If you were to walk into any public university today, there is an extremely high chance that you will easily be able to locate departments dedicated to the fields of gender studies, feminist theory, and various degrees concentrating on the study of various forms of identity. If one were to walk into a university approximately a century ago, these schools of thought would be nearly non-existent. Majoring in the arts and the humanities meant studying language, history, philosophy, religion, and classics. Due to the advent of neoliberal ideology infiltrating academia, college students in Ivy League schools are actually getting dumber. Today, Bachelor’s degrees reflecting neoliberal leanings in the arts and humanities earn less than $30,000 per year after five years in the workforce as reflected in the following graph:
What has led to the advent of these various degree programs that reflect neoliberal thought? The answer is not simple. We can begin by analysing the 20th-century French philosopher Jacques Derrida and his theory of deconstructionism, which entails a lot more than what could possibly be extrapolated in a single article. As it applies to literary interpretation, Derrida taught that every possible situation predicates an infinite amount of interpretations, which is true. In this case, which interpretation is to be upheld, or even paralleled? There is no objective interpretation in Derrida’s worldview because texts possess more meaning than their authors may have initially intended, and social structures unknown or misunderstood by a college student today may have been in place during the time of its writing may influence how one interprets any given text.
If one follows this methodology (if it can even be labelled as such) to its logical conclusion, then there is no “wrong” interpretation when it comes to literary studies. Because of this, Derrida spawned a rigorous interest in schools of thought such as LGBT studies, feminist theory, and sociology. These schools are generally not so much concerned with unveiling the “proper” interpretation of a text as they are about understanding historical, religious, and mythical literature through the lens of their immediate social context. In giving birth to the interpretive rule of permissible chaos, Derrida inadvertently gave birth to schools of thought that began to reflect postmodern cultural trends in academia.
J. Hillis Miller, a Yale professor emeritus who specialised in literary criticism during the rapid growth of deconstructionism, has defined this postmodern interpretive framework as “not a dismantling of the structure of a text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently solid ground is no rock, but thin air.”
This has inevitably led to a decline in the quality of education received by college students pursuing a career in the arts and humanities. By departing from traditionally accepted moral and interpretive frameworks, postmodernism, as exemplified in Derrida’s school of thought, has prevented many college students and scholars from arriving at any attempt to ground an understanding of a subject in objectivity. The postmodern metanarrative is filled with copious amounts of scepticism, distrust towards historically established narratives based on reason or tradition, and, of course, is seeped in moral relativism.
Because deconstructionism is the theoretical brainchild of postmodernism, and because there is allegedly an infinite amount of equally valid interpretations of any possibly given text, there are no wrong answers. If there are no wrong answers, then there are also no “right” answers (if I am right, then someone else must be wrong). Therefore, if there is an infinite amount of valid readings of any given text, then no tools can be taken away from literature and literary devices become subject to our social structures. And historically, literary criticism has been predominately concerned with extracting tools from literature. Without receiving elements from that which we study to help supplement our intelligence and ability to apply tools and classical methods in any given situation, we become mindless idiots destined to stumble in a room of darkness. At the university level, Derrida takes whatever sliver of identifiers college students possess and strips it away from him or her, leaving the interpreter stumbling ungrounded in chaos.
To paraphrase the above chunks of text, we are creating a generation of idiots possessed by the spirit of Derrida, validating whatever opinions they have by promoting moral relativism in academia. This atrocity is occurring most obviously in the United States, with Yale University as its historical harbinger in the 1970s and other Ivy League schools following closely in pursuit. Ever since the advent of Derrida, universities and university culture has become increasingly neoliberalised, resulting in the cultural decay of society inadvertently through the poor scholarship performed at the university level. So how valuable is your university degree, college student? According to Derrida, it only depends on how you want to interpret it, but in my book, it’s worth exponentially less than the parchment it’s printed on.