Academia Outside Academia
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
Academia has suffered many crises. Warnings about the closing of the minds and the strengthening of echo chambers have been shot across its bows for decades. Yet remedies are slow to come and often deceptive. The recent establishment of the University of Austin, for example, shunts the demand for academic freedom to the foreground. Of course freedom of inquiry must be cherished, yet what is it but a tool for achieving greater means?
The real fracture lies somewhere much more fragile and fundamental: the erosion of collegiality. Credentialism and obscure jargon poison the soil of academia. Scholars don’t live or act as peers anymore. More perniciously, many avoid or denigrate public engagement, recanting their mission to disseminate knowledge outside their cloisters, which is nevertheless part of the academic vocation.
Students are the first casualties. Going through university resembles more and more a treacherous game. Young minds are rewarded for their prowess at manipulating the ruling ideology rather than recovering the ancient ideals of knowledge. As such, universities are often depicted as dogmatic structures, praised by some but condemned and mocked by others. But where else can the generally curious find the wisdom craved?
Of course, our world brims with countless resources. Not just good, old-fashioned books but also blogs, articles and podcasts. The internet has shown that passionate learners are the best teachers and, in general, this is why they thrive online, sharing their latest discoveries and insights into topics both controversial and tame. Those people have much to offer. However, as flexible as they are, social media doesn’t always provide the right template for in-depth analysis.
PAIDEIA grants those intellectual leaders a platform where love for their subjects can be spread in a manner that bypasses bureaucracies and connects them directly with the incorrigibly curious. In our view, academia can exist meaningfully outside of academia. We believe that a strong net of teachers, however small it is, can create a stronger community than that which currently structures universities. A few seeds in a fertile soil can achieve great things.
The different formats that we propose are tailored for different needs. Live lecture series allow students to dive in fundamental questions, interacting directly with the teachers in communal settings. People who cannot follow the regular schedules can purchase the recordings and enjoy them in their own free time. Tutorials are made for those who want to take their time fleshing out the subjects they love. That tenet of the Oxbridge method of teaching enables mentors and students to walk the same path, pursuing truth together in the true spirit of collegiality that has vanished from universities.