I remember taking my first theory course--it was, interestingly enough, in grad school, because my undergraduate institution focused on reader response when it came to literary texts. I am glad of that approach, as it seems to me that familiarity with the words on the page is essential when you start delving into theoretical schools of thought--there are so many that often students get overwhelmed by the need to apply the theory to make their point and forget what the text itself says. I think this is why so much academic output is so easy to mock--it's become an exercise in pushing the envelope, not in reading the text, and the envelope gets pushed right into (unwitting) self-parody.
I also remember moving rather quickly from the glow of "what interesting ideas" to a jaded "this is stupid, but I need an "A"" approach to my own writings. When I try to pinpoint the reason, I realize it's more a combination of factors than One Big Flaw in Education. I was reminded of this when I reread a Stanley Fish piece (slow day at work, okay?) in which he spends a LOT of type to make the point that postmodernism isn't to blame for the vapidity of much scholarly debate or the insipid nature of students, but that the failure of intellectuals (and society at large) to properly understand postmodernism leads to these problems. Well okay, Stanley, I get that. But it doesn't actually solve the problem, does it?
And here's the rub: when confronted with the negative consequences of a particular school of thought or philosophical movement, intellectuals almost always fall back on the "it isn't properly understood" defense. Which can almost always be true, based on the myriad interpretations of any given idea, theory or approach to life. Real life example--I made a post mocking a particularly vapid proclamation by a professor, and pointed out that his views were unsurprising, given his penchant for decorating his website with Che Guevara posters. I received an earnest non-flaming email from a lady who informed me that I didn't properly understand what Guevara was about--he was a freedom fighter, etc. etc. Okay, I'll admit to deficiency in my Guevara knowledge, so I did a little research. And what I came back to, and what I pointed out in my reply to this emailer was that at the end of the day, there was blood all over Guevara's hands, and not because he was "misunderstood," but because he did precisely what he said he would do. In addition, Guevara shares in the blood on Castro's hands, because he gave the fellow a "leg up," so to speak. As such, my contempt of those who hold him up as a paragon of virtue is defensible.
Proclaiming and preserving someone's innocence because they've been "misunderstood" even when their own actions and history point to the opposite conclusion is wrong. Ideas do have consequences, but it's almost impossible to see what they'll be when the ideas are being put forward. So it's back to the rub. Philosophies will almost always be misunderstood, misused, and abused. The question is, what do we do about it?