Academically Adrift‘s methodology

David Brooks revives Academically Adrift for another spin in the public consciousness.

In my opinion, the best review of the book came from Richard Haswell, writing one of multiple reviews in College Composition and Communication (PDF). CCC is an academic journal, so popular exposure to these reviews was likely limited, which is a shame. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. I focus on Haswell’s here for a simple reason: Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa claim to be looking at harsh reality by reference to quantitative assessment. And, indeed, this is precisely the tack that Brooks and others with political agendas have taken, to fill their rhetoric with talk of cold truths and harsh data, etc. As is typical, imagery overwhelms data. What Haswell’s review demonstrates quite ably is that, even aside from philosophical and pedagogical objections to the nature of their assessment (and there are many valid ones), Arum and Roksa failed on their own terms. The methodology and statistics we are allowed to see are flawed, and crucial elements of the research are completely unavailable to us. As Haswell’s field is (like mine) the teaching of writing, he naturally focuses on that aspect of the book, but the methodological failures he identifies speak to the research as a whole.

In many forums, the narrative surrounding the reception of AA (which I read as part of a seminar in writing assessment last semester) has been of recalcitrant professors who refuse to accept the book’s findings out of defensiveness, apathy, or fealty to whatever ideology they are assumed to have. The mundane reality is that the research doesn’t live up to the standards that Arum and Roksa claim. I don’t mean to push other kinds of critique of the book to the sidelines, as there have been a lot of intelligent and important criticism that doesn’t concern methodology. But when people claim that cold numbers tell a particular story, it’s important to investigate whether they generated those numbers responsibly.

You should really read the whole thing, but here’s a nice taste:

What do they do? They create a self-selected set of participants and show little concern when more than half of the pretest group drops out of the experiment before the post-test. They choose to test that part of the four academic years when students are least likely to record gain, from the first year through the second year, ending at the well-known “sophomore slump.” They choose prompts that ask participants to write in genres they have not studied or used in their courses. They keep secret the ways that they measured and rated the student writing. They disregard possible retest effects. They run hundreds of tests of statistical significance looking for anything that will support the hypothesis of nongain and push their implications far beyond the data they thus generate.

This endorsement isn’t to say that Haswell’s critique is the only one that reveals serious methodological or statistical flaws in the book. Alexander Astin takes a similarly ruthlessly look at one of the claims that has been showing up, bold-faced, in most stories from the newsmedia about Academically Adrift. Like Haswell’s, Astin’s piece debunks a favored claim of the media’s before we even get to important discussions of epistemology or the purpose of the university. Since this information is out there, why have seemingly so few heard about it? I have three assumptions as I write this post. One, that most members of the newsmedia who report on scholarly research don’t bother to actually read the research itself, but instead report based on abstracts, summaries, or what other journalists and pundits say is the takeaway. Second, that most of those who do bother to read the research lack the critical research reading skills to adequately assess what they are reading. (Certainly, the point Astin makes about statistical significance and what it does not mean should be understandable to anybody with basic understanding of the social sciences.) And third, that this particular book’s message is conducive to their interests, both in terms of sensationalism and a general anti-academic bias that has grown in our media in recent years. Unfortunately, as they are the ones who decide which narratives take hold, the methodological flaws in Academically Adrift are likely to remain outside of the conventional wisdom.






95 replies
  1. 1
    eemom says:

    Rude Pundit says it all infinity times better than you, you pretentious little twerp.

  2. 2
    John Cole says:

    What the fuck is your major problem, EEMOM? Christ, lighten up. Between your virtual stalking of JSF and this kind of shit, it’s like you have something majorly wrong with your head or soul. Or both.

  3. 3
    gaz says:

    I liked Rude Pundit’s delivery, but I give Freddie points for form.

    Can we all get along now? (j/k)

    * hides *

  4. 4
    CW in LA says:

    Yeah, c’mon, surely there’s more than one good way to point out that advocates for even more standardized testing suck astounding quantities of ass.

  5. 5
    eemom says:

    @John Cole:

    why, whatever crawled up your ass and died, Cole?

    “Stalking” JSF? Fer realz?

    Or is it your problem that I’m just better at this kind of shit than you and your BFFs?

  6. 6
    sydney says:

    @eemom:
    Wow, what a bitch!

  7. 7
    eemom says:

    John Cole, friend of the dishers-out who can’t take it.

  8. 8
    brashieel says:

    Okay, seriously, wtf do people (or at least one person) have against Freddie deBoer? He’s had some good posts, and it’s not like he spams out a ton of useless free threads or something.

    On topic, nice to see a couple of semi-rigorous takedowns of this nonsense. Fuck the right wing’s hatred of education.

  9. 9
    eemom says:

    As I’ve said before, I have zero tolerance for people who don’t vote, and less than zero tolerance for people who don’t vote and purport to care about public policy.

    If that gives Cole and his p*ssy ass friends butthurt, too damn bad.

  10. 10
    Joseph Nobles says:

    OT: What the hell is that I see? Recent Comments again? Sorry if I missed the rollout, but that’s nice to see, even if it is a server hog. Thanks, John.

  11. 11

    LMAO. JSF as the victim of blog stalking? Rather than one of the prime perpetrators of it in the past. That’s some grade A bullshit.

  12. 12
    sydney says:

    @sydney:
    That was actually from “Die Hard 4”.
    And all it implies from that scene.

  13. 13
    anthony says:

    It’s a neat little circle familiar with conspiracy theories that the people criticising you are in on the conspiracy.

    So when the people most likely and most qualified to criticise your theory i.e. academics are reacting to the ” findings out of defensiveness, apathy, or fealty to whatever ideology “, you’ve got yourself a nice little self-propelling epistemological circle jerk.

  14. 14
    David Koch says:

    everyone is so sensitive.

    man-up, cole.

    and take off that skirt.

  15. 15

    @sydney:

    Do you think it matters that it came from a movie? You must be stupid, AND sexist.

  16. 16
    RD says:

    @eemom:

    Hot flash says what?

  17. 17
    Narcissus says:

    I’m an adjunct instructor.

    I had tortilla chips for dinner.

  18. 18
    sydney says:

    @General Stuck:
    I know your not a man.

  19. 19
    eemom says:

    @David Koch:

    man-up, cole.

    shhhh, don’t bother him….he’s got his hands full doing triage with fuckie on one fainting couch and Freddie on the other.

  20. 20
    Hill Dweller says:

    OT: Bill Maher’s show is awful.

  21. 21

    @sydney:

    I know your not a man.

    I know you’re an idiot

  22. 22
    sydney says:

    @General Stuck: @General Stuck:
    You like wrestling with pigs apparently.

  23. 23

    @sydney:

    You like wrestling with pigs apparently

    so you’re a pig, maybe a clown pig?

  24. 24
    sydney says:

    @General Stuck:

    Maybe a clown, in a pigs suit.

  25. 25
    JoyfulA says:

    And children who succeed at the type of education these people want will be dittoheads who do what they’re told without wondering why.

  26. 26
    David Koch says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Bill Maher’s show is awful.

    It’s usually unwatchabe because he always books the worst guests.

  27. 27
    mclaren says:

    @eemom:

    Shorter eemom:

    As I’ve said before, I have zero

    Truer words were never spoken.

  28. 28
    ulee says:

    I wish the wizards who reformated this blog didn’t require punching on the post as a requirement to find out when it was written. The old way was better.

  29. 29
    some guy says:

    self-selected set of participants

    hah, haswell has their number.

    and yes, eeMoron is a moron.

    great post, Freddie. after reading the Haswell critique I knew Arum and Roksa had a)shit the bed and b) would find fame and fortune for their so-called ‘claims.”

  30. 30

    Jeebus, I’m going to bed.

  31. 31
    Hill Dweller says:

    @David Koch:

    It’s usually unwatchabe because he always books the worst guests.

    I gave up on the show last season. However, Thomas Frank, who I really like, was a guest tonight.

    Thirty minutes in, I was ready to throw something through the TV.

  32. 32
    mclaren says:

    Incidentally, look for Brooks to dodge and weave about the bogus claims in his book by asserting “Well, this wasn’t meant to be a piece of scholarship! It’s a policy essay, after all.”

    This is the standard scam failed Republican academics and clueless wankers like Brooks use when their transparently fraudulent claims turns to flagrantly violate observed reality.

    Analyze their phony numbers, and when the numbers fall apart, the conserva-wankers will shriek that they’re writing policy documents and it doesn’t matter whether the numbers work, what counts is the moral force of their arguments.

    Then if you start debunking their moral arguments, the conserva-wankers smirk and sneer “But your counterargument is worthless, since you don’t have the numbers to back it up.

    It’s like trying to argue with flat-earthers or global warming deniers or scientologists. It’s a goddamn waste of time. Murray used this same scam in a futile effort to defend the indefensible junk science in The Bell Curve. (Look at the regression coefficients in the appendix. They’re garbage, down in the mud with values like 0.37.)

  33. 33
    some guy says:

    @mclaren:

    please use words and concepts eeMoron can understand, it’s only fair.

  34. 34
    sydney says:

    @General Stuck:
    Have a goodnight.
    See you tomorrow with your other septuagenarian ladies on your walk to the “Kwik-Way”.

  35. 35
    Wag says:

    Wow. Flame wars from the get-go and the night is still young. Time to pour another glass an sit back and watch BJmelt down tonight.

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    @some guy:

    oo-wee. The combination of your wit’n’wisdom and mcclaren’s rock-solid grasp of reality so overwhelms me that I need help. Maybe even I can now hope to qualify for Cole’s Shrinking Violet FPer Trampled By Big Mean Commenter Assistance Plan, under the “Environmentally Challenged Fuckhead” proviso.

  37. 37
    mclaren says:

    It’s gratifying to see David Brooks and Tom Friedman getting eviscerated, since they richly deserve it, but I’d really like to see someone gut Charles Murray like a pig and hang him out to dry. He’s arguably the worst of the lot, since he’s an actual academic but his work is even shoddier than Friedman’s I-talked-to-my-cab-driver drivel and Brooks’ sophistries in defense of war and torture and eliminating the minimum wage.

    Murray has a serious streak of eugenics eliminationism hiding deep inside his smooth urbane prose. Every time the guy writes something, the takeaway is “We need a final solution to the problem of [fill in the blank: poor people, blacks, whatever].”

  38. 38
    gex says:

    @David Koch: Why not add misogyny when you are endorsing random viciousness?

  39. 39
    Smiling Mortician says:

    Oh, dear. I was looking for the Argument Clinic and I seem to have stumbled into Abuse.

  40. 40
    sydney says:

    @eemom:
    I pray for your Husband.

  41. 41
    mclaren says:

    Incidentally, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the judge in the megaupload case just threw a bomb into the proceeedings.

    A US judge has put a bomb under the Megaupload case by informing the FBI that a trial in the United States may never happen. The cyberlocker was never formally served with the appropriate paperwork by the US authorities, as it is impossible to serve a foreign company with criminal charges.

    Source: Megaupload trial may never happen, judge says.

    Maybe this will put a stop to the rampant disregard of the Obama administration for the rule of law. This is the kind of lawless gross illegal horseshit you get when Obama appoints a former RIAA lawyer as Solicitor General of the United states. (Well, this, and the collapse of his ACA arguments before the Supreme Court because, as we all know, RIAA lawyers have shit for brains.)

    If Obama would stop deep-throating the diseased syphilitic cocks of the goddamn RIAA and MPAA while he grossly violates the law by seizing foreign web domains and arresting people in other countries in a frantic effort to defend America’s indefensible and illegally-extended copyright laws, and instead if Obama pulled his head out of his ass and showed some of the same concern about ending America’s unwinnable foreign wars and kick-starting some three-letter FDR-depression-era-style CCC agencies to help the armies of unemployed people out there who’ve been hurled out of their jobs by offshoring and automation, maybe America would be getting somewhere.

    I mean, fuck-all, people! We’re at 9% unemployment and Obama is worried about prosecuting foreign websites for fucking copyright violation? WTF????? Get some goddamn priorities, Barack!

  42. 42

    “I like this ship! You know, it’s exciting!”

  43. 43
    sydney says:

    @mclaren:
    I’m sure “Drones” are on the way to “Oz”.
    And “New Zealand”, just STFU.

    “I got this”……/Obama.

  44. 44
    RD says:

    @mclaren:

    If Obama would stop deep-throating the diseased syphilitic cocks of the goddamn RIAA and MPAA

    Synthetic strawberry flavor is making a comeback.

    I am telling you!

  45. 45
    Bago says:

    Ok, I’m calling out the terrible decline in syntax here. Improper caps, people using the word “loosing”, and general syntactic mangling. ABL can get away with it because her character is supposed to be banging the keyboard because somebody on the Internet is wrong. But seriously, if you are going to object on substance, learn how to fucking type.

  46. 46
    clayton says:

    @mclaren: @RD:

    G. Stuck was right. I wish I had stopped reading when he did so I could have avoided you two’s comments.

    I don’t really see where ideas like that come from — unless it’s just from watching way too much pr0n.

  47. 47
    clayton says:

    @Bago:

    And just before I actually shut it down here comes the grammar police with added gratuitous ABL bashing for extra flavor.

    Wanker.

  48. 48
    patrick II says:

    @Bago:

    Improper caps, people using the word “loosing”, and general syntactic mangling.

    Please write using complete sentences.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    some guy says:

    @eemom:

    Sensible Centrist Says What?

  51. 51
    Suffern ACE says:

    Nice things. Someday we might have them. Not now, though.

  52. 52
    some guy says:

    @patrick II:
    \

    hee

  53. 53
    sydney says:

    @clayton:
    G. Stuck is a woman. FWIW.

  54. 54
    some guy says:

    learn how to fucking type.

    5 words
    as if learning is easy
    or
    how to fucking type.

  55. 55
    Suffern ACE says:

    @eemom: Actually Rude Pundit is writing about a different criticism. But frankly, I think the testing issue is probably going to be used as a way to end what is left tenure just like it is going to be used to end seniority protections for teachers and their infernal unions.

    As Somerby has been pointing out for the past few years, our schools may not be doing as well as the inflated cheating scandals would indicate (scandals involving superstars of union busting like Rhee or privatizers like Klein), they may actually be improving, even considering the changed makeup of the student body. These gains are ignored which kind of means that the push to charter school and union bust may be based on false claims of schools failing that might not be. So yeah, it’s kind of important to discuss the methodology of a study making similar claims about higher Ed.

  56. 56
    Greyjoy says:

    This post was so full of jargon and word salad that I could barely even understand what Freddie was writing about. (And there’s nothing wrong with my vocabulary or reading comprehension.) WTF.

    And it’s written in the passive voice.

  57. 57
    RD says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Nice things. Someday we might have them. Not now, though

    We never will.

    Liberals as a group are whiny, entitled little children that would rather fight each other than fight back.

  58. 58
    eemom says:

    @Greyjoy:

    nope, sorry GREYJOY — clearly if you don’t appreciate the wit and wisdom of every random clown JOHN COLE taps to post here there is something majorly wrong with your head and soul.

    And ALLCAPS, if you please, even if you’ve been posting for 3 years in lower case. It’s COLE’S version of a dunce cap.

  59. 59
    karen marie says:

    Is eemom upset because she wasn’t invited to be a FPer?

    I can only assume, and hope, that John and Freddie don’t take seriously the insults hurled in their direction. I read Rude Pundit’s post on this earlier, but I understood the issues more specifically from reading Freddie’s. I didn’t notice any “word salad” or “jargon,” as Greyjoy apparently did. Perhaps he/she needs a nap?

  60. 60
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @RD:

    Why reach for the stars when you can go for the easy kneecap? ;)

  61. 61
    cthulhu says:

    Wow. Like a 5% reference to the actual content of the post.

    Anyway, I generally liked Sandy Astin as a academic though my ex worked with him directly while I only did stuff with other peeps in the School of Ed. Good to see he’s still kicking around.

    I have to say though, that whenever we were hanging out together I couldn’t help but stare at the facial features he has in common with his brother John.

  62. 62
    samara morgan says:

    AMG! the holy can opener of epiphany has descended on my neocortex!

    Freddie is the “neoliberal” version of Jeff Goldstein!
    Two thousand word high verbal opaque posts studded with esoteric literary references like “Norman Mailer hyper masculinity”….its all true!

    @Greyjoy:

    This post was so full of jargon and word salad that I could barely even understand what Freddie was writing about. (And there’s nothing wrong with my vocabulary or reading comprehension.) WTF.
    And it’s written in the passive voice.

    have you ever read any Protein Wisdom?
    ;)

  63. 63
    samara morgan says:

    helpful link.

    thats wut she said….

  64. 64
    samara morgan says:

    @some guy: didn’t you usta hang at TAS?
    i vaguely remember you being somewhat smarter than this.
    Firebagger Freddie is a grievous waste of space-time.
    He’s just chewing up bandwidth with word radar chaff.

    eemom is spot on. freddie is a vomitoria of rhetoric that could easily be condensed into Rude Pundit succinct witticisms….except Firebagger Freddie is a rhetorics professor….

  65. 65
    JoyfulA says:

    @karen marie: Agreed. I found the post informative. There was certainly no word salad. I doubt there was jargon because I had no comprehension problem and I’m neither an educator nor an English major. Also, the review recommended was the best of the four.

  66. 66
    anthony says:

    Oh I’m sorry, I thought I was at Crooked Timber. Carry on.

  67. 67
    samara morgan says:

    @mclaren: The Bell Curve is a 17 year old book no one reads anymore.
    Science has moved on.
    Its creepy how BJ is obsessed with it still.

  68. 68
    samara morgan says:

    @JoyfulA: no sillie. its Protein Wisdom style semiotic hermaneutics.
    ;)

  69. 69
    samara morgan says:

    @RD: not yours truly.
    ;)

  70. 70
    samara morgan says:

    @John Cole: don’t you ever get tired of defending your neoliberal -glibertarian bromances from your commentariat?

  71. 71
    Summer says:

    If all threads were like this one, I would never read the comments here. Wow. Ugly. And boring.

    Thanks for the post, Freddie.

    When I read posts like this, I think about how much academics in the humanities have ceded what seems to me a rightful place in public discourse by the nature of our promotion requirements. We’ve watched in relative obscurity as a life of the mind is disparaged and the conditions that support it gutted.

    I think there should be a place for the public intellectual in academia. Maybe it’s creating a teaching-centered tenure process or maybe it’s letting articles in popular magazines and blog writing count (more?) for tenure review, but the days are done when we speak only to a tiny tiny group in a specialized discourse in a highly specialized discipline and are well funded for doing so and maybe it’s time to be proactive about opening the possibilities for the work intellectuals do. (While tenure-stream faculty use their protections to fight loudly for tenure and against the exploitation of adjuncts.) Hey, a girl can dream.

  72. 72
    Merp says:

    @samara morgan:

    I’m experiencing Poe’s Law like a motherfucker but in case you’re serious: Freddie is not a neoliberal. For pete’s sake.

    @mclaren:

    You got to Murray before I could. In case people don’t know about the extensive takedowns of his odious shit that have been produced for decades, a good (but wonky) start is this pdf and a bunch of posts on Cosma Shalizi’s blog called Three Toed Sloth.

    As for the comment above about “Murray’s old hat, move on”: c’mon. He’s still trotted out regularly in the most respected niches of the media ecosystem. And honestly, the recent interview of Murray by Charlie Rose is the worst piece of media I have ever consumed. Because Murray was objectively proven to be an intellectual fraud and race-monger fifteen years ago. The only possible reasons for interviewing him in 2012 are to defame him (as Colbert recently did, to his everlasting credit) or to demonstrate that the purpose of the media is to actively work against the bulk of society. Usually it’s not that blatant.

  73. 73
    Dave says:

    Freddie, I say this as an academic, you really need to explain wtf you’re talking about in paragraph one.

  74. 74
    THE says:

    Ahh the Recent Comments gadget is back.
    My BJ experience is complete.

  75. 75
    SRW1 says:

    One, that most members of the newsmedia who report on scholarly research don’t bother to actually read the research itself, but instead report based on abstracts, summaries, or what other journalists and pundits say is the takeaway.

    My firsthand experience is a bit dated, but three decades ago I spent a year as a social science student myself before deciding that it wasn’t for me and switching to a natural science subject, and two decades ago I helped my then wife with the language part of her social science Masters thesis, which also involved familiarizing myself with the stuff she was citing.

    So with that background, let me ask: Isn’t what you are saying there quite similar to what many of the journalists and pundits are likely to have learned to get away with during their University days, namely pushing secondary literature?

    Sorry, didn’t mean to sound demeaning to social sciences, which, done properly, is as valuable as the supposedly hard sciences, but much harder to do properly.

  76. 76
    RD says:

    @samara morgan:

    1) I never trusted the hippies.

    2) You should lay off Jeff G. By most accounts he’s an utterly broken man.

  77. 77
    Marc says:

    The active harassment of posters that some people don’t like is getting absolutely pathological. This is an important topic, and Freddie made an important point.

    There is a hack effort being promoted to attack the system of university education in this country. This piece of propaganda is an effort to push the “failing schools” narrative up one level, by people hostile to education. Learning that the substance of the critique is based on bad research is important.

    The junior-high school sneering and grudge-carrying is getting utterly out of control here.

  78. 78
    samara morgan says:

    @Merp:

    Freddie is not a neoliberal.

    of course not. he just calls himself that sometimes. what he really is a firebagger emo-prog that can’t bring himself to vote for Obama.

    again, i saw that Colbert interview. Murray said he didn’t put any black people in his new book because it makes people crazy. And no one cites The Bell Curve in “policy circles”. Its radioactive.
    No one cites the The Bell Curve anymore but old ppl at Balloon Juice.

    The leading edge of the wave is too busy reading NEW BOOKS like The Republican Brain and The Social Conquest of Earth.

  79. 79
    samara morgan says:

    @Marc:

    There is a hack effort being promoted to attack the system of university education in this country.

    there is a sophisticated effort being promoted to PROFITIZE the system of university education in this country.
    its called the “freed” market.
    freddie is either just throwing radar chaff as usual, or he’s actually too stupid to get that.

  80. 80
    THE says:

    @samara morgan:

    The leading edge of the wave is too busy reading NEW BOOKS like The Republican Brain

    So what happened to the book review I was waiting for so patiently? :(

  81. 81
    Citizen_X says:

    The junior-high school sneering and grudge-carrying is getting utterly out of control here.

    Seriously. Was last night Angry Drunk Night or something?

    Good post and links, Freddie. Sorry we can’t discuss it substantively.

  82. 82
    samara morgan says:

    @Citizen_X: freddie is a crappy writer and like gaz accurately pointed out, consistently WRONG.
    he is also a firebagger, and like the despised Gov. Manchin, can’t bring himself to vote for Obama.

    if you like firebagger freddies writing style, may i recommend Jeff Goldstein and Protein Wisdom?

  83. 83
    samara morgan says:

    @THE: lol Dawkins.net declined it.
    I’m reading The Social Conquest of Earth now….so good.

  84. 84
    samara morgan says:

    @THE: lol Dawkins.net declined it.
    I’m reading The Social Conquest of Earth now….so good.

  85. 85
    jcgrim says:

    Thank-you for disrupting the edu-reform narrative promoted by corporate tools like David Brookes, Tom Friedman, Rahm Emmanuel and Arne Duncan.

    Academically Adrift is yet another insidious example of the moneychangers and edu-privatizers propagandizing the public with misinformation.

  86. 86
    THE says:

    @samara morgan: well, how about you post it on your Sufi blog.

    Or email it to me and I’ll put it on my own website.

  87. 87
    burnspbesq says:

    @eemom:

    This time, you’re wrong. Rude Pundit said nothing useful. In fact, most of what he said was either incoherent or incomprehensible.

    The fundamental problem, which Freddie tap-dances around, is that we don’t know what really drives educational success. From that fundamental problem flows a host of other problems. We measure the things that we know how to measure, despite the absence of any reason to believe that the things we can measure are the things we ought to care about. And it’s virtually certain that whatever you choose to measure will be oversupplied, at the cost of other things that might matter more.

    I don’t what the answers are. But I know intuitively that whatever Rude Pundit thinks the answers are, he/she is almost certainly wrong, because his/her answer seems to start with “give me infinite amounts of money and no accountability.”

  88. 88
    burnspbesq says:

    @mclaren:

    “but I’d really like to see someone gut Charles Murray like a pig and hang him out to dry”

    How about you do it? Amaze me by proving that you’re more than just an opinionated loudmouth.

  89. 89
    samara morgan says:

    @THE: maybe.
    i just ordered this.
    Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
    Preston says the same things Johan Galtung says–

    Seeking to explain why “U.S. foreign policy has often acquired the tenor of a moral crusade,” Preston first turns his attention to the seventeenth century. Avidly Protestant, “the American colonies never underwent a counterreformation,” he observes, and they waged almost continuous war against enemies deemed theologically other—i.e. Catholics and Native Americans. These Christian soldiers prided themselves on fighting holy wars, regularly fitting themselves into Old Testament patterns, the New World’s Israelites imbued with “a consistent belief in America as a chosen nation and in Americans as a chosen people.”

    its that fucking Chosen People bullshytt again…..proselytizing and evangelizing with force of arms…subjugating other memetic demes….for their “own good”.

  90. 90
    Barry says:

    @burnspbesq: (re: ‘gutting’ Charles Murray):

    “How about you do it? Amaze me by proving that you’re more than just an opinionated loudmouth.”

    It’s been done (Mismeasure of Man, The Bell Curve Myth, two good papers by Heckman, Sowell).

    As much as I hate to give the man credit, Sowell’s paper was a very good and very open to laymen gutting of TBC.

    Why don’t you read it?

  91. 91
    THE says:

    @samara morgan:
    I am more interested in the question of why USA is so uniquely resistant to secularization (perhaps until very recently, when the numbers may be starting to change).

    Most scientifically cutting-edge cultures, apart from USA, have secularized significantly more.

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    eemom says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I don’t think that’s an even remotely fair criticism of Rude Pundit, burnsy. I found what he was saying quite coherent, and unlike Boy Wonder here, he’s writing from the perspective of long experience and, um, maturity.

    I’m also a little troubled by your assessment, “give me infinite amounts of money and no accountability.” Sounds creepily like a wingnut talking point to me.

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    samara morgan says:

    @THE: of course its the anti-intellectualism of protestantism.
    that’s the answer.

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    THE says:

    @samara morgan:

    But I don’t see why that is favored in an age of reason. Anyway mainstream Protestantism is arguably the most rational (or rationalized) form of Christianity.

    The Episcopal Church for example, has been one of the leaders in adopting progressive theology like modern historical-based scriptural-criticism. Also they have been (comparatively) evolution-friendly.

    OTOH I can see why the persistence of scriptural literalism could be the factor that distinguishes the former Confederacy and Utah from the rest of the country. (Scroll down for the map). So I somewhat get what you are talking about.

    FWIW I see scriptural literalism as generally the mark of magical thinking in religion.

    Otherwise I tend to go along with Gregory S Paul’s thesis that the persistence of religion in America is a reflection of the lack of secular alternatives for social welfare.

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