Tuesday, March 29, 2005

All The Professors Are Above Average

Unbeknownst to most Americans, it seems that our country has devolved into the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong; all the men are good-looking; and all the children are above average."

Foolish me! I used to think that Garrison Keillor was joking--as in making fun of--when he would say this. Obviously many (including Keillor himself) apparently take this maxim seriously.

Theirs is a world where Larry Summers is not allowed free speech. Where children's self-esteem is catered to at the expense of their intelligence; and where no professor's competence can be challenged. Here is what Betsy's Page has to say:


Churchill is accused of plagiarism and of falsely characterizing primary sources to accuse the U.S. army of deliberately committing genocide by spreading smallpox among the Mandan Indians in the 1830s. This scholar, Thomas Brown, does a thorough accusation showing how Churchill, in his academic work, totally mischaracterized the research he was supposedly basing his research on. Read the accusation and see if you think that Churchill presented honest research. Here is the conclusion.

Situating Churchill’s rendition of the epidemic in a broader historiographical analysis, one must reluctantly conclude that Churchill fabricated the most crucial details of his genocide story. Churchill radically misrepresented the sources he cites in support of his genocide charges, sources which say essentially the opposite of what Churchill attributes to them.

It is a distressing conclusion. One wants to think the best of fellow scholars. The scholarly enterprise depends on mutual trust. When one scholar violates that trust, it damages the legitimacy of the entire academy. Churchill has fabricated a genocide that never happened. It is difficult to conceive of a social scientist committing a more egregious violation.

Verbs like "mischaracterize" and "misrepresent" are kindnesses. Deliberate "lie" might be more accurate.

Professor Collins seems to think that incompetence such as not knowing elementary facts of addition is the only reason to dismiss a tenured professor. That's a pretty high bar. Now, does Professor Collins believe that a professor at his university is fit for his job if the professor lies in his research? That is an egregious violation of the responsibility a scholar has. How can a university keep on a professor once it has been revealed that he lied in his research? How can students be held to a high standard in their research if the university, by not firing Churchill, gives an imprimatur of approval to dishonest research? This is what got Michael Bellesiles in hot water at Emory. Eventually Bellesiles had the grace to resign before he was fired. I don't sense that Churchill would behave similarly. They'll have to get Churchill out with a crowbar and a stick of dynamite. But, judging by Professor Collins' disregard of Churchill's academic malfeasance, this committee doesn't seem up to the task.

What in heaven's name does a professor have to do to be fired? Michael Caine, playing Dr. Frank Bryant in the movie Educating Rita responds to Rita's query if the university will sack him for being drunk during a lecture: "Good God no. That would involve making a decision. Pissed is all right. To get the sack, it would have to be rape on a grand scale. And not just with students, either. That would only amount to a slight misdemeanour. No, for dismissal it would have to be nothing less than buggering the Bursar.

Not only does Churchill have a right to his incompetence, but the taxpayers must pay him for it! This man has stolen others ideas and words and art. He deceived everyone about his Indian heritage and is a con artist extraordinaire. I have no idea if he has also done what Dr. Frank claims is the only significant academic malfeasance.

All I know is that if he is not fired, he will go on to ceate many "little churchills" out of the young minds entrusted to his care. They will learn thatincompetence, lying, cheating, and a complete disregard for truth, combined with an artful and unlimited arrogance will get you far in life.

Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.-Oscar Wilde

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