Tag Archives: social science

Regnerus and the ‘Liberal War on Science’


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 of
parents in same-sex relationships fare worse in a number of ways–alcoholism,
depression, drug use, and so forth–than the adult children of parents in
stable heterosexual marriages. Other sociologists have contested both
Regnerus’s findings and his methodology. But instead of challenging the results
of Regnerus’s research via normal scholarly channels–reviews, other scholarly
papers, or conference panels–Regnerus’s opponents have sought to delegitimize
him both personally and as a professional academic. They have attacked his
editors at Social Science Research, and they have goaded the UT-Austin
administration into investigating him for scientific misconduct. They have
fought their battle not in the journals but in the pages and web-pages of Mother
and the Huffington Post. Regnerus, a Catholic convert, has
even been aligned with the Catholic traditionalist group Opus Dei that is every
progressive’s favorite faith-based werewolf. Shades of The Da Vinci Code!

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A Social Scientist Who Made a Difference

irvinglouishorowitz.jpgIrving Louis Horowitz, who died last week at 82, was a force of nature–a brilliant, cantankerous, sociologist of astonishing range; a forceful and important publisher (Transaction Books, Society magazine); and a radical acolyte of C. Wright Mills who moved to the right as he saw the crippling effect doctrinaire Marxists were having on social science and on American universities in general.

He was indescribable in life, and now that he has passed, description is yet more difficult. How to explain the way this relentless American captured the very core of European academic publishing and did so with an elan, capaciousness, and certainty which put to shame the coyly careful deliberation of competing publishers. He was on his own and was beholden to no suits, and may not even have owned a suit himself, except perhaps one he rented from himself for the state occasions even civilians must endure. How he managed the finances of his operation was a question which provoked many who threw up their ink-stained hands and finally simply decided: this was how ILH did things and the luckier we were for it.

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The Perils of the “Common Reading” Assignment

Of the criticisms directed toward the contemporary academy, the charge of “indoctrination” strikes me as the most overhyped. The phenomenon certainly occurs; the most obvious recent example came in the “dispositions” controversy, when education students around the country could choose between agreeing with their professors’ political opinions and finding another career path. But it’s relatively rare to see professors browbeating students, in class, regarding overtly political matters.

Far more common–and pernicious–is the attempt (especially in the humanities and social sciences) to exclude topics on grounds of their “traditional” approach. Or the efforts, documented by FIRE, to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process on campus. Or the financial impact of sprawling college bureaucracies, most notably those devoted to student life or to promoting certain types of “diversity.

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10 Reasons Not To Wait 25 Years to Revisit Grutter

10. Justice O’Connor now suggests that the social-science evidence on which it was based is shaky.
9. The social-science evidence on which it was based is getting shakier, as more and more disinterested research is done.
8. There should not be a social-science exception to the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause anyhow.
7. In a variety of ways, using racial and ethnic preferences actually aggravates the achievement disparities that prompted Justice O’Connor to allow preferences in the first place.
6. America is becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial, and in such a nation it is untenable to have a legal regime that sorts people on the basis of their skin color and what country their ancestors came from.
5. Individual Americans are becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial, too, which makes racial and ethnic preferences even more unwieldy and untenable.
4. Justice Alito is more likely to get it right than Justice O’Connor was.
3. Who knows when one of the dissenters in Grutter will be replaced by an Obama appointee?
2. Twenty-five years is too long to leave on the books a bad decision that affects thousands of students every year.
1. The Equal Protection Clause makes it illegal to “deny to any person… the equal protection of the laws.”
In yesterday’s Commentary section, we listed a discussion by George Leef of Justice O’Connor’s second thoughts on Grutter v. Bollinger–her 2003 opinion that upheld racial and ethnic admission preferences at the University of Michigan law school. O’Connor also said she “expected” that in 25 years preferences would no longer be needed.

Rescuing the University, I

Part I, The Problem
How is the university, specifically the humanities and social sciences, with its rampant anti-Americanism, anti-intellectualism, muddle-brained identity politics, hostility to the unvarnished truth and all the rest to be re-conquered and restored to sanity? As one who has spent four decades in the belly of the beast, half of which was resisting this pernicious stupidity, let me offer some observations and suggestions. They are especially directed to non-academics who badly want to help, willingly put their money where their mouth is, but, alas, are clueless. To cut to the chase, universities are the faculty, and without bringing in fresh blood or helping sympathizers already there, all else is ephemeral. To paraphrase the familiar real estate adage, its people, people, people. Warning: some readers sharing my views may find my remarks a bit upsetting.
Reform currently has three main elements, two of which thrive but, unfortunately, are unlikely to succeed; a third might be victorious but remains largely untried. I’ll call them (1) guerilla warfare; (2) monastery construction; and (3) CIA-style covert funding.
Guerilla warfare is waged by groups outside the university. Some like FIRE and Center for Individual Rights combat legal abuses and rescue victims of egregious PC. Others like David Horowitz’s Front Page, Campus Watch and Minding the Campus are of the sunlight-is-the-best-disinfectant school: expose the rascals in the hope that the chastised will repent. These hit-and-run tactics are absolutely vital, can be great though depressing fun, but will not restore reason since they leave faculty composition untouched, and without refurbishment, the abuses will grow only slightly less obvious. Nefarious deans will just become more media savvy and advise the local Ward Churchills not to put it in writing lest the dreaded Horowitz-the-Horrible (not to be confused with Leo-the-Impaler) discover it. And, sadly, many miscreants are often immune to the disinfectant, and not even being linked to Islamic terrorism embarrasses them.
The monastery approach creates campus sanctuaries promoting solid, traditional education, e.g., Princeton’s Madison Center. This is what the Veritas Center is all about. Hopefully, a few hundred students a year now escape mumbo-jumbo PC and learn that Western Civilization had a virtue or two. As an “alternative university” (to use the left’s 60s vocabulary) it is a wonderful (though frightfully expensive) enterprise but, here too, it will not alter faculty composition. These Centers cannot hire new faculty or award tenure to assistant professors. Today’s PC universities would never allow such back-door conversion regardless of financial enticements. Radical faculty would be outraged at not having a finger in the pie and, rest assured, if they were consulted, the Monastery would be forcefully diversified and made multicultural. At most, university administrators will graciously permit wealthy benefactors “the opportunity” to donate a few million for an endowed chair for an already distinguished conservative tenured faculty member, so nothing new intellectually is added. At the margins newly created sanctuaries permit a few tenured professors to burnish resumes or gain some release time. But, at day’s end, the PC fortress barely notices and if things got tough financially, radicals would shamelessly just confiscate everything. Sanctuaries may help survive the Dark Ages but they will not restore the Enlightenment.

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University Of The Absurd

Recently I sat down with a young woman who shared with me the experience of her first year at Thurgood Marshall College, one of the six colleges of the University of California at San Diego. She explained to me that regardless of her major field of study and in order to graduate she was required to take certain “general education” courses, the centerpiece of which is a three-quarter, 16-unit creation called “Dimensions of Culture.” What she had to tell me is a warning to both parents and students.

The Dimensions of Culture program (DOC) is an introductory three-quarter social science sequence that is required of all first year students at Thurgood Marshall College, UCSD. Successful completion of the DOC sequence satisfies the University of California writing requirement. The course is a study in the social construction of individual identity and it surveys a range of social differences and stratifications that shape the nature of human attachment to self, work, community, and a sense of nation. Central to the course objective is the question of how scholars move from knowledge to action. UCSD Course Description

Edgar B. Anderson: So let’s talk about Dimensions of Culture. That’s vague. What’s that mean?

Student: I don’t know. Each quarter, the first quarter is called Diversity, the second quarter is called Justice, and the third quarter is called Imagination. So Diversity is we studied everything about minorities – like women, homosexuals, and then Asians, blacks, Latinos.

Q. So what’s left out – white males?

A. Yeah, pretty much if you’re a white male you’re bad, that’s kind of the joke among all the students.

Q. Women are not even a minority, they’re a majority.

A. But it’s more about the workforce.

Q. Power.

A. Yeah, that’s kind of how they presented it. We didn’t really focus on women that much. It was mainly how Asians have been oppressed in history and how Latinos continue to be oppressed and how blacks continue to be oppressed, all of that.

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