Spring 2017 Academic Questions: Correcting Course

Mar 29, 2017 |  NAS

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Spring 2017 Academic Questions: Correcting Course

Mar 29, 2017 | 

NAS

In the Spring 2017 issue of Academic Questions, contributors discuss academia’s meandering path towards fulfilling education’s purpose. The first two articles, by NAS president Peter Wood and former NAS President Stephen Balch, call for continued engagement with NAS State affiliates while revisiting the organization’s past thirty years.

In the special section “Wrong Turns, Dead Ends, and the Way Back,” we offer evaluations of the paths available for fostering education with KC Johnson in “Safe Spaces and Defending the Academic Status Quo”; Althea Nagai in “The Pseudo-Science of Microaggressions”; Dan Subtonik in “The Dangers of Racial Thinking; Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva and Judit Dobránszki in “Compounding Error: The Afterlife of Bad Science”; and Robert Highsmith in “Economic Illiteracy: Why Has K-12 Economic Education Failed?”.

James W. Springer and Jeff Zorn contribute to the review essays. Springer writes “Really Safe Spaces,” his comments on preserving the past in the context of Tiffany Jenkins’s Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums —And Why They Should Stay There and Samuel J. Redman’s Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums. Jeff Zorn authors the second review essay, examining the “systematic study of ignorance” found in A.J. Angulo’s edited Miseducation: A History of Ignorance-Making in America and Beyond while comparing it to Angulo’s Diploma Mills: How For-Profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream. 

NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail. (NAS members, click here for instructions on how to get full online access to all AQ articles.)

The featured articles from the Spring 2017 AQ are listed below.

Two of this issue’s articles (KC Johnson's "Safe Spaces and Defending the Academic Status Quo" and Althea Nagai's "The Pseudo-Science of Microaggressions") are available for free through our website.

For the Flourishing of Our State Affiliates: A New NAS Policy

Peter Wood, National Association of Scholars

On the verge of “thirty years of principled defense of civilization and liberal learning,” the National Association of Scholars continues to operate nationally, with a local presence in nearly every state. In alignment with the original goal of the NAS state affiliate model, the new policy aims to make affiliates “a more vital part of the lives of NAS members.”

I Came. I Saw. I Confess. My Years at the NAS 

Stephen H. Balch, Texas Tech University

Stephen H. Balch, a founder of the National Association of Scholars, reviews with fondness, humor, and honesty his productive twenty-five years as NAS’s first president, before he handed the reigns over to current president Peter Wood in 2009.

Safe Spaces and Defending the Academic Status Quo 

KC Johnson, Brooklyn College

In the first article of this issue’s special section, “Wrong Turns, Dead Ends, and the Way Back,” KC Johnson reviews the reactions—from backlash to praise, on campus and beyond—to dean of students John Ellison’s August 2016 letter to the incoming class, which celebrated the University of Chicago’s commitment to “freedom of inquiry and expression” and most decidedly did not support “trigger warnings” or “the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

The Pseudo-Science of Microaggressions 

Althea Nagai, Center for Equal Opportunity

The concept of microaggressions “was put forth by academics,” so it’s unsurprising that the search for microaggressions occurs primarily on college campuses. It’s also no surprise (despite “a substantial drop in overt racial prejudice” among the public) that in today’s campus climate they are somehow found everywhere. Althea Nagai reviews the literature on microaggressions and reveals that our colleges and universities endorsed all “findings” even before any claims “could be subjected to serious social scientific investigation and critique.”

The Dangers of Racial Thinking 

Dan Subotnik, Touro Law School

The recent wave of student protests has unsettled academia and garnered the concern of the wider public. Dan Subotnik locates the roots of this angry behavior in the rise of critical race theory in the 1980s and 1990s, and argues that the appropriate response is neither to condone “trigger warnings” nor to ignore cries for “safe spaces,” but to challenge students with the truth.

Compounding Error: The Afterlife of Bad Science 

Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

Judit Dobránszki, Institutes for Agricultural Research and Educational Farm of the University of Debrecen

The failure to discover and correct errors in published scientific papers “poses significant risks for authors, editors, journals, and publishers” as well as for the wider academic pool and the public, and weakens reader and peer confidence in the credibility of scientists and their research. When errors in the published scientific literature are discovered they must be reported, and corrections made “quickly and completely,” urge Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva and Judit Dobránszki, who lay out the case for strengthening post-publication peer review.

Economic Illiteracy: Why Has K–12 Economic Education Failed?

Robert Highsmith

“Why are American voters so ill-informed about basic economic understanding? What kind of economic understanding do pre-college teachers and students have? Why do they appear to have so little?” In the final entry of this issue’s special section, Robert Highsmith addresses these questions firsthand as he details the history of nationwide efforts to instruct K–12 teachers and students in the basic concepts and principles necessary to economic literacy.

Really Safe Spaces 

James W. Springer

The public museum, a place anyone may encounter “the human adventure in all of its manifestations from high art to mundane technology,” belongs to a larger Enlightenment enterprise where “disinterested scholarship, and public inquiry and discussion” were considered “valuable undertakings.” Today those achievements and such scholarship are often disparaged as bigoted by specialists themselves, which has led, James W. Springer explains, to the “intellectual and moral confusion” reflected in such works as Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums—And Why They Should Stay There, by Tiffany Jenkins, and Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums, by Samuel J. Redman.

Studied Ignorance 

Jeff Zorn, emeritus, Santa Clara University

Agnotology, “the systematic study of ignorance,” is the focus of A.J. Angulo’s edited Miseducation: A History of Ignorance-Making in America and Beyond, which Jeff Zorn reviews alongside Angulo’s Diploma Mills: How For-Profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream. While they “contribute to our understanding of school and society,” Zorn finds that both books also wear “agnotological blinders of their own.”

 

Image: Tall sailing ship by Tomas Sobek // CC BY 2.0

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