The search for truth. Reliable scholarship. Rigorous examination of the facts. Reliance on evidence.
These are some of—what ought to be—the most essential characteristics of the university. Whenever scholarship is untrustworthy, the academy loses credibility in its function as a surveyor of reality. The 2012 summer issue of NAS’s journal Academic Questions takes a look at some instances where scholarship’s integrity slips.
NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail. If you are a member and would like to read journal articles online, email [email protected] with “AQ access” in the subject line. We’ll email you a unique link which you can use to set up your online AQ account. If you are not a member of NAS, please join us! We welcome everyone who agrees with our principles. Membership is renewable annually and includes a one-year subscription to Academic Questions in print and online.
Here are the featured articles from the “Frauds, Fallacies, Fads, and Fictions” issue (there are also additional reviews, poetry, and “books, articles, and items of academic interest,” not listed here). Three of them (“Dismissive Reviews: Academe’s Memory Hole,” “Leaving the Land of Digital Natives,” and “Under Eastern Eyes”) are available for free at www.nas.org.
We, Rigoberta’s Excuse-Makers
Daphne Patai, University of Massachusetts Amherst
In 1999, anthropologist David Stoll exposed as fabricated parts of I, Rigoberta Menchú, an autobiographical account by Guatemalan activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú. Daphne Patai describes the immediate, vituperative, and ongoing reaction to Stoll’s conscientious research—and eventually to Stoll himself. Today, Stoll continues to be vilified, while Rigoberta’s fictionalized past, defended as postmodern truth, continues to be retold as nonfiction.
The Howard Zinn Show
Gilbert T. Sewall, American Textbook Council
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is the nation’s best-known and bestselling work of American history. Used in history, economics, sociology, political science, and women’s studies courses nationwide, it is also a favorite Advanced Placement selection. And yet, Sewall shows how Zinn, who created the “99 percent” idea, makes a mockery of the American story.
The Legend of Sally Hemings
Herman Belz, emeritus, University of Maryland, College Park
The facts in the persistent story of a liaison between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings continue to be resistant to the simple analysis they’re now almost universally given. Herman Belz discusses why many who argue that Jefferson, a forty-six-year-old widower, began an affair with his sixteen-year-old slave and fathered six children with her, may be motivated more by a desire to promote a certain vision of American race relations than by objective scholarship.
Dismissive Reviews: Academe’s Memory Hole
Richard R. Phelps, Nonpartisan Education Review
Richard R. Phelps exposes how many scholars—particularly those in the social sciences—neglect to consult previous research conducted on their chosen topic and claim themselves pioneers in their fields. This can have pernicious consequences, as when considerable significant research was left behind when the No Child Left Behind legislation was being written.
With typically piercing pen, David Solway sketches a satirical gallery of academic profiles familiar to anyone who has spent time in a bombastic classroom or breezy lecture hall.
Leaving the Land of Digital Natives
Will H. Corral
Columbian journalist and editor Camilo Jiménez taught writing and literature at the prestigious Universidad Javeriana for nine years until he resigned in December 2011. He offers an affecting explanation why that will be familiar to many: almost all of his privileged, private school-educated students could not compose a single, error-free paragraph properly summarizing a longer text. Will H. Corral, who with Daphne Patai translated Jiménez’s piece from Spanish, provides an introduction.
Under Eastern Eyes
Stephen H. Balch, National Association of Scholars
NAS chairman Dr. Balch reviews Ibn Warraq's new book Why the West Is Best, which makes a case for the greatness of Western values.