even more opulent office space.
"...These are supposed to be scholarly pieces, at the cutting edge of new knowledge.
"But now I must confess something. Many years ago when I read these articles regularly as part of my academic training and during my early years as a professor, I was bothered by the fact that I often failed to find the point of these articles, even after wading through the web of jargon, mathematical equations, and turgid English. Perhaps when I get older and wiser I will appreciate them more, I thought. Well, I am now fifty-five years old, and the significance of most academic writing continues to elude me."
"In recent years, I have conducted an informal survey. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I ask scholars about their academic journal reading habits. For example, I recently asked a colleague, a man with a solid reputation as a scholar, what he considered to be the most important academic journal in his field of study. An economist, he immediately replied "The American Economic Review".
"Let me ask you a question", I said. "Take, say, all of the issues of the last five years. What is your favorite article?"
"...Sure enough, he answered like all the rest. There was a silence of a few seconds, and then he cleared his throat a bit and, looking somewhat guilty and embarassed, said "Well, I haven't been reading it much lately." When pressed, he admitted that he could not name a single article which he had read during the last five years which he found memorable. In fact, he probably had not read any articles, but was loath to admit it.
"...There are exceptions of course, a handful of men and women in every field who do read these articles and try to comprehend any glimmers of meaning or significance they might contain. But, as a general rule, nobody reads the articles in academic journals anymore.
"...There is a mystery here. For while these academic publications pile up, largely unread, on the shelves of university libraries, their importance to a professor's career continues unabated. Scarcely anyone questions these proofs of erudition on a resume.
"...One reason why these research articles are automatically accepted as significant and important is that they have survived the criticism of "peer review" before being published.
"...Some of the manuscript reviews are done 'blind', with the author's name stripped off, while others are not and the reviwer knows exactly whom he or she is evaluating. Given what is at stake in peer reviewing... it would not be unreasonable to worry a little about corruption sneaking in.
"But these questions are not explored. The fact that some fields of study are small enough that the intellectuals involved in them are all known to eachother, or that friends review friends, or that reviewers repay those who reviewed their own writings favorably in the past -- all these potential problems are ignored...