Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This is why we have free speech laws in the U.S.

So that we can avoid a complete cluster-intercourse trial like this on in Canada.

Check out this article.

Or this earlier one.

Or this even earlier one.

An excerpt:

Much of yesterday's proceeding was punctuated by angry shouts and taunts from a gallery packed with members of the Jewish and native communities. And many of the jeers were directed at Crown attorney Brent Klause, who was booed and called a racist several times.

"This isn't a circus. I've had enough. I just think it's time we had some decorum," Mr. Klause said, after he asked the judge to put a stop to the constant comments from the gallery.

Many of Mr. Ahenakew's supporters were angered that Mr. Klause had challenged the native leader's assertion that aboriginals aren't immigrants because they were born "here on this land."

"Your people came across the Bering Strait," Mr. Klause said to Mr. Ahenakew, which elicited jeers.

He later apologized to the court after suggesting Mr. Ahenakew was media savvy and not "an unsophisticated individual from some remote northern band."

"That's bullshit," one middle-aged aboriginal man said later as he demanded an apology from the Crown.

The guy was right about one thing. That's bullshit.

David Ahenakew made overtly anti-Semitic remarks. He did. He really did. Now, he is being made a martyr.

You want to expose the guy, embarrass him in the press, fine. But to have the freakin' state put the guy on trial....Things are not so bad that some ham-handed prosecution can't make it worse.

(Props/nod to JP)

George McGovern

An important figure in American history, and an incredibly energetic intellectual, will be visiting Duke next week. He is doing a book tour, for his new book, The Essential America: Our Founders and The Liberal Tradition. I have read parts of it, and while I think he is wrong he is hardly completely wrong, and always interesting.

For more info, see the news release.

But, the essentials....

George McGovern
April 13
Duke East Campus
White Lecture Hall
5:00 pm
Followed by Q&A
(Books will be available for purchase, if you are interested)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Moron Intellectual Diversity

(I meant to write "More On Intellectual Diversity", but now that I look at the title I'll leave it. Freud smiles).

I found this, at Gadflyer:

In fact, liberal bias in the academy is a fiction based on the same sort of selective analysis used to "prove" bias in the media. While there are certainly plenty of liberal professors, never mentioned are inherently conservative departments like economics, right-leaning frats and student groups, the influence of campus ROTC or the fact that for every left-leaning Vassar or Oberlin there is an equally conservative Washington and Lee or BYU.

Instead, the focus is on departments like sociology or ethnic and women's studies where there's a lot of progressive thought. In those departments conservatives collect liberal professors' statements, take them out of context and use them to weave a circumstantial case of bias. The goal is not to promote diversity of opinion but to convince people that our nation's universities have been hijacked by, as the title of one book put it, "tenured radicals" who brainwash our youth with their crypto-socialist ideology.


Well....thanks for playing, but no. Econ departments and Business schools are also mostly liberal in terms of affiliation. The ratio is 5-3, instead of 10-1, but still. Academic leftists are kidding themselves with this kind of crap. It is simply a fact that far and away most academics are liberal, and far too many have long ago stopped caring about honest intellectual discourse. They are so comfortable, and isolated from real debate, that they can't stand to have anyone disagree. When I tell colleagues that I am conservative, their response (seriously) is "But you seem smart."

Sure, lots of people do good teaching, and are honest intellectual brokers. But there is a real problem. The only solution is an intellectually diverse commitment to good pedagogy.

I was on an NPR show recently, where we talked about this. Interesting response from Judith Wegner: see no, hear no, say no, do no.

I try to be fair, but most faculty are just so sure that (1) There is no bias, and (2) Conservatism is to intellectualism as Creationism is to biology. If you believe #2, you can't argue #1 with a straight face. Unless you are a liar or a fool. And they are not fools.

Some Links:
1. On the documentary from AcademicBias.Com....A small role here for KGrease himself. I tell the drama of Robert Brandon, revealing all the facts for the first time. (Okay, no, but I do appear in the film for a few minutes).
2. NPR "State of Things" show on the subject
March 31, 2004
3. Duke's rather raucous forum (yes, I was brilliant. Thank you).
4. And then....Coturnix. An interesting and (for him) fairly balanced polemic. I think I disagree with him, but there are some good points here.
5. Poliblogger on Ward Churchill and academic freedom.
6. Post on MB article from the Chronicle
7. Ju-Gen on Western Culture
8. Finally, as I blogged before, here is Peter Lange (Duke Provost) addressing, if not quite answering, a difficult question.
9. Finally plus one (sue me): This.

Lange on "Biased" Teaching

Peter Lange, Duke Provost, was recently asked this question at an Academic Council meeting (March 24):

"In the Jan. 25 issue of the Chronicle, a Duke student complained about what he perceived as propagandizing in one of his classes: 'One of the most insulting moments of my Duke education occurred in an ancient Chinese history class in spring 2003, when the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq. Our teacher took a break from Confucius and the Han Dynasty to stage a puzzling "teach-in" about Iraq in conjunction with some national organization. During this supposedly neutral discussion, she regaled us with facts and assertions suggesting that the Iraq war was scandalous, foolish and doomed to fail.' If the student's account provides to be accurate, do you think that the instructor's conduct was a legitimate use of class time? Or did it go beyond the limits of academic freedom, in which case, what action do you think might be appropriate on the part of the academic administration?"

His response, in part:

Creating, fostering and enhancing our culture of learning must be our goal. This goal must guide our decisions about how we judge and possibly intervene in any specific event or incident that may appear to threaten the quality of that culture. In determining whether such a threat exists and whether and how to respond to it, it is worth remembering that our culture of learning is best fostered by shared norms of conduct, ones that encourage and accept the free expression of ideas and that reflect mutual respect for the expression of ideas by others.

Such shared norms, and the behavioral habits that reflect them, stand in some contrast to formal rules that seek sharply to define "appropriate" or "legitimate" behavior. Such "rules" in the academic context are likely almost always to falter in the face of the complex processes through which students learn and our faculty teach or, at times, through which our faculty learn from what their students say and do. The application of formal rules, while occasionally necessary, is unlikely to advance the deeper commitments that must support a true culture of learning.

I have to say, I largely agree. If faculty are not committed, genuinely committed, to real teaching, I don't see that some Jesuitical set of rules and appeals procedures is going to help.


UPDATE: Then, there's this. Question: When exactly did Paul Krugman sell his soul? He makes Jerry Springer look honest and tasteful.

An Academic Question
(NYT, April 5)

It's a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities. But what should we conclude from that?

Conservatives see it as compelling evidence of liberal bias in university hiring and promotion. And they say that new "academic freedom" laws will simply mitigate the effects of that bias, promoting a diversity of views. But a closer look both at the universities and at the motives of those who would police them suggests a quite different story.

Claims that liberal bias keeps conservatives off college faculties almost always focus on the humanities and social sciences, where judgments about what constitutes good scholarship can seem subjective to an outsider. But studies that find registered Republicans in the minority at elite universities show that Republicans are almost as rare in hard sciences like physics and in engineering departments as in softer fields. Why?

One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

But there's also, crucially, a values issue. In the 1970's, even Democrats like Daniel Patrick Moynihan conceded that the Republican Party was the "party of ideas." Today, even Republicans like Representative Chris Shays concede that it has become the "party of theocracy."

Consider the statements of Dennis Baxley, a Florida legislator who has sponsored a bill that - like similar bills introduced in almost a dozen states - would give students who think that their conservative views aren't respected the right to sue their professors. Mr. Baxley says that he is taking on "leftists" struggling against "mainstream society," professors who act as "dictators" and turn the classroom into a "totalitarian niche." His prime example of academic totalitarianism? When professors say that evolution is a fact.
Think of the message this sends: today's Republican Party - increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research - doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn't be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party.

Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves. Instead, they're seeking a Lysenkoist solution that would have politics determine courses' content.

And it wouldn't just be a matter of demanding that historians play down the role of slavery in early America, or that economists give the macroeconomic theories of Friedrich Hayek as much respect as those of John Maynard Keynes. Soon, biology professors who don't give creationism equal time with evolution and geology professors who dismiss the view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old might face lawsuits.

If it got that far, universities would probably find ways to cope - by, say, requiring that all entering students sign waivers. But political pressure will nonetheless have a chilling effect on scholarship. And that, of course, is its purpose.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Parent abuse

Me, this morning, driving carpool: "I can't believe people keep knocking down those bricks around the driveway. I have to rebuild that wall every two weeks. It's like I never make any progress."

My son, with even tone and not looking up from his book: "Yep, Dad, you are truly the modern Sisyphus. You should write about it. As much as I like to hear about this every morning, I'm sure others want to hear about it even more."

Butthead. I wish I had said it.