Academic Rigor?

“Professor Anonymous,” who teaches at a large state university, is rather concerned about the instant experts who became visible immediately after 9/11 to teach the uninformed about the evils of the US. This is the professoriat who, without any background or academic credentials in relevant studies offered quickly prepared classes in how the US was responsible for all international carnage. These instant experts professed a 60’s desire for protest, political correctness, and the quelling of those ideas that did not suit their ideologies.

But really this doesn’t make sense. In a medical emergency would you take the advice of an untrained layman over an experienced medical professional’s care? In the midst of war would you seek protection from anthropology and gender studies professors rather than trained, armed soldiers? By the same token, the knowledge of qualified, experienced specialists in relevant fields should be preferred to the ideology of inexperienced non-specialists and experts qualified in unrelated fields. All the more so in a crisis, and especially with such urgent need for reliable guidance.

the setting aside of academic rigor continues, and the courses have multiplied (there are at least 250 “peace studies” programs in North America. [19]) University administrators are happy! They continue to bask in the glow of good PR and their glorious display of social responsibility. Instant experts and faculty are happy! They are cool and popular, they have real authority and freedom to rant and recruit for the left. And students are happy! Happy to be enrolling like mad in “relevant” courses with lightweight requirements and easy grading, for especially instructors with less-than-sterling expertise are apt to have lower expectations and greater inclination to give higher grades for political correctness (even if the students’ writing is horrendous and grammatically incorrect). And they get high enrollments and great student course evaluations, which in turn endears them to the administrators.

Happy !Happy! Happy! Everyone is happy.

Everyone, that is, except for all of us who wish to continue the disciplined pursuit of real knowledge and rigorous professional standards, and who want our universities to be fully devoted to the pursuit of real scholarship. That is what will make us, and in the long run, everyone happy. And then our universities will be able to fulfill their true mission in society. Now–how do we get there?

The professor also provided a very good concise summary of intellectual integrity;

There are also methodologies that qualified scholars rely on to understand, explain, and teach the large topics and many-sided questions—”problems”—within their field. These promise useful, cogent answers, and scholarship which expands and advances knowledge of the field.

They include standards such as:

1. logical argumentation based on reason and solid evidence—facts, sources, data etc.;

2. accuracy and honesty—a commitment NOT to sacrifice truth and factual accuracy for the sake of one’s own theories and arguments;

3. honest critical evaluation of evidence, scholarship, and especially of one’s own ideas;

4. careful interpretation and rational analysis with appreciation of complexity and nuance.

Standards of scholarship such as these guarantee reliable conclusions and new knowledge with authority.

But sometimes being “Happy!” means we need to pretend a few things. There seems to be good reason to be worried about where this effort to be “Happy!” might lead.

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