stop digging, please

Four new posts today have emerged on the Chronicle group blog where the comically deficient post I complained about this morning was published.

First, there’s a post from the editors of the Chronicle that talks about wanting to generate debate, show all sides, participate in important arguments, etc. Well, look– sure, yeah. I want debate and controversy about the university and its mission too. And I don’t want the post cast down the memory hole. I want vigorous, responsible debate where people muster evidence to advance credible arguments that can be effectively evaluated. Schaefer Riley’s conclusions offend me, it’s true. But what should offend the editors of the Chronicle is that a post was published under their masthead which was completely deficient as an argument. Schaefer Riley advocated a huge change– eliminating an entire department– based on synopses of three (3!) in-progress dissertations, and did so without mounting any argument that I can actually detect. That is a failing of methodology and of argument, not a disagreement about conclusions. Seeking diversity of opinion does not mean that you should continue to publish irresponsible and deliberately provoking content. Does the Chronicle have editorial standards, or not?

There’s also a post from the faculty of the Black Studies department in question, which comes to the defense of their students and criticizes the publication.

Then there’s Schaefer Riley’s response, which has to be seen to be believed.

The comments regarding my post seem to boil down to the following:

I am picking on people because they are black (and I am a racist).
I am picking on people even though I don’t have a Ph.D.
I am picking on people who are too young and inexperienced to defend themselves.
I am picking on people even though I haven’t read their entire dissertations.

Personally, I’m not picking on you because your targets are black and you’re a racist. I’m picking on you because you produced a pathetic, mindlessly button-pushing post that attacked a field that exists because racism exists. I don’t care that you don’t have a Ph.D. I care that you don’t have an argument, evidence, or any demonstrable grasp of how to make responsible claims. The point is not that the grad students aren’t capable of defending themselves. The point is that dissertations are supposed to be exploratory, you’re supposed to take risks, you’re expected to fail in some ways (and learn from that failure), and they aren’t even finished yet. Finally, saying you haven’t read their entire dissertations is a funny way to put it. You haven’t read anything from their dissertations, not even an abstract. You only bothered to read synopses published for a magazine article.

Let me take the first two criticisms first. My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now. My work has been published in every major newspaper in the country and I have written two books on the subject as well. The editors at those papers and those publishers and at The Chronicle have all been aware that I hold no advanced degree.

Every major paper! Wow! Maybe want to qualify that a bit? When you say hyperbolic stuff like that, it doesn’t make me take you more seriously. Whether you have an advanced degree, many publications, or a Commander Keen decoder ring is irrelevant to me. What’s relevant is the quality of your post.

Black studies is now an academic discipline at most universities, which means I get to comment on that too. If the dissertations in question were written by white people, I’d call them irrelevant and partisan as well. Moreover, I have called other disciplines (having nothing to do with race) irrelevant and partisan.

Of course you get to comment on Black Studies. Doing so by looking at four sentence synopses of three dissertations is like judging all of television by reading TV Guide‘s blurbs on three episodes of Cash Cab. And maybe you do and would judge other disciplines and white scholars, I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a long and ugly history of people attacking black academics and fields that consider the black and African experience as lacking rigor, filled with affirmative action cases, and a sop to political correctness. Black scholars and scholars of other races who work in fields related to African and black issues have to deal with an assumption of lower standards and less value all the time. When you mirror that bigoted thinking, you don’t get out of blame just because you’ve also criticized white scholars in the past.

I find the idea that there is something particularly heinous in criticizing graduate students or dissertations to be laughable at best. Just because they are still called students doesn’t mean they’re not grown-ups. When someone in their 30s (me) criticizes the dissertation topic of someone in their 20s, that’s “bullying“? Boy, life as a graduate student in a trendy discipline at a prestigious university sure is tough. Unless The Chronicle features you in a piece, being a graduate student is just like being “invisible” (Ralph Ellison, please call your office).  A word to the wise: If you’re trying to convince the wider world that black people in America are oppressed, I’d skip using the experience of black graduate students as an example.

That’s true: if you’re trying to convince the wider world that black people in America are oppressed, talking about grad school is a bad idea. Instead, you might consider pointing out that black people make less money, have higher unemployment, less education, worse job security, higher rates of heart disease, lower life expectancy, higher odds of being the victim of a crime, higher odds of being abused or killed by the police, far higher odds of being imprisoned, far higher odds of being sentenced to death, and in the university specifically, higher dropout rates, longer time to graduate, and worse chances of being employed after graduation. Just for a start.

Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

Or any of the dissertations. Or anything by anyone about anything. To support your advocacy of eliminating an entire discipline. In a post where the headline told other people to read dissertations.

I read some academic publications (as they relate to other research I do), but there are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery

Haha! Those blacks with their midwifery! Lord knows, no one could ever care or have interest in the history of black women’s reproductive issues. I can conceive of no possible way in which such historical information could have relevance to current controversies about reproductive rights, women’s health, and racial imbalances in access and quality of healthcare.

In fact, I’d venture to say that fewer than 20 people in the whole world will read it. And the same holds true for the others that are mentioned in the piece.

You mean writing specifically intended to only be read by a small number of people which isn’t mass produced or widely disseminated or intended for a mass audience doesn’t always have a lot of readers? That’s the kind of incisive commentary that can only come from someone with 15 years of journalism experience who has been published in literally every major newspaper.

Such is the state of academic research these days. The disciplines multiply. The publication topics become more and more irrelevant and partisan. No one reads them. And the people whom we expect to offer undergraduates a broad liberal-arts education (in return for billions of dollars from parents and taxpayers) never get trained to do so. Instead the ivory tower pushes them further and further into obscurity.

A conservative classic, here. Giving a shit about black people and their problems: partisan. Dismissing that interest with specious arguments and then wondering why people get so worked up about it: not partisan. Also, something something ivory tower.

Finally, the most important post of the day, which is from the three criticized grad students themselves. You should read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

As black people living in the United States we do not need conspiracy theories or white bogie men to explain the disparities that separate and distinguish the life chances of white people compared to those of African Americans, even with a black president sitting in the White House.  We understand that these conditions are driven and shaped by racism and real white men who exercise power and influence in the economic, social and political institutions that govern this nation.  Before the dirt has fully come to rest on the grave of Trayvon Martin, black men and women, in the academy or outside of it, have never needed Harvard educated white women to lecture us about the conditions in the communities we live in—and we certainly do not need it now.

Our work is not about victimization; it is about liberation.  Liberating the history, culture and politics of our people from the contortions and distortions of a white supremacist framework that has historically denied our agency and subjectivity as active participants in the making of the world we live in.






95 replies
  1. 1
    Tractarian says:

    tl; dr.

  2. 2
    geg6 says:

    I love, love, love those grad students. Love them so much. Heh.

    Calling her the racist beyotch that she is in such a way that, stupid as she obviously is, she’ll never get it.

  3. 3
    Cowbelle says:

    Guy’s an asshole.

  4. 4
    freelancer says:

    You forgot the “Blogospheric Navel-Gazing” tag.

  5. 5
    butler says:

    Wow. Is there a strategy which is more than doubling down? Quadrupling down? Handing the dealer all your money and the keys to your car?

    Amazing to think that this person actually gets paid to comment on academia.

  6. 6
    El Cid says:

    Yes, but remember, she identified herself as a journalist, which apparently now is seen as some sort of ‘get out of logical and factual arguments free’ card.

    You know, somehow becoming a journalist makes you immune to the sort of standards that, say, middle school science reports or book reviews might face.

    Because being a journalist isn’t about the empirical validity of what you write, and presenting facts and claims in a logically and justifiably connected manner — it’s about saying “I’m a journalist!” and being allowed to get away with anything as long as you’re insulting the out-groups of society.

  7. 7
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Sounds like a bunch of Nazi bullshit to me

    CAN THIS DISCIPLINE BUILD A BETTER FIELD GUN? NO? DEFUND IMMEDIATELY

  8. 8
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Just kidding, LOL. Clearly anti-academic culture-killing producerism is the way to build a healthy democracy and not at all a ground plan for Treblinka 2.0

  9. 9
    rlrr says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    That was pretty much the philosophy behind federal science funding during the Reagan Administration…

  10. 10
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I know the other thread went over this in some detail, but what stands out to me (as a bona fide PhD-holding academic) is that the topics she finds self-evidently ridiculous are so very clearly not. They’re not hyperspecialized, trendy, or jargon-riddled. My own academic research (on plays written hundreds of years ago and, typically, no longer performed) is far more arcane and of much less obvious relevance to the world we live in today, and no one has ever tried to diminish literary studies by calling me out. The whole premise of the piece is disastrously wrong-headed, because the work in the dissertations outdoes a TON of academic work that is plagued by obscurity and irrelevance. Which just goes to show that we’re not judging by that at all.

  11. 11
    Steve says:

    The grad students were almost too subtle in their response. Here’s another excerpt:

    When Rick Santorum took his failed campaign for the Republican nomination for President to Iowa, he invoked blacks on welfare as a campaign issue—in a state where African-Americans make up only two percent of the population. He said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”
    __
    When Newt Gingrich had trouble drumming up interest in his failed political campaign, he began referring to President Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” and then told the NAACP that he wanted to address their convention to counsel, “why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
    __
    One can only assume that in a bid to not be “out-niggered” by her right-wing cohort, Riley found some black women graduate students to beat up on. Despite her attempts to silence us personally, and indeed the discipline as a whole, her exhortations confirm the need for the vigorous study and investigation of black life in the United States and beyond.

    It’s almost as if they didn’t like the post or something.

  12. 12
    Mnemosyne says:

    Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

    Whaa? This is like a movie reviewer announcing that it’s not her job to watch the whole movie before criticizing it — if she just watches the trailer and extrapolates out from there, then you should just take her criticisms at face value. If your job is to criticize academic programs, shouldn’t you bother to actually find out something about the field you’re criticizing?

    These lazy-ass conservatives who can’t be bothered to actually do the jobs they’re ostensibly paid to do are really starting to annoy me.

  13. 13
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @AA+ Bonds: I find myself disagreeing with you a lot on various threads, but, that was damn funny. Well played.

  14. 14
    John says:

    Wow. What a constructive comment, Tractarian. If you had been able to get outside the gnat-like attention span that limits you, you would have found Freddie’s follow-up to be informative and interesting.

    On topic, NSR’s blogpost and her follow-up are typical of Conservative commentary these days. Drop an unsupported and unsubstantiated bomb of rhetoric into the atmosphere and then play the victim when you get called on it. Her methodology is not surprising, although her avenue of delivery is, a little. Keep up the good work, Freddie.

  15. 15
    Marc says:

    Someone should clue conservatives in: being belligerent and ignorant is not a winning combination.

    The main thing that I learned from the latest batch of posts is that the CHE editor needs to be fired, as she apparently doesn’t understand the difference between honest debate and letting people post uninformed rants.

  16. 16
    joeyess says:

    That was a fucking smackdown.

  17. 17
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    “Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former Wall Street Journal editor and writer whose work focuses on higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture. She is the author of God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America, and most recently of The Faculty Lounges … And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For. Riley is also the co-editor of Acculturated, a book of essays on pop culture and virtue published this spring by the Templeton Press. Ms. Riley’s writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She is a contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog.

    Ms. Riley has given guest lectures at schools around the country, including Hillsdale College (where she offered a two-week journalism seminar), New York University, the University of Notre Dame, the College of the Holy Cross, Grove City College and Bethel College.”

    Imagine, a right-wing fundamentalist goober who hates black people.

    What were the odds?

    And she also wrote this floating turd:

    http://chronicle.com/blogs/bra.....ting/45326

  18. 18
    aimai says:

    I wrote the head of the Chronicle the most brutal, scathing, letter imaginable but unfortunately I did it through their site so I don’t have a copy to send you guys. But if my letter was a sample of what they got today they must have scorched fingers from opening their email. I was thoroughly disgusted by that post, Freddie, and I thank you for pointing me to it. I was especially disgusted by the attack on the very idea of African American midwifery since, as I pointed out to them in my letter, at the very least the dissertation would be of interest to, uh…everyone from historians to medical researchers to women to mothers to nurses to students of health care practices. Of all the things to make fun of making fun of that just revealed a level of crapulous stupidity that is really astonishing–what does she think the “higher” in “higher education” stands for if not for studies like this that reveal things to us that we didn’t otherwise know?

    aimai

  19. 19
    greennotGreen says:

    I haven’t read any of this either, *but* I do know that before William Proxmire swung his scythe of ignorance through the fields of research, scientists often didn’t bother to explain why they used the particular models they did, or what significance their work might have. They were writing for a small audience that already knew that. When a bunch of worthy scientists lost their funding, many writers learned to preface their publications with statements like, “We use this model because…” or, “these findings contribute to a greater understanding of…(fill in the blank) cancer, autoimmune disorders, etc.” The point is, something seemingly arcane can have relevance to something else that’s important in today’s society, that has policy implications, that contributes to a greater understanding of…lots of things. And statements to that effect might actually be in the dissertation, though not in the abstract. I would have thought a journalist writing about higher education for close to fifteen years would know that.

  20. 20
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Best of luck to Riley and her mission to cleanse all this Jewish science (as der Führer put it) from the proud white bloodstream of the Ivy League

    Yes, Naomi Schaefer Riley, the Hirudo medicinalis of Harvard, truly the Greatest Leech of Our Time

  21. 21

    Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

    Buddy, if you are supposed to “have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years”, and you intentionally published in a major journal on the germane topic, then yes, it is you job. It is what yo are being paid for. So if a major part of your defense is “its not my job” to actually read what you are deciding to open your mouth and comment on, then what the hell are you doing? Just Tourette’s on paper? Random ranting on whatever blows across your mind?

  22. 22
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Soldier Boy:

    what the hell are you doing? Just Tourette’s on paper? Random ranting on whatever blows across your mind?

    She is a David Horowitz-type right-wing campus witch-hunter by profession, so her specialty? It’s actually articles like this: targeted smear jobs to harass individual students and faculty, for being suspected Communists or suspected black people or whatever

    The Chronicle seems to believe that paying Miss Grand Dragon here to harass students is a good way to balance out Todd Gitlin

  23. 23
    Walker says:

    This victim card crap that conservatives play is disgusting. They really are just bed wetting bullies.

  24. 24
    Scott S. says:

    I think what’s needed here is to make the Chronicle of Higher Education start pondering all the fun things that happened to Komen a few months back.

  25. 25
    beltane says:

    @Soldier Boy: As a right-wing journalist, Ms. Schafer-Riley’s job is to pull random opinions and prejudices out of her rectum and present them as fact. In this sense she is just a high-end version of Sarah Palin, another “journalist” whose education topped out at the B.A. level. The only difference between the two is that Schafer-Riley’s hateful word salad has less bacon bits and ranch dressing and more arugula and Gorgonzola.

  26. 26
    dmsilev says:

    n fact, I’d venture to say that fewer than 20 people in the whole world will read it. And the same holds true for the others that are mentioned in the piece.

    That’s true for just about any dissertation in just about any field. It would shock me if there were as many as two dozen people who have read my dissertation [*], and that was in the mostly-conservative-approxved field of physics. So what? More people read the papers that summarized the work in the thesis, and if they happened to want more detail and see things expanded out at length, getting a hold of the thesis is straightforward enough.

    [*] I know that at least one person outside of my research group read or at least attempted to read my thesis, because I once got a royalty check in the mail for the dissertation. For $12. It bounced.

  27. 27
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Scott S.:

    I think what’s needed here is to make the Chronicle of Higher Education start pondering all the fun things that happened to Komen a few months back.

    Correct

  28. 28
    Richard says:

    Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

    That statement is so absolutely, indefensibly pathetic.

  29. 29
    beltane says:

    @Richard: The word I would use to describe that statement is “McMeganesque”.

  30. 30
    Scott S. says:

    @Scott S.: Okay, replying to myself… but who sponsors the Chronicle of Higher Education? What is the best method of talking to the sponsors/advertisers to persuade them that they should divest themselves to keep from being associated with a pro-racism publication? How can universities be persuaded to apply pressure on the Chronicle?

  31. 31
    dmsilev says:

    @beltane: No, it’s more Jonah-Goldbergian. It’s a subtle distinction, mind, but Goldberg is the master of the “I’m too lazy to look this up” approach to argumentation.

  32. 32
    Rick Massimo says:

    Moreover, I have called other disciplines (having nothing to do with race) irrelevant and partisan.

    Yeah, and if you did that on the basis of reading synopses of three dissertations that’s bullshit too.

    “I’m not racist! I’m this fucking stupid ALL the time!”

    The publication topics become more and more irrelevant and partisan. No one reads them.

    As opposed to the good old days when only white people got Ph.D.s and there were four dissertations on the NYT bestseller list.

  33. 33
    Culture of Truth says:

    A word to the wise: If you’re trying to convince the wider world that black people in America are oppressed, I’d skip using the experience of black graduate students as an example.

    So in addition to be stupid, dishonest,and a careless writer and thinker, she’s just a horrible, horrible person.

  34. 34
    gaz says:

    OT: But just unreal…
    http://crooksandliars.com/susi.....-days-with

    read the whole thing. It’s nuts.

  35. 35
    Loneoak says:

    I, for one, would love to read the dissertation on black midwifery. Well, to be honest, I’d love to read it when it becomes a polished book, which dissertations never are. Having recently had a baby as a heterosexual, married, PhD-holding, white male, I can’t tell you how many times I was frustrated by the way the experience of heterosexual, white, educated, middle-classed and well-insured people was normalized and universalized. I mean, hell, I felt constrained by my overwhelming privilege in the situation. My wife would roll her eyes at me when I started yelling at the birthing videos our doula gave us because it was just white ladies crapping out babies on the porch at 2:00 in the afternoon (not kidding in the least with that description). The only accounts of births for people not like me where in 3rd World huts and were meant to be examples of how birth happens in ‘nature,’ so ‘cultured’ white ladies could imitate it. I would have love to known how African-Americans built responses to this and adapted to it.

    And along those lines I would like to plug my friend Alondra Nelson’s recently published and totally readable history of the Black Panther’s health outreach, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination.

    All of this is to say fuck Shaeffer-Riley and the horse she rode in on. There’s not enough hours in the world for me to want to read her columns ever again.

  36. 36
    Robert waldmann says:

    If you want to know the set of “every major paper” just ask Sarah Palin, since she reads all of them.

    Karma’s a bitch. Journalists had a lot of fun with Palin and now it turns out that one of them has the exact same identical standards of reasoning and honesty.

  37. 37
    Robert waldmann says:

    If you want to know the set of “every major paper” just ask Sarah Palin, since she reads all of them.

    Karma’s a bitch. Journalists had a lot of fun with Palin and now it turns out that one of them has the exact same identical standards of reasoning and honesty.

  38. 38
    Raven says:

    @Scott S.: The google is your friend.

    The Chronicle

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MoeLarryAndJesus:

    Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former Wall Street Journal editor

    FULL STOP

    She’s a certified wingnut shitstain. No further explanations are necessary.

    The sooner she’s placed in a more appropriate position, like say the person who asks “do you want fries with that?” at the MickeyDs drive up window, the better.

  40. 40
    aimai says:

    There’s actually a terrific book on morning sickness which had tons of information from non white communities on natural remedies for morning sickness. Made me even more aware of how white “What to Expect When You are Expecting” is and I already hated that.

    aimai

  41. 41
    kindness says:

    Wait, wait, wait a minute there. This College department is on Black Studies? Say no more, it obviously is racist and should never see another cent of MY TAX DOLLARS!

    *sarcasm

    Of course that is what rightwingers will say. Why would you even ask? Now anyone who listens to those rightwingers…Now there is a problem for you.

    @Villago Delenda Est: She’s a certified wingnut shitstain. No further explanations are necessary.

    Don’t hold back. Tell us what you REALLY think about her.

  42. 42
    Loneoak says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The writing workshop at Hillsdale is what really counts in my mind. It’s like Liberty University for the moneyed elite.

  43. 43
    karen marie says:

    @MoeLarryAndJesus: It seems, based on these two published writings, neither of which I’ve read but only heard a synopsis of one and seen the title of the other, that she believes black people have been stealing her pudding.

  44. 44

    I don’t know what your problem is, Mr. DeBoer, but I “detected” a well thought-out, impeccably reasoned argument in that first post, to wit: Black people wrote dull theses. Black people are lame and have nothing to say worth listening to.

    With insights like these, I see a Washington Post column in this woman’s future!

  45. 45
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, Riley realizes that entire books — not just dissertations, but actual published books — have been published solely about childbirth among the British upper classes between 1760 and 1860, right?

    You have to be completely ignorant of the entire field of history to be unaware that childbirth and medicine are extremely common and popular topics. Or is it A-OK to write entire books about the history of upper-class British childbirth but ridiculous and useless to write dissertations about the history of African-American childbirth?

    (BTW, I recommend that book I linked to — it’s fascinating because it covers the period in English culture that was heavily influenced by “back to nature” writers like Rousseau and shows how childbirth is just as subject to fads and cultural influence as anything else.)

  46. 46
    karen marie says:

    @Raven:

    In 2007, The Chronicle won an Utne Reader Independent Press Award for political coverage.[11] In its award citation, Utne called The Chronicle Review “a fearless, free-thinking section where academia’s best and brightest can take their gloves off and swing with abandon at both sides of the increasingly predictable political divide.”

    Well, there you go. Both sides do it.

    I must say, this really takes the air out of my good impression of the Utne Reader.

  47. 47
    PhoenixRising says:

    @Loneoak:

    at the very least the dissertation would be of interest to, uh…everyone from historians to medical researchers to women to mothers to nurses to students of health care practices…

    Yeah, my sister the CNM/PhD in dissertation– whose work centers on getting data to help science to explain the rate of low birth weight for babies born to A-A women in the US, compared to white women in the US as well as African mothers from the sub-Saharan nations which were common sources of slave kidnapping in the 1600-1808 period–will be delighted to learn that this blowhard not only doesn’t read the work she comments on, but don’t understand any of the practical applications of the work she “wouldn’t read if [we] paid [her]”.

    Normally I don’t read or react to this inside baseball crap from academia, but this one is a fat pitch.

    common sense should tell Shafer Riley that if a related topic was in the A section of yesterday’s NYT (our great nation’s maternal fetal outcomes belong in Asia, demographically speaking, as opposed to Europe where the spending would suggest we’d be) her personal distaste for it, or desire to remain ignorant about it, indicate that it’s time to let the grownups talk about the subject.

  48. 48
    pragmatism says:

    profit from back-loading a justification to a crap argument in 10 easy steps:
    1. start with your conclusion (X is bad)
    2. make a brief reference to a source (any source will do, even if it says the opposite of X is bad).
    3. state your “argument” that simply rehashes a debunked winger talking point.
    4. state that your source supports your argument.
    5. take grievous offense to any criticism.
    6. make blanket accusations regarding your ideological opponents’ tactics and goals.
    7. wait for righty blogosphere to pick up your cause.
    8. hire an agent who will contact fox news.
    9. ???
    10. PROFIT/VICTORY

  49. 49
    karen marie says:

    @pragmatism: +1

    Now if only I could get that to work for me.

  50. 50
    Culture of Truth says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t theses supposed to break new ground, that is, explore something no has ever written about before? So by definition something pretty obscure?

    also too if the 1970s are too far back, isn’t pretty much all studies of art, literature, music, archaeology, classics, history, religion…

  51. 51
    xaneroxane says:

    I am thoroughly disgusted. Thanks, FdB, for tapping a more coherent response. This is enough to drive me to +# status…

  52. 52
    Robert waldmann says:

    Ah karma really is a bitch. Turns out Ms Riley, whose intellect I still question, graduated from the same university as I did and received higher honors. Yeah well Arthur Laffer has a PhD from Stanford and Harvard only granted one degree to one George Bush. Infedelium non carborundun and all that.

    By the way, in the glorious tradition of US education, I have a diploma which I can’t read (it’s in Latin — bet you don’t know the Latin word for Massachusetts).

  53. 53
    pragmatism says:

    @karen marie: does not work if you have above-baseline levels of empathy/self awareness. sorry karen.

  54. 54
    Linnaeus says:

    Until this brouhaha, I’d never even heard of Naomi Schaefer Riley. Now that I have, my life’s the poorer for it.

  55. 55
  56. 56
    West of the Cascades says:

    @dmsilev: Would McMeganesque then be “I looked it up, but I am misrepresenting/erring in passing it on to you”?

  57. 57
    Loneoak says:

    @PhoenixRising:

    I think you mistakenly quote aimai at #17 there instead of me, which is a great honor.

    Anyway, can we just give them Wingnut Studies and seal them off in some dark corner of the Economics building?

  58. 58
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PhoenixRising:

    Okay, random question trigged by what you said: I seem to recall reading that African-Americans in general have much higher rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) than other ethnic groups in the US, but it’s also higher than most groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Is this one of the factors that researchers like your sister are looking into?

  59. 59
    Linnaeus says:

    @Loneoak:

    The writing workshop at Hillsdale is what really counts in my mind.

    Yep. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is awful, but their news staff is actually pretty good. So it’s possible that an editor for the WSJ was on the news side of things. But the workshop at Hillsdale is pretty much a wingnut alarm.

  60. 60
    BGinCHI says:

    @Linnaeus: You can go to her web site by using the Google and see that she’s a right wing, Harvard educated dilettante. She doesn’t have any experience in higher ed and yet she pontificates about it.

    This is a marquee failure of journalism. Let’s hope the CHE fires her for sucking, and not for her politics.

    And then we’ll see how much wingnut welfare she gets.

  61. 61
    PhoenixRising says:

    @Mnemosyne: Good question. Answer appears to be, same underlying predisposition may contribute to both.

    As you may know, there is little genetic thread tying the lightest “black” self IDed Americans to the darkest that isn’t equally tied to Maygars and Cherokees. So saying “it’s genetic” seems insufficient. In both cases the output (HBP, low birth weight) appears to be inherited in some way, but the mechanism is unclear.

    (/out over my head on the science)

    Meta on “what race ain’t” if you’re new to this: while there are a few measurable features of biology that support classifying some individuals as “race x”, most humans don’t have those markers (sickle cell gene, molar dentition are two that come to mind). Race is more than anything a state of mind, scientifically speaking.

  62. 62
    PhoenixRising says:

    @Mnemosyne: Good question. Answer appears to be, same underlying predisposition may contribute to both.

    As you may know, there is little genetic thread tying the lightest “black” self IDed Americans to the darkest that isn’t equally tied to Maygars and Cherokees. So saying “it’s genetic” seems insufficient. In both cases the output (HBP, low birth weight) appears to be inherited in some way, but the mechanism is unclear.

    (/out over my head on the science)

    Meta on “what race ain’t” if you’re new to this: while there are a few measurable features of biology that support classifying some individuals as “race x”, most humans don’t have those markers (sickle cell gene, molar dentition are two that come to mind). Race is more than anything a state of mind, scientifically speaking.

  63. 63
    Merp says:

    It’s hilarious to me that one of the criticisms Schaefer Riley responds to was posted on a blog that’s five months old.

    A PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST who has been published in EVERY MAJOR PAPER and has FIFTEEN YEARS OF EXPERIENCE is using Jim Hoft style tactics of dredging up whatever you can find that you can easily respond to.

    Schaefer Riley, and I know you’re reading this because you obviously google your name and read everything written about you: your actions would besmirch the reputation of a Boise State education, let alone Hahvahd. If your goal in life is to garner prestige for yourself, you’re failing miserably. If it’s to make people laugh, mission accomplished!

    Also, Freddie, I just want to reiterate how awesome this “attack dog” mode you’ve developed is from a reader standpoint. Encouraging readers to shame the authors and publishers of shoddy arguments and publicly calling out authors in a position to face the consequences of what they’ve written is such a heartening thing to see, because it happens so rarely. Danke.

  64. 64

    @Robert waldmann:

    By the way, in the glorious tradition of US education, I have a diploma which I can’t read (it’s in Latin—bet you don’t know the Latin word for Massachusetts).

    I guess I must come from one of those “modern” universities, since my diploma is written in boring English. FWIW, my class was the first from my school to have responsibilities added to the traditional rights and privileges of our degrees. Unfortunately, that was only in the speech; they hadn’t run out of the old printed version yet, so it wasn’t for another year that the responsibilities made it onto the printed diploma.

  65. 65
    lacp says:

    I’m getting ready to submit a piece to the CHE in which I reveal that no great literature is being written in America, as proved by the mispelled signs at Teabagger rallies.

  66. 66
    chopper says:

    i care that she doesn’t have a phD. because clearly she has no experience analyzing doctoral-level research and has no place judging anyone’s dissertation.

    yet she did, and she keeps on doing it.

    an undergrad in english with clearly no expertise at all in the area of black studies should really be careful passing judgement on doctoral-level research in the area.

  67. 67

    @Mnemosyne:
    I suspect that the high rates of hypertension are strongly correlated with high rates of Type II diabetes, which are obviously linked to environmental factors like diet and exercise, though still with a strong genetic component.

  68. 68
    The Pale Scot says:

    A quick Google on Riley which was apparently more research than she committed inspired the History of the World skit,

    At the Roman Unemployment Window

    Bea Author: Occupation?
    Mel Brooks: Stand-up philosopher.
    Bea Author: What?
    Mel Brooks: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
    Bea Author: Oh, a *bullshit* artist!
    Mel Brooks: *Grumble*…
    Bea Author: Did you bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: No.
    Bea Author: Did you *try* to bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: Yes!

  69. 69
    BGinCHI says:

    @chopper: The worst part (and that’s saying something) is at the end where she claims that all of the “specialization” is making things more and more partisan (it’s not) and that this is why academia can’t educate students.

    This is the right wing method of argument (see Brooks, David, et al.): set up a false premise and then cobble together assertions without evidence and anecdotes without evidence that leads to an argument that confirms held beliefs. NO ONE in a first year logic or composition course would get a passing grade for this. NO ONE.

    We ARE educating people, and doing it really well. The only thing holding us back are resources and a culture that increasingly cares little for real intellectual pursuits and ideas.

    Exhibit number 1? Schaefer Riley.

    Freddie: invite her to debate a Black Studies ABD and let’s see how that goes.

  70. 70
    The Pale Scot says:

    The Pale Scot Says:

    A quick Google on Riley which was apparently more research than she committed put the History of the World skit in my head,

    At the Roman Dole Office

    Bea Author: Occupation?
    Mel Brooks: Stand-up philosopher.
    Bea Author: What?

    Mel Brooks: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
    Bea Author: Oh, a bullshit artist!
    Mel Brooks: Grumble…

    Bea Author: Did you bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: No.
    Bea Author: Did you try to bullshit last week?
    Mel Brooks: Yes!

    I guess Riley might be scrambling for work since whatshername at Salon?/Slate? has the whole “tribulations of unmarried Ivy League educated Jewish woman in NYC” thing wrapped up.

    Kinda like Rush really wanted to be a sportscaster.

  71. 71
    Citizen_X says:

    I am picking on people who are too young and inexperienced to defend themselves.

    No, twit. You are picking on research that is too young and inexperienced to defend itself. The researchers will do fine, as we’ve seen. The research is supposed to be poorly formed and inconclusive at this point, in any field.

    I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding [lovely bit of snide condescension] that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

    I’ll agree that it should not be her job, mainly because she should be seeking other employment. She’s too stupid (or lazy) to understand the criticism. She has.no business covering the academic beat.

  72. 72
    chopper says:

    @BGinCHI:

    The worst part (and that’s saying something) is at the end where she claims that all of the “specialization” is making things more and more partisan (it’s not) and that this is why academia can’t educate students.

    i’m all ‘welcome to grad school, dumbass. it’s been that way for 100 years.’

    seriously, that’s how the doctoral system works. of course you specialize.

  73. 73
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Citizen_X: No, the whole point of research is to do things that were done before and write your conclusions down before you start so you don’t forget what they are.

  74. 74
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Why should we care about Schaefer Riley’s article? Is she so powerful that her criticism of Black Studies will doom them?

    Dismiss her the same way she dismisses Black Studies. She’s just not that important. I am beginning to believe that conservatives get a kick out of being called racist.

  75. 75
    Bennett says:

    Brian Leiter has eviscerated Schaefer Riley a number of times, including today at http://leiterreports.typepad.c.....again.html
    There is a petition asking CHE to fire her.

  76. 76
    Bennett says:

    Brian Leiter has eviscerated Schaefer Riley a number of times, including today at http://leiterreports.typepad.c…..again.html
    There is a petition asking CHE to fire her.

  77. 77
    patroclus says:

    I have read neither the original post nor the response, but I have nonetheless concluded that right-wing blogging should be utterly eliminated.

  78. 78
    sherifffruitfly says:

    And we white folks wonder why black folks generally don’t listen to anything we have to say about race…

    Clearly the problem is that black folks are “reverse-racist” AMIRITE.

  79. 79
    Mark S. says:

    I haven’t read someone this stupid, arrogant, and just plain bitchy in a long time. She kind of reminds me of Coulter, which she would probably take as high praise.

  80. 80
    Heliopause says:

    Whenever I read a complaint about ethnic studies or women’s studies or what have you I’m reminded that most institutions of higher learning have departments devoted to the study of an invisible superbeing.

  81. 81
    Smiling Mortician says:

    @Bennett: Went to the Leiter site & read the petition, which included the title of Schaefer Riley’s screed (somehow I missed it earlier): “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” I signed the petition, and I also suggested to the CHE editors that they might consider no longer publishing someone who can’t even follow her own command to read the damned texts before commenting on their worth.

  82. 82
    Oliver's Neck says:

    @Merp:

    I know many graduates from public universities like Boise State and many from the ivies. In my anecdatal experience a bright and even mildly motivated public uni undergrad comes out significanlty better than your average harvard grad. So perhaps you might care to watch your elitism.

  83. 83
    TG Chicago says:

    As others have said, this is the best part of it:

    Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

    She pulled a Joe Klein!

    “I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right.”

    Ha!

    Ta-Nehisi Coates was recently going back and forth with Sullivan over something race-related (Ron Paul, maybe?). He pointed out that if you’re going to make an argument of the sort that Schaefer Riley did, you should at least be vaguely aware that you’re wandering into a china shop. So perhaps it’s wise to tread thoughtfully and carefully.

    Schaefer Riley stampeded through that china shop like a brahma bull hopped up on Four Loko.

    This is NOT a subject which can be covered in 500 words! There is a time for glib and pithy blog posts. Discussing race is NOT the time! How can someone possibly think that 500 words are going to persuade anyone to abolish an entire area of study? And when the area of study is fraught with historical sensitivities, what good could possibly be accomplished by such a breezy, thoughtless, unresearched, unintellectual post?

    Anyway, good on Freddie for sticking with this. It’s always fun to read an actual smart person smacking down a stupid person who is convinced that they’re smart.

  84. 84
    Interrobang says:

    Only a wingnut would hate on knowledge and the academy for developing more fields. Oh no! New knowledge! New taxonomies of study! Multiplying epistemologies! Panic!

    Say goodbye to your damn blogging sideline without “new fields” like computer science, quantum physics, electrodynamics, and the sort of abstracted linguistics that makes modern programming languages possible. *facepalm*

    This article isn’t even just stupid, it’s like fractally stupid. My BA was the sort of traditionalist conservative (in the original sense of the term) stuff that it might as well have been bottled when Cleanth Brooks was an undergraduate, but, fuck. Even us poor colonials with our imitation-Oxonian educations can see that there’s value in pure research and in expanding the fucking horizons of human knowledge and endeavours, ferchrissakes.

    Ms. Schaefer Riley, I do hope you’re reading this.

  85. 85
    stoned stats says:

    Good on you Freddie for staying on top of this. Really superb work. You have to write a dissertation (which I have) to understand that NO ONE will read it. For good reason! This is winghackery of the highest order.

  86. 86
    Bob2 says:

    Remember when McArdle criticized Sex At Dawn for not having a chapter covering X topic before finishing reading it?

    And there was a chapter called X later.

  87. 87
  88. 88
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mark S.: She’s Mary Grabar redux. And Mary Grabar is like the female Dr. Mike Adams. I know of these horrible people from World O’Crap and Sadly, No!

  89. 89
    Gretchen says:

    I was especially startled at the idea that studying black midwifery is useless. I read up a lot on childbirth when I was having children, and it was just a fact that when male doctors got involved, a lot of practices changed to make it easier on the doctors: delivering flat on your back in stirrups, which no woman with a choice would ever choose; labor-accelerating drugs, scheduled c-sections, routine episiotomies. All with the goal of making it quicker and easier for the doctor, and a lot of the knowledge of women who were willing to wait and support to make it easier for the mother, was lost. I’m so glad this young woman is trying to find and preserve this knowledge before it is lost. Some of the women that practiced in rural areas before hospital birth was routine are still alive, but old. Good luck to her, and to her fellow students.

  90. 90

    Honestly, that was the most blatantly racist screed I’d come across in a long time and I’m no stranger to the rightwing cesspool spots on the internet.

    “NEENER NEENER BLACK STUDIES LOL!!!”

    I mean c’mon — what the hell is the Chronicle thinking publishing, let alone paying, a sad little bigot to write such hateful bullshit?

    And my favorite chestnut — only 20 people will read these dissertations. Yeah, and millions of folks will read the latest diss on some obscure aspect of the publication history of _Hamlet_.

    Just fucking sad, pathetic, and racist all around.

  91. 91
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    Is McMegan moonlighting as Naomi Schafer Riley?

  92. 92
    Jado says:

    NSR: “See, Chief? I knew I could get a bunch of page views for my column. It just took some time. I deserve a promotion.”

    Supervisor: “GHKK!!” *dies of cognitive dissonance*

    NSR: “Chief? Chief? Uh, hello…about my promotion?”

  93. 93

    I’m struck by the difference between what the graduate students wrote and the prose stylings from Schaefer Riley. The grad students are so articulate and coherent they make Riley sound like a peevish, stoned teenager by comparison.

  94. 94
    SectarianSofa says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    They look legit to me, and I dropped out of grad school.
    If everyone’s behavior wasn’t convincing me to the contrary, I would assume Schaefer Riley’s original post was some kind of parody.

    Her defense amounts to “not intended to be factual statement, piss off. ”

    @pragmatism: Yep.

  95. 95
    Kenny says:

    Well, one good thing that might come of this is that NSR’s claim that no more than 20 people will read any of these dissertations will probably turn out to be false! I’m sure that no more than 20 people would have read any of them ordinarily, but with this much free advertising…

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