The Chronicle has some ‘splaining to do

by Henry on May 4, 2012

I’ve been dealing with the usual end-of-semester lunacy and haven’t had time to do more than goggle at the horror of the blogging trainwreck that is Naomi Schaefer Riley. A pro-tip: when you want to write a post entitled The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations, it is a good idea, at the very minimum to, you know, actually ‘just read’ the fucking dissertations yourself. Whiney follow-up posts explaining that “it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them” and that “there are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery,” might lead the enquiring reader to suspect that you’re a slovenly and incompetent hack. Actually reading the posts in question might lead the aforementioned reader to suspect a variety of other things too. I suspect that Ms. Riley has a bright future awaiting her, involving victimization claims, think tank fellowships and other wingnut welfare goodies. But I wonder what the Chronicle (which isn’t what it was, but is still something) thinks it can possibly get from association with her brandname, and why the hell some editor (they do have editors, right?) didn’t spot this quite repulsive piece and spike it before publication.

Update: @zunguzungu is asking Amy Lynn Alexander, who represents the Chronicle on Twitter (@Chronicle_Amy), whether the Chronicle has any standards for what constitutes acceptable scholarly practice for their bloggers, and if so, what these standards are. He’s not getting any answer.

Update 2: The CHE’s editor has written a note telling us that Ms. Riley has been canned, that the Chronicle fell down on the job, and that it wants to apologize to its readers, several thousand of whom were angry enough to leave comments expressing their unhappiness. Which is all very nice, but I don’t think that it’s the readers who need an apology. It’s the graduate students who had their work trashed by a lazy incompetent hack, who was outraged at the suggestion that she should have read it before throwing slurs thanks to the CHE. Perhaps the editor has written to these students privately; perhaps not.

{ 174 comments }

1

Joe 05.04.12 at 3:48 pm

Be sure to read the response from the graduate students:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/grad-students-respond-to-riley-post-on-african-american-studies/46421

Kudos to them.

2

Eric L. 05.04.12 at 3:53 pm

Is it possible that the original title of the piece was “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertation Titles” but was edited for concision?

3

ben w 05.04.12 at 3:55 pm

But Henry, the Chronicle has explained! Join the debate!

Is it possible that the original title of the piece was “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertation Titles” but was edited for concision?

Yes, that would certainly have excused everything.

4

Aaron B 05.04.12 at 4:00 pm

I’ve been tweeting variations on the question “So, what is the Chronicle’s standards for acceptable scholarly practice for bloggers?” at @Chronicle_Amy for a while — who’s actually engaging with criticism, albeit pretty poorly — and this seems to me to be the main possibility for an upside out of this whole fiasco; putting pressure on the CHE’s pretensions to academic rigour (or revealing that they have none) seems like the only vulnerable spot, since as noted, NSR has a career ahead of her at right wing thought factories. So far, @Chronicle_Amy has told me that “Bloggers adhere to Guidelines, yes. CHE tho doesn’t police philosophy.” and “We are mindful of QualityofIdeas.” When pressed for elaboration, nothing followed, but hey, a guy can dream…

5

Salient 05.04.12 at 4:19 pm

Proposal: nix the link. They have all but admitted it was an attempt to drive traffic:

Many of you have asked The Chronicle to take down Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recent posting, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” I urge readers instead to view this posting as an opportunity—to debate Riley’s views, challenge her, set things straight as you see fit. Take a moment to read The Chronicle’s front-page story about the future of black studies, written by Chronicle reporter Stacey Patton and weigh in. // Join the debate.

Now I feel guilty for having even clicked over to Slate of Higher Education. Eeesh.

6

Gene O'Grady 05.04.12 at 4:28 pm

After the embarrassing hagiography for Steve Jobs, who, as a (so-called) Silicon Valley native, I know to have been a jerk, how can anyone object to a dissertation on midwifery, an essential historical background to many of the medical and gender issues that plague American society. For what it’s worth, great-grandmother was a midwife in the middle of nowhere for a while and I am trying to decipher her diaries, so maybe I have a vested interest.

7

Uncle Kvetch 05.04.12 at 4:57 pm

Now I feel guilty for having even clicked over to Slate of Higher Education.

Everything you think you know about Naomi Schaefer Riley is wrong.

8

Bloix 05.04.12 at 4:58 pm

Did anyone else notice the “tell” in the conclusion of Riley’s column? She says:
“Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates etc.”
The direct-address “folks” to mean “you and me know what’s common sense, not like them” is a Rush Limbaugh usage, so common as to be almost a catch-phrase.

9

Dr. Free-Ride 05.04.12 at 5:13 pm

Seconding Aaron B @4 that this incident seem useful primarily in exposing CHE’s preference for traffic over standards that resemble academic or journalistic rigor (or even intellectual honesty).

@Chronicle_Amy ‘s tweets have also indicated that CHE hasn’t quite figured out how to use social media to its own benefit (unless “benefit” is construed solely in terms of pageviews — people do tend to stop for online trainwrecks near semester’s end).

And, there has been the suggestion from CHE that blogs ought to be viewed using quite different standards than other pieces under the CHE banner — I guess because they are so new that CHE hasn’t yet figured out how they work? I, too, miss 2001. Glad to see the CHE editors keeping it alive.

10

christian_h 05.04.12 at 5:14 pm

Yeah like Henry I’m (for once) happy to be too busy to actually follow this train wreck in detail. But I will say that all you need to know about NSR can be gleaned from reading her blog posts (ie, the titles of her blog posts).

11

RSA 05.04.12 at 5:21 pm

I didn’t have to read beyond the title of Riley’s post to recognize it as nonsense.

12

Matt 05.04.12 at 5:22 pm

“there are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery,

The funny thing (or a funny thing) about this example is, while this is clearly a niche topic in some sense, it’s also obviously a completely legitimate one, one that I can’t even imagine being controversial. That she’d find it _obviously_ silly says a lot about her.

13

kevin 05.04.12 at 5:23 pm

What’s especially awful here is that one of the dissertation titles that she mocks — “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s” — sounds like something that could have been written by a dozen of so imminent historians at major institutions.

Of course, most of those folks are established white men, so I guess she didn’t feel like picking on them, the way she bravely singled out a trio of young black female students.

14

bianca steele 05.04.12 at 5:25 pm

What’s especially strange is not just that she thinks the topic is silly, but that the idea of studying a topic because it’s been neglected previously is silly.

15

Satan Mayo 05.04.12 at 5:42 pm

The direct-address “folks” to mean “you and me know what’s common sense, not like them” is a Rush Limbaugh usage, so common as to be almost a catch-phrase.

Also common Barack Obama usage.

16

Bloix 05.04.12 at 5:59 pm

Midwifery has been an object of lively academic study for decades now. It sits at an important intersection of medical history, social history, sociology, and gender studies, and it provides an abundance of primary source materials. Try googling “medicalization of childbirth,” for example, and see what you find – dozens and dozens of articles and books. Or read the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife’s Tale, by the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, for a view into daily life in colonial America – and one that was made into a very popular PBS film. There’s nothing “neglected” about midwifery.

So African-American midwifery seems to be an obvious and fairly safe selection of a dissertation topic. One possible approach would be to examine the displacement of women’s folk knowledge by male medical expertise (often incorrect and harmful to mother and baby). Did it mirror the white experience, which has been extensively studied? Or did it differ in interesting ways that reflect the African-American experience more broadly? And there are any number of other topics that would be worthy of study – unless they’ve been done already.

Oh, and “Naomi Schaefer Riley is is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values.” http://naomiriley.com/about So never fear, she’s already guzzling at the wingnut trough.

17

Salient 05.04.12 at 6:15 pm

The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Blog? Just Read the Entries.

Could this become a meme? Should it?

The direct-address “folks” to mean “you and me know what’s common sense, not like them” is a Rush Limbaugh usage, so common as to be almost a catch-phrase.

That whole sentence was a gold mine. “Seriously” was the tell I noticed, and “legitimate debates” sealed the deal. It’s, like, an iron law of discourse that whenever somebody says they want a ‘real’ or ‘legitimate’ debate, they don’t want a real or legitimate debate; they want their debate opponent to acquiesce in their choice of vocabulary and several of their priors, because this would handicap contention.

18

Substance McGravitas 05.04.12 at 6:16 pm

The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Naomi Schaefer Riley’s Blog? Just Read the Entries.

That’s good.

19

Henry 05.04.12 at 6:17 pm

I hope it’s clear that my use of an expletive in re: the dissertations is a comment on Ms. Schaefer Riley, not on the dissertations themselves, but probably should say that explicitly, just in case. The _Chronicle_ used to do a lot more ‘intellectual life’ pieces, but seems to have decided some years ago that its core readership was academic administrators, and drawn the obvious conclusion. However, this is rather worse than dumbing your magazine down into a combination of administrivia and gossip pieces. Publishing a piece of shit like this – and especially a piece of shit that exclusively targeted _graduate students_, and then building on your sins by inviting outraged readers to ‘join the debate’ is genuinely reprehensible behavior. They need to issue a full apology – under the chief editor’s name – to the students who were targeted, and to do it pretty sharpish.

20

Marc 05.04.12 at 6:18 pm

This is appalling on a lot of levels. You don’t write ignorant screeds about dissertations that you haven’t read on subjects that you don’t understand. This is worse when it’s someone with no more background than an undergraduate degree sneering about dissertations – for an audience of academics.

But it’s not just that she is unqualified – the piece by the editors is awful. Stormfront would cause quite a debate too – is the Chronicle obliged to publish them? I think that this is a firing offense for the editors as much as for the column itself.

21

Colin Danby 05.04.12 at 6:20 pm

That’s what you get for calling a blog “Brainstorm”: howling wind, hail, local flooding.

And my favorite blog, Edge of the American West, has just moved into the CHE stable.

22

adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 05.04.12 at 6:20 pm

I wonder if the think tank is going to work out – even by the standards of rw hackery this is incompetent. The three dissertations she picks on actually sound pretty interesting, maybe even to “folks” – but as the GOP people who want to cut NSF, NEH and NEA funding so artfully demonstrate every year, it’s _very_ easy to find projects that sound completely silly when you just provide the title and a brief description w/o context in almost any discipline.
A quality hack would have picked up proquest and spent five minutes finding a couple of black studies dissertations that actually sounded completely useless and silly to any normal person (judging by their title and short summary, that is).

23

piglet 05.04.12 at 6:21 pm

This follows the pattern of right-wing science haters to try to discredit the NSF by citing proposal titles that some readers are expected to find silly-sounding. Shame on the Chronicle.

E.g. http://darwinbookcats.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/sen-coburn-and-gma-attack-science-and-the-nsf/, http://arkansasmediawatch.wordpress.com/2011/05/

24

JanieM 05.04.12 at 6:31 pm

It’s, like, an iron law of discourse that whenever somebody says they want a ‘real’ or ‘legitimate’ debate, they don’t want a real or legitimate debate….

This is right up there with the use of the work “frankly” to mean the opposite of “I’m going to speak honestly to you now.” I pretty much assume that anyone who uses the work “frankly” with any frequency is lying through their teeth pretty much all the time.

25

John Mashey 05.04.12 at 6:48 pm

From past history, CHE seems to be struggling with blogging, even when the topic is an area of science with strong evidence (climate), being whacked by a not-very-well-published anthropologist, Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars:

Bottling Up Global Warming Skepticism”

and then
Climate Thuggery,

replied by me and Rob Coleman (a serious academic who ran Ohio State’s academic misconduct board for a few years) in
Guest Post: Bottling Nonsense, Misusing a Civil Platform.

Amusingly, this whole sequence attracted a horde of Dunning-Kruger afflictees resident at a few other blogs, generating 10X more comments than typical, as per Rick Perry, Peter Wood and the blogosphere. I’d guess most had never even heard of CHE before.

26

Sumana Harihareswara 05.04.12 at 6:54 pm

I was just rereading A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich! Now I totally want to read “a dissertation on historical black midwifery”! Can anyone give me the direct link so I don’t add another pageview to CHE on this? (I’m not at an academic institution so I’m hoping it’s hosted someplace with an open access policy, or I can get to it via New York Public Library’s database access, or via HighBeam’s offer to Wikipedia/Wikimedia editors.)

27

Aaron Baker 05.04.12 at 7:00 pm

Schafer Riley is so appallingly bad, I really am having a hard time getting my head around WHY the CHE hired her. I mean, there ARE intelligent conservative writers out there–who could probably use the work.

Freddie de Boer at Balloon-Juice is excellent here:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/05/03/the-chronicle-should-be-ashamed/

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/05/03/stop-digging-please/

As is Brian Leiter (www.leiterreports.typepad.com).

28

Aaron Baker 05.04.12 at 7:10 pm

And she has a BA from Harvard. I’m sorry, but with Ross Douthat, and now this person, I’m beginning to wonder whether that’s not the asshole credential par excellence.

29

Salient 05.04.12 at 7:12 pm

It’s vaguely interesting that Riley apparently believes that “legitimate scholars” are supposed to “find solutions to the problems of blacks in America.” Maybe she just meant black scholars (sooooooo not racist!), or maybe she meant all scholars whose research includes some investigation of the black experience or the context and environment of that experience (those scholars are sooooooo the real racists! no backsies!). I also especially like that Riley didn’t even bother to look up what “natural birth literature” is, leaving that bit open to the obvious rejoinder. The whole post is so stupid you can’t read it through without calling Poe’s Law or Stick Rule on every other sentence.

I pretty much assume that anyone who uses the work “frankly” with any frequency is lying through their teeth pretty much all the time.

Yeah, ‘frankly’ always comes across to me as “give me a little breathing space here to be a righteous asshat in.” (probably even when I say it…)

30

dsquared 05.04.12 at 7:29 pm

Now I totally want to read “a dissertation on historical black midwifery”! Can anyone give me the direct link

unforch, not possible as the dissertation in question has apparently not been finished yet – hence the fact that its author is a “graduate student” rather than a “adjunct professor or whatever they call them”. Which of course adds another layer of vileness to the whole gig.

31

Manta1976 05.04.12 at 7:36 pm

I wonder how she would react to the title of a thesis in maths or physics: “are we paying for this nonsense”?

Her quotation “My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now.”: I would have assumed that, after 15 years, she would have learned to at lest pretend to read a work before criticizing it.

Kudos to the grad students for their answer.

32

pete 05.04.12 at 7:40 pm

Just Read the Entries. Nice, but uh, just read the titles:
http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/author/nriley
That’s not only poetic justice, it’s enough to document her preoccupations.

33

parsimon 05.04.12 at 7:50 pm

Aaron at 28: And she has a BA from Harvard. I’m sorry, but with Ross Douthat, and now this person, I’m beginning to wonder whether that’s not the asshole credential par excellence.

It’s not. There are plenty of people with BAs from Harvard who are not asshats. You wouldn’t want to get carried away.

34

Benjamin S Nelson 05.04.12 at 7:54 pm

It’s, like, an iron law of discourse that whenever somebody says they want a ‘real’ or ‘legitimate’ debate, they don’t want a real or legitimate debate; they want their debate opponent to acquiesce in their choice of vocabulary and several of their priors, because this would handicap contention.

I thought much of the outrage directed at the CHE editor involved the sense that Riley was not participating in or encouraging legitimate debate.

I mean, it’s manifest that Riley’s initial article was ungrounded in evidence and hyperbolic in presentation. This indicates, by a fair and objective measure, that she has not bothered to make a minimal effort to make her case. And without making an effort, any debate that ensues really isn’t legitimate. It’s blunders all the way down.

PS: frankly, frankly, frankly, frankly, frankly.

35

Aaron Baker 05.04.12 at 7:56 pm

“It’s not. There are plenty of people with BAs from Harvard who are not asshats. You wouldn’t want to get carried away.”

Fair enough; I vented first and thought later.

36

Dr. Free-Ride 05.04.12 at 8:02 pm

Still, I’d be interested to see Naomi Schaefer Riley’s reasoned response to the claim (based on a sample size of 3 or so) that she and Ross Douhat and [some other disappointing Harvard BA] are the most persuasive case for the elimination of bachelors degrees at Harvard.

37

Uncle Kvetch 05.04.12 at 8:33 pm

This follows the pattern of right-wing science haters to try to discredit the NSF by citing proposal titles that some readers are expected to find silly-sounding.

This is* a staple at the NYTimes — every couple of years they would send a reporter to the MLA to cherry-pick the most outlandish**-sounding panel titles and put them on display for the derision of the readership.

*Or was, at least, before I stopped reading the Times. I doubt much has changed.
**Outlandish to non-initiates, of course.

38

Steve LaBonne 05.04.12 at 8:33 pm

I didn’t know Douthat was also a Harvard alum. Fred Hiatt was bad enough (and in my own class of ’76, to add insult to injury.) Gad, is there a way to formally renounce my degree? It’s so embarrassing.

39

politicalfootball 05.04.12 at 8:42 pm

I wonder if the think tank is going to work out – even by the standards of rw hackery this is incompetent.

I don’t think you’re current on the standards for right-wing hackery. Jonah Goldberg represents the state-of-the-art these days.

40

Aaron Baker 05.04.12 at 9:36 pm

Yes, he’s a Harvard alum, and while an undergraduate there, he published what may be the most obnoxious essay ever written on Harvard vs. non-Harvard: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2001/11/5/the-harvard-syndrome-last-winter-i/

Keep in mind as you read it that this is Ross Douthat sneering at the rest of humanity.

Harvard, of course, is not to blame for Douthat, or his frequent non sequiturs, or his smelly prejudices–though they might want to consider renouncing his degree.

41

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid 05.04.12 at 9:52 pm

Sumana @ 26: this must be connected, or part of the longer whole: (h/t fake accent, elsewhere)
http://meridian.aag.org/callforpapers/program/AbstractDetail.cfm?AbstractID=33858

42

Aaron Baker 05.04.12 at 9:56 pm

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid @41:

Surely, you don’t expect Schafer Riley to read an abstract that long?

43

LFC 05.04.12 at 10:09 pm

Steve LaBonne @38:
Not only is Douthat a Harvard alumnus, he wrote a book about his time there. But as you no doubt know, quite a few leftists and liberals also went to Harvard (either the college or the grad school(s) or both). Not to go too far back, one might begin such a list, say, with W.E.B. DuBois and go on from there.

44

Merp 05.04.12 at 10:14 pm

“Race for Profit” actually sounds to me like an excellent title: catchy and makes me want to hear what the author has to say.

“Misjudging the aesthetic qualities of dissertation titles” is probably the least of NSR’s sins, but it should still be counted among them.

45

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid 05.04.12 at 10:25 pm

Aaron: you know, I’m not an historian, or an academic of any kind, or even an American, and I think that paper sounds really interesting. NSR must suffer from a terrible poverty of the imagination.

46

purple 05.04.12 at 10:32 pm

Actually the history of black midwifery sounds much more interesting than most dissertations, or anything postmodern.

47

purple 05.04.12 at 10:37 pm

And the Chronicle charges so much for advertising they really have no need to stir up controversy for web pages hits and the pennies that follow.

A simpler answer is that some or many of their editors don’t like black people.

48

geo 05.04.12 at 11:10 pm

Fred Hiatt was bad enough (and in my own class of ‘76, to add insult to injury)

Consider yourself lucky, Steve. Elliott Abrams was in my class (’69).

49

rf 05.04.12 at 11:41 pm

You’re dealing with someone that has this, as an argument:

“Boy, life as a graduate student in a trendy discipline at a prestigious university sure is tough.”

This person is stupid beyond belief, but irrelevant (I know, start my own blog. I did, no-one read it.)
Whereas you have Satan walking, Tim Worstall, posting on this blog pretty much unopposed

50

christian_h 05.04.12 at 11:51 pm

“Reading” more of her blog posts, she generally comes across as an imitation David Horowitz crossed with Lee Siegel. What’s the over/under until the first article says “even the liberal CHE pointed out that black studies should be eliminated”?

51

parsimon 05.04.12 at 11:57 pm

You’re dealing with someone that who has this, as an argument

Sorry, pet peeve.

52

rf 05.05.12 at 12:00 am

Yeah, my grammar (wording?) ain’t great.
I recently discovered my CV is pretty much incomprehensible, though this should help. Thanks

53

parsimon 05.05.12 at 12:18 am

Sorry, sorry. It’s just a pet peeve. I seem to be seeing people using “that” for who everywhere these days.

54

rf 05.05.12 at 12:23 am

I really wasn’t being snarky. (Okay I was) I should apologize for interpreting your comment in the worst possible way.
(Honestly though, my grammars terrible and my CV’s just one long spelling mistake)

55

parsimon 05.05.12 at 12:34 am

Never apologize for anything, rf! Never! Apologies are a sign of weakness! Just ask Naomi Schaefer Riley.

56

R. Porrofatto 05.05.12 at 12:42 am

It seems just a teensy-weensy bit ironic that the editors of the Chronicle are using the “we just want to have a thriving academic debate” defense for a post that calls for the outright elimination of Black Studies.

57

JW Mason 05.05.12 at 12:56 am

A simpler answer is that some or many of their editors don’t like black people.

That would seem like the parsimonious explanation, no?

58

Pinko Punko 05.05.12 at 2:36 am

Funny thing- the conservative policy institute hacks normally write for the Innovations blog at the Chronicle, but maybe Brainstorm too is full of crap. Ms. Riley has a long line of turds.

59

JW Mason 05.05.12 at 3:18 am

Ok, I just clicked through (sorry!) and read about two paragraphs before recoiling in horror. However bad you think it is, it’s worse. Here’s what she says about midwifery dissertation:

The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them. That’s what I would say about Ruth Hayes’ dissertation, “‘So I Could Be Easeful’: Black Women’s Authoritative Knowledge on Childbirth.” It began because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature, which led me to look into historical black midwifery.” How could we overlook the nonwhite experience in “natural birth literature,” whatever the heck that is? It’s scandalous and clearly a sign that racism is alive and well in America, not to mention academia.

So first, there’s the assumption that black midwifes could be of no inherent interest to anyone. Then there’s the tendentious reading of the “largely absent” line as an accusation of racism — obviously discrediting, since there is no such thing — instead of boilerplate language that every dissertation justifies itself with. (Remember the first line of Lucky Jim’s thesis? “In considering this strangely neglected topic…”)

And her concluding “concession” that “there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community” is really just another twist of the knife — it’s saying that the only legitimate reason to study black culture and history is to find out what’s wrong with it.

60

Neil 05.05.12 at 5:14 am

I must say I think the “join the debate” response is a perfectly adequate one. There is a topic here on which reasonable people may disagree. I think the editors of the CHE should resign; others think that their apologizing and canning Riley is sufficient.

61

Dit_ca 05.05.12 at 5:21 am

Why does Henry not mention that Riley’s bizarre and repellant post was in response to a front-page story on black studies by the Chronicle reporter Stacey Patton?
http://chronicle.com/article/Black-Studies-Swaggering/131533/

62

hartal 05.05.12 at 6:25 am

I am just reading an undergraduate research proposal on midwifery. Questions include why midwifery remained popular in Sweden in comparison to the US and and the reasons for US regional variations in midwifery. Bloix gets right the significance of the topic. JW Mason too. Attitudes seem to be changing again in regards to midwifery as birthing centers may have some kind of formal recognition in Obamacare. Not sure. Point is, this is an important topic.

63

Guest 05.05.12 at 6:44 am

i seriously can’t believe i just read that racist bullshit in a mainstream academic publication. shameful.

64

Doctor Slack 05.05.12 at 7:34 am

Honestly, while I did sign the petition, after the manifold disaster of today I think CHE has a much bigger question to solve than just whether to fire Riley. There’s the racist post itself, then the “Editor’s Note” from McMillen cluelessly urging people to “join the debate” with someone clearly uninterested in debate, then the racist poster doubling down on her nonsense and actually declaring a proud ignorance of the subject she was supposedly critiquing, then Essig maundering on about feeling a bit conflicted about whether she should condemn open and outright racism on Brainstorm, then reliably disingenuous Bauerelein showing up to ask why all These People are being so sensitive

Collectively, all of these people have effectively swung a fair-sized wrecking ball at the CHE brand over the past forty-eight hours or so. The real question for CHE is: how did this gaggle of clueless incompetents come to be on your blogging staff? Who hired them? Who on the senior staff should have noticed the utter disaster unfolding over the past two days, and why didn’t they? Far as I can see, the only real way to repair the publication’s reputation with its readership is to ditch all of those people, basically scuttle the “Brainstorm” brand and start from scratch. The question of firing Riley is the just the tip of iceberg.

65

Katherine 05.05.12 at 9:09 am

Geez, has she read any dissertation (titles) ever? Those examples positively ooze relevance and interest. Makes me embarrassed for my own.

66

Tim Worstall 05.05.12 at 9:13 am

“Whereas you have Satan walking, Tim Worstall, posting on this blog pretty much unopposed”

Why thank you. A true badge of honour.

67

rf 05.05.12 at 10:43 am

A little over the top perhaps

68

Sumana Harihareswara 05.05.12 at 10:58 am

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid, thanks!

One accidentally good effect here: Schaefer Riley misspelled the student’s name as “Ruth Hayes”, thus ensuring that future web searches for the grad student’s actual name will be untouched by this nonsense.

69

teething ring 05.05.12 at 11:44 am

“There are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery.”

Is that something Eugene Genovese would ever say? Or Wilfred McClay? NSR is an embarrassment even in terms of her own political cohort.

Also: Karen Kruse Thomas’s excellent Deluxe Jim Crow: Civil Rights and American Health Policy, 1935-1954 contains a long subtle treatment of the condescension that African-American midwives in North Carolina received from the pointy-headed operatives of New Deal health programs:

“Lassiter [a white public health nurse] did not return Mary Doc’s admiration, calling such midwives ‘a necessary evil’ and predicting that only with ‘time and education, with the old midwives dying off can we hope to conquer our problem.’ Such views of midwives were inherent in the policies and propaganda of the Farm Security Administration, which chose to exclude nontraditional practitioners from participation in its medical cooperatives to court the favor of local medical societies and the American Medical Association. Farm Security Administration photographs highlighted the competence of doctors and nurses attending patients but portrayed black midwives as exotic, archaic relics of a primitive practice.”

So it’s not as if there aren’t conservative antistatist themes to be drawn from this history, if you’re so inclined. But some people are lazy.

70

Uncle Kvetch 05.05.12 at 12:55 pm

Why does Henry not mention that Riley’s bizarre and repellant post was in response to a front-page story on black studies by the Chronicle reporter Stacey Patton?

I’m not sure how relevant the original article is, but I did notice this passage:

Young black-studies scholars, like the five who enrolled in Northwestern’s inaugural Ph.D. class in 2006, are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline.

Sounds like someone’s getting a little above their station there, if you know what I mean. Downright uppity, even.

71

Aphasia 05.05.12 at 1:28 pm

If the Chronicle were to fire NSR from the blog roster, it would be satisfying, but it would surely play into her plans to become a martyr on the right, pilloried for her opinions. Because they are opinions. She’s on their site as a opinion blogger, not a reporter, much less as an academic. Her views, as vile and lazy and inaccurate as they are, are hers alone. They do not represent the newspaper, which, after all, ran the long reported story celebrating black studies that set NSR off. Did the Chronicle’s editors fail in allowing this blog post to go up? Maybe. They are in a tough position since they have obviously granted quite a bit of freedom to all their bloggers. At the very least, she should have been called out in advance by the editors for not doing her homework and not reading the scholarly work she was criticizing. That’s assuming someone saw the post before it went up. To take a contrary position, why should NSR have been stopped from revealing herself to be the lazy, hateful, incoherent blogger she is? It throws all of her work, including her books, into question.

72

Freddie 05.05.12 at 2:21 pm

I’ve been going to town on this at Balloon Juice, but the new post from Mark Bauerlein on that blog is so infuriating, I’m afraid that if I write about it I’m gonna have a stroke.

73

Gorgias 05.05.12 at 3:47 pm

I’d be less sympathetic with Ms. Riley if the academic standards of the african-studies community weren’t so obviously suspect; this sentence from Mary Lefkowitz about sums up my impression of nearly every encounter with the community I’ve had: A lecture at which serious questions could not be asked, and in fact were greeted with hostility — the occasion seemed more like a political rally than an academic event.

You can read the rest

It’s more than a little annoying when a group of supposed intellectuals make up whole sale facts and transparently lie for the sole purpose of a political agenda–but it’s infuriating when that same group shouts down and intimidates others who are actually interested in open and rigorous inquiry.

74

christian_h 05.05.12 at 3:58 pm

Gorgias, not sure what in your post is your opinion and what’s quoted. However, here’s my usual answer to people claiming something is “obvious”: if it’s so obvious, you should be able to present convincing evidence for it. This is the case in particular if what you claim to be “obvious” is an alleged lack of academic standards – one of those standards being that you don’t throw around assertions you can’t – or won’t – back up with evidence.

(Another such academic standard is that dismissing a work you haven’t read amounts to intellectual fraud. Just saying.)

75

Scott Lemieux 05.05.12 at 4:00 pm

the new post from Mark Bauerlein on that blog is so infuriating

Apparently, when David Broder passed away he inhabited Bauerlein’s body, and became a bit more hackish in the afterlife.

76

Gorgias 05.05.12 at 4:12 pm

Christian H,

Apologies–here is the link if you are interested: http://www.historyplace.com/pointsofview/not-out.htm

And I do think that practices of the african-studies community are illiberal. Of course I can only speak to my experience–but I feel it is a common one. In african-studies, more than in many other fields–any questioning or dissent is viewed as being in bad-faith. Also, I do think when a scholar says something along the lines of ‘Aristotle stole his metaphysics from Egyptian mysteries’ it is pretty transparently bad scholarship.

77

Freddie 05.05.12 at 4:17 pm

It’s more than a little annoying when a group of supposed intellectuals make up whole sale facts and transparently lie for the sole purpose of a political agenda—but it’s infuriating when that same group shouts down and intimidates others who are actually interested in open and rigorous inquiry.

You believe that judging an entire field by four-sentence synopses of three in-progress doctoral dissertations is “rigorous inquiry”?

78

christian_h 05.05.12 at 4:20 pm

Anything more than anecdotes to offer? I’m sure I could find bad scholarship in any subject you’d care to name. Certainly I can do so in my own, mathematics. Yet I’d hesitate to conclude that the discipline’s academic standards are suspect.

As for “questioning and dissent”: the “questioning and dissent” discussed here – by NSR – is in bad faith. She even admits it – by her own admission she felt no need to read the works she used to damn the whole subject! In general I’d also say that if by “questioning and dissent” you mean “going to a meeting and telling people their whole discipline is bogus” then I have trouble understanding why you would complain about people not listening to you. Because, you know, that’s also not in good faith either.

79

Tom Bach 05.05.12 at 4:21 pm

Gorgias:
I think you are conflating the “Out of Africa” theorists, with whom Leftkowitz had a long-running dispute, with Black Studies more generally.

80

J. Otto Pohl 05.05.12 at 4:28 pm

Gorigias:

The original post was African-American studies a field I know nothing about, not African studies which I do know a little bit about. I can only speak from my experience as well. There are no African-American studies where I work. But, we do have African studies. The Institute of African Studies (IAS) at the university where I work has not ever in my experience ever discouraged or displayed hostility towards questions and criticisms. There are some methodological and other differences between the historians at IAS and historians of Africa in the history department where I work. But, hostility, illiberality, and politicalization are not among the criticisms I have heard regarding IAS. Now granted my information is merely anecdotal about one university in Africa. But, I have found there is an awful lot more dissent allowed here regarding African history than for instance in the US regarding the history of Soviet nationality policies. There are certainly no “no go areas” in African studies here like the iron law enforced by people like Francine Hirsch, Amir Weiner, and others against claiming that _natsional’nost_ under Stalin functioned the same was as ‘race’ did in South Africa for many groups.

81

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.12 at 4:32 pm

Mark Bauerlein posts at Balloon Juice?

82

Freddie 05.05.12 at 4:34 pm

No, I do.

83

Freddie 05.05.12 at 4:34 pm

What I meant was, I’ve been talking about this story at Balloon Juice, but the new post on the CHE blog by Mark Bauerlein is seriously infuriating.

84

Gorgias 05.05.12 at 4:37 pm

Christian,

Indeed, I don’t have anything better than anecdotes to offer. But if we can’t reason about our past experiences to try to form general rules to guide further action–then we’re not left with much left to stand on, it seems to me. It also seems to me that the strength of our convictions should somehow be proportionate to the regularity of our observations. A few dishonest mathematicans shouldn’t corrupt our view of the entire field, but as some point, if we encounter more and more of them, we should begin to question whether or not mathematics is a scrupulous field.

And all I am saying here is that the uniformity of my experience with the african-studies community–which consists for the most part of african-studies scholars’ writings on classics–leads me to doubt the quality of the scholarship of the field in general. Is there any reason I should believe that scholars in this field writing about more contemporary topics shouldn’t be as politically minded in their considerations? It seems to me, that if anything, they should be even more stridently political. And if the outcomes of their inquiries are dictated by prior political beliefs–doesn’t that count as bad scholarship?

85

Freddie 05.05.12 at 4:43 pm

I’ll ask you again: do you think that judging an entire field by brief, third-party synopses of three in-progress doctoral dissertations represents intellectual rigor?

You very well might, given that you apparently believe that personal anecdote is sufficient to an understanding of broad swaths of scholarship. That’s just the trouble, Gorgias: you and others keep harping on tangential issues in order to turn the conversation away from exactly the lack of rigor that Schaefer Riley’s journalism represents. That’s a weasel move, and you know it.

86

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.12 at 4:50 pm

“And if the outcomes of their inquiries are dictated by prior political beliefs—doesn’t that count as bad scholarship?”

No. As a commenter here remarked years ago, when Roger Scruton embarks on an enquiry into sexual morality, you know it’s not going to end with him hitting the red-light district. Likewise, I’m pretty sure Robert Barro isn’t ever going to discover that the case for Keynesian economics is overwhelming. But these guys are not bad scholars at all. Good scholarship is not about being capable of ending up God knows where. It’s (partly) about leaving an audit trail so that the reader can figure out why you ended up where you did.

87

Substance McGravitas 05.05.12 at 4:51 pm

A few dishonest mathematicans shouldn’t corrupt our view of the entire field, but as some point, if we encounter more and more of them, we should begin to question whether or not mathematics is a scrupulous field.

Schaefer Riley went out of her way to encounter zero dishonest black studies scholars.

88

Merp 05.05.12 at 4:51 pm

Shorter Gorgias: I think the scholarship of some people talking about old books is shoddy, so of course I’m sympathetic to people who make idiotic arguments condemning the investigation of contemporary social processes.

89

christian_h 05.05.12 at 4:57 pm

A few dishonest mathematicans

Who was talking about dishonesty? Not me. I thought we were talking about shoddy scholarship. Neither you, not NSR, nor Bauerlein have presented one single case of dishonesty. I’m more and more feeling for the (possibly imaginary) people who shout you down – I’d not take kindly to someone accusing me and all my colleagues of dishonesty either. That’s not good faith debate.

90

Gorgias 05.05.12 at 4:59 pm

Freddie,

To answer your question, no I don’t think that Schaefer Riley’s post was responsible. Certainly, to make categorical assertions about a field in such a prestigious publication requires a level of evidence she failed to deliver.

I’m not saying the same thing as Riley, however. What I am saying is that our experiences have a proper place in our judgments; that my experiences of engaging with scholarship in the african-studies community have been underwhelming. So while Riley could have provided better support for her assertion, it doesn’t strike me as obviously wrong. Is there a reason, other than that I haven’t read the entirety of the scholarly corpus, why I am incorrect, that my experiences are not truly representative? What would count for you, one way or the other, as decisive evidence here?

91

christian_h 05.05.12 at 5:01 pm

And as Merp points out, NSR is not claiming that the scholars she rips did shoddy work. Her whole “case” rests on her assertion that the topics being worked on aren’t worthwhile.

92

JP Stormcrow 05.05.12 at 5:07 pm

Gorgias, your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

93

christian_h 05.05.12 at 5:08 pm

Any evidence beyond mere assertion would be nice. I could, for example, take Gorgias’ style of argument on this blog and conclude that Classics is a field full of pompous scholars unwilling to consider any novel views on the subject they’re studying. I could also take some theses in Classics, quote their titles, and seriously question why taxpayer money should pay for investigating the question whether monastic manuscript 1 or monastic manuscript 2 more faithfully represents a lost original Greek text. I won’t, however, do either of these because that would be absurd.

94

Gorgias 05.05.12 at 5:17 pm

Good scholarship is not about being capable of ending up God knows where. It’s (partly) about leaving an audit trail so that the reader can figure out why you ended up where you did.

By this logic, as long as the creationist can leave a hefty bibliography at the end of his screed, he’s conformed to the highest standards of good scholarship. Trying our best to ascertain the truth is just a tired passe.

95

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.12 at 5:25 pm

Stephen Jay Gould wrote a fascinating essay praising the scholarship Of Bishop Ussher.

Gorgias, I’ve concluded that you’re just a troll and not a very interesting one. Farewell.

96

Kevin Donoghue 05.05.12 at 5:30 pm

97

ponce 05.05.12 at 6:24 pm

“I wonder how she would react to the title of a thesis in maths or physics: “are we paying for this nonsense”?”

To be fair, every done in physics over the past 50 years has been total crap.

String Theory and the search for the Higg’s Boson are intellectual embarrassments.

98

Theophylact 05.05.12 at 6:54 pm

My class (’62) at Harvard included Howard Phillips and Ted Kaczynski, but also Saul Kripke, Haywood Burns and Larry Tribe. Fifty years on, it’s surely still producing both asshats and more valuable members of society.

99

bjk 05.05.12 at 7:06 pm

Thanks for playing Harvard alumni but I think I can on this one occasion speak for every reader of CT: STFU.

100

John Protevi 05.05.12 at 7:10 pm

I think I can on this one occasion speak for every reader of CT

As on so many other topics, you think wrongly here.

101

rf 05.05.12 at 7:14 pm

I think I can on this one occasion speak for every reader of CT

You certainly can’t

102

JW Mason 05.05.12 at 7:19 pm

every done in physics over the past 50 years has been total crap. String Theory and the search for the Higg’s Boson are intellectual embarrassments.

I guess this would count as a Poe’s Law event.

103

Lost Left Coaster 05.05.12 at 8:10 pm

Gorgias, you are hilarious:

“Is there a reason, other than that I haven’t read the entirety of the scholarly corpus, why I am incorrect, that my experiences are not truly representative? What would count for you, one way or the other, as decisive evidence here?”

I’ll tell you one good reason: I have no idea who you are, and one dude’s opinion on the Internet plus $12 will get you into a movie in the ridiculously expensive city where I live.

You have yet to point to a single concrete case of scholarship in this field being shoddy or discredited. Such evidence would support your assertions, but you have presented none.

No one is disputing your right to feel however you’d like about this field of inquiry. However, I find it very amusing that for no particularly good reason whatsoever, you demand that the rest of us accept and adopt your opinion as well. Sorry man, but repeated assertions of “but I really do know what I am talking about!” are not going to be enough to convince many of us, although you may be able to get a job blogging at the Chronicle.

104

ponce 05.05.12 at 8:31 pm

Name a living American physicist.

Without using Google.

105

hellblazer 05.05.12 at 8:44 pm

How notable do you want this physicist to be? what is your standard for non-crap?

106

hellblazer 05.05.12 at 8:49 pm

Also, how have we gone from “every done in physics over the past 50 years” [sic] to “living American physicist”? What’s wrong with Aspect et al? Tokamak researchers?

107

Dr. Free-Ride 05.05.12 at 8:54 pm

It might be worth remembering that in the sciences, as in the humanities, what is enduring and what is crap is the sort of thing that is sometimes best recognized in the fullness of time, rather than as the knowledge is being built.

Perhaps this is a good reason not to lean to heavily on opinion columnists to tell us what is of value.

108

Colin Danby 05.05.12 at 9:00 pm

needs more trolls

109

ponce 05.05.12 at 9:13 pm

” How notable do you want this physicist to be? what is your standard for non-crap?”

Welp, I’m 55 and I’d like to see one significant discovery before I die.

Just one.

Haven’t seen one yet.

110

Aaron Baker 05.05.12 at 9:37 pm

Gorgias:

I’m a former Classics person myself, and was I very angered back in the day by Mary Lefkowitz’s travails with Afrocentrists. Afrocentrism and Black Studies are not, however, the same thing (though no doubt some people in Black Studies are Afrocentrists. Nationalist mythology is always stupid and immoral–including nationalist mythology concocted by black people. Legitimate historical, anthropological, sociological inquiry by and about black people isn’t stupid, immoral, or a waste of time. Schafer Riley appears to think otherwise–and on laughably inadequate evidence–so she deserves every bit of scorn she’s gotten here and elsewhere.

111

Aaron Baker 05.05.12 at 9:40 pm

I should have put an end-parenthesis after “though no doubt some people in Black Studies are Afrocentrists.” Sorry.

112

speranza 05.05.12 at 9:54 pm

ponce, assuming you’re serious, in your lifetime physicists have discovered quarks and invented the Standard Model. Astrophysicists have discovered neutron stars, found strong evidence for the existence of black holes, and found evidence (in the form of cosmic background radiation) for cosmological inflation. What are you holding out for, a time machine? Cold fusion? If you’re not seeing significant discoveries, you’re not paying attention.

113

Dr. Free-Ride 05.05.12 at 10:03 pm

Next up on the Brainstorm blog: “Quarks but no jet-packs: Have the American people gotten their money’s worth from physics departments?”

114

ponce 05.05.12 at 10:15 pm

115

bexley 05.06.12 at 12:43 am

String Theory and the search for the Higg’s Boson are intellectual embarrassments.

Wait, what? Were you saying the search for the W and Z bosons was an intellectual embarrassment right up until they were found (within the last 50 years). Or the top and bottom quarks?

Name a living American physicist.

Without using Google.

Seriously? Stephen Weinberg, Sheldon Glashow or Murray Gell-Mann just to name 3 theoretical physicists without even thinking about it.

Jet packs were invented by the n***s in 1944 http://www.dieselpunks.org/profiles/blogs/the-himmelstuermer-flightpack

Err what’s your point?

116

spencer 05.06.12 at 12:46 am

ponce @ #108:

Would you recognize one if you saw it?

I’m not sure I would, without having someone more knowledgeable explain it’s significance.

117

bexley 05.06.12 at 1:04 am

ponce @ #108:

Would you recognize one if you saw it?

Of course he wouldn’t, he’s a walking monument to the Dunning-Kruger effect. He typed a comment saying Welp, I’m 55 and I’d like to see one significant discovery before I die. while staring at a computer screen. The 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Jack Kilby for his work on the first working integrated circuit in 1958.

118

NickT 05.06.12 at 1:18 am

#109

It should, of course, be pointed out that “significant” is an incredibly useful word for those who wish to avoid committing themselves. Almost anything can be considered as lacking “significance”, if the person making the judgment call so wishes.

119

Bruce Baugh 05.06.12 at 2:46 am

Back in the day I used to hang out on some of the science and fringe-science newsgroups, and it seemed like anytime someone would start in on the argument Ponce is making, sooner or later it would come down to an assertion that modern physics is so wrong because it’s just so Jewish. I will not be surprised to find the old mojo still working.

120

Pinko Punko 05.06.12 at 2:51 am

The deal with her book it seems from her columns- pretty much that Professors need to teach a lot more classes, they shouldn’t have tenure, and there are many, many useless subjects. Also, faculty are lazy and entitled. But college is expensive and she just cares about students!

121

bob 05.06.12 at 2:55 am

To be sure he wouldn’t recognize one if he saw it, but to be strictly fair, Jack Kilby’s work was more than fifty years ago, and ponce’s claim was “every done in physics over the past 50 years has been total crap.’ So cite instead, for example, the work of Fert and Grünberg on giant magnetoresistance, circa 1988, which led to their Nobel Prize in 2007, and of course is now applied in hard drives, probably including the one on ponce’s computer.

122

Matt 05.06.12 at 2:57 am

Isn’t Stephen Chu a household-name American physicist, even if people know him primarily as a government official?

In addition to the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation and the integrated circuit, the last 55 years have also seen the discovery/invention of pulsars, neutrinos, the laser, and high temperature superconductors. If those are all insignificant, what would be significant — a time machine? I’m afraid that after it’s invented, every future technology will continue to be discovered far in the past, mostly due to regulatory arbitrage favoring mad science in the Gilded Age.

123

JW Mason 05.06.12 at 3:43 am

I’m not defending Ponce, who has hilariously overstated his case. But wouldn’t we agree that there have not been the same kind of revolutions in physics over the last 50-60 years that there were over the preceding 50-60; and that there’s been particularly little change in fundamental physics in the past 30 years? (It certainly seems like most of the non-applied stuff that people are mentioning here comes from the 1970s or earlier.) Isn’t it true that the basic model of the physical world that we have today is essentially the same as it was 30 years ago, something that you could not have said at any point in the prior century at least?

The silly thing is to find this state of things somehow offensive. Kurzweilian fantasies aside, ever-accelerating progress is not the usual state of things.

124

JanieM 05.06.12 at 4:05 am

Isn’t Stephen Chu a household-name American physicist….

I would say not even close, unless by a very odd definition of “household-name.”

125

Substance McGravitas 05.06.12 at 4:39 am

The complaint in zoology might be about not finding any new large mammals.

126

QB 05.06.12 at 5:42 am

” Isn’t it true that the basic model of the physical world that we have today is essentially the same as it was 30 years ago…”

Now we think that only about 4% of the mass-energy in the universe is baryonic matter; and we don’t know what the rest of it is.

Now we think that oxidation of fossil carbon by humans is in the process of dramatically changing world climate.

How about those? Depends on what you mean by “basic model of the physical world” I guess.

127

ponce 05.06.12 at 7:39 am

“He typed a comment saying Welp, I’m 55 and I’d like to see one significant discovery before I die. while staring at a computer screen. “

bex,

Computers were invented before I was born…

128

Katherine 05.06.12 at 8:52 am

No no no – computing machines were invented in the nineteenth century. Therefore there have been no significant discoveries since then!

129

Bruce Baugh 05.06.12 at 9:38 am

QB beat me to it. Even if it turns out that current theories of dark matter get disproven, it’s clear that there are going to have to be significant expansions and revisions of prior theories to account for what astronomers are measuring these days.

And within the part of the universe that’s baryonic matter, the constantly expanding body of observations of exoplanets is leading to constantly expanding insights into what planets can actually do that nobody really expected, and how it is they do it. Back in the ’70s, when I started seriously following astronomy and sf, there were some very strong frameworks for constructing imaginary solar systems…and it turns out that a bunch of that stuff doesn’t apply at all! First it was the close-orbiting hot gas giants, and since then it’s been just one thing after another.

Paleontology, too, is super busy. I remember the bombshell of the Alvarez’s first big claims about the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction and the years of further study making it clear that the impact claim was indeed well supported. But there’s been work on the other big mass extinctions, and some of them are very much weirder. (I recommend Peter D. Ward for reading on this, with books like Under a Green Sky and Gorgon.) Multiple causes intersect in amplifying ways, and the world has sometimes been dazzlingly strange to anyone used to the kind of environment we live in now. Life turns out to be far more frail than people would have guessed when I was one and more robust in other ways, and as with the problem of cosmic-scale objects not behaving like they were mostly or entirely baryonic matter, it’s a field of observation, interpretation, and speculation actively ongoing.

Nor are we nearly done with the social transformations kicked off by ubiquitous computing, including image recording and distributing and receiving, for both good and ill.

130

bexley 05.06.12 at 10:04 am

Bob @ 121

To be sure he wouldn’t recognize one if he saw it, but to be strictly fair, Jack Kilby’s work was more than fifty years ago

But then he went on to claim there hadn’t been any in his own (55 year) lifetime. Which is a timeframe that includes Kilby’s work. Good point on hard drives.

We’ve also got the Josephson effect as another major discovery in the last 50 years, in future it could form the basis of quantum computing.

131

Barry 05.06.12 at 11:56 am

Substance McGravitas 05.06.12 at 4:39 am

” The complaint in zoology might be about not finding any new large mammals.”

Well, we’ve got satellites and aerial photography now. Zoologists before those discovered lots of large animals, so zoologists now should be discovering vast numbers.

Unless they’re lazy due to tenure!

132

bexley 05.06.12 at 1:00 pm

Hmm ponce has been quiet a while – I’m guessing a valve blew on his ENIAC and he’s changing it now.

133

Tim Worstall 05.06.12 at 2:35 pm

“The complaint in zoology might be about not finding any new large mammals.”

His complaint seems to be worse that that. Since 2000 alone the Giant Peccary has been discovered and the pygmy forest elephant proclaimed a different species instead of a subspecies.

He’s claiming nuttin’ in physics.

134

ponce 05.06.12 at 5:22 pm

I don’t want to hijack a thread, bex.

I just don’t see anything wrong with accusing an academic field of being…feckless.

You rather sad defense of modern physics just confirms everything I’ve said about it.

Wankers who perpetually need a few billion dollars more to prove their childish theories are correct.

135

Manta1976 05.06.12 at 6:03 pm

I apologize for giving ponce the pretext to post…

136

Matthew Ernest 05.06.12 at 8:16 pm

137

Tiberius Gracchus 05.07.12 at 12:06 am

So she is Lucy to your Ricky Ricardo? Is that really the analogy you want?

138

Aaron Baker 05.07.12 at 2:31 am

I think we’ve lost track of the subject matter of this thread: Ross Douthat, of course.

But seriously: it occurred to me to add to what I said to Gorgias above about Afrocentrism: I’ve seen no evidence that any of the grad students attacked by Schaefer Riley mentioned Afrocentrism–so it just has no relevance here. In fact, even if one or more of them did mention it somewhere, it still would have no relevance here, as it was never mentioned in the brief summaries Schaefer Riley chose to look at
before opening her yap.

139

Colin Danby 05.07.12 at 2:48 am

This is excellent progress for a CT thread, and still in the low hundreds! I mean, eliminate Afro-Am studies and that’s what … one or two half faculty lines, a few grad assistanceships, a part-time secretary. Hardly worth the effort. But eliminate Physics and we could really clear some room in the budget. And the case is as plain as could be: just read the articles … well, the titles and abstracts. In the latest _Physical Review A_

Quantum correlations and mutual synchronization
One-way unlocalizable quantum discord
Locally accessible information of multisite quantum ensembles violates entanglement monogamy

Who knows what this means? Out! Then we can start on chemistry.

140

emmanuelgoldstein 05.07.12 at 3:35 am

Gorgias,

Good scholarship is not about being capable of ending up God knows where. It’s (partly) about leaving an audit trail so that the reader can figure out why you ended up where you did.

By this logic, as long as the creationist can leave a hefty bibliography at the end of his screed, he’s conformed to the highest standards of good scholarship. Trying our best to ascertain the truth is just a tired passe.

I don’t think the last sentence of the second paragraph follows from anything that’s gone before it. If it were right, then truth would be the aim of scholarship; anyone who consistently denied that it was would fail to be a good scholar. But Donald Davidson denied that truth was the goal of inquiry at all.

141

js. 05.07.12 at 5:43 am

One-way unlocalizable quantum discord

At least to this physics-illiterate, this sounds really, really bad.

142

Walt 05.07.12 at 7:10 am

“Entanglement monogamy” is a real physics term? That may be the greatest news in the history of the world.

143

Manta1976 05.07.12 at 2:32 pm

@139:
After eliminating the Physics departments, we could merge Economics with Astrology.

144

silbey 05.07.12 at 3:23 pm

And my favorite blog, Edge of the American West, has just moved into the CHE stable.

We’re so excited about the company we’re now keeping.

Sigh.

145

ponce 05.07.12 at 4:01 pm

“I apologize for giving ponce the pretext to post…”

In a few months, after discovering squat, the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider will be shut down for two(read four) years for some very expensive “upgrades.”

The charlatans running it, faced with a worsening European financial picture, are scrambling to come up with a hackneyed cliff hanger “We just about found that Higgs boson, honest!” story to secure the massive funding they need.

Expect a flurry of “Is that it? Sure looks like it to me, and I’m an expert!” stories in the gullible press in the coming months.

146

Jerry Vinokurov 05.07.12 at 4:46 pm

But wouldn’t we agree that there have not been the same kind of revolutions in physics over the last 50-60 years that there were over the preceding 50-60; and that there’s been particularly little change in fundamental physics in the past 30 years?

No! We wouldn’t agree on that at all! I mean, I don’t know what you are counting as a fundamental advance, but I would argue that there have been huge fundamental advances in various areas of physics (particularly astrophysics, but also others) over the last 3 decades.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.07.12 at 4:47 pm

In a few months, after discovering squat, the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider will be shut down for two(read four) years for some very expensive “upgrades.”

The charlatans running it, faced with a worsening European financial picture, are scrambling to come up with a hackneyed cliff hanger “We just about found that Higgs boson, honest!” story to secure the massive funding they need.

Expect a flurry of “Is that it? Sure looks like it to me, and I’m an expert!” stories in the gullible press in the coming months.

Do you, like, not understand how particle physics works or something? Please link me to your well-designed Geocities-era page explaining how wrong the Standard Model is.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.07.12 at 4:48 pm

Oops, misplaced the blockquote tag above. Only the last paragraph is mine, obviously.

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speranza 05.07.12 at 5:02 pm

I was the first to feed him, so I’m not blameless here, but let me simply point out that what we have received from “ponce” in this thread is a master class in thread derailment.

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Dr. Free-Ride 05.07.12 at 5:24 pm

I am not convinced that there have been any significant advances in trolling in the last 10 years. Indeed, I view this as an indictment of the entire discipline of trolling.

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.07.12 at 6:43 pm

I was really just hoping to get a link to the aforementioned page, for no good reason other than that it’s fun to sometimes collect internet cranks.

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ponce 05.07.12 at 7:19 pm

“Do you, like, not understand how particle physics works or something? Please link me to your well-designed Geocities-era page explaining how wrong the Standard Model is.”

The Standard Model is no wronger than any other religion that presumes a central element that nobody has ever seen.

I sure the particle messiah will show up any day now…just as soon as that next billion dollar check clears.

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Colin Danby 05.07.12 at 8:30 pm

There you go, Manta. We’ll have higher ed sorted by tea time. Back to the trivium!

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Jana Farcèvol 05.07.12 at 9:39 pm

Textbook-perfect case of threadjack.

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hellblazer 05.08.12 at 12:23 am

I thought threadjacks were like hijacks, with specific action aimed at taking control, or changing the course, of the target. This is just wandering in and spraying bullshit; it gives hijackers a bad (=incompetent) name.

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Colin Danby 05.08.12 at 12:37 am

… veering back for a minute into responsible commenting, it looks like the Chronicle has ‘splained: http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/a-note-to-readers/46608

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Substance McGravitas 05.08.12 at 1:34 am

Thanks for the link.

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Salient 05.08.12 at 3:30 am

“…as the controversy unfolded last week, our response on Twitter did not accurately convey The Chronicle’s message,” Liz McMillen brainsplained.

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js. 05.08.12 at 4:59 am

So, I am very late to this, and a hundred other people have made this point already, but I want to be the hundred and first person to say:

The dissertations this Riley Entity chose to trash before reading sound like the best dissertations I have randomly encountered, ever! I mean, what, NSR wants to read dissertations on Kant’s theory of judgment?

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Barry 05.08.12 at 1:05 pm

Manta1976 05.07.12 at 2:32 pm

” After eliminating the Physics departments, we could merge Economics with Astrology.”

Astrology would have grounds for complaint.

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ajay 05.08.12 at 1:34 pm

“After eliminating the Physics departments, we could merge Economics with Astrology.”

And the Business & Finance school with the Faculty of Theology.

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Barry 05.08.12 at 8:16 pm

“And the Business & Finance school with the Faculty of Theology.”

Nah, the Department of Piracy.

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Doctor Slack 05.08.12 at 9:14 pm

So, anybody have any ideas on which right-wing outlet is astroturfing that “Note to Readers” thread at CHE?

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Doctor Slack 05.08.12 at 10:23 pm

Ahhh, it’s Drudge.

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parsimon 05.09.12 at 12:05 am

Answering that question would require digging into the right-wing outlets — it might be discoverable (I expect the outlet in question has been discussing the CHE matter), but damn, I’m not up for it.

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nick s 05.09.12 at 4:23 am

Nick ‘Fonzi of Freedom’ Gillespie has been whining about it at Reason. Apparently, the wonders of the free market extend to covering writers on higher education who don’t give a fig about the education bit. Perhaps Naomi Schaefer Riley can become a Koch Scholar in Reading The Titles?

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Pinko Punko 05.09.12 at 6:20 am

She likely already is, nick s. CHE wasn’t her only gig. See who paid for her book.

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Alex 05.09.12 at 8:24 am

I thought threadjacks were like hijacks, with specific action aimed at taking control, or changing the course, of the target. This is just wandering in and spraying bullshit

“Muckspreading”.

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ajay 05.09.12 at 8:48 am

162: wash your mouth out. Piracy is far too left-wing for the School of Business and Finance (see Rediker, Leeson, etc). An industry dominated by worker-owned democratically-run profit-sharing collective enterprises? Good God sir!

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P O'Neill 05.09.12 at 11:20 am

She takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to defend herself:

But why take my word for it? Scholars more learned than I have been saying the same thing for decades. In 1974, Thomas Sowell wrote that from the beginnings of the discipline, “the demands for black studies differed from demands for other forms of new academic studies in that they . . . restricted the philosophical and political positions acceptable, even from black scholars in such programs.”

Thirty-five years later in a piece for the Minding the Campus website, former Berkeley Prof. John McWhorter noted that little had changed: “Too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black.”

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Bildad 05.09.12 at 10:05 pm

How disingenuous! Such feigning of offense!
Doesn’t an academic supervisor have to approve a topic or thesis statement before giving the go-ahead? And doesn’t that require a judgment as to the value of the proposed topic? Anyone with any d*** sense and honesty will admit that simply reading the thesis statement will reveal if something is as preposterous as are the dissertations referenced above.

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Henry 05.10.12 at 2:13 am

On unfogged, they used to ask trolls to bring pastries. Bildad – got anything baked and delicious for us today?

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Eli Rabett 05.10.12 at 12:19 pm

In his long, but tiresome life, Eli has read the titles of many arguments from the Talmud and hereby announces that they are so disengaged from reality there is not point is studying the thing.

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Manta1976 05.10.12 at 1:52 pm

I feel guilty about feeding the duck, but still: Bildad, if you read 3 random PhD thesis statements in a subject you know nothing about, would you be able to determine if their topic is preposterous or not? If not, why do you think Riley would be able to do that? (I don’t think you would answer “yes”, but since you are defending an act of stupid hackery, I am not so sure).

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