Posts tagged ‘Black Studies’

These Are Trained Professionals: Don't Try This In Your Own Home

Three Duke professors, two of whom were members of the infamous group of 88 who advocated a presumption of guilt for the lacrosse players in the Duke non-rape case, have written their own self-serving version of history in an "academic" magazine.  The funniest part is where they claim that only trained experts like themselves are qualified to discuss any subject once the race card has been played:

"the most extreme marginalization was reserved for the faculty
whose professional expertise made them most competent to engage the
discourses on race and gender unleashed by the inaugurating incident
"” scholars of African American and women's studies. Instead, administrators,
like the bloggers themselves, operated under the assumption that
everyone was an expert on matters of race and gender, while actually existing academic expertise was recast as either bias or a commitment to preconceived notions about the legal case.
Some
faculty thus found themselves in the unenviable position of being the
targets of public discourse (and disparaged for their expertise on race
and gender) without being legitimate participants in it."

Beyond the hilarity of such a claim on its face, how does such a self-serving discussion meet the editorial standards of any academic publication?  For though they claim to have "professional expertise,"  all they really accomplish is to reinforce my impression that the social sciences in general, and racial/gender studies departments in particular, have the lowest academic standards of any group on modern campuses.  KC Johnson goes on to sample some of the outright mistakes, outrageous (and unproven) claims, and general lack of sourcing and footnoting that would likely have gotten them laughed out of most any university department with actual standards.  As I wrote about the Ward Churchill affair:

And, in fact, in the rush to build ethnic studies programs, a lot of
people of very dubious qualifications were given tenure, often based
more on ethnic credibility and political activism than any academic
qualifications.  Hell, Cal State Long Beach hired a paranoid schizophrenic
who had served prison time for beating and torturing two women as the
head of their Black Studies department.  And universities like UC
patted themselves on their politically correct backs for these hirings.

I could go out tomorrow and find twenty tenured professors of
ethnic/racial/gender studies in state universities whose academic
credentials are at least as bad as Churchill's and whom no one would dare fire.  This has nothing to do with Churchill's academic work or its quality.  UC is getting exactly what it expected when it tenured him.

A Thought on Ward Churchill

I suppose this is going to be one of those nutty libertarian rants that help explain why libertarians do so poorly at the polls, but I am not really very comfortable with Ward Churchill's potential firing from University of Colorado.  I can't think of very many things Mr. Churchill has said that I agree with, but I still have this crazy idea about defending speech regardless of the content of the speech.

And it is hard for me to escape the sense that Mr. Churchill may lose his tenured position at a state-run institution over the content of his speech.  Yeah, I know, its nominally about his academic credentials.  But don't you think everyone is winking at each other about this?  Yes, Mr. Churchill is an academic fraud, but he was a fraud when UC hired him and tenured him as well, and they should have known it.

Over a couple of decades, every major university in the country rushed to build, practically from scratch, racial and ethnic and gender studies programs and departments.  Had every university raced at the same time to build any discipline, talent would run short and in the hiring race, some under-qualified people would be hired.  Let's suppose that every university decided at the same time they needed a climate department, there just would not be enough qualified climate scientists to fill out every position.  The rush to build ethnic studies programs was similar but in fact a bit worse.  Because while some people actually do have climate-related degrees, no one until recently had an ethnic studies degree.  What professional qualifications should a school look for?  And, in fact, in the rush to build ethnic studies programs, a lot of people of very dubious qualifications were given tenure, often based more on ethnic credibility and political activism than any academic qualifications.  Hell, Cal State Long Beach hired a paranoid schizophrenic who had served prison time for beating and torturing two women as the head of their Black Studies department.  And universities like UC patted themselves on their politically correct backs for these hirings.

I could go out tomorrow and find twenty tenured professors of ethnic/racial/gender studies in state universities whose academic credentials are at least as bad as Churchill's and whom no one would dare fire.  This has nothing to do with Churchill's academic work or its quality.  UC is getting exactly what it expected when it tenured him.  This is about an attempt to fire a tenured professor for the content of his speech, speech that has embarrassed and put pressure on the university, and I can't support that.

Harvard Economist Roland Fryer

Many universities over the last several decades have created race and gender studies programs.  One of the problems with many of these programs has been the appalling quality of scholarship.  The recent broohaha around Ward Churchill at Colorado is but one example -- there are many others.  For example, look how Cal-State Long Beach chose the head of their Black Studies Department:

On September 17, 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment. The charges stemmed from a May 9, 1970 incident in which Karenga and two others tortured two women who Karenga believed had tried to kill him by placing "crystals" in his food and water.
       

A year later the Los Angeles Times described the events: "Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."       

The shooting at UCLA caused Karenga to become deeply paranoid and spurred his bizarre behavior. At his trial, the question of Karenga's sanity arose. The psychiatrist's report stated, "This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and elusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment." The psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers.

Eight years later California State University at Long Beach made Karenga the head of its Black Studies Department.

Or, check out the scholarly discussions around choosing the head of Black Studies at UCLA:

In 1965 Karenga founded the United Slaves Organization (US), a group that would rival the Black Panthers on the UCLA campus. The US was more radical than the Panthers, setting off quarrels between the two.
       

The biggest dispute between the US and the Panthers centered around the leadership of the new Afro-American Studies department at UCLA; both groups backed a different candidate. On January 17, 1969, 150 students gathered to discuss the situation. Panthers John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice Carter used the meeting to verbally attack Karenga, much to the dismay of his followers. Two US members, George and Larry Stiner, confronted Huggins and Carter in a hallway after the meeting and shot and killed them.

Universities all raced to create new race and gender-based studies departments, and tenured many  based on their strong opinions and the positive response they would get out of the relevant community, rather than normal academic guidelines.

Anyway, I have, as often happens, gotten away from the point of my post.   The NY Times has a good article on Roland Fryer, who appears to be the leading edge of a new generation set on bringing real scholarship and fact-based analysis to these programs.  (hat tip:  marginal revolution)  I don't necessarily agree with him, for example on paying cash for good grades in school, but I am happy to see his dedication to real analysis and challenging conventional wisdom.