Let’s Pretend This Is Research

The “Cry Wolf” project, launched by a group of academics, plans to pay for research papers useful for liberal causes. That sounds harmless, but as KC Johnson argued in his posts here on the project, it boils down to commissioning scholarly work meant to reach a pre-determined result. Before any evidence is gathered, both the sponsors and the paid researchers know how these efforts are going to come out.
Advocacy lightly disguised as scholarship is a continuing problem on campus and at academic meetings. Robert Holland, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, has a fascinating letter on the subject in the current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. He writes about the American Education Research Association. AERA is supposed to be politically neutral but predictably comes down on the left side of contested political issues, strongly opposing, for example, Arizona’s anti-illegal-immigration law. (It says, cryptically, that Arizona’s “policy, on the face of it, does not take into consideration sustained sound bodies of science.”) In clearer English, it has no plans for objective research on the effects of the measure, but instead promises to “disseminate research on the negative effects of the law.”
Holland’s letter points out the politicized nature of AERA’s annual meeting: it had 136 sessions on “social justice,” 96 on “diversity,” 52 on “critical race theory,” and 28 on “feminist theory.” This list pretty much exhausts the political obsessions of the cultural left. But it hasn’t much to do with real educational research.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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