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Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’

The ongoing controversy over University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus is a textbook example of how a legitimate scholarly dispute can turn into a political witch-hunt. Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at Texas’s flagship campus in Austin, published a peer-reviewed paper in June in the journal Social Science Research concluding that the adult children […]

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A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

As one who has spent nearly four decades in the academy, let me confirm what outsiders often suspect: the left has almost a complete headlock on the publication of serious (peer reviewed) research in journals and scholarly books. It is not that heretical ideas are forever buried. They can be expressed in popular magazines, op-eds […]

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What Should Kids Be Reading?

Books above a sixth-grade reading level, for sure. According to Renaissance Learning’s 2012 report on the books read by almost 400,000 students in grades 9-12 in 2010-2011, the average reading level of the top 40 books is a little above fifth grade (5.3 to be exact). While 27 of the 40 books are UG (upper […]

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What Yale and the Times Did to Patrick Witt

Remarks delivered at a Manhattan Institute luncheon, March 28, 2012 in New York City. Professor Johnson and attorney Harvey Silverglate, whose talk will be presented here tomorrow, spoke on “Kangaroo Courts: Yale, Duke and Student Rights.”                                                                                        *** Before the Patrick Witt case, I had some experience writing about how the New York Times handles […]

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Why Academic Gobbledygook Makes Sense

When I first began teaching political science in the late 1960s I would routinely assign articles from top professional journals to undergraduates. This is now impossible–without exception, they are incomprehensible, overflowing with often needless statistical complexity. The parallel is not the hard sciences where mathematics replaced philosophical speculation. If anything, these articles reflect a trivialized […]

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Academic Articles–Expensive and Mostly Unread

At research universities and many liberal arts colleges, too, it is universally assumed that research is an unadulterated good.  Research keeps professors fresh in their fields, makes them better teachers, and raises intellectual standards for departments.  Who would disagree? In conversations about research in my world of the humanities, though, one doesn’t often hear about one […]

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Do We Really Want Professors to Be Productive?

Accountability is all the rage in today’s education reform industry and at the university level, “productivity” typically means upping scholarly publishing.  The allure is simple–who can resist prodding lolling-about professors to generate more knowledge?  Unfortunately, putting the thumbscrews on idle faculty will only push universities farther to the left.  Better to pay professors for silence. […]

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‘Yes, Some Teachers Do Very Little’

A huge brouhaha has erupted over the release and interpretation of data about the faculty of the University of Texas, centering on whether a relatively few individuals are doing most of the teaching at the system’s flagship institution, UT-Austin. Two reports drew most of the fire, one by my organization, the Center for College Affordability and Productivity […]

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How Productive Do Professors Have to Be?

The firing of a controversial aide to the University of Texas system has triggered a full-blown debate over the productivity of teachers and whether “star” professors who teach few classes are really worth the cost to the public. Rick O’Donnell, dismissed on April 19 after only 49 days on the job as special adviser to […]

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YIISA’s Fate and the Corruption of the Peer-Review Process

Jamie Kirchick pens what’s likely to be the definitive account of Yale’s controversial decision to terminate the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA). Kirchick convincingly demonstrates how a toxic combination of anti-Israel sentiments from some key faculty members combined with Yale’s desire to cultivate Middle Eastern donors (as part of the university’s […]

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Please Don’t Read Any Convention Papers

Mark Bauerlein’s article on papers delivered at academic conferences (above) reminds me of the day I discovered the awful truth about such texts. Arriving in San Francisco in the summer of 1967 to cover the annual sociological convention for the New York Times, I headed for the press room and asked for a copy of […]

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What’s the Point of Academic Conferences?

At research universities in the United States, most departments in the humanities have a travel budget that supports professional activities for their faculty members.  Most of it goes to help professors attend academic conferences and deliver a paper to colleagues and attend sessions as an audience member as well.  For a department of 30 people, the amount […]

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That Smug Article in the New York Review of Books

Last year, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreyfus published Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–And What We Can Do About It, a resounding broadside against campus policies and practices.  They berated the system for producing useless research, creating cushy working conditions, neglecting undergraduates, and reproducing elitism. Hacker and Dreyfus sometimes […]

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Is College Education Too Narrow?

In trying to explain why even the best of students have sometimes received an exceedingly narrow education, former Congresswoman Heather Wilson touches on the issue of academic self interest. “Perhaps,” she writes, “faculty members are themselves more narrowly specialized because of pressure to publish original work in ever more obscure journals.” It’s a good point […]

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What Else Do Professors Do? They Teach.

Teaching periodically reaches the public’s attention, as in a recent statement by a group of scientists about the failure of research universities to train their students to be good teachers. The New York Times ran a report on a study published in Science that led its lead researcher to contend: “I think that learning is […]

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Who Pays the Hidden Cost of University Research?

Higher education in America is in financial crisis. In constant dollars, the average cost of tuition and fees at public colleges has risen almost 300 percent since 1980. Our best public research universities, like my own University of California (UC), are wracked with doubt: will they be able to continue their historic role as institutions […]

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Why the Professor Still Can’t Teach

In 1977 the great mathematician and teacher Morris Kline published an indictment of academe in a book aptly called Why the Professor Can’t Teach. Kline not only blamed “the overemphasis on research” as the “prime culprit” for the poor quality of undergraduate education, he also blamed professors—especially tenured professors—for ignoring their “moral obligations to students” […]

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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 […]

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The Wolfers and Bastardizing Academic Freedom

Academic freedom carries with it rights as well as responsibilities. The concept derives from the belief that academics, because of specialized training in their subject matter, have earned the right to teach their areas of expertise and to follow their research questions as the evidence dictates—free from political pressure from the government. Indeed, only through […]

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Another Dubious Academic Project?

The indispensable Erin O’Connor, writing this morning on her web site, Critical Mass, discusses an astonishing memo from Peter Dreier of Occidental College and two other progressives seeking “paid academic research” that can “serve in the battle with conservative ideas.” The project, sponsored by the Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego, will pay fifty […]

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Celebrating Academics’ Irrelevance

In early October, Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn proposed prohibiting the National Science Foundation from “wasting any federal research funding on political science projects,” citing the heavy emphasis that the funded projects had placed on quantitative research projects. Such methodology is currently much in fashion among political scientists, even though the research usually yields findings so […]

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Duke Prints What Yale Won’t

Some happy news via Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy – Duke University’s Voltair Press is not only printing a book on the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy that features the cartoons (imagine that!) but also includes a Statement of Principle that decries Yale University’s censorship of the cartoons in their own volume on the matter. […]

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The Power of Academic Blogging

I want to say how pleased I am to join Minding the Campus as a regular blogger. My first in-depth exposure to the power of the blogosphere came during my tenure battle, when I received timely and extremely effective support from bloggers Erin O’Connor and Jerry Sternstein. I quickly discovered that in commenting on technical […]

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J-Schools Struggle To Cope

Newspapers are folding right and left—the Rocky Mountain News in February, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in March, the Boston Globe any day now, it would seem—and, according to the American Journalism Review, some 15 percent of the newsroom jobs, about 5,000 of them, last year (with another 7,500 vanishing so far this year) at newspapers across […]

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Less Writing, More Teaching?

Years ago, assigned to cover a national meeting of sociologists for a major newspaper, I asked the convention press office to get me a copy of every paper to be delivered. The press officer looked thunderstruck but complied, handing over several hundred papers in a stack more than three feet high. I read them all […]

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