Tag Archives: education

New Cambridge Fellow focus of Academics’ outrage

A new research fellow at St Edmund’s College of Cambridge has riled 300+ professors who think he earned the position unethically. The Guardian offers a review of the complaints, which are not based on what Noah Carl has actually written but on characterizations of his research. 

“A careful consideration of Carl’s published work and public stance on various issues, particularly on the relationship between race and ‘genetic intelligence’, leads us to the unambiguous conclusion that his research is ethically suspect and methodologically flawed,” states the letter, which is signed by seven Cambridge professors and more than 700 other academics.

If Carl’s work has been carefully considered, then citing offending arguments and data shouldn’t be a problem. But when Quillette Magazine reviewed the work, they found nothing that aligned with the complaints. They asked one of the signatories to spell out his complaint and received a broad assertion that certain concepts have “at best questionable scientific validity” and cannot be taken in stride by anyone. Again Quillette couldn’t find these concepts in Carl’s work and are arguing for the public rebuke of the professors who appear to have signed a letter grounded in nothing by hearsay.

“Accusing a young scholar of ‘psuedoscientific racism,’ and claiming his work is ‘ethically suspect’ and ‘methodologically flawed,’ is not something that should be done lightly, given the likely impact on his career,” Quillette editors write. “Anyone who cares about intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity should join us in denouncing this witch-hunt.”

They asked many other academics for comment and received responses like this from Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at New York University Stern School of Business

Greg Lukianoff and I open chapter 5 of The Coddling of the American Mindwith a Durkheimian analysis of witch hunts. It works beautifully to explain the otherwise inexplicable and shameful open letter denouncing Rebecca Tuvel and calling for the retraction of a philosophy article that hardly any of the hundreds of signatories had read. That whole affair was an embarrassment for the academy and those who signed the open letter. Here we go again. If hundreds of professors think that Noah Carl conducts bad science, let them make the case, with quotations and citations. The “open letter” denouncing Carl is just a list of vague assertions and charges of guilt by association. If the signers think we should condemn anyone who gives ammunition to “extremist and far right media,” they should write a new letter condemning themselves.

Maybe the review process proposed by Susan Harlan in “A Poem About Your University’s New and Totally Not Time-wasting Review Process for Tenure and Promotion,” would help curtail these open letters. While a mob of professors is not funny, this is.

Christian Smith: Higher Ed is Full of BS

You’ve probably heard Christian Smith quoted in a sermon or lecture within the last decade, even if you don’t know who he is. He’s the one who gave us the label “moralistic therapeutic deism” as a descriptor of what is commonly taught in American churches. Earlier this month in a piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Smith describes the state of American higher ed in words I don’t expect pastors will quote so freely. He lists 22 things that are worthless in our university system.

Calling out the BS is not about my personal experience, limits, or feelings. It is not even only about the unconscionable fact that countless millions of students are receiving compromised and sometimes worthless college educations, as sickening as that is. Ultimately, we must grasp the more dreadful reality that all of this BS in the academy is mortally corrosive of our larger culture and politics.

It’s tragic, he says, but his contemporaries have probably lost all understanding of that concept.

No, the idea of tragedy is incomprehensible in institutions drifting in a Bermuda Triangle marked by the external-funding addictions of the STEM fields, the obsequious scientism of the social sciences, and the intellectual fads, ideological doctrines, and science-envy that captivate and enervate the humanities.

Exploitation in Humanities Departments

There’s an idea that college professors should be free to pursue whatever interests them, to go wherever their professional curiosity takes them without concern for the market, but that’s close to the fantasy of fan-fiction, stories written for the fun of it without an eye on their publication (even though that too is changing).

Adjunct professor Kevin Birmingham brings up this point among others in his talk on the native exploitation by college humanities and English departments. On the one hand, adjuncts aren’t paid well.

An annual report by the American Association of University Professors indicated that last year “the average part-time faculty member earned $16,718” from a single employer. Other studies have similar findings. Thirty-one percent of part-time faculty members live near or below the poverty line. Twenty-five percent receive public assistance, like Medicaid or food stamps.

These teachers are easily hired, easily dismissed. Funding for actual classroom instruction has been declining, but administrative roles are increasing. Apparently, teaching students is a declining priority for many of our universities, which makes news of another closure more tolerable.

On the other hand, graduate programs are milling out Ph.Ds at a rate that far exceeds the need. Universities, Birmingham explains, have the only job market for these graduates, but they produce roughly four times the number of candidates for the available jobs and availability is shrinking.

English departments do this because graduate students are the most important element of the academy’s polarized labor market. They confer departmental prestige. They justify the continuation of tenure lines, and they guarantee a labor surplus that provides the cheap, flexible labor that universities want.

Like a migrant worker system.

Many market principles could be learned here. One broad one would be morality cannot be based on market realities (or just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should). Colleges exist to teach, and qualified teachers should receive the honor and compensation they are due. When you have the money to pay them well, you should.

But another one may be that if some universities don’t care to teach, others should be able to pick up that slack and grow, keeping a focus on their students’ well-being in mind and not treating them like grist for the sake of the program.

We Can Burn Books, So Why Not Teachers?

Untitled

“We train as researchers but spend our days managing the emotions of late adolescents, haggling over budgets, and figuring out how to use Moodle’s gradebook,” writes Jonathan Malesic, who used to teach at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, before he burned out.

“Eventually, I came to dread every class meeting.”

He describes his experience and some lessons learned.

Chronic dislocation produces the three main components of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of professional ineffectiveness. Burned-out professors, then, are people who cannot muster the strength to do the intellectual labor of their job, who see students as problems, and who feel their work has no positive effect.

Introverted teachers and students appear to be at greater risk for burnout in increasingly social learning environments. English teacher Michael Godsey tells this story:

After 11 years of teaching English at a public high school, Ken Lovgren left the profession, mostly because he was drained by the insistent emphasis on collaboration and group work. Engaging in a classroom that was “so demanding in terms of social interaction” made it difficult for him to find quiet space to decompress and reflect. “The endless barrage of ‘professional learning community’ meetings left me little energy for meaningful interaction with my kids,” he told me.

The Freedom That Undermines Itself

“Universities are addicted to censorship, and the Department of Education is their partner and enabler.”

David French writes about Title IX and students who have sued to restrict the statements of their professor. There he explains the ramifications of modern liberalism, which is self-destructive in the sense that it undermines the principles at purports to celebrate. In another article, he explains what happened at Northwestern University when a feminist professor wrote in favor of student/teacher relationships.

“Two students filed Title IX complaints against her, claiming that she’d violated federal law with her essay and a subsequent tweet. In essence, they were claiming that her writings on matters of public concern constituted unlawful gender discrimination.” More than that, they complained when others shared their complaints and spoke in favor of academic freedom.

While there is a huge, stinking pile of liberalism in this squabble, one of the lessons is the real threat to students in American universities like Northwestern. If they want to believe that love is what you make it, then they’ll have to realize they have kicked down all of the fences. All of them. The students have no grounds for complaint against a professor who supports sexual license, but if they idea scares them, they need to get out and reconsider their own self-destructive ideas.

Hunter Baker on the Ruin of Christian Higher Ed

Dr. Hunter Baker observes, “All universities, and certainly Christian ones, face a landscape in which students have been largely replaced by consumers.” He says in his latest book, if Christian colleges try to be like their secular counterparts, they will fail on almost every level, particularly in their stated mission. On the other hand, if they integrate the worship of the Most High with every academic discipline, they will distinguish themselves and accomplish their mission. “Christian colleges can successfully argue that the best education connects with the mind, the body, and the soul.”

Comparing Generations: Edwards vs. Jukes

Jared posted a couple myth busters a few days ago. The word sincere, he explains, did not come from the marketing language of Roman potters, as you may have been told, and Jesus actually talked about heaven more than hell, though he talked about hell a good bit.

Along that lines, I have a good source on an illustration I’ve read a few times and appears to have grown into a fish story. Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s best theologians, had many godly or otherwise productive children, grandchildren, and so on. Comparing his family to that of another man who lived at the same time is meant to illustrate the fruit of a godly life. Here’s the account from an article by Leonard Ravenhill:

A thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, it seems to me, keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edwards.

“O Lord of hosts, turn us again; cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved.”

Contrast this great man of God with his contemporary. I quote from Al Sanders in Crisis in Morality!

Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

But, praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. ‘The memory of the just is blessed’ (Prov. 10:7).

To us this is the conclusion of the whole matter.

This is a better account than the one I’ve seen more often, but the details are not as accurate as they should be. According to the March 8, 1902, issue of The School Journal, the numbers vary a bit.

Suffice it to say, “The almost universal traits of the ‘Jukes’ were idleness, ignorance, and vulgarity. These characteristics led to disease and disgrace, to pauperism and crime. They were a disgustingly diseased family as a whole. There were many imbeciles and many insane.”

My version of the story says Jukes’ name is the origin of the word juke, meaning “to fake or deceive.” No, it wasn’t. It’s from a word meaning “wicked, disorderly” in a Southern English creole.

This is not so much a busted myth as a clarification. I hope I have edified you.