The Issue at a Glance

History of Science: Politicizing a Discipline

John Staddon, Duke University

In the first article of our feature critiquing the experts, psychobiologist John Staddon comes to a troubling conclusion. While science earns credibility by submitting evidence to numerous universally recognized tests, the historians of science appear subject to only one: political acceptability.

What is Affirmative Action?

Carl Cohen, University of Michigan

Affirmative action, understood as taking concrete steps to right earlier wrongs, is to be honored, says Carl Cohen. But unequal treatment, in the name of affirmative action, cannot be defended. However honorable the objective, treating racial groups differently must be condemned.

Immigration “Experts” vs. Wages

Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies

Economists and news outlets that perpetuate the myth that mass immigration does not affect wages are doing America’s low-skilled laborers (including immigrants) a great disservice.

The Minjung Millenarianism of Bandy X. Lee

Bruce Gilley, Portland State University

In declaring President Trump mentally unfit to hold public office and a “mass killer,” Yale Psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee violated the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, which declares it unethical to diagnose a public figure without personally examining him. Political scientist Bruce Gilley explains why she did it.

Whiteness and the Great Lie of Diversity

Marc Zunac, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

The University of Wisconsin’s “Diversity Framework,” begun in 2015, comes complete with the substitution of “cultural competency” requirements for First Amendment rights; a multi-headed hydra of inclusion agencies with enforcement power; the conscription of participants to “engage” with the diversity regime; and, most of all, an open-ended expansion of the “dimensions of diversity” beyond race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity to marital status, age, and “other identities.”

Economic Development: The Dismal Science

Anthony Daniels, Manhattan Institute

Almost every assumption development specialists have made in advancing foreign aid to the poorest countries in the world has been wrong . . . and often harmful.

Getting Bashar al-Assad Very Wrong

Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum

Even in a scholarly discipline regularly upbraided for its ineptitude, Professor of Middle East History at Trinity University in San AntonioDavid W. Lesch stands out. Among the most rhapsodic boosters of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad since his ascension to power in 2000, Lesch has now written two books—one promoting the dictator as a Westernized peacemaker, one predicting his downfall—that have been withdrawn by their common publisher.

The 1965 Immigration Act: A Little Humility, Please!

Jason Richwine, Washington, D.C.

Experts were wrong to predict that the 1965 Immigration Act would not change the ethnic mix of the U.S. population and “would increase the amount of authorized immigration by only a fraction.” In fact, the bill set the groundwork for future changes that would amplify immigration numbers to the highest point ever. Once in a while, writes Jason Richwine, experts should admit “we just don’t know.”

The Few, the Proud, the Profs

Mark Bauerlein, Emory University

For an academic field so self-consciously preoccupied with intelligence, the humanities don’t seem to be run very intelligently. Humanities fields now account for only around five percent of all baccalaureate degrees awarded annually, hundreds of foreign language programs have been lost, and the job market for newly minted Ph.D.s is abysmal. But humanities departments are way too busy being brilliant,” Mark Bauerlein writes, “to be sensible and managerial.”

The Mass Incarceration Bogeyman

Barry Latzer, emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Most criminal justice experts believe the United States is guilty of “mass incarceration,” a system that imprisons more people than deserve to be there or that is good for both the prisoners and the public. The data say otherwise, writes Barry Latzer. Considering the seriousness of most prisoners’ crimes and high recidivism rates, the public is best served by keeping offenders behind bars.

Beware the Semmelweis Reflex

Michelle Marder Kamhi, Aristos, an online review of the arts

The tendency to reject new information that contradicts prevailing norms has haunted the field of medicine, sometimes with deadly results. It took decades to adopt the practice of hand washing between physicians’ conduct of human autopsies and attending to women in labor. Something similar has happened with art critics, says Michelle Marder Kamhi. The idea that the fine arts are primarily representational has been a bitter pill for academic philosophers of art to swallow.

The Parable of the Juggler

Joel Brind, Baruch College, City University of New York

Closing out our experts feature, human biologist Joel Brind cleverly reminds us that some things exist beyond the senses, even if the experts say otherwise.

More Diversity? Talk is Cheap

Noah Carl, University of Oxford

White academics who sign petitions and otherwise advocate for more “diversity” can do something that would immediately transform unrepresentative campuses: resign.

From Bologna to Zoom: The Evolution of the University

Glynn Custred, California State University, East Bay

Created in Europe and spread throughout the world with the West’s rise, the university evolved from a guild-like medieval institution bounded by Christian doctrine to a flourishing, free-market place of ideas by the latter half of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, Glynn Custred informs us, the universities’ more recent transformation into institutions of “political indoctrination” represents a return to the doctrine-bound era of its infancy.

Citations and Gamed Metrics: Academic Integrity Lost

Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, independent researcher in Miki-cho, Japan

Author-based metrics (ABMs) and journal-based metrics (JBMs), as well as citations, are the dominant currency of intellectual recognition in academia. The system, dominated by a few large analytics companies, is riddled with perverse incentives that encourage scholars, editors, publishers, and journals to manipulate their citation scores, all to the detriment of scholarly ethics.

Poverty and Culture

Lawrence M. Mead, New York University

Serious long-term poverty in the United States is more likely to burden those who come from non-Western, collectivist cultures that socialize people to modify behavior in accordance with demands made by the outside group. People from these cultural backgrounds conform less easily to the individualist, inner-directed, and enterprising culture of the United States.

The Meaning of Diversity

Matthew Stewart, Boston University

Two new books on “diversity” provide Matthew Stewart an opportunity to explore this ubiquitous term, and why its meaning has become “thin, restricted, tendentious and overly politicized.”


Image: Gabriele Diwald, Public Domain

Citation: "The Issue at a Glance.” Academic Questions 34, no. 1 (Spring 2021): Page 1–Page 5. 

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