Thomas Bertonneau writes for the Martin Center about disturbing changes he’s seen within his college’s faculty.

When I began teaching, most of the English faculty members, including the chair who hired me, had earned their doctorates in the late 1970s.

They were oleaginous liberals, naturally, but they were also ladies and gentlemen of actual education and considerable high literacy. They took it for granted that the purpose of a literature program was to bring to life in students the Intuition of Form or Imagination about which George Santayana writes in his Sense of Beauty. According to Santayana, “Imagination…generates as well as abstracts; it observes, combines, and cancels; but it also dreams.”

Imagination, Santayana writes, involves spontaneity; it strives toward “the supremely beautiful.”

As the Old Guard went into retirement, a cohort of new assistant professors filled the department’s tenure-track lines. The new phase of aggressive affirmative-action recruitment ensured that this replacement-generation of instructors, overwhelmingly female, differed starkly in character from its precursor-generation.

The new hires came to the institution from the politically radicalized graduate programs of the state universities. Whereas the Old Guard corresponded to a literary-generalist or dilettante model—terms that I use in a wholly positive way—the arrivistes brought with them only their narrow specialisms, as encrusted in their conformist political dogmas.

Mention Santayana to the Old Guard and chances were good that any given one of them would be familiar with the drift, at least, of the philosopher’s work. Mentioning Santayana to an arriviste produces a blank stare. …

… The Young Guard generally replaces traditional literature with contemporary fiction, just as it replaces thinking with sloganeering.

Where newbies cannot replace the traditional with the contemporary, they lard on “the latest theory.” This predilection varies only slightly from the tactic of hyping the latest model in automobile salesmanship. Only a Neanderthal would drive last year’s model or read the Cratylus. It is imperative to be up to date.