Anderson, Martin. Impostors in the Temple: American Intellectuals Are Destroying Our

 

Anderson, Martin. Impostors in the Temple: American Intellectuals Are Destroying Our
Universities and Cheating Our Students of Their Future. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

This is a book about fraud and phoniness in academia. "The dirty little secret of the academic
intellectuals is that much of what they write and hold up to themselves and to the rest of the
world as the highest expression of what they do is inconsequential and trifling." (p. 85) And,
"Taken as a whole, academic research and writing is the greatest intellectual fraud of the
twentieth century." (p. 85) And he suggests concerning academic intellectuals: "...their
professional lives are often a lie." (p. 123) Indeed, to Professor Martin, in the universities of this
country, "integrity is dead." (p. 9)

He sees university teachers this way: "They are the corrupt priests of America's colleges and
universities and, while small in number, their influence is large and pervasive. They are the great
pretenders of academe. They pretend to teach, they pretend to do original, important work. They
do neither. They are impostors in the temple. And from these impostors most of the educational
ills of America flow. Only when we understand these renegade intellectual priests, and take
action against them, can America's full intellectual integrity and power be restored." (p. 10)

Corruption, fraud, pretense, lies, abuse, harassment, paedophilia, plagiary, sham, and all the rest
of it characterize the professorate. It is a mighty indictment. But it is colored throughout by
Anderson's expectations of what the professorate ought to be. Note in the very title: "The
Temple." He thinks of universities that way! He feels strongly that academics ought to be the
priests of the intellectual age and he is terribly disappointed and discouraged that they are not. He
is angry that they have not lived up to his experiences with a few good professors in the halcyon
days when he was an undergraduate at Dartmouth in the early 1950s. He remembers how
wonderful it was and what it should be for students now. He compares the world of his mature
years with the world of his upbringing and lo, we are found wanting.

One of the silliest plaints in the book: the professorate is "left wing." The "L" word is use
liberally. But to cite polls concerning political affiliation or rhetoric about its behavior is to miss
the point that the bulk of my colleagues, anyway, have been loud-mouthed brayers of liberalism
who, when the time came for putting it on the line, have done absolutely nothing! In my
experience, colleagues have been gutless in the extreme. Yes, some of the movements of the
1960s and 1970s did have roots in the universities but those roots were NOT with the faculty but
with the students. I have bitter, very personal experiences dating from the Freedom Riders in
New Orleans and the Racial Movement in Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. The professorate is
liberal in name only. Anderson takes the rhetoric seriously and that is a serious mistake.

On the other hand, Anderson is "right on" regarding the irrelevance of the "studies" in learned
journals. As an adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Professor Anderson is in a position to
know that what was written in the economic journals of those eras was irrelevant to what was
going on in the economy. He puts it this way: "After reviewing the twelve-year output of
America's most scholarly economics journal I understood more clearly a phenomenon I had
witnessed during four years of government service, first on President Nixon's White House staff
and then as President Reagan's economic and domestic policy adviser. Not once in all those
years, in countless meetings on national economic policy, did anyone ever refer to any article
from an academic journal. Not once did anyone use a mathematical formula more complicated
and adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing." (p. 95)

Professor Anderson details and interprets four common kinds of academic corruption:
professional, political, personal and institutional. There are extensive examples provided for
each. It is not a very nice portrait of the institution called the university. But he does offer some
hope, he has some suggestions for improvement. After examining the institutionalization of the
TA, he suggests: Prohibit Student Teaching. After looking at the nonsense in the professional
journals, he suggests: Stop Rewarding Spurious Research and Writing. After looking at the
process of getting through graduate school, he offers: Change the Ph.D. Degree Process. After
examining tenure, he opines: End Faculty Tenure. And the list also includes: Reorganize faculty
titles and responsibilities, return to the four-year bachelor's degree, take sexual harassment
seriously, ban political discrimination, stop athletic corruption and crack down on institutional
corruption. He does not discuss the problems associated with the changes he recommends.

There is a very unrealistic view of the university in all of this: the university is not what it is
supposed to be, along with the assumption that the author knows what the university is supposed
to be. This is implied: I remember what it was like in my undergraduate days, and it was not like
this. Well, Professor Anderson, I remember one hell of a football weekend at Dartmouth back in
the early 1950s. It was a weekend full of the usual joys of such fall experiences: sex, football and
alcohol. One of the fraternities at Dartmouth was wonderful to us, guests from Fordham. It was a
great weekend but it had absolutely nothing to do with the Temple of your title. Dartmouth was
just another fun place to be. You are dreaming of a world that never was and never will be.

For those who BELIEVE that there should be more to the university than what there is, this is a
disappointed lover's lament which they may enjoy!