Comments from NoodleFood


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Comment #1

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 4:14:37 mdt
Name: Janet Busch

I disagree with your assessment of that post. I always enjoyed noumenalself's blog before, even when I disagreed with what he wrote, but I won't be visiting again. The lack of basic benevolence towards a fellow Objectivist, based on just the barest information available to us at this time, really put me off.

You are right when you say that not all projects by Objectivists will be worthwhile, and the college may be a monumental flop. But we are far from having enough information to make any kind of judgment about it one way or another. Even if one disagrees with the whole idea, what is the point of slamming it in such a manner before it is even off the drawing board?



Comment #2

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 9:20:06 mdt
Name: Adam Buker
URL: http://www.adambuker.com

From what I read of NS's comments on Founder's College, I don't see it as being malicious. I have my doubts about the project myself. That doesn't mean that I don't want it to succeed. Presumably, NS would rather have the project succeed than be a failure. That does not mean that there are not legitmate criticisms to be had concerning this particular project.

I disagree with NS that the educational approach of Dr. Hull is incompatible with the approach of ARI. As ARI's 'funnel' program achieves further success, it's very concievable that there will be a greater number of students seeking to learn this philosophy in a way that will touch their professional lives. Small private colleges that integrate their curriculum with the principles of Objectivism will become one of several key components in fighting the war for the minds of men.



Comment #3

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 9:48:11 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Adam, even in the most optimistic scenario, I'd say we're at least five to ten years from substantial numbers of incoming college students interested enough in Objectivism to head to a school on that basis. Yet even then, the far better option for parents and students would be a reputable school with a program in Objectivism. That's what ARI is promoting, not Founders College. In fact though, the college is supposed to just be a good liberal arts college without anything particular to do with Objectivism. It has no track record, so why would parents choose Founders over wel-established liberal arts colleges like St. Johns or the like?

In general, I'm seriously skeptical of starting such a huge enterprise so quickly, rather than proving a stellar track record on a more modest scale. That kind of proof is not just necessary to draw students, but also good professors. Moreover, Gary Hull does not add credibility to the project. Sure, he's an Objectivist philosopher -- but that doesn't mean much. Yet as far as I've ever heard, all that he's done in academia is teach some popular classes on the moral foundations of capitalism. He's not run an honors program, nor even published any books. That suggests that he's unqualified to start a college.

Of course, I'd be delighted to be proven wrong. I bear no ill will toward Founders College. However, I don't think it's something Objectivists ought to support -- at least not without scads of further evidence that its plan is at least viable.



Comment #4

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 9:51:29 mdt
Name: anon

Consider that this is a dangerous enterprise for an investor. Millions of dollars at risk.

To say too much at the beginning would limit their options to adjust to market realities. And adjust they must; as has been pointed out how do you get professrs and students to try this new college out? Not by scaring them. BB&T grants were rejected by acadamia once the connection to Rand was made clear. This may be the reason for the hedging of the bets, and the distancing from ARI et al as expressed by Brook etc.

Better that an Objectivist is in charge, making sure Rand is at least treated as an equal (at first) and making sure the college survives to fight another day - when it can find its momentum and slowly evolve into an institution that is financially successful and philosophically wonderful.

Then investment will pour in and all us arm chair quarterbacks can cheer them on, forgetting how hard it was for Dr. Hull and others, in the beginning.

Should we not support him now, emotionally as well as financially, when he needs it the most, giving him the benefit of the doubt, since he has spent his life building his Objectivist credentials, and he and his backers are taking now a major risk?



Comment #5

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 10:01:13 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Oh, I did temporarily forget about the antitrust book that Gary Hull edited. (I thought some of the essays in it were good, but I was't much of a fan of its organization. It jumped into the middle of the topic at the start, without a good context-setting overview of antitrust law.) Still, that's not much as far as academic credentials are concerned.



Comment #6

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 10:10:56 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Anon: I'm supposed to support Gary Hull -- ignoring the serious concerns raised by NS, ignoring what I know about the standards of success in academia -- because he and his backers have taken a huge financial risk?!? As for his Objectivist credentials, what has he done that has been equal to the work of Leonard Peikoff, Tara Smith, Yaron Brook, Onkar Ghate, or Robert Mayhew? And why do you think that Yaron's clear statement of ARI's non-involvement in the project was secretly intended to help it? (That seems extremely far-fetched to me, given what was said and how it was said.)

Dagny Taggart didn't just trust and hope that Rearden Metal would work because Hank Rearden poured lots of money into it. She examined formulas, test results, and the like. Hank Rearden wouldn't have asked for support on any other basis. Objectivists ought to do the same with Founders College.



Comment #7

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 11:14:11 mdt
Name: Ed

At this point too little information is publicly available to evaluate the program, its chances of success, and whether it will help or hinder other efforts to promote Objectivism. I have no problem passing judgement on or disagreeing with other Objectivists -- when I know the facts. But why criticize now? What's to be gained by publishing criticism before the facts are in?

Diana has a good point about Dagny using evidence for her conclusions about Rearden Metal. Where are the specific facts in this case, though? I've been intrigued by the idea of Founder's College and have looked around the 'net for info, but found precious little.



Comment #8

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 11:33:56 mdt
Name: Kyle Haight
URL: http://www.leftist.org/haightspeech/

I agree with Ed. At this point I haven't seen enough concrete information to form a sound judgement on the merits of the project. Ergo I take a 'wait and see' attitude. I'd like to see Dr. Hull succeed for the same reasons I like to see anybody pursuing a positive value succeed. When more evidence is available, I'll assess it.

Wasn't Founder's College supposed to update their preliminary website sometime in September?



Comment #9

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 11:39:30 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Regarding the lack of information, let me post something that I just wrote in private e-mail:

I wouldn't be terribly concerned about the lack of information at present, except that the college is slated to start in the fall of 2007. High school seniors are already making decisions about college applications. Given that schedule, FC ought to have scads of information available to prospective students and their parents. Instead, they've posted a single web page consisting of vague, unsubstantiated claims. In other words, given the timetable, the almost total lack of information is already a kind of failure -- and a serious one, I think.



Comment #10

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 11:50:29 mdt
Name: JT

This is an interesting topic.

On the one hand, I like to see an Objectivist intellectual doing something innovative, rather than just writing books that hardly anyone else will read (of course, those books are still valuable as far as helping to educate aspiring Objectivist intellectuals and other interested Objectivists).

On the other hand, I think it's important for such people to be highly selective about the projects they undertake. Establishing a college is a *gargantuan* undertaking. It's not just a matter of raising the start-up capital and developing a curriculum--it's also a matter of attracting enough teachers, students, and administrators to make it a viable enterprise. We can all hope for the college to succeed, but if it fails miserably, Gary Hull will seem absurd for embarking on a quixotic venture and the media will likely mention his ARI affiliation. Given the facts already available, I think there's good reason to be skeptical about it.



Comment #11

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 11:55:55 mdt
Name: PhilosopherEagle

Isn't the fact that there are so few facts out there such that a "wait and see" attitude is conceivable (I do not say proper) itself a sign that something is wrong? What are you waiting to see, if not how good a college Founders turns out to be? But Gary Hull is asking students to apply for Founders without the luxury of having "waited and seen." THAT is non-objective. He is asking prospective college students to make an experiment of their lives based on no real evidence of the college's value. Prospective applicants to other colleges can stay there overnight, attend classes, talk to current students, etc. Dr. Hull doesn't have much time to get the evidence out there to his first incoming class.



Comment #12

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 13:05:57 mdt
Name: DW

Ed and Diana: I entirely disagree that the Rearden/Dagny reference is at all appropriate here. Dagny would not have purchased a full-page ad in the Times in order to publicly declare to the world, not only that she doubted the viability of Rearden's grand venture before it even got off the ground, but also denigrating him for having such "delusional" ideas of "grandeur". Could you honestly imagine such a thing?! If Dagny had truly believed that he was going to fail, she would have let the man fail gracefully and in private, then she would have gone on with her life. (And Rearden would never have been in the book.)

Additionally, implying that you and I are in Dagny's position is baffling. I just can't appreciate that perspective. Hull will start his college without our aid. If it succeeds, then great! If it fails, then the money will go away and that will be the end of it.

Dire consequences? For whom? I just don't see it.

Duane



Comment #13

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 13:22:06 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Duane, so in face of public praise and enthusiasm for the project by Objectivists on various fora, are academics with serious doubts about and criticisms of it obliged to remain silent? In particular, are they obliged to remain silent when its failure (and the resulting PR boondoggle) might actively harm the spread of Objectivism in academia -- and thus their own careers? I'd hope not.



Comment #14

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 13:27:25 mdt
Name: A.West

Do I hope Founders' college turns out to be successful, educating students and creating satisfied customers? Yes.
Would I sign up a kid to attend next fall? No, not based on currently available information.

Almost all startup companies are risky propositions. For Gary Hull's sake, I hope he has a solid business plan which includes marketing and employee recruiting.

If it fails, as many startups do, I don't see how that could hurt Objectivism as a movement.



Comment #15

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 13:42:21 mdt
Name: PhilosopherEagle

If there are problems with the Founders plan, why keep silent about them? I WANT Founders to do well, and nobody's going to help it do well by ignoring its problems. Those problems need to be addressed (if possible), not ignored.



Comment #16

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 13:51:22 mdt
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

I wrote this at CAC's blog:

At root, the controversy surrounding Founders is not a question of ankle-biting Objectivists; it is a question of defining your selling proposition to people who should be allies, if not outright participants. I wish those involved in the Founders College launch every success (and I'm practically at the edge of my seat wanting to see just exactly what they will offer) but like every new startup, they have a challenging road ahead of them. I'm pulling for them, but I also want to see their cards. . .



Comment #17

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 14:28:47 mdt
Name: Ergo
URL: http://ergosum.wordpress.com

I think it's terribly premature and imprudent to criticize an enterprise of which we have so little information to begin with.
This imprudence is specially the case for those of us who are in no direct way involved or affected by the success or failure of this project, i.e., we are not applicants to the college, or investors, or some such.
If we were one of those, I certainly believe that more information should be demanded and evaluated.

But for the rest of us spectators, holding a hostile and negatively skeptical or pessimistic position without even having enough substantial information to make a sound prediction or judgment is nothing short of imprudence.

In fact, I would say, we spectators (especially, Objectivist spectators) have more reason to be *optimistic* of what little information we DO have! This is because we have no reason whatsoever to believe that Gary Hull is a dishonest man who would deliberately (or even inadvertently through a lapse of good judgement) mislead the public by making false and uncalculated statements regarding his vision and goal for the college.
Since we have no reason to suspect his moral character, we must offer our trust in his words until and unless we get a reasonable amount of actual evidence to begin making negative assessments of the project.

I'm saddened that we who are not directly involved in this project in any way besides just being on-lookers have thus far only offered pessimism and skepticism (bordering on derision in Noumenal Self's post) toward a man seeking to actualize his values.



Comment #18

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 14:50:08 mdt
Name: DW

Diana: I understand this concern, but I don't agree with it.

It seems entirely appropriate to ask Gary Hull to leave Ayn Rand's name and ARI completely out of the picture. That I can understand. If he were to make strong linkages to values I hold dearly -- including ARI -- and then harm those values in some way, I would be very unhappy myself. But I don't see that happening. The chain of reasoning that would lead to such a dire consequence just isn't there.

I think it's much more likely that Hull's college will start with a small enrollment, make a lot of adjustments during the first year or two, build up enrollment for a few years, and then decide at that point whether the business plan is turning out for the long-term. If it's not, then the school will probably just float away into memory. But if it is, then they'll probably just keep plugging away on a reasonably small scale for quite a long time. Who knows? Maybe they'll even defy some people's expectations and become the next big thing. Isn't that possible, no matter how remote it may seem?

Why not wait and see? Why not give Hull a chance to prove himself? Where is the dire consequence? Without proof of some really bad outcome looming inevitably over our heads, then scuttling this man's private venture just seems beyond the pale to me. I can't fathom it.

Duane



Comment #19

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 14:53:26 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Ergo: Nobody has accused Gary Hull of any kind of dishonesty -- nor even hinted at that. People can and do make honest errors all the time, including about massively expensive ventures. Such errors can cause such ventures to fail spectacularly. Honesty is a necessary condition for success, but not a sufficient condition for it.

The question is whether the basic proposal for Founders College is sound or not. The question is whether Objectivists should be supporting this project at present or not. Although information is now sketchy, NS pointed to some serious concerns with the plan as announced. Moreover, as I've already indicated, the lack of concrete details is itself worrisome given the announced timetable of opening for students next fall.



Comment #20

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 14:58:09 mdt
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

I didn't see derision in Noumenalself's post; I saw someone who ran through a list of strategic problems and challenges. Even if the tone was harsh and even if it smarted a little to read it, I’d be grateful if someone offered me such a list for my new launch.

Why? Because Noumenalself's questions are all points Founders College is going to have to successfully answer one way or another. It’s a new launch--they have to share their vision in a way that makes sense, primarily when their initial class of students will likely be recruited by word of mouth. Right now, almost everything about Founders is being defined and debated by people not affiliated (or outright trying to distance themselves) from the program. It shows there is great excitement about this project, but also that they need to get their word out--and soon.





Comment #21

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 15:38:22 mdt
Name: A.West

<http://www.higheredjobs.com/executive/details.cfm?JobCode=175196395>
Looks like Founders were recently looking for their chief marketing officer.

"In our mission to ignite a revolution of excellence in liberal arts education, Founders College seeks extraordinary candidates for the position of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The CMO is an executive-level ambassador for the college, responsible for leading the successful implementation of our marketing strategy, including: production and distribution of student recruitment communications (including internet-based communication), response to inquiries about the college, coordination of college fairs, supervision of regional recruiters, development and placement of print and website advertising and conversion of applicants to matriculation.

The successful CMO candidate will be a smart, rational professional with a passion for higher education and some related experience. We are looking for an excellent communicator, who is well organized, conscientious, has an entrepreneurial mindset and who interacts well with others. Career ambition and a demonstrated track record in marketing and sales are highly desirable. Willingness to travel is required.

Compensation includes a six-figure salary, equity in a growing for-profit company, and a performance-based bonus."



Comment #22

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 15:51:30 mdt
Name: Glenn

I agree with N. Provenzo's posts here and at his site.

Most of the anger about NS post, seems less the questions about Founders than the things he made up. "Yaron Brook hasn't come out in support of Founders, before Founders exists, that must mean he's against it. Or his completely wrong history of the Leport and Vandamme schools.

Has Gary Hull ever said "Objectivists should be supporting this project?" Where are the links to this statement?

Isn't the lack of info because of the accreditation process?

Are colleges allowed to "advertise" before it is legal to do so?

Are Objectivist upset Gary Hull is Proud about his project? Didn't Dagney say the run of the John Galt line will be her proof?



Comment #23

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 15:56:44 mdt
Name: Glenn

They must have just got accreditation. Now we'll see what his plan is.



Comment #24

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 16:08:17 mdt
Name: Ergo
URL: http://ergosum.wordpress.com

Some time ago, I received an email in response to my queries regarding Founder's College. I did not receive a specific response... but only a standard PR email, I suppose. Here's an excerpt:

"In accordance with Virginia Code Annotated Section 23-276.4, until the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia issues a Certificate to Operate, Founders College may not solicit or accept the enrollment of students."

The "may not solicit" part might explain why the people at Founders has not put up more advertising or course materials or other details. It could possibly jeopardize the project by being construed as "solicitation." I don't know.

Anyway, as I said... as an on-looker and with no personal investments in the project, the little information we have gives me more reason to be optimistic and hopeful... just like I am also optimistic and hopeful about the Atlas Shrugged movie... in both cases, I have very little information to work with but no legitimate reason to be pessimistic or negative.



Comment #25

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 16:13:21 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Well, as for the _Atlas Shrugged_ movie, I have plenty of reason to be pessimistic, not only because of David Kelley's substantial involvement, but also based upon what I've heard about the script. (I've posted fairly extensively on this topic on Objectivism Online and The Forum, for anyone who cares for further details. I'm not going to repeat myself here.)



Comment #26

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 17:16:57 mdt
Name: D Eastbrook

Diana,

Could you point me to your discussions of what you heard regarding the potential script of Atlas Shrugged. I read your posts at Solo and the one at OO.net but I can't recall specifics about the script.



Comment #27

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 17:21:28 mdt
Name: D Eastbrook

"The lack of basic benevolence towards a fellow Objectivist, based on just the barest information available to us at this time, really put me off."

This is an unwarranted conclusion. As was that of Stephen Speicher. To ask legitimate questions about and point out the possible flaws of a proposed venture does not display a lack of benevolence.

Objectivists need a thicker skin than that.



Comment #28

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 18:13:11 mdt
Name: DW

Benevolence is not a measure of how deeply a verbal barb may penetrate another man's skin. It's a measure of the basic value-orientation of the speaker, including the content, context, and tone of his words



Comment #29

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 18:18:49 mdt
Name: Janet Busch

D. Easterbrook: "'The lack of basic benevolence towards a fellow Objectivist, based on just the barest information available to us at this time, really put me off.'

This is an unwarranted conclusion. As was that of Stephen Speicher. To ask legitimate questions about and point out the possible flaws of a proposed venture does not display a lack of benevolence."

I won't go into it here, but I didn't find many of the questions to be legitimate. I thought some of them were downright impertinent. I will speak only for myself here, but I don't have a penny invested in this project; what they do or don't do in none of my business -- literally. Whatever happens to *them*, happens to them, not me. Or are you saying that if the venture fails, that it might somehow damage you personally, and therefore, ought not to be tried?




Comment #30

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 18:32:32 mdt
Name: D Eastbrook

"Whatever happens to *them*, happens to them, not me. Or are you saying that if the venture fails, that it might somehow damage you personally, and therefore, ought not to be tried?"

Its irrelevant. I don't need to have money invested into the project to voice an opinion of it and neither does NoumenalSelf. This college is a fair subject of debate for all Objectivists for what it represents. NoumenalSelf's criticisms were not impertinent. They were intelligent, perceptive comments/questions from someone involved in academia. I don't know why they are being viewed as mean spirited. Hell, If I were Gary Hull I would send NS a thankyou card. NS gave excellent adivice for free.

As for me, I hope the college goes on to become the greatest educational establishment in the history of man. But, I don't think it impertinent or lacking in benevolence to say that so far, I have more than a few reasons to expect disaster.



Comment #31

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 18:33:13 mdt
Name: Janet Busch

To Nick P. regarding someone to ask questions about his own startup: It is, of course, important to have someone who is expert in the relevant area to ask the pertinent questions. Does that define Noumenal Self?

(By the way, I do apologize for not getting the name of the blog right. That wasn't done out of disrespect.)

Articles, such as the one I read this morning in Commentary, on the state of education at even our "best" universities, I'm more inclined to boosterism for Founders than before.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12202034_1



Comment #32

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 18:35:31 mdt
Name: Janet Busch

Please forgive the total loss of control over that last "sentence". :~/



Comment #33

Wednesday, September 6, 2006 at 22:00:29 mdt
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

>It is, of course, important to have someone who is expert in the relevant area to ask the pertinent questions. Does that define Noumenal Self?

Noumenalself's post speaks for itself. As far as his credentials to comment on general education issues, Objectivism and intellectual activism, I think he is qualified enough to be taken seriously (which I do), but as an anonymous commentator (that is, to some) I understand that his credibility might be tough for some to swallow.

At the same time, I respect Gary Hull and Tamara Fuller. Let’s be square here: the facts behind this issue be clearer when the details of Founders’ actual program is unveiled.



Comment #34

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 1:27:47 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"what should we think when we hear that some Objectivist is starting up a private, for-profit liberal arts college?"

That we wish the individual's productive endeavors to succeed?

"The fact that he's an Objectivist by itself should offer us very little solace."

It should offer us more "solace" than if he adhered to some false philosophy. We are awash in colleges with such individuals running them. Is it a problem to try to add Objectivists to those running colleges? Or add to the number of better colleges in general?

"We should evaluate the proposal like we'd evaluate any other school or business proposal..."

Who exactly has been evaluating it otherwise? In fact, in what context has anyone been 'evaluating' it beyond wishing him success in establishing a private, for-profit liberal arts college? And, given that everyone seems to admit there is very little information yet provided on the school, on what basis are we supposed to be evaluating it anyway? Are we supposed to engage in base speculation? Given the example of NS's very long post, that seems to be the suggestion.

"...by looking for evidence of its merits."

Don't we need to have information that most individuals admit we do not have yet in order to do that? And until such evidence is forthcoming, on what basis does one try to judge its merits - one way or the other?

"So far, there is no credible evidence that Founders College has the potential to ignite any kind of revolution."

Neither has there been "credible evidence" that it cannot do that. As such, one has to withhold one's judgment until such evidence actually presents itself. That seems to be what most are doing - while of course hoping for the best since some know Gary Hull personally, others by reputation, others because the idea itself seems to them a good one, and some simply because they would like to see Objectivists succeed in the works they pursue. But so far as I am aware, no one seems to be suggesting that, because an Objectivist wants to do this, it will thus be a resounding and natural success.

"Why have so many Objectivists been so uncritical about this?"

This seems to be the driving premise of the whole argument. But I have seen no evidence that "so many Objectivists" have been "uncritical" about this project. The ultimate premise of the post appears to be a straw man.

Who exactly are all these "many Objectivists" who have been uncritical? In what way have they been "uncritical"? And, on the basis of what actual evidence are they supposed to be critical - to make informed judgments - one way or the other? Furthermore, why do they have to make any critical judgments at this particular point in time anyway? Why can they not simply hope for the best - say something to that effect - but wait for actual evidence before coming down on one side or the other? To what end should they be critical about this *now*, absent evidence? What value would they be pursuing in making such a judgment *now*?

I have to say - especially in the second to the last paragraph - this post comes off in tone and approach as much more of an innuendo-based hatchet job rather than a piece of fact-based inquiry. Since, from the beginning, it has been admitted there is little information to base one's jodgment on one way or the other, the post seems more a work of criticism for the sake of criticism.

Is this supposed to just a warning not to get your hopes up? Because it comes off as much more and much worse than that.



Comment #35

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 2:07:30 mdt
Name: Ergo
URL: http://ergosum.wordpress.com

Brian Smith, thanks for taking the time out to specifically point out manner in which Noumenal Self's post appeared derisive and impertinent despite any legitimate and credible reason to warrant such criticism.



Comment #36

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 9:30:49 mdt
Name: Mark Wickens
URL: http://randex.org

I also thank Brian Smith for saying much the same as I would like to have said. The little information I have about Founders so far leads me only to wish the project success. Yes, I can imagine many scenarios where the college will be an abject failure, but one can do that about any ambitious project. I think Ayn Rand said something about her operating procedure being to proceed based on the best possible outcome, not the worst. Seeing nothing inherently bad about the goal of Founders, and indeed much to praise in it, and with so little other information, a benevolent attitude seems warranted to me at this point. What does not seem warranted -- certainly not for someone who wishes for better education in America -- is extended public musing about how the project might fail, and chastisement of those who refuse to engage in the same pessimistic exercises.



Comment #37

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 13:31:10 mdt
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

>"The fact that he's an Objectivist by itself should offer us very little solace."
>
>It should offer us more "solace" than if he adhered to some false philosophy.

That was not the point. The point was that holding a rational philosophy is a not a substitute for the concrete skills necessary to complete one’s task.

>"Why have so many Objectivists been so uncritical about this?"
>
>This seems to be the driving premise of the whole argument. But I have seen no evidence that "so many Objectivists" have been "uncritical" about this project.

But when I read Noumenalself’s post, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Maybe it’s unfair to look at it this way, but among some Objectivists I have observed a cheerleading tendency that doesn’t dive deep into thinking though things like the potential pitfalls of a project like Founders. Isn’t cheerleading in absence of facts just as bad as ankle-biting? If you are an Objectivist scholar looking for a place to plant your flag, you’re going to think a lot about an idea like Founders, and not everything you come up with is going to be flattering. Hell, when I heard of the Founder’s proposal, the first thing I thought was man, that’s going to be _real_ tough to pull off. That’s not malevolence, that’s a fact.

Look, perhaps we can all chip in and send Noumenalself to charm school, but the strategic problems he outlines are all points that Founders’ leadership will have to answer one way or another. Can they do it? I hope so, but again, they have to come up with the plan.



Comment #38

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 14:23:41 mdt
Name: Mark Wickens
URL: http://randex.org

> Isn’t cheerleading in absence of facts just as bad as ankle-biting?

Depends on what you mean by cheerleading. What I have seen is a few people on web forums responding to initial reports of Founders with hopeful optimism. That's not only not "just as bad as ankle-biting," it's a positive virtue. But perhaps it would help if you or NS would give examples of the kind of unwarranted "cheerleading" that you find problematic.



Comment #39

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 16:06:17 mdt
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

It’s not so much what or when as who, and I’m not going to name any names because I don’t think they have an obligation to critically analyze all things that come down the pike. At the same time, I often find their unsubstantiated superlatives tiresome.

This will be my last word on this topic, because this is interesting to me, but only to a point. At root, I wish the Founders team every success, and as I'm not involved in the project, that's about all I can do.



Comment #40

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 17:55:29 mdt
Name: DW

Nicholas: "Maybe it’s unfair to look at it this way, but among some Objectivists I have observed a cheerleading tendency that doesn’t dive deep into thinking though things like the potential pitfalls of a project like Founders."

You're right. This is unfair. Besides the fact that the general mood among many core Objectivists appears to be something like eager curiosity and hopeful interest -- a mood that I wouldn't exactly call cheerleading -- I don't like the idea that generosity, or even cheerleading, implies a failure to think. A man may see the dangers that lurk in the path of another man and even the missteps that the other man makes on his way, but he may address his concerns in a more sophisticated and benevolent way than merely nay-saying and "ankle-biting", especially in a public forum. This cheerleader versus ankle-biter setup is a false alternative.

Nicholas: "If you are an Objectivist scholar looking for a place to plant your flag, you’re going to think a lot about an idea like Founders, and not everything you come up with is going to be flattering."

Indeed. Think away. That's exactly what you should be doing, but I don't think anyone here is arguing against that point. As I see it, the broader issue is benevolence. More narrowly, it's tact. And even more narrowly, it's what you say, how you say it, and whom you say it to, not to mention whether you even bother to consider the damage that you may do to another man's legitimate, personal values.

Nicholas: “Look, perhaps we can all chip in and send Noumenalself to charm school.”

This comment made me laugh. But unfortunately, the issue that Noumenalself brought on himself is not a laughing matter. The stakes for some of the players involved are incredibly high.

There's a long, hard road ahead for the founders of Founders. What valuer here, acting on almost nothing but pessimistic guesses, wants to make it even more difficult for them by undercutting whatever good will and interest they have going forward? Who wants to be the one to shut as many doors as he can in Mr. Hull's face before the journey even begins? And if so, how do you justify it?

The players here are not enemies; they're sincere valuers who are putting their own time, money, and careers on the line. It's benevolence, not egalitarianism, that demands a different, more tactful approach, even when some among us disagree -- in fact, even when they disagree strongly. It certainly demands a less disrespectful and destructive approach than that stuff over at Noumenalself.



Comment #41

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 19:56:52 mdt
Name: PhilosopherEagle

Suppose a man, let us say he is a skilled driver, decides that he wants to become a daredevil. To start, he says that he will jump the Grand Canyon in his car. He plans to start selling tickets for the event in a few months. Now let us say some other person, also a skilled driver, speaks up and says, "But this is suicide! It is crazy!" Is this tactless? Is this a breach of proper benevolence? Is it going to do damage to this person's values, insofar as he values his future as a daredevil with a solid reputation? Or is it not rather the most considerate thing he could say, given his opinion of the endeavor?

Disagreement with NS is one thing, but I do not understand those who impugn his character for his choice to voice his concern when a fellow driver, as it were, announced his decision to jump the Grand Canyon.



Comment #42

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 20:48:40 mdt
Name: GS

The reasons to think that Founders will not be a good school are not pessimistic guesses. Providing a quality education requires more than good intentions: it requires ideas and skills that there is no evidence that the founders possess. Indeed, their web site provides strong evidence that they do not possess them. People who have serious and viable ideas about how to accomplish something ambitious do not trade in vague clams about how wonderful they are, without providing the content necessary to evaluate their self-assessments. Founders, on the other hand, claims that its curriculum and faculty are superlative and revolutionary without telling us anything substantive about them.

Because Founders has been associated with Objectivism in numerous news articles and web posts, it is an embarrassment to Objectivists who recognize the bizarre and subjective nature of the venture. This embarrassment is heightened by the enthusiasm found for Founders in several Objectivist web forums by the lack of any public criticism of the venture from Objectivists. The embarrassment I speak of is not just a feeling. It is a recognition of the fact that a negative impression of Objectivists is created in the mind of a reasonable reader by the material about Founders on the web.

Imagine an intelligent student who has recently read Atlas Shrugged, and wants to learn more about Objectivism. After hearing about Founders though his Google News Alert on Ayn Rand, he visits their web site and is (properly) put off by its content. He knows from the news reports the founder of the College has taught classes for ARI, and he finds that the denizens of Objectivist web sights are enthusiastic about the project. The student is unlikely to abandon his study of Objectivism, but he might be more reluctant to attend an Objectivist conference or to take classes from ARI. Consider in the same way the case of a businessman who is considering becoming an ARI contributor. Or, think about the most reasonable sort of non-Objectivist professor, the kind that might be interested in learning more about Ayn Rand or in sponsoring a Anthem or BB&T program at his institution. He will surely be disturbed by the Founders web page, and if he learns of Hull's relation to ARI and the BB&T-funded program at Duke, might be more reluctant to have dealings with Objectivist organizations, or to take Objectivist intellectuals seriously. Thus we can see how the subjective nature of Founders drives away from Objectivists the sort of people that we want to attract. Probably the damage isn't irreversible in any of these cases, but it is real, and it would be mitigated if it were more generally known that many Objectivists are not enthusiastic about Founders.

Whatever the merits of his individual points, and whatever defects there may be in his tone, Noumenalself has done us a service by showing that not all Objectivists support Founders College and by giving voice to some of the reasons why so many of us do not. Founders is not important enough to crusade against. It's not even the most embarrassing project that's related in some way with Objectivism. (_The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies_, for example is worse.) But it is a good thing that some popular Objectivist web sites now contain criticisms of the venture.



Comment #43

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 22:02:00 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

>"The point was that holding a rational philosophy is a not a substitute for the concrete skills necessary to complete one’s task."

No one suggested otherwise.

>"I knew exactly what he was talking about. Maybe it’s unfair to look at it this way, but among some Objectivists I have observed a cheerleading tendency that doesn’t dive deep into thinking though things like the potential pitfalls of a project like Founders. Isn’t cheerleading in absence of facts just as bad as ankle-biting?"

In my original post, I asked for examples of being "uncritical". None were forthcoming. Since the objection has been switched from Objectivists who are "uncritical" to Objectivists who are "cheerleading" (ideas which sound suspiciously similar), I would have to ask for examples of "cheerleading".

Also, none of this addresses my questions about judgment in absense of information.

"Hell, when I heard of the Founder’s proposal, the first thing I thought was man, that’s going to be _real_ tough to pull off."

It could indeed. And, again, I don't believe anyone has suggested it is going to be easy, let alone an unquestionable success. But given the fact that we have no idea what resources are being marshalled nor what planning has been devised in order to make the project a success or a failure, it is more than premature to be accusing outside viewers of the project of not thinking 'deeply' enough about the project. As I indicated, without further information, the behavior of most Objectivists I have seen has been quite appropriate: hope, well-wishing and reserved judgment.

>"Look, perhaps we can all chip in and send Noumenalself to charm school"

NS's social skills are not the issue - at least not with me. It is his attempt to evaluate someone's productive endeavors on the basis of scraps of information he has been able to scrounge up, along with suppositions with little or no basis in fact. As I said, the approach of his post is that of an innuendo-based attack rather than fact-based inquiry.

Most people seem simply to be saying that one properly needs to wait for the salient facts to be presented (which everyone seems to agree have not yet been presented) before one can justly cast serious doubts on an endeavor such as is being pursued. That was certainly the point of my post.

--

I am not going to sanction PE's ludicrous analogy with even an attempt at rebuttal. I will say, though, it seems to be indicitive of the thinking and approach behind NS's post.

--

"Providing a quality education requires more than good intentions: it requires ideas and skills that there is no evidence that the founders possess."

Yes, I believe it has been said NUMEROUS times now: we need more information about this project. We do not know - one way OR the other. As such, most of us are withholding our judgment until the required info is available.

Why is it that some here are so anxious to judge BEFORE the necessary facts are in?

"Indeed, their web site provides strong evidence that they do not possess them. People who have serious and viable ideas about how to accomplish something ambitious do not trade in vague clams about how wonderful they are, without providing the content necessary to evaluate their self-assessments."

Is this what you consider evidence? The fact that they have not yet provided you with the information you need to make a judgment about them? In other words, the lack of evidence to make a judgment is evidence for making a judgment?

"Because Founders has been associated with Objectivism in numerous news articles and web posts, it is an embarrassment to Objectivists who recognize the bizarre and subjective nature of the venture."

Well, as far as I can tell, this is not an argument that has been made up to now. Are you suggesting we need to somehow police the activities of Objectivists so that they do not 'embarass' the rest of us?

Is this an argument anyone else here agrees with?

"Thus we can see how the subjective nature of Founders drives away from Objectivists the sort of people that we want to attract."

Your lack of information about a topic is not evidence of subjectivism in either the project nor the poeple involved in it. Do you know why no plan has yet been presented? No. Do you know what the plan might be? No. What do you know? That they have stated some very generic goals they seek to achieve. Period. Is it wrong to indicate some of one's general goals? No. Are you suggesting that is all they are ever going to do - just provide goals and no information at all on how they are going to achieve them? If you are, I would REALLY like to know your basis for that supposition.

You appear to be making the accusation that this project is subjectivist in nature. By no rational stretch of the imagination is there evidence to make that accusation. Again, this is the type of unfounded smearing that I believe is at the root of NS's post. Not fact - but Argument from Ignorance - ie an 'argument' based on the absence of information on your part.

"Probably the damage isn't irreversible in any of these cases, but it is real, and it would be mitigated if it were more generally known that many Objectivists are not enthusiastic about Founders."

Now you are making the accusation that Founders has caused damage to the Objectivist cause. This is totally unfounded and more than intellectually insulting. Before learning even the basics about Founders, you have concluded that the project is subjectivist, embarassing, damaging, and something Objectivists should let it be known they are against (though not worthy of a crusade).

So not only have you come to your conclusion on the topic already, but you are going a step further and are damning them for their actions.

How is jumping to judgment before even the most rudimentary evidence has been presented - by the Founder's participants - even remotely just, let alone an example of benevolence - or even rationality?

What I am seeing here are worse and worse smears.



Comment #44

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 22:42:30 mdt
Name: DW

GS: "This embarrassment is heightened by the enthusiasm found for Founders in several Objectivist web forums by the lack of any public criticism of the venture from Objectivists."

Good god! This is profound.

The evidence for enthusiasm is a lack of public criticism. What's more, this is supposed to be an embarrassment. (!)

I have to think there is a deeper issue going on here, perhaps right down to what it means to be a valuer, and even deeper, right down to sense of life. No wonder the repeated points about the need for benevolence, regardless of how much one may disagree with the project, seem to be going nowhere.

My world is so different from this, that I don't think I even know how to begin to discuss it. I'll leave it for someone more knowledgeable than I.

Thanks, anyway, Diana for letting me have my say.

[Insert sound of fiction writer gathering up his pens and papers and going back to the quiet studio where he belongs...]



Comment #45

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 22:53:49 mdt
Name: GS

DW: The passage you quote from me was miswritten. I had meant to write "...the enthusiasm found for Founders in several Objectivist web forums *and* by the lack of any public criticism". I must have mistakenly erased the "and" in editing the sentence. Sorry for the confusion. For evidence of the enthusiasm look at www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/06/09/founders. As for the issues of benevolence and being a valuer: there is a difference between benevolence and Pollyannaism, and being a valuer includes protecting one's values.

I don't think this issue is worth belaboring, so I'm not going to post further on it. Two opposed views have now been stated, and I'm content to leave it at that.



Comment #46

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 23:03:44 mdt
Name: msb

In case someone misses it, the enthusiasm in the link GS provided is in the comments below the article, not the article itself.



Comment #47

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 9:56:44 mdt
Name: A.West

What I saw in the comments under the story was a few people who made positive comments, possibly as a reaction to the hostility the article or other posters showed towards anything related to Ayn Rand. Some of these people may well be better classified as "Ayn Rand fans" or "students of Objectivism" than "Objectivists". If you're worried that an overenthusiastic supporter might say something embarrassing, then there are a multitude of targets on that front.

One thing that bothered me about NoumenalSelf's campaign against Founders was his early foray on the Speichers' Forum. He presents himself as an anonymous insider in Objectivism, presumably with ARI connections, and used innuendo to suggest that mysterious important people dissaprove of the project for reasons that are too top secret to actually share with us "non-insiders." Which creates the impression that NoumenalSelf is trying to have his cake and eat it too - be an insider with access to "secret" information that is not supposed to be shared with the public, and then showing off that he can half-share it by suggesting a conclusion but not the evidence that backs it. I don't understand what sort of conditions create an environment where an Objectivist intellectual must hide his name, and withhold evidence for conclusions suggested.



Comment #48

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 11:01:17 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

A West, I looked up Noumenal Self's comments on the Forum about Founder's College. I don't think your characterization is accurate. NS was responding to some speculation about the possible objections to the project from ARI et al that he knew to be off-base (and too mild) based upon conversations he'd had. He merely indicated that those speculations were not likely accurate, indicated that other reasons were in play, but that he was not at liberty to disclose them. NS has good reasons for remaining anonymous to Googlers, namely his academic career. (Also, he's not totally anonymous. Lots of people know who he is in real life, including me.) He's also obviously concerned to respect the privacy of those with whom he's spoken about the matter, probably because they're not eager to have their remarks plastered all over the internet. So what's so mysterious or unseemly about that? (I do the same all the time.) Moreover, anyone who attended the academic panel at OCON knows just how emphatic Yaron was about ARI's non-involvement in the project.

So that people can judge for themselves, here's the link to the relevant thread: <http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=3654&hl=>

Since it's a long thread, NS's few comments can be found via searching for his posts via his user page: <http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showuser=471>

Also, as for what GS meant by subjective, he explained it in the comments on NS's blog:

"I agree with Daniel that it's inappropriate to judge this proposal primarily by what effect it will have on the culture. The issue is: Will this be a good college? There is no objective evidence that it will be as good even as the most humble community college. Disturbingly, the founders are preceding as though the opposite were the case. They are not starting small on rented property, pitching themselves as an experiment in education, and taking the time to hone their curriculum and establish objective credentials; nor are they staining every nerve to make clear to prospective students what their new ideas are and why they will work. Rather they are purchasing expensive properties, hiring gourmet chefs, and offering themselves up as the new Rolls Royce of education to a demographic that has no reason to give credence to their claims. Given this, the founders themselves cannot have good reason to think that a venture of this sort, carried out in this manner and on this scale, will succeed. Yet they persist despite the lack of evidence, and they expect prospective students to do likewise. The whole venture is subjective."

...and...

"Subjective is exactly the right word. They have given us no substantial information. That alone would be reason to patiently withhold judgment. But they *have* given us something: hype: that they will instantly go from zero to top-notch, full-fledged liberal arts college. But it's just that, hype, unsubstantiated and incredibly implausible. Projects this ambitious don't succeed by sprouting fully formed from Zeus's head, they succeed with years of hard work, experimentation, study, refinement. We have no evidence that any of this has occurred, and we have a lot of hype suggesting it hasn't.

"And speaking of subjective, what's with the strangely unattributed, first-person quote in the middle of their website? 'I can say with the utmost confidence that every graduate of Founders College will have the tools they need to seek out and achieve not only a successful career, but a passionate and purposeful life.' Not just assertions of the college's value, but assertions of (someone's) *confidence* in the college's value."

<http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/2006/08/founders_colleg_1.html>



Comment #49

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 12:21:37 mdt
Name: A.West

Diana, you provided more context than NoumenalSelf's words on the Forum did. In any case, NoumenalSelf's own example suggests that sometimes less than full disclosure about your identity, plan, and support for your arguments are appropriate, right? Similarly, people founding a startup school might make assertions without offering the full evidence to support them.

Looking at this from a business perspective and engaging in speculation and extrapolation from some of the statements from Founders, my guess is that they may be courting wealthy foreign students who are not particularly academically talented, who will then return to their countries and won't care about accreditation or reputation within the US college system so much. Maybe trust fund kids too, who aren't able to get into the more demanding schools but want a nice environment while they're qualifying for their inheritances (e.g. Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida). Then there may be some students who actively want to study with the professors they see coming to Founders. A fancy location and fancy food, with a focus on the basics of liberal arts education. Sounds like a new niche in the marketplace, maybe it will work, maybe it will be a farce. More than half of new businesses fail within their first five years, so betting on failure boosts your odds of being able to say "I told you so".

2007 does sound really early for school to start, but soon new information will become available regarding the school opening.
Maybe the big surprise will be that the school really has nothing to do with Objectivism, other than the backgrounds of a few of its members.



Comment #50

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 12:55:59 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

A West said: "In any case, NoumenalSelf's own example suggests that sometimes less than full disclosure about your identity, plan, and support for your arguments are appropriate, right? Similarly, people founding a startup school might make assertions without offering the full evidence to support them."

Yes, full public disclosure is sometimes not a good idea. That's hardly a disputed point. Yet in these cases, the contexts are so wholly different that I cannot imagine any profitable comparison might be made. (I'm seriously baffled by your attempt to do so.)

If Founders College wanted to fly under the radar until well-established, then it shouldn't be making grand, unrealistic claims about itself in public. If it wishes to be taken seriously by potential students (and parents) and other educators, then it ought to provide some evidence that it can and will deliver upon its promises. It certainly ought to do that within a reasonable timeframe, e.g. while its first class would be deciding where to apply. If it's unable to do that for whatever reason, then its timetable ought to be made more reasonable and its hype should be toned down.

As for your speculations of what kind of students Founders might initially attract, if Founders attracts a student body unconcerned with the education offered, that's all the more reason to be seriously critical of it and its claims about itself. The school would be a joke; serious students wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. Moreover, I doubt that Founders could even attract such students in its present state, since plenty of well-established American colleges already offer pricey educations for mediocre and lazy students.



Comment #51

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 13:13:47 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"The issue is: Will this be a good college? There is no objective evidence that it will be as good even as the most humble community college."

This is exactly my problem with the works presented against the college so far. There is NO objective evidence thus far presented to make a pronouncement like this. We don't know who, what, when, where or how about this planned college - essentially because they have not released that information yet. Yet we are supposed to conclude that the college is doomed to failure - due to this lack of knowledge? What kind of reasoning is this?

"the founders themselves cannot have good reason to think that a venture of this sort, carried out in this manner and on this scale, will succeed."

Apparently they do have some reasons to believe they can succeed with a venture of this sort - because they are pursuing the venture. Do you know these reasons? No. Is lack of knowledge of their reasoning evidence that they have no "good reason." No. Is lack of knowledge of their reasoning evidence that they must fail? No. Yet that is precisely the conclusion held:

"Yet they persist despite the lack of evidence, and they expect prospective students to do likewise. The whole venture is subjective."

Claiming one's own ignorance of someone else's reasoning as evidence that someone else is not reasoning or reasoning fallaciously is not the identification of subjectivism in someone else. It is the commission of such a fallacy oneself.

It is certainly not grounds - ie evidence - to condemn and campaign against someone. Yet that is the ugly spectacle we are seeing in, and as a result of, such comments.

"Subjective is exactly the right word."

Given the above, I have to disagree.


"they *have* given us something: hype"

Why such a negative characterization of the release of the most generic of general information/goals of the project? Since the project is still in its infancy, it is not only natural but understandable that most of the information one would need to make a sound judgment one way or the other about the proposed college has not yet been released. Does that mean they should not release or say ANYTHING about the project at all? On what rational basis does one make that claim? (And that is assuming they originally intended having to release even that information at this time).

-

The consensus from both sides of this discussion seems to be "we have no evidence". The point I and others are making is that the lack of evidence necessary to make a judgment is not evidence to make a judgment. As such, it is more than premature to make such strong and certain negative judgments about this project. It is unjust.



Comment #52

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 13:24:47 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Doh! In comment #48, I pasted two quotes, identifying both as from GS. In fact, only the first was from GS. GS did also say on the other NS thread: "(P.S. To head-off a possible confusion: An action or product can be subjective, without the actor being a subjectivist or a bad person.)"

<http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/2006/09/ns_touches_a_ne.html>



Comment #53

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 13:41:18 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

"What I saw in the comments under the story was a few people who made positive comments, possibly as a reaction to the hostility the article or other posters showed towards anything related to Ayn Rand. Some of these people may well be better classified as "Ayn Rand fans" or "students of Objectivism" than "Objectivists". If you're worried that an overenthusiastic supporter might say something embarrassing, then there are a multitude of targets on that front."

The last time I recall seeing enthusiastic supporters of Objectivism being put down as "cheerleaders" was from one of the various nihilistic malcontents on hpo back when I frequented that forum. Yet that is the term that Noumenal Self uses to characterize those who disagree with his position when he writes: "I expected there to be disagreement among cheerleaders for the project, but I didn't quite expect condemnation." Others in these comments have also used the term.

In the context of the present issue, I find the use of the term to rather condescending.

One of the more obnoxious aspects of our disgusting modern culture is the fact that, in order to be taken seriously in many circles, one must transform oneself into a nasty hard-boiled cynic. It is only on that premise that one can regard as suspicious or objectionable the sight of casual observers on the sidelines enthusiastically rooting for those they perceive to be "The Good Guys" - i.e. people with whom they share significant values.

The key word, of course is "casual observers" - which is exactly what the people in the above referenced article comments are, what I am and what the vast majority of people reading and participating in this thread are.

NS and others suggest that, rather than being mind-numbed, robotic "cheerleaders" such casual observers need to be "critical." Well - why? And towards what end?

Obviously hard questions - some of which NS has raised in his posting - do need to be asked at various points along the way with regard to Founders or any other venture. But, for the most part, the primary responsibility for asking those questions rests with prospective investors, employees and students. (And I think it is highly presumptuous to imply, as NS does, such obvious questions have somehow not already occurred to the principles who have a great deal at stake) Sure, Founders has not provided a great deal of information for such individuals to make the necessary critical judgments about the viability and value of the institution - for reasons which have already been mentioned in this thread. But, then again, to my knowledge, Founders is not going around asking large numbers of people to become investors, employees or students. If it were NS's posting would be on target. But Founders is not - and for that reason, I agree that NS's posting was inappropriate and more worthy of a 60 Minutes style, full steam ahead "go get 'em" hit piece than the blog of an intelligent and thoughtful Objectivist.

There are also people somewhere in between the status of casual observer and having a direct relationship with Founders - people such as Diana, NS and others who have a strong interest in the subject and choose to follow it closely. It is entirely reasonable for such people to wish to be critical and to seek out more information. There is nothing wrong with such people entertaining strong doubts and perhaps even engaging in a certain amount of speculation on the subject. I entertain doubts about things that even people I respect and admire greatly tell me and I even sometimes engage in some pretty wild speculation about such people - but I do so PRIVATELY. There is a huge difference between NS merely THINKING the things he wrote or discussing them PRIVATELY with close friends and actually PUBLISHING them.

It is a sign of maturity to know when to keep one's opinions, doubts and speculations to one's self and when it is ok to give public voice to them.

A good example of something which is perfectly appropriate to THINK but not PUBLISH is the following from NS's comments on Founders' proposed 60 hour teachers' training program:

"Indeed we know of no experienced professors, Objectivist or otherwise, who have signed on to this program, besides Hull himself. If there are experienced professors already on board, why have none voiced support for the college? If there are no experienced professors on board, is it realistic to think they will become "superlative teachers" just by taking a teacher training session? Who will teach it if there are no experienced professors already on board?"

I have no problem with NS entertaining such a train of thought - for him to do so is entirely reasonable. But the fact is HE DOES NOT KNOW whether or not any such professors have signed on or not. Let's assume for a moment that such an experienced professor HAS agreed to come on board. Do you really think that such a professor is going to go around blabbing about it while the college is not yet an actuality, has not become accredited and the professor has yet to draw a paycheck? Do you really think that such a professor or any other employee is going to jeopardize his relationship with his present employer in order to go around loudly talking about a future job which may or may not become an actuality?

Because NS simply DOES NOT KNOW whether such professors have signed on or not and because such professors, even if they have signed on, are NOT in a position to "voice support" as he demands, for him to PUBLISH such speculation and make it PUBLIC is irresponsible. Perhaps, as has been suggested, NS bases his views on "inside knowledge" which he chooses not to share with us. If so, then he needs to share it. If he is not at liberty to do so - well, he should learn how to keep a secret and not make arguments in public based on facts that he cannot make objective to his audience.

Getting back to the casual observers and the so-called "cheerleaders" - apparently they too should be "critical." But why? Founders is one of MANY projects that Objectivists are undertaking. Why should every Objectivist pay close attention to that project in particular?

I personally don't become critical about something unless I have REASON to become critical. Obviously if negative evidence about Founders becomes available, one should take it into consideration. But should causal observers go out of their way to search for such information or to think of reasons why the project might fail? If so, why?

Sure, the level of enthusiasm of casual observers towards any proposed project is frequently unwarranted and overly optimistic. Sure, casual observers are frequently ill-informed and hold misconceptions on various things. Sure, sometimes newbie Ayn Rand fans, in their gushing enthusiasm, say things which are, at times, a bit embarrassing to knowledgeable Objectivists. But such things are not the result of a moral or intellectual flaw on the part of such people but rather the natural consequence of the fact that they have a limited context of knowledge. For those who regard themselves as possesing a wider context of knowledge, to look down upon such people and condescendingly refer to them as "cheerleaders" - well, I find that to be arrogant, offensive and highly unwarranted. Personally, if I had to spend time around someone I would much rather spend it with a person with limited knowledge who jumps to conclusions assuming the best rather than a cynical naysayer who constantly seeks out out reasons why the good must fail.

By virtue of his wider context of knowledge and interest in the subject, the fact that Noumenal Self and others have certain doubts about Founders does NOT, in and of itself, make them cynical naysayers. But the suggestion that so-called "cheerleaders" should somehow have been equally doubtful - well, considering their limited context of knowledge and the limited amount of information that is currently available about Founders, to make such a demand basically WOULD require them to become cynical naysayers. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comments, the only time I have ever previously seen the term "cheerleader" derisively thrown at Objectivists was precisely on grounds that they don't actively seek out reasons to nit-pick and/or attack their values in public.



Comment #54

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 13:58:55 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

"He merely indicated that those speculations were not likely accurate, indicated that other reasons were in play, but that he was not at liberty to disclose them"

But if so, then is it appropriate to hint at that which he is not at liberty to disclose - especially in a PUBLIC forum? I ask this with regard to both the person who shared the information with him in the first place and with regard to the people he is expecting to give cognitive validity to his hints?

"Moreover, anyone who attended the academic panel at OCON knows just how emphatic Yaron was about ARI's non-involvement in the project."

But without any additional evidence, the above means very little.

If, for some reason, a group of prospective contributors or students was under the impression that ARI was responsible for and funded Noodle Food, I am sure Dr. Brook would be equally emphatic about ARI's non-involvement in the project. But would it be appropriate to use such comments by him as evidence that he or ARI is hostile to Noodle Food? Of course not.

My point is this - if the full basis for NS doubts and conclusions rests on information that he is not at liberty to discuss, maybe he should have kept his opinions to himself and his close friends for the time being rather than damaging his credibility by publishing what, without further evidence to back it up, reads very much like an overzealous 60 Minutes "go get 'em" hit piece.



Comment #55

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 14:52:30 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

As to the relevance of the lack of information, let me offer an analogy:

Imagine that newly-formed drug company announces with great fanfare its development of a highly effective but very costly cure for breast cancer. It claims that the drug will "ignite a revolution in the treatment of cancer" and that it will release the drug on the market in short order. Yet even as that release date draws closer, it fails to provide the kind of data about the nature of the drug that would allow doctors and cancer patients judge the company's claims about it.

At that point, to express serious doubts about the supposed cure would be entirely legitimate. The company's failure to substantiate its own claims in a timely fashion is not a reason to withhold judgment, but rather to doubt that the drug company can and will deliver upon its promise. For an oncologist to express such doubts in public, so as to warn people not to become too hopeful about the drug, let alone rely upon it, would also be entirely legitimate.

Moreover, skepticism about the drug would be justified regardless of the timetable if the scant information provided by the company was dubious, e.g. inconsistent with known facts about the human body or the production of drugs.

If Founders College merely portrayed itself as a new liberal arts college upholding high standards of excellence to open its doors in two to three years, I would adopt a wait-and-see attitude. That's not the case. They've made grand promises of a revolution in education by next year. That promise is unrealistic, in my judgment. It cannot be fulfilled for the simple reason that the requisite understanding of proper pedagogy is only in its nascent stages. (Also, much of what was once known hasn't been practice in academia in decades, so the teaching methods of even the better professors today are downright awful.) That's why any such college should start on a small, modest scale, so that such methods can be developed inductively over the course of a few years. The hype of the announcement only confirms these worries, in that instead of straightforward descriptions of the education to be offered by the school, we find unsubstantiated generalities and pre-packaged evaluations. Rational men, i.e. the potential customers and employees of the school, don't need to be told what to think, they need the facts upon which to draw their own conclusions.



Comment #56

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 16:47:33 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"That promise is unrealistic, in my judgment. It cannot be fulfilled for the simple reason that the requisite understanding of proper pedagogy is only in its nascent stages. (Also, much of what was once known hasn't been practice in academia in decades, so the teaching methods of even the better professors today are downright awful.)"

So it appears the conclusion being offered is that the *idea* of such a college, as described by the little info so far put out by the Founders College organizers, is - on its face - not possible (ie 'unrealistic'). Thus, until such a time as they provide evidence to the contrary, ie detailed plans etc - one's premise must be they do not have what they suggest, that one must not wait for further information, that one must not wish them well while waiting for the information required for 'rational men' to make decisions, and that one should speak out against the project? In other words, we must decide now and reject them? Again I ask WHY? Because to do otherwise is to 'cheerlead' and be 'uncritical'?

I will ask yet AGAIN - why the *rush* to judgment? If no information has been forthcoming yet, but is promised (and is necessary ultimately for the school to even establish itself), what is the purpose of all these attacks? Just as it is inappropriate for observers at this point to be praising the project as a great success or an achievement, it is just as inappropriate for observers at this point to be condemning the project as a failure or impossible. The point is, I am not aware of many if any doing the former. There seems, however, to be many doing the latter.

"Rational men, i.e. the potential customers and employees of the school, don't need to be told what to think, they need the facts upon which to draw their own conclusions."

Indeed. And until such facts are forthcoming, rational men will not draw conclusions. They will not proceed without facts. Thus, in the case of potential customers and employees of the school, if such facts are not forthcoming in a timeframe conducive to their own, individual planning, they will simply not include FC in their plans. But even in such instances, the fact that one lacks information to plan according to one's own timeframe is not evidence that the goals and plans for FC are 'unrealistic', 'subjective' or anything else like that. It simply means, for that rational man, a potential value did not actualize itself in time for him to take advantage of that value. It is not evidence that the potential value will not become an actual value, let alone that it will never be actualized. As has been said multiple times, by many people, we need much more information to come to that conclusion.

Thus, as a 'casual observer', I simply look forward to the day when substantial information on the project is released. Until that time arrives (whenever it might be), I wish the FC organizers my best wishes in their endeavor. And I hope that they succeed, because this nation needs institutions of higher learning which are better than those currently in operation.



Comment #57

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 17:49:40 mdt
Name: Ergo
URL: http://ergosum.wordpress.com

Diana said: "That's why any such college should start on a small, modest scale, so that such methods can be developed inductively over the course of a few years. The hype of the announcement only confirms these worries, in that instead of straightforward descriptions of the education to be offered by the school, we find unsubstantiated generalities and pre-packaged evaluations."

You can't run a successful PR campaign on that premise! Any new start-up that aspires great successes must unequivocally state those visions of success in the broadest of terms for the GENERAL public... to attract attention, generate hype, create a buzz, spread the word, and get an audience! This is the way to gather spectators and on-lookers... who will then, eventually, be motivated enough to investigate further. As far as I know, the Founder's PR seems to be quite effective in generating hype and attention... precisely its intent.

Now, when an on-looker decides to investigate further--in this case, say a student wishes to enroll--he will look for more specific instructions, such as course descriptions, etc. As I said in my earlier post, Founders hasn't been permitted yet, by law, to solicit enrollments by students...therefore, posting such information is prohibited.

Thus, Founders has to maintain that level of curiosity in the student and other spectators while being careful not to break the law and reveal more information that it is permitted. It can only appear in Press Releases if it is able to present itself in the best possible light with statements that are broad and easy to remember, such as great campus, private rooms, gourmet food, unique and revolutionary approach to education, for-profit business, etc. etc., as opposed to technical details in press releases, such as the particulars of courses, majors, faculty, etc. etc.

If we have no reason to doubt Gary Hull's credibility and character, we must be able to trust his words as being honest and calculated when he permits the PR packaging of his new college in such bold and general terms. He knows what he is saying, why he is saying it, and how much he wishes to say. If we believe he is an intelligent and honest man, it should give us reason to pause and wait for further information from him before we start doubting and attacking his vision.

Ofcourse, it stands to common sense and reason that the ones who are MORE than just mere on-lookers (as I already stated once in my previous comment), people like investors, stake-holders, lined-up faculty professors, etc... these people surely have demanded and have recieved much more detailed information than has been offered to the press or to us. How do I know this?? It stands to reason.

I have yet to read, in all of these comments here, any sensible and legitimate reason to be pessimistic and bleak about the outlook of this project. I am hopeful. I wish Gary Hull the best. I wish this project succeeds and meets its vision of imparting a valuable and effective education. I also keep in mind that the success of this venture may not be immediate and overt, but may take some time (probably years) to be profitable, and might not be readily apparent to me as a mere on-looker.



Comment #58

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 19:13:41 mdt
Name: msb

I don't think this is worth arguing about much more, but here's one last comment. Four of the people who have found NS's points to be right or at least compelling (vs. malevolent, unjust, etc.) are PhD candidates in philosophy (GS, PhilosopherEagle, Diana, and myself). NS himself also qualifies. Every other Objectivist phil. grad student I have spoken to about this is also in this camp.

How is this relevant? We spend a considerable amount of time and energy thinking about, and trying to practice, proper pedagogy for college students. None of us are specialists in the field of education, but we all self-consciously educate, and have a better idea than average of the specific problems in this field, both what they are and how difficult they are. We also know how and why to communicate proper pedagogical principles, and the nature and value of a good liberal arts education, to prospective students.

What we see is a failure on the Founders College principals to do this. It's a failure by both omission and commission: an absence of good information, and the presence of bad information. What we have is Objectivist ideas and values applied vaguely to the issue of an institutional pedagogy, with the unsubstantiated selling points not matching the proper things to be addressing. This, combined with the lack of information about the proper things, justifies pessimism about the project. In other words we all recognize that this is obviously the wrong way to go about selling a project of this kind. We know that a person able to succeed at this venture, would not be communicating it in this way.

While I don't think an specialist's perspective is required to see this, it is makes it easier. And this might give pause to those who are inclined to give Hull the benefit of the doubt on the grounds that, as an educator, we should trust that he knows what he is doing re: the information currently available. In the judgment of at least six other Objectivist educators, the information available readily indicates that he does not.



Comment #59

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 20:22:57 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"What we see is a failure on the Founders College principals to do this."
"we all recognize that this is obviously the wrong way to go about selling a project of this kind."

So far as I am aware, they haven't really begun "selling" this at all yet. No concerted effort has been made to promote or otherwise engage the general public into pursuing the college or even to investigate it. As such, I do not see evidence to say it has yet been 'sold incorrectly' - because I do not see evidence it is yet being 'sold' at all.

"In the judgment of at least six other Objectivist educators, the information available readily indicates that [Gary Hull] does not ['know what he is doing'].

Again, given the fact that we do not know the approach - or essentially anything - about the planning or promotion of this project, on what basis does this non-evidence (lack of information) become evidence of a failure to promote or plan the project 'properly'? One can certainly have a desire for more information about the project. But the lack thereof does not provide you information about it. The lack of information does not even tell you why there is lack of information (for which there can be many rational {or, if due to govt regulation, irrational ;)} reasons). But many seem more than willing to jump to the conclusion (via the logical fallacy Argument from Ignorance) that the lack of information can ONLY be due to some failing or failings on the part of the organizers of the FC and thus one must speak and/or act against the project at this point in time.

For my part, I will presume innocence until actual proof is provided otherwise.



Comment #60

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 20:49:14 mdt
Name: msb

Given the current state of the available information, there are no grounds for Founders College to solicit applicants. But this is what is now happening (see their website).

(This will be my last post on this subject.)



Comment #61

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 21:19:00 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"Given the current state of the available information, there are no grounds for Founders College to solicit applicants."

'Accepting applicants' who are already interested in the project based on the simple information presented (but who have no obligation to enroll in the college should further info not be forthcoming when the time comes to make their decisions) is now a problem?!?



Comment #62

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 22:37:17 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

PR campaigns can be intruiging without involving unsubstantiated, implausible claims about the goods to be delivered.

Based upon any reasonable assessment of the state of the humanities (including the teaching thereof), Founders College cannot fulfill its promise of a "revolution" in higher education, certainly not by next year. The challenge of higher education in the humanities is not merely that some leftism must be excised, nor that some better teachers must be chosen. Those kinds of minor changes do not constitute a "revolution," nor would they enable a university "to teach students important ideas, to train their minds to think clearly, to light in their spirits a life-long passion for knowledge," as Founders College claims it will next fall.

The genuine "revolution" in education promised by Founders College would require that whole disciplines be placed upon at least a semi-rational foundation. A substantially new theory of pedagogy, with all kinds of innovative applications to various kinds of knowledge, would have to be developed. That work would take years, if not decades, to develop into a "revolution." The scholars to do it don't even exist yet. So maybe in ten or twenty years, a college with such a mission might be possible. (Even then, I think the major changes will come from established universities.) Yet while in its nascent stages, even such a school could not rightly claim to offer any more than a superior education. Founders College is promising far more than that -- in less than a year.

People sometimes do take on intellectual work for which they are unprepared, ignorant of the depth of knowledge and study required for genuinely solid work. They'll make grand, unrealistic promises about future work, then fail to deliver. Many will never even recognize those failures for what they are. That's the general pattern I'm seeing in the groundless hype of Founders College.

I've consistently seen the same kind of error -- albeit less severely and more understandably -- in the defenses of Founders College. People, particularly those outside academia, don't seem to appreciate what would actually constitute a genuine "revolution" in education, nor even the amazingly difficult work required to create a college curriculum substantially better than that found at a high-quality teaching-oriented liberal arts college. Yet Founders College is promising far more than that -- right quick. It's nothing short of bizarrely unrealistic.

The fact that Founders College is now accepting applications based upon nothing more than vague self-promotion is even worse. Given the total lack of information about the program, a serious student shouldn't waste five minutes of his time requesting an application, let alone the hours required to fill one out. To do so would be to act on faith. No college claiming to "train [students'] minds to think clearly" should ever dream of asking that of its potential students.

I'm hoping that this will be my last post on the subject. Not only have I said all that I think I can, but I'm completely appalled by the fact that they're accepting applications. I cannot regard the endeavor as worthy of further comment.



Comment #63

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 23:13:31 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

"In other words we all recognize that this is obviously the wrong way to go about selling a project of this kind. We know that a person able to succeed at this venture, would not be communicating it in this way."

That is all very well and good. I, for one, do not have a problem if someone wishes to caution people against being unrealistically optimistic. Nor do I have a problem if someone wishes to express his doubts as to whether such an enterprise is viable. But there is a credible and civilized way that one can go about making one's point - and then there is the 60 Minutes style approach to making it.

The civilized way would take cognizance of and emphasize the fact that we currently do not have all of the information that will eventually be needed to make a final judgment of Gary Hull and Founders. Such an approach might explain to readers exactly what is involved in establishing such an institution and making it successful - and explain why this will present significant challenges and obstacles that the Founders principles will face. Such an approach could even itemize the specific concerns that Founders will need to eventually address if it wishes to be regarded as credible. If someone with an ounce of tact and fairness - Diana, for instance - were to put up such a posting, I doubt that very many people, including those who have expressed enthusiasm for Founders, would be objecting the way the are in these comments.

Unfortunately, NS went well over the top and made what amounts to an arrogant and sleazy attack. For instance, a civilized approach would NOT repeatedly attack Founders on grounds that it has not divulged specific information that NS has to realize that Founders simply CANNOT divulge at this time.

A civilized approach would NOT attempt to imply that the quote from Yaron Brook somehow means more than what it actually says. The ONLY thing that the quote from Dr. Brook says is that 1) ARI is not involved with Founders, 2) ARI does not necessarily support Founders and 3) ARI's focus is not limited merely to colleges or professors who are Objectivists. In that quote, Dr. Brook offers no evaluation about Founders one way or another - but NS subtly suggests otherwise. I have no idea of what Dr. Brook thinks of Founders. Maybe Dr. Brook does not voice support for Founders because praise from ARI might jeopardize its accreditation process. Maybe Dr. Brook does not voice support because Founders is a potential competitor for contributions he thinks would be more useful going to ARI. Maybe Dr. Brook does not voice support for Founders because he thinks it is inept. No evidence on this is offered at all by NS - only the implication that Dr. Brook and ARI somehow disapprove. Maybe NS has "inside knowledge" of what Dr. Brook thinks. If so, if he is going to go public with it he needs to make it objective to his readers who are not on the inside.

Finally, a civilized approach would be very cautious about tossing out statements such as "Pardon me, but there is a big difference between bold innovation and delusions of grandeur." I consider "delusions of grandeur" to be a borderline character attack. Of course, if such a charge is true, then it is not an attack. But has NS offered his readers sufficient evidence to support such a charge? I don't think so.

Additionally, I find the condescending contempt NS betrays for the participants on the Speicher Forum and elsewhere who have expressed optimism about Founders when he derides them as "cheerleaders" to be very off-putting. I think such a characterization is unjust. I have yet to see any evidence that the people he is referring to are anything other than sincere, well meaning people who enthusiastically value Objectivism and wish to see it succeed. Perhaps NS looks down on such people on the premise that his academic background gives him a superior and more enlightened intellectual context. If so...well, I don't think Ayn Rand - who wrote to a general and not an academic audience - would especially approve. And if NS hopes to someday pursue a career with Objectivism, it is the donations from such "cheerleaders" which will most likely help fund his projects.

THAT is why I take exception to NS's article. I have no opinion of Founders - and my only knowledge about it prior to NS's article was what I read when I followed links here on Noodle Food and on Cybernet. One does not have to be a fan of Founders or to disagree with what Diana and MSB have been saying to recognize that the tone and approach of NS's article was unjust and uncalled for.

I think it is also important to show the same benevolence and give the same benefit of the doubt to NS that he failed to show to Founders. I briefly followed his blog a couple of years ago - which was actually how I first discovered Noodle Food. NS is clearly a highly intelligent and thoughtful individual. And some of the questions he raises in his article ARE valid and DO need to be asked at the appropriate time. My default, benevolent assumption is that he merely got carried away and became a bit overzealous in making his point. I certainly have been guilty of that a few times - though that is something one would more likely expect from a prole of the "cheerleading" class such as myself who occasionally posts to discussion boards and blog comments. I would hope that an academic would be more careful and exercise better judgment about what he says in public.



Comment #64

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 23:27:12 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"PR campaigns can be intruiging without involving unsubstantiated, implausible claims"

Founder's College now has a PR *campaign* in full swing?

"I've consistently seen the same kind of error -- albeit less severely and more understandably -- in the defenses of Founders College."

Who exactly has been defending Founder's College? What have they been defending them from exactly? And what "error" are these defenders making which is supposedly the same as the one made by the FC people? Are they making "grand, unrealistic promises...and then [failing] to deliver" on those promises?

"Given the total lack of information about the program, a serious student shouldn't waste five minutes of his time requesting an application, let alone the hours required to fill one out."

Are you suggesting there are ABSOLUTELY NO rational reasons one would want an application, allow applications to be submitted, nor accept such applications? I can think of a few.

"To do so would be to act on faith."

It would be an "act of faith" to ask them to *enroll* in the college based on the lack of information about the program - ie to commit themselves in some way, shape or form to the college without much more info. But filling out an application does not do that. It does however provide information to the potential college about those interested in their type of their higher learning institution - and provides the applicant a conduit of communication by which further information may be directly passed.

What exactly is wrong, irrational, or 'appaling' about that?



Comment #65

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 0:52:35 mdt
Name: Glenn

Applications?

Then that means real PhDs--not grad students, professors at colleges--not students on blogs, people with the facts--not people with run away emotions, have checked Founders for the state of Virginia. They have reviewed the curriculum, how they are going to hire, etc. and approved Founders to open.

I wonder if Gary Hull will lose any sleep because [Noumenal Self] had a hissy fit?

Who wants to bet within the first year of operation Founders is mentioned in IMPACT?



Comment #66

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 1:19:53 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

Glenn

I do not know that acceptance of applications means what you claim it to mean. There may be other explanations for this action which do not include the reasons you have provided. I would thus not jump to conclusions in this respect - any more than I would suggest jumping to conclusions the other direction. We still know essentially very little at this point.



Comment #67

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 1:59:43 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

I am curious if anyone here knows exactly what the approval process in Virginia that Founders must go through involves.

What Diana says about fall 2007 being a very short period of time to get everything up and running makes sense to me.

I am wondering if, in order to get approval, it is necessary for Founders to name a specific date as to when they plan to begin operations. I also wonder, once the approval is received, whether or not they have a certain period of time in which they must begin operations or else lose their approval.

If the above is indeed the case, Founders would be in sort of a delicate catch 22 situation. In order to recruit teachers and students, the school needs approval to operate. But if they must start classes soon after they receive approval, they will need to be able to put teachers and students in place on very short notice which is not a very easy thing to do for a school that does not yet exist.

What I am wondering is if the 2007 launch date is given srictly for the purpose of the approval process. And if that date holds, I wonder if their plans are to begin full-fledged operations at that time charging full tuition. Or will the initial class instead be very small with students paying either no tuition or significantly reduced tuition just so they can comply with the need to operate at a certain level while they put the rest of their program in place?

Has Founders said anything at all about whether everything will be in place from the get-go or whether things will gradually ramp up over the course of a few years?



Comment #68

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 12:30:19 mdt
Name: A.West

Onw fact that appears to be established is that there are at least six Objectivist PhD students who don't plan to work for Founders, and that some portion of the OGC membership is against the Founders project.



Comment #69

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 12:36:15 mdt
Name: George Barker

Why are we being asked to ignore Gary Hull's impressive credentials and track record? Gary's reputation is being swept aside, or even disparaged. But what are the facts? From the Duke website:

"Dr. Gary Hull is Director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, and is popular with students for his knowledge, passion for the subject, and engaging style. He taught philosophy and business ethics for many years at The Claremont Graduate School, Whittier College, and The Fuqua School of Business. He has served as an ethics advisor to major corporations, has lectured to business groups - such as The Young Presidents' Organization - and has made numerous appearances on radio and television. Dr. Hull has published articles in, among others, the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, forbes.com, and Barron's. He has spoken at professional and general public conferences around the world, and is a frequent lecturer at universities such as Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Texas at Austin, UC Berkeley, UCLA."

This sounds like exactly the sort of guy I'd like to see starting up a college. He has been an Objectivist lecturer for many years. Among many other achievements he wrote the study guide to OPAR. He has plenty of college classroom teaching time. And, important for a venture of this kind, has successfully marketed himself to the business world as well. But a group of PhD *candidates* are putting themselves forth as experts on the subject and condescendingly informing the rest of us "cheerleaders" (and I stand by my comment on the higher ed website) that Dr. Gary Hull is not qualified? That the project is too ambitious? Doomed to fail?

I think I've read this kind of sentiment before . . .

"These two, apparently, are willing to stake the lives of their fellow men on their own conceited notions about their powers of judgment, against the overwhelming majority of opinion of recognized experts. Should society permit it? If that thing does collapse, won't it be too late to take precautionary measures? Won't it be like locking the barn after the horse has escaped? It has always been the belief of this column that certain kinds of horses should be kept bridled and locked, on general social principles."



Comment #70

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 12:44:01 mdt
Name: PMB

"Onw fact that appears to be established is that there are at least six Objectivist PhD students who don't plan to work for Founders, and that some portion of the OGC membership is against the Founders project."

Can anyone name ONE Objectivist intellectual besides Gary who has come out in favor of this venture? (Can anyone even name an Objectivist intellectual who has anything nice to say about Gary Hull???)



Comment #71

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 13:47:23 mdt
Name: George Barker

Can anyone say "group think"? Are you seriously trashing this man's reputation based on other people's unstated opinions?

The only criticism I've come accross is that Dr. Hull has embarked on an ambitious probject to start a liberal arts college. That it's more than just a dream, that he's got financial backing, an actual piece of property, and is putting together a faculty.

And for this he's being attacked??? By *Objectivists* no less??? You must be kidding . . .



Comment #72

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 13:51:40 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

"Why are we being asked to ignore Gary Hull's impressive credentials and track record? Gary's reputation is being swept aside, or even disparaged. But what are the facts?"

There seems to be quite a bit of what I consider irresponsible public Gary Hull bashing going on lately. PMB just asked: "Can anyone even name an Objectivist intellectual who has anything nice to say about Gary Hull???" And then we have this little gem from the Noumenal Self blog comments:

"What I think needs also to be questioned are the premises behind this (already erroneous) line of argument. Is Gary Hull really an intellectual (Objectivist or otherwise)? Does he really do "philosophical stuff" in a serious way? The last "philosophical stuff" I recall him "doing" was the horrifically terrible lecture on metaphors at the 2002 summer conference -- a lecture which, to my mind at least, proved once and for all that Gary Hull is not a serious thinker/philosopher/intellectual at all."

If the lecture was so horrifically terrible, what does that suggest about the organizers of the conference who allowed him to deliver it? And what does this say about ARI's Ayn Rand Bookstore which continues to sell his lectures?

Exactly what is a general reader such as myself supposed to think when he reads such comments? I try to make a conscientious effort to be objective in my evaluations of people - which means I try my best to identify my own occasional emotionalism and rumors and innuendo tossed out by others so as not to let it sneak in and corrupt the basis on which I form my judgments.

Am I supposed to form a negative opinion of Gary Hull or of even the specific lecture referenced because some stranger identified as "ttn" in a blog comment asserts it was "horrifically terrible" - or even regard such assertions as evidence that I need to file away in my mind? Am I supposed to be suspicious of Hull because PMB (who I have seen make intelligent comments here before) suggests that other Objectivist intellectuals do not say nice things about him? Why do they not say nice things about him? Does he pick his nose in public? There are a lot of reasons people don't say nice things about others - some might be relevant in this context and many are not.

Apparently, there is a clique of OGC students and other "insiders" who all share a disregard for Gary Hull. Maybe they have reasons for it and perhaps those reasons are valid. Obviously, someone in my position as a mere reader and a non-insider has no way of knowing. My point is this: if they are going to make such remarks IN PUBLIC, then they need to be responsible enough to make their innuendo and assertions objective by backing them up with evidence. If they are not in a position or at liberty to do so, then they need to confine such remarks to private conversations with those "in the know." That is what email and instant messaging are for and it is not difficult to set up message boards and websites which are private and password protected.

Personally, I have no choice but to treat such remarks no differently than I do the various smears and assertions made by the Kelleyites and other anti-Objectivists. As far as I am concerned, I have learned absolutely NOTHING about Gary Hull as a result of reading those comments - I refuse to allow such pot shots to have an influence over my process of judging people which is something I take quite seriously. What I HAVE learned is that there are some who I have every reason to believe are serious and sincere students of Objectivism who are not very responsible about the sort of assertions they make public on the Internet - and to the degree that such people are aspiring academics, that is somewhat disturbing and disappointing.



Comment #73

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 14:04:44 mdt
Name: PMB

I apologize for raising the point about whether Dr. Hull is liked. It was inappropriate and irrelevant to the issue.



Comment #74

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 14:51:15 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

I'm substantially sympathetic to the frustration expressed in Dismuke's last comment. Some of the negative comments about Dr. Hull in this debate have come across as little more than argument from intimidation by apparent insiders. That's inappropriately arbitrary, not to mention unseemly in public debate.

Founders College will not stand or fall based upon the capacities of a single man. A profitable debate about the viability and wisdom of Founders College can be conducted without devolving into criticisms and defenses of Gary Hull. That's why I've attempted to focus upon the unrealistic hype of the project in general, without reference to whether Dr. Hull in particular is capable of delivering the goods. Still, it has been hard to hold my tongue upon hearing arguments that we should trust Dr. Hull to deliver because of his "impressive credentials and track record." Not only does that kind of comment totally miss the point of my criticisms, but I simply cannot agree with that assessment of Dr. Hull qua philosopher. (Even worse, it cheapens the accomplishments of genuinely impressive Objectivist philosophers.) That doesn't mean that I think Dr. Hull incompetant, dishonest, or anything of the sort: I'd have the same response if someone described me in those terms.

I don't intend any of that to be further argument against Founders College. I've already stated my reasons for thinking the promises of Founders College to be impossible to fulfill -- by anyone. I just wished to explain my basic judgment of the matter, i.e. to give my "I disagree" to some of the recent high praise of Dr. Hull in these comments. If anyone wishes to know the reasons for my judgment, I'm happy to explain them in private, i.e. in person. I don't think public debate on this point is appropriate, so I don't plan to say more.



Comment #75

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 15:48:38 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"Still, it has been hard to hold my tongue upon hearing arguments that we should trust Dr. Hull to deliver because of his "impressive credentials and track record.""

If "credentials and track record" are being used as arguments, I would say it is quite appropriate to provide any factual information along those lines which might have contextual bearing on the issue. However, as you indicate, that is not (nor should not be, at this point at least) the focus of the 'criticism.'

I think the problem I have seen - and objected to numerous times - is made painfully clear by a question presented in PMB's post:

"Can anyone name ONE Objectivist intellectual besides Gary who has come out in favor of this venture?"

(I will ignore for the moment the Appeal to Authority here) At this point in time, with so little information available, it would be irresponsible to "come out in favor" of it - ie promote the college as if one had knowledge one does NOT in fact have. That is why there are quite a number of wishers of *good will* (and those expressing keen interest in learning more because they like the *idea*) but few actual backers, supporters, or defenders of the College thus far. They are properly reserving judgment on it because they have NO solid evidence upon which to make a judgment.

The problem is, most detractors do not seem to be following this basic principle of logic. Absent ANY knowledge of the planning behind the college, they are condemning it in quite strong terms. That is both irrational and unjust - as sure as it would be irrational and unjust to sing its praises in this 'evidence-less' state.

In other words, there seems to be a plethora of *ill will* toward the project without evidence to warrant it (not to mention the manufacture of lack of evidence into 'evidence'). And I think that is why there have been so many comments about the absence of benevolence. Absent evidence one way or the other, what is the reason not to grant one's good will (ie well wishing on a potentially productive venture) and instead grant what appears in many cases to be strong *ill will* towards the project and at least one of its organizers?

As I said, until evidence is provided otherwise, I will follow the proper course of logic and presume innocence until *proven* otherwise.

And isn't that a basis of benevolence?



Comment #76

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 16:17:53 mdt
Name: George Barker

Diana wrote: "The genuine 'revolution' in education promised by Founders College would require that whole disciplines be placed upon at least a semi-rational foundation. A substantially new theory of pedagogy, with all kinds of innovative applications to various kinds of knowledge, would have to be developed."

You've arbitrarily defined what you think would constitute a 'revolution' in higher ed, arbitrarily asserted that Founders cannot possibly achieve this, and arbitrarily concluded that the whole enterprise is doomed to failure. Further you offer this argument in defense of a poorly written, misinformed, virulent hit piece on an anonymous blog.

Mr. Noumenal's prime contention seems to be that this college, destined to fail from an excess of ambition, will besmirch the reputation of Objectivism. His blog entry is offered as a remedy. He's letting the good honest folks out there know that those college-starters are not *real* Objectivists and that *real* Objectivists do not at all approve.

But what has he in fact achieved? The good news is that people who pony up the kind of money it takes to run a venture of this kind are not going to be dissuaded by the ranting of an anonymous philosophy grad student and his supporting chorus of like individuals. The bad news is that anyone out there curious about Objectivism and wondering whether it's true that Objectivists are a bunch of back-biting, vicious collectivists will have one more entry to make on the wrong side of the ledger.



Comment #77

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 16:31:11 mdt
Name: PhilosopherEagle

I'd just like to say, as I've said before, that I do not know very much about Dr. Hull and have neither a positive nor a negative assessment of his work as an intellectual. Any problems that I identify in the founding of Founders (and I would not necessarily identify the same problems as has NS nor assign to them the same significance) are not based on my evaluation of Dr. Hull. Nor do I claim to be an authority in matters of pedagogy.



Comment #78

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 16:32:37 mdt
Name: Ed

Proper, objective judgement requires evidentiary support not only for whether some cause is worth supporting or opposing, but also the extent to which it is a positive or a negtive (not to mention to whom and for what it is a value, of course). In the case of Founder's College, I've seen some on both sides of the issue come to conclusions for which I see insufficient support -- i.e., that this will be the greatest college of all time, or it will be an abysmal failure that will discourage newcomers to Objectivism. It can be entirely appropriate to support the broader cause the college may be intended to advance (i.e., spreading Objectivism and providing aspiring intellectuals with a better education than they may get elsewhere) but be wary about the actual implementation and likelihood of success.

Given the purpose of the college, I wish them well and hope they succeed. I realize the risks and difficulties involved, but that alone is not reason enough to denounce the effort or to declare it a failure. How many ambitious ventures face obstacles and risk failure? All of them. I see the willingness to face those risks as admirable and deserving of well-wishing, not denunciation and resignation.

I mentioned previously how little information is available and how that limits what one can judge about the effort. Along with that, it is entirely inappropriate to attack the proposal without backing it up with evidence. The lack of evidence is not evidence of anything. There may be good reasons for not providing, say, a more detailed plan about the proposal at this time. It is arbitrary speculation to denounce the school for that.

A related issue is the following. Suppose I have inside information about something, but I am unable to devulge the details (say for contractual reasons). If I instead publicly disclose my conclusions but not the evidence for that, I've just provided an arbitrary claim. It may be true based on the facts available to me, but it is arbitrary for someone not privy to those facts.

I know very little about the venture and have no involvement in it. I see what the goals are (at a higly abstract level at least) and support them. I don't see how the existence of the school would impede Objectivism. So, I wish Dr. Hull good luck in his efforts. I hope they succeed and can provide an excellent alternative to modern colleges.



Comment #79

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 17:35:20 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

"A related issue is the following. Suppose I have inside information about something, but I am unable to devulge the details (say for contractual reasons). If I instead publicly disclose my conclusions but not the evidence for that, I've just provided an arbitrary claim. It may be true based on the facts available to me, but it is arbitrary for someone not privy to those facts."

I would suggest there is an important difference between an assertion which is arbitrary and an assertion which is currently unsupported. And I would suggest that difference is context - usually the expectation of further information or discussion in which support can thus be provided. Otherwise any premise one presents and doesn't take all the way back to the axioms can be considered 'arbitrary' because one has not *yet* provided all the facts which ultimately link it back to reality.



Comment #80

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 23:32:21 mdt
Name: Ed

Brian Smith writes:

"I would suggest there is an important difference between an assertion which is arbitrary and an assertion which is currently unsupported. And I would suggest that difference is context - usually the expectation of further information or discussion in which support can thus be provided. Otherwise any premise one presents and doesn't take all the way back to the axioms can be considered 'arbitrary' because one has not *yet* provided all the facts which ultimately link it back to reality"

I disagree. Any claim offered without evidence is arbitrary. (See the section in OPAR on this, if necessary.) If someone later provides evidence, then the context changes. It is only by means of supporting evidence that one can evaluate a claim: do the facts support it? Are the relevant facts incorrectly understood?

Why do you think a claim requires taking it "all the way back to the axioms?" I can offer ANY evidence, no matter how small, in order to allow a claim to be judged. Also, direct perception is not the same thing as connecting things to the axioms, yet that can be a perfectly valid means of validating a claim. For instance, if a friend I'm with says someone sitting nearby is reading "Atlas Shrugged," I can look over and see that that is true. I haven't reduced the claim to the axioms, I've reduced it to sense perception, which is the ultimate link to reality.



Comment #81

Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 0:49:50 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

So you are saying an unsupported assertion is an arbitrary assertion? I have to disagree.

To use your example with one small variation: your friend says someone is sitting near him reading Atlas Shrugged. But he says this to you over the phone. As such, according to your premise - because your friend offers a claim without evidence - his assertion can only be arbitrary. In other words, because your friend has made a number of claims for which you have no evidence, those claims would necessarily be arbitrary.

If that is indeed the case, I must ask: do you simply dismiss all such statements out of hand? I ask because, as Dr. Peikoff states, "if it is arbitrary, it is entitled to no epistemological assessment at all; it is simply to be dismissed as though it hasn't come up." Is that truly what you do in such instances? If so, that must cut a lot of conversations very short. And if that is not what you do, on what basis are assertions you apparently classify as "arbitrary" not being treated as such - ie not being dismissed out of hand?

I will again suggest there is a difference between an arbitrary assertion and an assertion that has yet to be supported.



Comment #82

Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 2:26:23 mdt
Name: Ed

Brian, in the changed example, I can look around and see whether or not he's right. If not, I'd ask him for evidence. If he left it as is, then yes, it is arbitrary. Such things are rare, though.

But you're free to disagree. I'm not interested in writing a dissertation on epistemology.



Comment #83

Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 3:50:11 mdt
Name: Brian Smith

In your last post, you provided no evidence of your assertions (for instance, no evidence was provided to substantiate your claim that you would ask your friend for evidence). According to your premise that makes your assertions arbitrary and I must dismiss them out of hand, as if you had never written them.

In other words, I *will* disagree with you - completely. But, given your expressed lack of interest in an epistemological conversation, I will simply be left wondering at the types of conversations you have (and must cut short) in the course of an average day.



Comment #84

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 19:53:14 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

Looks like my participation in this thread has resulted in my being added to Founders' press release distribution list - I am not sure how else they would know that I exist or get my email address.

At any rate, they have received their degree granting authority. I am not sure if this is the same thing as accreditation or not. But it certainly is a significant step.

For those interested, I have posted the full copy of the press release at: http://www.dismuke.org/founders.html

I will make my comments about it later when I am not so busy.



Comment #85

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 19:54:59 mdt
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

Ooops. I forgot to make the URL in the above posting linkable with the pointy brakets. Here it is so you don't have to copy and paste:

<http://www.dismuke.org/founders.html>



Comment #86

Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 11:57:52 mdt
Name: DW

In the interest of objectivity, and for the benefit of those who may read this thread at a later date, here's a selection from an article that just appeared in the local Lynchburg VA News and Advance:

"Hull said his personal views on Rand’s philosophy 'don’t have anything to do with Founders College.'

'They are two separate issues,' he said.

The proposed college’s initial majors include business, economics, philosophy, history, literature and art and an education certificate.

'I did a lot of research before putting the curriculum together,' said Hull, who began work on the proposed college’s programs about six years ago.

Hosting informal discussions with other professors with his idea for the college, he recruited many people, including entrepreneurs, to help organize Founders College Education Inc.

'We’ve been working on this seriously for a while,' said Hull, who added that investors are financing the project. Hull said by contract, he could not elaborate on any more details."

You can read the article here: <http://www.newsadvance.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=LNA%2FMGArticle%2FLNA_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1149190615289&path=!news!archive>

- Duane



Comment #87

Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 15:22:32 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

While I don't mind if updates on Founders College are posted on this thread, I do not think that's necessary for objectivity. Gary Hull's claim that he's thought a great deal about the curriculum doesn't assuage the doubts about his qualifications for such an endeavor. (Moreover, the article was inaccurate in various ways, particularly about Eric Daniels' involvedment, so I'm not sure that its reporting should be trusted.)

Also, it's worth noting that the Founder's College press release <http://digital50.com/news/items/108742/> indicates that majors in business and education will be offered in addition to various unnamed liberal arts degrees. Anyone remember Dr. Peikoff's views about the training of teachers from his "Philosophy of Education" course? I don't recall the details, but I'm pretty certain that he'd have some choice comments about any so-called "education" major.



Comment #88

Sunday, September 17, 2006 at 2:44:20 mdt
Name: PhilosopherEagle

I can't even conceive of how the kind of liberal arts college that Dr. Hull seems to envision can offer majors outside of the liberal arts. It's simply not possible to be a business major AND a serious liberal arts student at the same time.



Comment #89

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 21:42:54 mdt
Name: bigmac
URL: http://skittlebrau.org

Noumenal raises a number of valid questions. My only question is whether he raised these with Dr. Hull before sounding a general alarm. Given that the college is to be run as a business, it's fair to assume that the college's development hasn't been completely transparent. Questions such as incentives offered in lieu of tenure might well be kept secret to help Dr. Hull negotiate salaries. Similarly, Dr. Hull might be investigating partnering with other colleges in the early years, or any number of other options that might be best-handled without full disclosure. A startup business' PR and price negotiations can require many secrets.

Unless Noumenal spoke with Dr. Hull but neglected to mention doing so, methinks he's assuming he knows far too much.

Oh, eck. Nobody told me I'd have to do a word problem before I could post. :(



Comment #90

Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 13:48:07 mdt
Name: anon

Updated website:

This is wonderful - I was shocked when I went to college in 1968. I wondered what happened - what was going on? This makes me want to go back and savor every delicious moment of those classes, taught the way an education should be provided.

http://founderscollege.com/curriculum/courses.html

We should all support this endeavor - it should succeed, and it will be precious if it does.



Comment #91

Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 23:37:58 mdt
Name: Stranger

Anon,

What is it in the description of Founders' curriculum or of its specific courses that makes you think that these courses will be "delicious", "precious" or that they'll be "taught the way an education should be provided". Most of the course descriptions read exactly like descriptions of humanities survey courses at conventional colleges. We don't know anything about Founders' faculty that could inspire confidence--indeed, given the number of posts they're advertising for, it's unlikely that they know much about their faculty either. So what exactly is it about this new web site that makes you think that this school will be good?



Comment #92

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 12:38:45 mdt
Name: anon


Given that Dr Hull is an Objectivist, and a professor of many years, and has a PhD, and that I have observed him over the years, albeit from a distance - he appears to be rock solid, never wavering. One of my sons (an Objectivist) saw him at a conference where he talked about the founding fathers. He was impressed.

We are surrounded by an ocean of nonsense. Reading the paper, looking at what passes for guidance in the church’s, in our government, and so forth, and I hunger for some reason in our culture.

The curriculum requires the first two years to be as they state, with logic, philosophy (taught it appears from an Objectivist perspective, not the nonsense I was taught long ago), writing, great books, etc. and it’s all presented in a structured, organized manner.

Most of all it will be organized from a rational Objectivist perspective. The leader is an Objectivist - that is great!

This to me is precious. I would want my children to go here, if they were still in school. Yes, even the first, unaccredited years. At least they would be getting a rational view of life; with that they can carry on.

And think of it - no campus chapel!

I think of the atmosphere of the school: considerate, contemplative, confident, and the feeling that this is the beginning of something good that may last many, many years.

Will it be perfect? Probably not; will it be better than UCLA, or my Podunk school: oh yes.

Another of my sons went to The University of Chicago (Dual major of Physics and Economics; later law from U of Virginia). When I visited (UC) we asked directions of a young man who had dropped out of school and lived near the campus. I asked him why he dropped out. He said (paraphrasing) "they think they are the last bastion of Western Civilization" or thereabouts. I was relieved to hear that. That is hard to find. I felt better about UC, but where can our children go for a proper Objectivist education?

Academics often think they know it all, but from those of us out here running businesses, they are often out of the loop.

I reread NS analysis. I am surprised. He is apparently an academic who presumably has not had the experience of starting a business.

He asks about who will teach, who will attend? How long will it last? Basically, it’s not his or my problem.

We do not know a lot about the setup - there may be a lot of money behind this, capable of carrying it for a long time until it succeeds. If they can pay $12 Mil for the land they have money from somewhere.

Maybe they will pay the professors $400,000 a year, knowing they will incur a loss at first. Would that not attract anyone? I can think of a few it might attract.

And what if it was _Peikoff_? Would he put in a 'final tour' for a decent buck, and the chance to teach the way he has always wanted? Would that draw other 'talent'?

What if they could attract talent like that? Would your children want to attend then? Yes.

So a lot of things can happen to change things for the better.

The fact that Dr. Hull probably has business people and fewer academics behind him makes me even more confident it will succeed.

Money can change things. There is a lot to success that an academic may never know or envision.

As to the issue that they changed the 'angle' from an Ayn Rand oriented school to one with 'no particular ideology' - remember that the world is not yet what we would like.

Recently McGill University rejected outright a donation to establish a chair studying Rand's work.
I know an Objectivist who refused to reveal to his professors that he was an Objectivist because he would never get through grad school.

If Brook disassociated ARI from the school, do not reject the thought that he is doing that to help the college succeed. I doubt that they would get a license in Virginia or any where else if it was thought it was ARI in disguise.

Remember The Fountainhead was rejected from Washington State schools. A judge in the state of Florida rejected my divorce decree which stated that the children 'shall not be taught mysticism, altruism, or collectivism' as against Florida public policy. It’s a jungle out there.

Rand is anathema to many. Managing the process of creating this school will require them to change how they characterize this school as they go along. It’s a hostile world for Objectivism.

So changing the angle for the press is fine by me. It’s their money and their dream and they are doing what they need to do to make it succeed.

How would you attract the money and navigate the dangerous waters?

We are not battling an honest system, so things may not always be what they appear.

Ultimately, I was surprised, that the analysis of Dr. Hulls attempt to start this college ended with what appeared to be an attack upon his credentials.

I would suggest to those 'academics' that this might be the best thing to come along in your life time.

All of us make mistakes in judgment sometimes by jumping into conclusions that need to be corrected later, at very great pain and effort. Let’s not make one here by killing a great effort before it gets going.

Let’s root for the home team and hope he succeeds.

PS I agree it takes a lot of work to be an academic and write beautifully " I hope you will overlook the lack of polish to my note here, as I do not have the time to bring it up to a high standard, but hopefully my point has been clear.



Comment #93

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 17:03:32 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Anon: You seem to be under the mistaken impression that Founders College will be somehow Objectivist. That's not the case. (And, I should add, nor would such be appropriate for a college.)

I could say much more, but I've already said enough earlier in this thread.



Comment #94

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 18:04:55 mdt
Name: anon

Dianne, I was trying to answer your previous post. Sorry if it was too wordy.



Comment #95

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at 20:30:59 mdt
Name: Not Saying

Diana, a question - why do you think it be inappropriate for a college to be explicitly founded on the principles of Objectivism?

A further question - if sufficient numbers of subject-qualified Objectivist professors existed, what would be wrong with hiring them preferentially over professors who are not Objectivists, or perhaps even (as is extremely common in the humanities) overtly hostile to Objectivism?



Comment #96

Monday, October 9, 2006 at 23:20:26 mdt
Name: Adrian Hester

Stranger asks, “Most of the course descriptions read exactly like descriptions of humanities survey courses at conventional colleges…So what exactly is it about this new web site that makes you think that this school will be good?” In fact, the course descriptions lead me to the opposite conclusion: As described, Founder’s College could well provide a good general liberal arts education for students who intend to go into the professions, say, but the curriculum as described is insufficient for a student intending to become a scholar in the humanities.

What is (should be) the purpose of an undergraduate education, as opposed to high school and graduate school? High school should inculcate students in general analytical thinking, train them in clear, logical writing, and teach them the general knowledge one would expect from a reasonably well-educated adult. On the other hand, undergraduate education should be directed towards a coherent, broadly extensive study of one’s chosen field with the goal ideally of preparing the student for teaching or for academic, scholarly work. Graduate study, of course, is (or should be) highly specialized, with an intensive, rigorous study of all important areas of one’s discipline directed towards original scholarly work. A coherent core curriculum is essential at the undergraduate level, of course; I don’t fault the Founder’s curriculum on that score. However, does the Founder’s curriculum provide a good education in each major, by which I mean providing the necessary detailed, *extensive* training in the major necessary for teachers and scholars in the field? As described, no.

First, what is the purpose of the education they're offering? What sort of knowledge do they expect one of their graduates with a history degree, say, to have? The purpose is to produce well-rounded graduates with good analytical and writing skills. The knowledge they expect seems to be what any reasonably intelligent adult should possess. In other words, it's what a high school should be, or at best a good core curriculum for the humanities. For example, the history curriculum is very topic-oriented, which is a good approach for people not going into history but a one-sided approach to history for historians. They offer three courses on western history in general and two on American history, then topic courses on the histories of: law; business; technology; colonization; shapers of the western tradition; figures of the industrial revolution; and four major revolutions (but not the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution!). Then there is a course on philosophies of history and an advanced seminar.

Notice, though, the courses they do *not* offer--English history, French history, Roman history, ancient Greek history, and various other area-based courses (no surveys of Chinese, Islamic, or Latin American history, for example) that would provide the warp to the woof that they're focusing on, nothing for studying various eras *on their own terms* to hone analytical skills and provide the broad backgrounds needed for more concentrated, narrower historical study.

A history curriculum for anyone wanting to learn how to do history academically, and certainly in preparation for graduate study, should train students how to think historically, which means learning the tools of the trade (such as finding and analyzing the sources and how to interpret conventions of the time, discerning cause and effect and finding the data to test it, and writing history clearly and effectively) and becoming thoroughly familiar with all the historical milestones and trends of the country or period of study. In brief, the history major curriculum should be directed towards broad familiarity with the sources and the facts inferred from them and command of methodology (command of the sources and thorough, ingrained mastery of method are major purposes of graduate training). This isn't done by just taking survey and topics courses; you have to have a couple years studying at least one period and area (country or culture) intensively.

Similarly, the curriculum for the literature major is almost exclusively topical. Indeed, the very name of the major, literature and the arts, is so broad as to imply no coherent study of one natural field. Even leaving aside the non-literary arts, is the major comparative literature or English literature? How much of the literature studied in all the courses is in English translation and how much is part of the English canon? The two entail distinct curricula, but the courses listed straddle the divide. For example, note the description of the course on epic and poetry: "This course covers the major epic poems and other major poetry in the literary canon. The course will emphasize formal considerations"rhyming and scansion"as well as syntax and figurative language." What great epics are there in English? Will students study the scansion and syntax in the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid in the original Greek and Latin? (There’s no rhyming, of course, in almost all classical Greek and Latin poetry.) It would be pointless to do so for an English translation. (Well, perhaps something like Dryden's translation of the Aeneid would well repay such a treatment, but that's still mucking about at a far remove from the original.)

More generally, an undergraduate literature degree (whether English or comparative) should not consist merely of detailed readings of fifteen novels and nine plays (two dozen novels and a score plays, say, if the advanced course requires a comparable number of texts) and then discussions of naturalism and romanticism. An English degree should require *extensive* reading throughout the entire period of English literature, with one major goal being a thorough acquaintance with the major works of *every* major author and all the significant minor authors, and preferably a course or two on other literary traditions (as opposed to the introductory courses they have dealing presumably with literature from several languages, whose value I don’t question); the student should also come away with some knowledge of the other traditions that influenced English literature (Latin, Greek, and renaissance French and Italian in particular).

Similarly, a comparative literature major should deal in greater breadth and depth with other traditions, and ideally should require mastery of at least one foreign language and extensive familiarity with the literature of that language in the original. (And another shortcoming of the curriculum for training scholars in the humanities is that there's no training in foreign languages, which are a requirement for most real scholarly work in history or literature and the arts; however, foreign language instruction might well be planned for the future.)

Basically it seems like the sort of thing someone who hasn't actually done advanced academic work in the humanities would consider a good humanities curriculum (and for generalists after a liberal arts education it's not so objectionable), and it would certainly appeal to someone who went to one of the many less satisfactory education factories of our day. Less understandable are the vehement attacks, psychologizing, and insinuations of intellectual dishonesty several of the supporters of Founder’s College have seen fit to charge its critics. Here I agree with msb’s comments to Noumenal Self’s first post, that many of them seem not to realize that scholarly work in the humanities is not easy or self-evident once you’ve passed along the royal road of philosophy and cannot be done without specialized training as exhaustive (and exhausting) as one finds in the physical sciences. That's because there's a lot more to the humanities than just the one-off move from philosophy to the facts of reality.

History, for example, is the rational reconstruction of past human events; it requires detailed knowledge of all aspects of the past that could have influenced the choices people made and sensitivity to how their consequences changed the landscape to influence other people in turn. People’s philosophical views are an important part of that, of course, but they do not *determine* human actions but rather serve to *constrain* them in much the same way (though on a longer time scale) as did the economic structure, political and social institutions, and technological level of their society.

Similarly, artists’ philosophical views have a great impact on their art; however, just as important when dealing with literature or art is their tradition, how artists assimilated their past models and contemporary rivals and reacted creatively to them. Studying the arts as a scholar rather than an artist requires a thorough knowledge of the tradition that artists fitted themselves into. In short, both history and the arts as scholarly fields of study must deal fundamentally with continuity over time, and this is true of the other humanities as well. Undergraduate education in the humanities that is not fundamentally based on the continuities of a given discipline does a profound disservice to future scholars, which I fear would be true of the heavily topical curriculum described for Founder’s College. No wonder a number of people actually doing academic work in the humanities line up so loudly against it, and I suppose it’s not much of a surprise that non-humanities types don't see what's so objectionable about it.



Comment #97

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 15:31:19 mdt
Name: anon

Re: NS returns

Adrian, thank you for sending me to the dictionary (scansion) and for explaining (to me) the basis for the pro and con views of this undertaking.

I can now see why some (those who will be doing academic work) are 'negative' about it and why that surprised me so. And why I am so delighted by the project. I suppose I am a victim of the standard liberal arts education factory... so I would see it as 'wonderful'.

Further it delights me, yet again, to see that there are Objectivist academics who really know what they are doing - far beyond my own study. Can't wait till there is an Objectivist ('oriented' - is that appropriate?) graduate school with real estate under it.

Thanks!



Comment #98

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 16:45:13 mdt
Name: Adrian Hester

Anon writes: "I can now see why some (those who will be doing academic work) are 'negative' about it and why that surprised me so. And why I am so delighted by the project. I suppose I am a victim of the standard liberal arts education factory... so I would see it as 'wonderful'."

I can certainly understand the positive response to Founder's College. My criticism focused on the negative points I saw in the curriculum, but I'm not writing the college off. Several people have pointed to the fact that the college is accepting applicants for next year before it's been completely established; I'd be a bit apprehensive about that too. The flip side, however, is that for the next two years the first class will be occupied with the core curriculum, not advanced courses in their majors. I doubt the advanced curriculum is set in stone; probably once faculty have been hired they'll have the freedom to design an advanced curriculum better directed towards preparing students for graduate study in accordance with the basic vision of the university. (For instance, in history one could add the courses I mentioned in English, French, Greek and Roman history, one per semester in the third and fourth years.) It shows promise; quite good things could come from it.



Comment #99

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 5:43:52 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Founders College appears to be foundering. I'm not even remotely surprised.

<http://www.thenewsrecord.com/founders011407.htm>



Comment #100

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 5:54:36 mdt
Name: anon

Followup: Boy was I wrong -

I suppose, as an Objectivist, in the interest of intellectual honesty I should post this comment to this old article and eat crow. I wrote some hopeful things above about the possibilites of Founders College almost one and a half years ago. I just recently found out what happened by googling.

I gave my reasons at the time and I still consider them valid knowing what I knew - of course it was what I read in the press.

So it is an understatement to say that I am floored and shocked at what occurred there. It appears there were no provisions for reserves to assure the long term viability of the school. The exact opposite of what I would have expected.

I was wrong. How could they do this? What is the back story I wonder? Did an Objectivist do this?

Sincerely,

anon