Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

This Did Not Happen, as Well as Things That Did

John Cussen

A campus fiction about a Catholic professor's encounters with the politics of promotion in academia. 

Censorship: Another Cheap Chinese Import We Don’t Need

Rachelle Peterson

Efforts to censor Cambridge University Press show how far the Chinese government will go to stifle intellectual freedom. 

Why Subsidize University Presses?

George Leef

University presses should stand on their own two feet.

Political Bias in Philosophy and Why it Matters

Spencer Case

Superfluous political examples in philosophy texts show political bias that harms the discipline, scholars, and students. 

Short-Circuiting Peer Review in Climate Science

Peter Wood

The integrity of science depends on rigorous and transparent peer review—both of which may be compromised in climate change research. 

On the Integrity of Social Science

Ashley Thorne

Psychology professor Richard Redding reflects on the firestorm surrounding Mark Regnerus's recent study on children of gay parents. Dr. Redding concludes that social science has been politicized to the extent that perspectives take precedence over methodological validity.

Peter Wood in Society Magazine

Ashley Thorne

NAS president Peter Wood's article, “The Sixties Came Late to Bowdoin,” appears in the current issue of the scholarly journal Society.

Wasteful Productivity

Mark Bauerlein

The way humanities departments at research universities measure productivity – by counting publications – incentivizes unproductiveness in teaching.

The Regnerus Affair at UT Austin

Peter Wood

A scholar whose research identified disadvantages for children of same-sex marriage faces opposition by those who dislike his findings.

One Way to Promote Intellectual Diversity

George Leef

Break the monopoly on publications that count towards tenure.

Dismissive Reviews: Academe's Memory Hole

Richard P. Phelps

Richard R. Phelps exposes how scholars fail to consult the research that has been done on their chosen topic and blandly claim themselves to be pioneers in the area.

Final Edit: Irving Louis Horowitz, 1929-2012

Peter Wood

Peter Wood remembers Irving Louis Horowitz, founding publisher of Academic Questions and intellectual warrior.

Irving Louis Horowitz: A Force of Nature

Steve Balch

Irving Louis Horowitz, who for decades was publisher, advisor, and contributor to Academic Questions died on March 21st. NAS chairman Steve Balch remembers him.  

Why Academic Gobbledygook Makes Sense

Robert Weissberg

Academic prose is famously turgid and obscure, but political scientist Robert Weissberg can see where it comes in handy in a feverishly PC academic climate like the present one.

We're Overdoing It on Faculty Research

George Leef

So argues English professor Mark Bauerlein in a new study published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I comment on the study.

Bauerlein finds that more colleges and universities have jumped on the research bandwagon over the last several decades and also that the volume of published research that is necessary for tenure has been rising. All that outpouring of scholarly work, however, is of little benefit (at least in the field of literary criticism, which is the subject of Bauerlein’s investigation; I suspect we would find the same thing in many other disciplines) since books and articles are so rarely read or even cited. The costs, however, are substantial — the explicit cost of paying professors about a third of their salary to do that work, and the implicit cost of diverting time and effort away from other educational efforts that would be of more use to students.

Study Finds Harvard U Press Heavily Biased to the Left

Ashley Thorne

A major survey of books Harvard University Press published from 2000-2010 raises important questions about the impartiality of this leading academic publisher.

The New Huck Finn vs. Yale's Big Book of Rap Lyrics

Peter Wood

Peter Wood contrasts the new sanitized version of Mark Twain’s masterpiece with the Yale University Press publication of a scholarly edition of rap lyrics.

Academic Questions Authors in New York Times Peer Review Debate

Ashley Thorne

Stanley Trimble, Bill McKelvey, and Mohamed Gad-el-Hak draw on their findings in a recent AQ essay to contribute to a "Room for Debate" discussion on the publication of controversial research.

The Box

David Clemens

Excited to receive the shipment from Dan Wyman Books, I ripped open the box only to feel revulsion.  Inside were old books related to the Holocaust and those who would deny its existence.

A Playground of Words and Ideas

Peter Wood

Peter Wood looks at Google’s new database of digitized books and shares some lessons on diversity.

The Other Danger...Scholasticism in Academic Research

Lawrence M. Mead

Researchers have narrowed their focus to the point of irrelevance in the real world, writes Prof. Lawrence Mead. In this article, which appeared in the winter issue of Academic Questions (vol. 23, no. 4), he describes the path productive scholarship must take.

UNC Stonewalls Information Request on Faculty Research

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Jay Schalin writes about the way the UNC English Department has stonewalled his efforts at gathering information on the research publications of faculty members. It seems that they don't want the public to know what its money is being used for; one suspects that is because they know that much faculty research is of negligible value. Receipt of public funding should mean complete transparency in return.

Princeton Works to "Incorporate Sustainability into Our Daily Lives"

Ashley Thorne

An NAS member sent me this video for fundraising at Princeton, describing the work of the university's office of sustainability. There are a few things in this video to be concerned about. The effort to “induce a culture change,” to “incorporate those principles  into our daily decisions,” is all part of the steady movement to guide people into a particular, “correct” way of thinking and acting. The removal of trays from dining halls is a perfect example of this. It’s a relatively small change, but it’s a daily reinforcement of new habits. I wrote about this in “Tray Chic.” And the young woman with the title “sustainability fellow” is one of the new generation of activists that self-reproduces. Activist administrators recruit students to get involved on campus and hire them once they graduate so they will become activist administrators. The recycling process thus applies to people, not just plastic.

"Good Ideas, Bad Ideas" AQ Issue in Print

Ashley Thorne

The fall issue of Academic Questions examines both good and bad ideas in higher education, including trimming the glut of academic publishing, merit-based scholarships, teaching ebonics, and disseminating "light and truth."

The Avalanche of Useless Academic Research

George Leef

In this Chronicle article, Mark Bauerlein, Mohamad Gad-el-Hak, Wayne Grody, Bill McKelvey and Stanley Trimble discuss the vast outpouring of academic research that is mostly redundant and wasteful. No surprise there. We heavily subsidize academic research and as any good economist will tell you, when you subsidize anything, you get too much of it and much of the output will be of low quality. I recall seeing a 60 Minutes segment many years ago on the effects of art subsidies in The Netherlands -- the government had warehouses filled with paintings no one would buy. Instead of warehouses filled with bad paintings, we have journals filled with research no one would pay for. Academic research is no more intrinsically good than is art and if you sever the connection between production and voluntary financial support, you wind up wasting resources.

NAS Members: Published Anything Lately?

Ashley Thorne

Cross posted from www.NAS.org NAS members, have you published books or articles in the last year? Let us know. We'd love to highlight your work in our weekly email newsletter. We want to bring it to the attention of your NAS friends and colleagues. If you have a book or article in the works, let us know when it comes out. Note, we are interested in specialized scholarly and scientific publications as well as writing aimed at more general audiences. Novels and poems count too - and if you have a blog we will also mention that. Contact NAS by emailing nasonweb@nas.org or calling 609-683-7878. To receive our email newsletter, click here.

Libel Tourism En Vacances

Peter Wood

A French court puts an American editor on trial over a German book review that offended an Israeli scholar. Hmm...

National Teach-In Calls on Sustainability Partners to Help "Hide the Decline" in Global Warming Fait

Ashley Thorne

I got this email from the National Teach-In for Global Warming as part of an "Education for Sustainability" listserv to which I subscribe:

Dear Colleagues and Friends, The hacked e-mails from climate scientists have energized the denialist community: one of the most jaw-dropping comments came from “Superfreakonomics” co-author Steven Dubner who told Fox News that “scientists were “colluding” with Al Gore in “distorting evidence.” He insisted that “you can’t read these emails and feel that the IPCC’s or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher.” Now you too can help “hide the decline”. No, not a (non-existent) decline in the global temperature data, but a decline in the voices of people who understand the science. As educators, many of us are stunned that a few private e-mails are somehow calling into question three decades of peer-reviewed research by thousands of the world’s top scientists. Nevertheless, because you and I are not speaking out, but the deniers are, it is happening, and we have the obligation to set the record straight. What can you do? 1. Help us organize statewide conference calls with your US Senate offices this spring. We need to get 500 people on the line each from Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Nevada and 46 other states—to have a real conversation with Senate staff about real issues. The Bard Center for Environmental Policy will do all the work setting up the calls, but we need your help getting the word out. To learn more, give me a call at 845-758-8067, or e-mail us at climate@bard.edu. 2. Call your US Senate Office today (find the numbers here) and let them know that these e-mails have in no way undermined the scientific case of global warming, and that the planet is in fact heating up just as scientists have predicted.  A great Peter Sinclair video explaining the issue is here. 3. Send in letter on the e-mails to the editor, or write an op-ed for your regional paper. Next Wednesday, December 16th, I will be calling into on The National Climate Seminar live from Copenhagen.  While it is clear that “a grand deal” will not emerge in the next two weeks,  I will be discussing whether a binding international agreement appears possible to emerge by next year’s meetings in Mexico, and what that might look like. Join us at 3 PM eastern—call in info is here. Finally: please support young people’s efforts in Copenhagen— take the daily student opinion poll POPCOP15: see the letter from Dickinson College letter below.  And see the note as well about a cool Copenhagen curriculum, Citizen Climate,  for high school students from the Will Steger Foundation. Thanks for the work you are doing. Professor Eban Goodstein Director, National Teach-In on Global Warming

The Global Warming Debate, Peer Review and University Science

Mitchell Langbert

Dr. Tim Ball has written an article in the November 21 Canada Free Press in which he calls leading climatologists "frauds."  He bases this  on computer-based information obtained by someone who hacked into the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit server. The pro-anthropogenic climate change media, such as Associated Press and the Washington Post, emphasize the ethical issues associated with the hacking of the computers but downplay the implications for the credibility of  pro-anthropogenic academics.  The damage seems to be more serious than the Post yet admits. In his Canada Free Press article Ball raises questions not only about the credibility of climatological research but of the academic peer review process generally.  Given widespread public interest in this topic, increased  public scrutiny of peer review and of university research may be a collateral effect of the scandal. Concerning the peer review process generally Ball writes:

I was always suspicious about why peer review was such a big deal. Now all my suspicions are confirmed. The emails reveal how they controlled the process, including manipulating some of the major journals like Science and Nature. We know the editor of the Journal of Climate, Andrew Weaver, was one of the “community”. They organized lists of reviewers when required making sure they gave the editor only favorable names. They threatened to isolate and marginalize one editor who they believed was recalcitrant.

We may ask whether this kind of bias exists elsewhere in universities. If climate change has been politicized, what about studies like labor relations, law, sociology and economics?

The Offending Cartoons Will Be Published After All

George Leef

But not in the book Yale University Press is publishing. Duke University professor Gary Hull includes them in a new book he has just brought out. Bravo, Professor Hull!

Is Copyright Wrong?

Ashley Thorne

That's what Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig said at the recent Educause conference. "You Geeks Have to Become Radical, Militant Activists" for the sharing of ideas, he commanded. Now that companies like Lessig's Creative Commons are making "Share Alike" licenses, will intellectual property become a thing of the past? See also my article "Open-Ended" on open education.

Epic Fail, Yale

Ashley Thorne

A comment on Yale University Press's refusal to print controversial cartoons.

Backstage Acting

Ashley Thorne

NAS welcomes In Character, a journal about everyday virtues. In seeking to restore higher education to its "higher" quality, we must pursue the moral uplift of the university. This thoughtful journal takes steps toward that goal; by looking at virtue through the lens of public policy, the humanities, religion, and the sciences, In Character holds up the standard of integrity.

What Do College Graduates Know?

Michael Block

An NAS survey of Arizona college graduates' knowledge of the liberal arts.