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Japanese universities shedding liberal arts departments

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Says Smithsonian mag:

Most higher education institutions offer a wide range of topics, from engineering and science to literature, history and sociology have long been a backbone of . But, as Alex Dean reports for The Guardian, that is changing in Japan as over 50 universities reduce or eliminate their humanities and social sciences departments entirely.

The education minister wants to convert them “to serve areas that better meet society’s needs,” such as training for jobs.

It’s a move that’s sending “shivers down academic spines” worldwide.

Historian Erin Blakemore notes that the move has “horrified some academics,” including some in the sciences. More.

It would be interesting to know if all the recent scandals in social sciences have played a role in minimizing their apparent value. A critical problem is that the overwhelming progressive bias of the field makes it easy to perpetrate frauds and hoaxes by playing to unquestioned core beliefs .

As noted earlier, the clickbait articles from social psych, seized on by pop science writers, too often turn out to be fraudulent (um, yeah, right?). Many exhibit one or more features of this flyover country is racist theme.

A significant number of retracted studies allegedly demonstrate these types of beliefs as facts, conveniently packaged to soothe the public as “counterintuitive.”

What rubbish. The “flyover country is racist” (etc.) theme is not counterintuitive to the people who go into social psychology, as claimed after a string of scandals. It is one of their core beliefs.

Yet, “Whether this bias in what people find interesting is reasonable is a topic for another day,” we are told. Actually, it is probably the only fact of longterm public importance.

As for accommodation of the field’s general philosophy, sorry, the ship has sailed. The controversies around peer reviewed fraud testify to the heart of the problem.

See, for example, “New social sciences scandal: Oft-cited paper is complete rubbish —again?”

There was no way of distinguishing this Sokal hoax from the real thing, apparently.

Sokal hoax? Deliberately getting rubbish published in peer-reviewed humanities journals, in order to demonstrate the vacuity of the field. The phrase commemorates physicist Alan Sokal, a successful perpetrator, but by no means the only one.

While many seek to correct the problems, we are cautioned at Scientific American not to think that adding conservative voices would help; they want to subtract out bias instead. That’s laughable, of course. If they won’t ensure a variety of voices it is simply impossible to have balance, and the scandals will continue.

Maybe the Japanese don’t have time, money, or attention for what often seems like a giant Sokal hoax.

Note: Back to regular coverage soon. This seemed to generally significant to miss.

5 Replies to “Japanese universities shedding liberal arts departments

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    I find the decline of the liberal arts education to be quite depressing. Job training is important, but I don’t think we (in the USA) pay enough attention to developing the intellectual independence required of citizens in a free and democratic society.

  2. 2
    News says:

    I feel that way too, but they brought it on themselves. Wanting to eliminate monochromatic bias without introducing new voices amounts to saying they only pretend to want to solve the problem.

  3. 3

    Actually, humanities is also where a vestige of intelligent design theory has taken hold. Because in humanities it’s still allowed to say that people are free, that they choose. While for “hard” science it is preferred to posit 2 universes of the multiverse (and have lines of cause and effect for each universe), in stead of proposing 2 options in the future (and making one of the options the present in a decision).

    And I’ve always believed the Japanese economy has hit a ceiling in that their culture lacks the larger dynamics that comes with freedom of opinion. Now they are going the way of neuro-science, denying free will, rejecting the soul, their economy is going to be even worse.

    They don’t really understand something like having the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental tenet of government. They understand about competing, being the best.

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    What Japanese literature is worth studying in a university?
    Anyways Japan is about being successful and maybe there i9s too much of the other stuff.
    Anyways it should be up tio the people. Not some education Shogun.
    If they just want a tech/business university then thats what they think about human accomplishment in all matters of god, man, and nature.
    Robots are boring.

  5. 5
    Jacob says:

    I dislike this decision, and I dislike the political charge that is in social sciences in other countries, apparently. There is a bias in the field of social sciences, but so is there in every other aspect of science, as well as life.

    As a student of social psychology in Finland, I have not come across any of the things criticised in these articles; I have rather been taught NOT to do these things, and think critically and be critical of everything you come across, as well as to give evidence for everything you claim.

    Of course there is bias in the field, but knowledge about human behaviour is very important. Too important to defund the entire field.

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