Puzzling Reasoning

Mark C. Taylor has quite a reputation in the arena of postmodern theology. I’ve never been especially enthusiastic about his writings; they struck me as uninteresting, but I have been willing to take my colleagues’ word that he’s brilliant (and his position as chair of the Religion Department at Columbia suggests that his colleagues share that assessment).
A while back, he began making splashy media appearances concerning education and technology. He garnered some very generous support for ideas that seem to have fallen by the wayside, but (in the way such matters go) that seems not to have affected his reputation as a pundit, and now he’s pontificating about the future of the university as part of the publicity campaign for a forthcoming book. He’s against academic tenure, against institutional expansion, and is not obviously self-critical about his own position as a celebrity and Ivy League department chair.
I have some questions about academic tenure myself. Let me hasten to say I’m a union man from the word “go,” and tenure marks such a remarkable achievement by academic labourers that I don’t blame anyone for clinging to it. I’m not persuaded, though, that it benefits all academic labourers equally well, nor that the unequal benefits actually make so great a positive difference for the profession that it’s worth perpetuating tenure. But hey, I’m willing to listen, and am certainly not argumentative about the topic.
But even my predisposition to contemplate alternatives to the present system (and my goggle-eyed amazement that universities think it makes any sense to expand facilities rather than investing in the teaching and learning that constitute the raison d’être of higher education in the first place) doesn’t suffice to make Taylor’s ill-considered vagaries the least bit enticing. Even when I’m inclined to sympathise with arguments that he makes, he makes them so haughtily and imprecisely that I have a difficult time reconciling his academic reputation with the out-of-touch rhetoric of his pedagogical proposals. Candidly, he writes so carelessly about education that I’m inclined to suppose that my assessment of his theology has less to do with simple divergent paths, and perhaps at least a shade more to do with slipshod reasoning.
It’s getting toward time for me to dress for my day’s business, but Taylor’s confession that he “honestly [doesn’t] know what a lot of academics do a lot of the time” ought to rule out anyone’s taking him seriously. On what basis does he write about revolutionising the higher-ed industry when he himself admits that he doesn’t know what the labourers do?

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