May 9, 2012

The Chronicle of Higher Education fires blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley for mocking university Black Studies programs.

Here's a Wall Street Journal editorial column condemning the Chronicle (including the disclosure that Riley is married to a member of the Journal editorial board):
As best we can make out, the Chronicle's editor, Liz McMillen, fired Naomi Riley for doing what she was hired to do—provide a conservative point of view about current events in academe alongside the paper's roster of mostly not-conservative academic bloggers....
Riley herself has an op-ed over there at the Journal. (It's not like this lady is starving for media outlets.)
Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a cover story called "Black Studies: 'Swaggering Into the Future,'" in which the reporter described how "young black-studies scholars . . . are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline." The "5 Up-and-Coming Ph.D. Candidates" described in the piece's sidebar "are rewriting the history of race." While the article suggested some are skeptical of black studies as a discipline, the reporter neglected to quote anyone who is.

Like me. So last week, on the Chronicle's "Brainstorm" blog (where I was paid to be a regular contributor), I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and "a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap," at worst.
This is, I think, a little more complex than what Riley's supporters are saying. She mocked individual graduate students. This reminds me of the big Sandra Fluke controversy, which got traction because an established media professional took aim at a student. Riley made fun of dissertation titles and breezily threw out the opinion that the entire field of Black Studies was left-wing crap. Maybe it is. I don't know. I'm not reading the dissertations. It's tempting to riff on intuition and to speak provocatively, and that's what bloggers do. If the Chronicle wants bloggers — readable bloggers, bloggers who spark conversation and debate — they need to get that.

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media... that's the problem, and I don't see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

Riley, in this new column, proceeds with her critique of the field of Black Studies... or rather the media's resistance to critique:
[A] substantive critique about the content of academic disciplines is simply impossible in the closed bubble of higher education. If you want to know why almost all of the responses to my original post consist of personal attacks on me, along with irrelevant mentions of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and George Zimmerman, it is because black studies is a cause, not a course of study. By doubting the academic worthiness of black studies, my critics conclude, I am opposed to racial justice—and therefore a racist.
Knowing of this resistance, Riley could have begun her attack with something more sober and fact-based than lampooning the titles of students' dissertations. Maybe she deliberately sought personal attention by writing something too crude and impolite. It certainly worked. I'd never noticed her before and now everyone is talking about her.

159 comments:

pduggie said...

Yeah, I demurr from my conservative friends in their thinking that Riley's article was not worthy of censure and was pretty awful and vapid.

Maybe the real issue is 'academic rigor' is overrated. Why *shouldn't* the experiences of black women in natural childbirth be a subject of study?

Riley looked at it as "grievance" but a dissertation is always supposed to be about something that hasn't been studied yet, and adds to knowledge, right?

John Lynch said...

Yeah, have to agree. She's going after individual students and that's not fair.

Also, it's always pretty easy to find ridiculous dissertation topics in any field.

damikesc said...

But what are they informing people of? As she said, they are so pointless that nobody will read them.

How does it help education? She was responding to a piece on the best and brightest of that intellectual wasteland. Why not criticize? Are dissertations above criticism for being utterly worthless?

If they have no benefit...why have it in the first place. Can anybody point to SERIOUS academic rigor in any ethnic studies field?

Michael said...

Most dissertations are complete nonsense, of course. The same mockery could be levelled at subects as varied as English and Women's studies. It is fun to watch and read the fury of the academy when they are ridiculed.

Hagar said...

How does quoting the titles constitute lampooning them?

YoungHegelian said...

I'm not sure why lampooning a dissertation and its author by name should be verboten. A dissertation is meant to be a work that turns new ground in the field and should be of publishable quality. The author should be proud & able to publicly stand by his work.

By the acceptance of dissertation, the student's colleagues are saying that he is no longer a student, but now a Doctor of Philosophy.

So, if by the time of the published dissertation both student & colleagues are unable to face the buzz saw of public opinion, the educational process has failed. Big Time.

edutcher said...

The point is that she told the dirty little secret - that 98% of the "studies" is so much twaddle intended to create jobs for professional students masquerading as teachers and to provide a place where Lefties can spout all the silly little theories dear to their hearts; such as, Cleopatra was black because she was African.

One or two courses in the larger fields - history, lit, etc. - are probably valid, but this is just to make all the Demos' approved protected groups feel special.

Island Court said...

Her article was partly a response to an earlier article praising the work of those very same, clearly identified, students.

If students accept the praise for their product is it not also fair to point out that their product is rubbish?

Apparently we are only permitted to praise black students no matter what they do.

dmoelling said...

Sorry folks your dissertation is PUBLISHED! Which is the idea in the first place in Academia. If you assumed that it was only for your committee then you are seriously misinformed. It is intended that future employers and others can review and assess your work. This is not something written as a High School student.

Combine this with the astonishingly low employment rates for area studies students and it is an academic and economic crime.

Andy R. said...

I'm confused about all the conservatives rushing to defend a blog post about mocking black studies dissertations over their titles without having actually read any of them.

AJ Lynch said...

You have that rare ability to argue either side of an argument Althouse. You would have been a great litigator and formidable opponent in court.

Skipper said...

How does one critique a university department if not by evaluating the work of those within it?

Alex said...

I'd really like to know how many Black Studies PhDs were on the iPhone design team.

Expat(ish) said...

Hmm, these are graduate students so they're in their mid-late 20's by the time they're publishing dissertations.

Hardly children. And certainly these students were calling out other people to directly criticize them and, in some cases, accuse them of racism.

So I'm not clear on why they get some sort of immunity.

-XC

Alex said...

Andy - it's called common sense you fucking buffoon.

damikesc said...

Women's studies deserves mockery.

MayBee said...

I've only read Michelle Obama's. And it was completely mockable.

Hagar said...

The fury is not about the students and their papers, but against Ms. Riley for pointing out that the Higher Education Establishment sachems are walking around with no clothes on.

Alex said...

How many "studies" majors even work at Apple in any capacity? Or Microsoft, Intel, Applied Material, or any company that really matters?

Mitchell said...

Maybe she deliberately sought personal attention by writing something too crude and impolite.

If so, then Ms. Riley missed her chance to liken African-American Studies to primatology.

Joe said...

The criticisms are so academic, it's hilarious. She went after individual students. Almost every academic says with a gasp. SO THE FUCK WHAT?

Since when is post graduate university about coddling students? If you write a dissertation, you better be damn prepared to defend it and take a beating even for the damn title.

Academics are some of the most thin skinned people on the planet. The defenders of academics look just as stupid. In the real world, if I present a white paper to my boss with a moronic title, he doesn't have to read it and won't--he'll toss in the trash and after two or three of those, he'll fire my ass. And he'd he congratulated for saving the company from bullshit, not fired for calling out the bullshit.

If there ever was an argument to deep six all post graduate studies that don't have a provable ROI behind them, this is it. (At the very least, this is a strong argument for getting rid of grants and loans. If an eduction is worth getting, it's worth paying for out of your own damn pocket.)

Lyssa said...

The idea that phd students, likely in at least their late 20's, likely several years past old enough to drink, smoke, make health care decisions, fight for their country, have sex, and get married, are somehow above reproach or mocking for the ideas that they set forth in what is to be treated as a serious piece of academic work is absurd.


Not to mention the fact that students aren't the only ones who work on dissertations - if a student is writing it, the topic got green-lighted by a professor or several.

Lyssa said...
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Zach said...

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media... that's the problem, and I don't see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

Was she mocking the students, or the research published by the students? Once an article is published, the author is dead -- you can say whatever you want about it. If you're going to take an attack on your research as an attack on you personally -- well, you won't be lonely, but it's not the same thing.

I thought the perspective of black women on natural childbirth had at least the possibility of turning up some interesting stuff. You've got a very different history of access to hospitals, exposure to doctors, family structure. I don't think slave women spent a lot of time going to Lamaze classes. If I found a well written book on this subject, I'd read it. I don't know how much more you can ask from a thesis topic.

Matthew Sablan said...

Aren't dissertations supposed to be contested vigorously? Heck, my undergraduate thesis on the influence of the philhellenes in the Greek Revolution was knocked about in class (my English major was less interesting, since we had a very strict guideline of applying a theory on autobiography to one. I chose "Pursued by a Bear," and no one knew the author so... not really argued over).

At a graduate level, I would hope they get more scrutiny. I haven't read the article by Riley, so I don't know if she actually did that or if she was just scoffing.

Alex said...

Zach - but taxpayer dollars should not be funding that crap. Let BET fund it.

Shane said...

The crime here is not just that Riley's opinion column was "pretty awful and vapid" enough to merit her firing, it's that the point she made is only controversial outside of the ivory tower. Grievance degrees are mindless missions of masturbatory malevolence, whether they be focused on race, class or gender.

It's white paternalism she's fed up with, and who can blame her?

Alex said...

Aren't dissertations supposed to be contested vigorously?

Not when it's a protected minority class.

Shanna said...

Why *shouldn't* the experiences of black women in natural childbirth be a subject of study?

That one actually sounded really interesting to me, so much that I found myself wondering what she found out.

I don't have a problem with calling out individual thesis titles, those were facts she used to craft her argument. I doubt they would have liked her better if she had been vague. I did disagree with her about the midwifing one, though.

Quayle said...

Virginia get out the smelling salts, someone is having another fainting spell because some mean nasty conservative said what the respective graduate committees should have but didn't.

Now if we can only apply this same standard of temperance and respect of the person to the financial contributors to pass the Prop 8 amendment.

Oh, but that's different!

PETER V. BELLA said...

There was also the matter of all the negative comments. It seems she made readers uncomfortable. Like others have said so what?

We should be questioning the whole issue of the merit- or lack their of- of these ridiculous courses of study that benefit no one.

MadisonMan said...

Speak the truth, but don't be rude doing so. That's the lesson.

But you should be able to mock the title of a dissertation, or the field. But attacking a particular person? It's rude to shine a spotlight on a student when the faculty advisor is the one who should be taking the heat. Why is the advisor allowing this student to waste money on a silly topic.

Disclaimer: I have not read the theses in question. Maybe they are groundbreaking in some way. Maybe not.

Alex said...

ah yes these "studies" people will no doubt lead to all kinds of technological breakthroughs. Oh wait...

Peter said...

" black studies is a cause, not a course of study ..."

What can one say about "studies" that start by assuming the answers are known, and then works to convince the rest of us that they are right?

Why would anyone expect any sort of academic rigor (let alone openness to other viewpoints) in such an environment?

In any case, I wouldn't assume that employment prospects for black studies graduates are dismal, as "affirmative action officer" and "diversity trainer" are real occupations, and demand for these may well be increasing.

edutcher said...

Have to agree with Expat. You publish, you have to accept the criticism as well as the praise.

Andy R. said...

I'm confused about all the conservatives rushing to defend a blog post about mocking black studies dissertations over their titles without having actually read any of them.

He's confused, all right.

The issue is whether Ms Riley should have been fired for criticizing the work and whether any of us are allowed to say anything negative about "studies".

PS Not unlike the photo of a young woman holding up a sign at one of the Occupations which said, "I have a PhD in Hispanic LGBT studies, $87,000 in student debt, and I can't get a job".

Andy R. said...

Aren't dissertations supposed to be contested vigorously?

Is the way that conservatives contest something vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question? Seems about right.

Kevin said...

Graduate students are children, and need to be protected from criticism and mockery.

Alex said...

I suspect Andy would be ok with tripling funding to "studies".

EDH said...
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Shanna said...

vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question

The title is part of the work.

MadisonMan said...

From the WSJ Op-Ed:

In a note that reads like a confession at a re-education camp,

Awesome phrasing!

Matthew Sablan said...

"Is the way that conservatives contest something vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question? Seems about right."

-- "Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post. A number of the dissertations aren't even available. Which didn't seem to stop the Chronicle reporter, though. And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired."

So... we can -praise- their scholarship without reading it, but we can't suggest it isn't worthy of praise? Also, if you look, she has quotes from some of the authors, and is clearly familiar with the works.

The Drill SGT said...

what Island Court said...


Her blog post (not an article really) was in response to a Chronicle puff piece on 5 Black Studies Superstars...

These 5 were obviously well along, since they had published academic works.

Real Academics are expected and required to be able to defend their published work.

If it is not defensible without resorting to crying racist, that speaks for itself.


This wasn't a Fluke

traditionalguy said...

I blame Obama's election. The assumed oppression of American blacks by American whites has no traction anymore.

The inanity of the old propaganda pieces being re-run in a war that is over now has left the Propaganda High and Dry's, that can now rightfully called themselves Phds.

The assertion that we are being rude to laugh at the Doctors is all that they have left to complain about. They are historical artifacts now,

Alex said...

Yes some huge thoughtcrime has occured. The conservative didn't bow down and scrape before the "studies" doctors.

EDH said...

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media... that's the problem, and I don't see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

Isn't "defending" the thesis of your dissertation an actual part of the process?

I don't think anyone is disputing the Chronicle's right to control its content. But did Riley needed to be silenced by firing? Is firing the only "red pen" at the Chronicle? Notice the Chronicle's response provides absolutely no factual basis for the firing other than "Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles."

I'd say the defense of Riley is rooted in the chilling signal the firing sends, specifically because no editorial standard has been established through it other than avoiding "several thousand [readers...speaking] out in outrage and disappointment".

Is there another Ph.D. program besides "whatever-studies" that will get a writer fired for writing snark?

bagoh20 said...

"She went after individual students."

They paid good money to extend their adolescence well into adulthood, and all of us paid and pampered by the industry should think twice before screwing with that cash cow.

This is like the inspectors in the sausage plant glossing over those E. coli counts. "Hey, shit happens."

Pogo said...

Those 5 Black Studies superstars will make great baristas.

bagoh20 said...

soft racism - low expectations

LarsPorsena said...

"Andy R. said...

Aren't dissertations supposed to be contested vigorously?

Is the way that conservatives contest something vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question? Seems about right."

You haven't read them either so your 'defense' is just the usual knee-jerk reflex.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What career path does one tread with a Phd in Black Studies?

Or Women's Studies for that matter?

damikesc said...

But you should be able to mock the title of a dissertation, or the field. But attacking a particular person? It's rude to shine a spotlight on a student when the faculty advisor is the one who should be taking the heat.

The student wrote it and it is supposed to add to the overall level of information.

If the student wrote unmitigated crap, why NOT call them on it?

Not only has college been dumbed down, it has been pansified to boot.

We're supposed to "respect" the "credentials" of people but never ask "How did they get those credentials in the first place?" Their academic work that they are so proud of is now off-limits to anybody who isn't a sycophant of their work?

If that is the case --- why do we need academia?

Is the way that conservatives contest something vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question?

As pointed out elsewhere, in the real world, if you turn in something with a thoroughly vapid title, your boss isn't going to spend the time to see if your content is any better than the idiocy of your title.

The world is busy. If these little darlings can't hang, then they shouldn't be trying for degrees to give them "authority" that people are supposed to respect.

...true, it would be a post-graduate degree in Black Studies and nobody takes that non-intellectual bilge seriously as is.

-- "Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post. A number of the dissertations aren't even available. Which didn't seem to stop the Chronicle reporter, though. And 6,500 academics signed a petition online demanding that I be fired."

Conservatives have pointed out --- FOR YEARS NOW --- that academia is the most closed-minded place in America and dissenting views are brutally suppressed.

This is further evidence.

It's why a lack of conservative professors can SERIOUSLLY be explained away by "Well, they don't want to do it" --- using the identical logic to explain why they didn't have black students long ago.

...also, as an aside, isn't it baffling that the most apparently racist and sexist places on Earth seem to be the cravenly PC college campuses.

In the end, we need to tear down colleges completely and rebuild. They have been so thoroughly rotted down to their core that they are useless.

Canuck said...
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bagoh20 said...

I understand the outrage. It's like telling them they just spent most of a decade accomplishing nothing.

If that was spent working at McDonalds they would have something to show for it by now.

Of course if they applied themselves, they might have a business by now, employing people, living a dream and knowing something.

Nobody wants to hear that.

rhhardin said...

When attacked, explain again in different words.

That applies even to students.

It's harder for bullshit.

To stay out of that problem, don't bullshit.

Andy R. said...

You haven't read them either so your 'defense' is just the usual knee-jerk reflex.

I'm not saying whether the dissertations are good or bad, for the very reason that I haven't read them.

damikesc said...

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media... that's the problem, and I don't see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

CHE is "established media"? Seems like a coffee table book that only academics actually care about.

As has been said, these are post-graduate dissertations. If critique of them is too tough for them to handle, then academia has failed at some point miserably.

If you want the "respect" that a post-graduate degree provides, then be willing to take the heat for your work.

Saint Croix said...

As I see it, she's arguing that black studies is an intellectual ghetto for young minds. What kind of job are you going to get? The only job is professor, right? How many graduate students go on to become professors?

Would you hire somebody with a degree in black studies for your car company? Maybe. If you're trying to market a car to black people.

But these fields are way too limiting, in my opinion. You run a real risk of employers reducing you to your race or gender. Precisely because you're self-identifying that way. Many people are going to hear your degree and think "HR problem" or "lawsuit waiting to happen."

I think it's better to get a sociology degree or a history degree or a philosophy degree and work your passions under that umbrella.

Matthew Sablan said...

Canuck: The pieces being talked about were receiving praise in the Chronicle, also without having been read or published. Ideally, unfinished pieces should not be talked about, because no one knows if it is good or not. But, if the Chronicle is not acting incorrectly by praising the pieces without complete knowledge, we can't say that it is acting incorrectly to attack them without complete knowledge. Why they chose unpublished/incomplete/unavailable things to highlight is beyond me.

Canuck said...
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Bill R said...

This is for those of you thinking of investing four or more years and many, many thousands of dollars in a victim studies program.

When a decision maker sees the word "-studies" on a resume, he concludes the following.

You've spent years and years soaking in the many reasons to hate everyone not in your victim group.

You are drenched in self pity.

You are infinitely touchy and super ready to take offense at the tiniest thing.

You are probably a very expensive lawsuit waiting to happen.

You know f***-all about anything even remotely useful.

He then calls the corporate hazmat team and they take your resume out to the incinerator with tongs. Then they steam clean the desk, just in case.

And remember, even though you are unemployable, you still have to pay back the loans

damikesc said...

That academics are leading a charge to fire the heretic is not evidence of open minced dialogue.

bagoh20 said...

What would produce better scholarship, better professionals, and better industry: having this kind of criticism as a likelihood if you do crappy work or not having it?

If you don't have the little sign that says: "You must be this tall to ride", then people fall out and get hurt, and nobody will want to pay for your ride.

Canuck said...
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Hagar said...

The piling onto the Chronicle for posting Ms. Riley's article comes mostly from raw fear that the "education bubble" is about to burst, and no one knows just where the final fatal pinprick may come from or what the future may hold from there.

David said...

She did mock individual grad students, but she did not bring up their names and work. They were cited in the original article that she was criticizing.

I didn't think her approach was the best, but was it a firing offense? Would a lefty blogger have been fired for making fun of the topics of conservative grad students topics? Surely not.

Plus they are grad students. Adults. They will have to thicken their skins someday.

Jim Gust said...

Those who claimed Naomi must be a racist must themselves be unaware that her husband is Jason Riley. Who is black. (And a conservative.)

Canuck said...
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bagoh20 said...

OK the criticism of talking without reading them is valid, but do you really think those titles are attached to great scholarship? Good scholarship? Mediocre scholarship?

Wanna bet some money? Those students bet a lot on it - upon the advice of those accepting that money.

What's being called out is the appearance of a fraud for money. The ones taking the money are understandably pissed about that.

Shanna said...

They were cited in the original article that she was criticizing.

This is the main problem to me. If you can bring it up in an article it should be able to be criticized as well.

Scalito said...

Wait a minute professor: a national periodical uses the work of individual students to praise an overall field, and yet that very same work is somehow off limits to critics? Ooooookay.

Also, I don't get how you analogize this to Rush's comments on Sandra Fluke. That involved an actual attack on a person's character. This case involves an attack on what passes as academic work nowadays. Heck, not just passable work. Work worthy or praise by the Chronicle.

ricpic said...

Show us the effing Black Studies PHD dissertations and let us come to our own conclusions about their academic worth or worthlessness!

Never. Gonna. Happen.

Canuck said...
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Hagar said...

It is not just about "studies" programs; the fear is tht the whole edifice will collapse.

Salamandyr said...

I thought the criticism was fine. The students were fine with it when their dissertations were held up for praise by the article Riley was criticizing. Well, if they're gonna ask for sugar they have to be prepared for the salt.

Riley did not attack the students, she attacked the work they provided, which was shoddy.

bagoh20 said...

Bill R's comment at 10:35 should be included in the course description. Then people can decide honestly if they want to pay and work to earn a pet rock.

CWJ said...

I'm with island court@9:46, but our hostess has a point.

The individual students were held up as exemplars in the original article, and that invites response to them as individuals.

But by doing so, Ms. Riley acted more like one of us commenters, rather than a professional blogger much less reporter. Leave the personal out if you can, or save it for later. It looks like she led with the personal, and followed up with her actual argument. It should have been the other way around.

Michael said...

What wont happen is that no one will read any of the noted dissertations and critique them. No one. Perhaps Andy Hat would like to dredge one up and give us a review. Even Andy Hat would not have the stomach for that.

Rick67 said...

I have left comments at The Chronicle and other sites. I agree that Schaefer Riley blew it. She was out of her "field" and didn't realize it.

That having been said the reaction *was* out of proportion. And most of it was not dispassionate, reasonable "um she messed up and this is how" but "shut your cracker mouth racist dog!" The response from the graduate students in question was ugly (a less polite person might call it racist). Some say "well what do you expect in the face of such an attack?" I expect better from people who wish to prove they are in fact intelligent graduate students doing valuable research, thanks for asking.

Schaefer Riley made herself an easy target for leftist academia that *partially* demonstrated its desire to destroy all dissent.

Canuck said...
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Shanna said...

I would love to read the one about midwifing. The others sounded like drivel.

Also to all the 'she should have read the dissertation before commenting' folks I will say: maybe you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover (or title in this case) but people do, all the time. Write a good one.

caseym54 said...

I have to believe that if the same attack had been made on individual students who wrote dissertations supportive of, say, Clarence Thomas that the post would have gone unremarked.

virgil xenophon said...

Ann? Your retort to the general consensus so forcefully expressed by most above? All I hear is crickets from the direction of the proprietor's abode...Get with the "feisty repartee" kid..

Don Jansen said...

As the parent of an immensely talented, kind-hearted, open-minded, caring high school senior, it is truly distressing to think of him set loose this fall amongst the thugs in academia. I suppose if it doesn't kill him it will only make him stronger. Still, this provides one more argument for enlisting in the military instead.

cubanbob said...

The students would be better served if they up front going in to college that the only degrees they could get student loans for would be in those that have credible job prospects. The others, the students can elect to minor in them or pay out of pocket if they wish to major in them or peruse them in graduate or post graduate school.

Canuck said...
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paul a'barge said...

Nothing provokes the academia crowd to circle the wagons than having someone point out the nakedness of the emperor.

Althouse is joining in here, pulling her wagon into the defensive circle.

What quoting someone causes everyone around them to break out into raucous laughter, you really have to hump that rock up a steep hill to justify the targets of the laughter.

Let's just return to the bottom line, shall we? Riley was fired (repeat: FIRED) for being critical.

Canuck said...
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paul a'barge said...

@Andy R.:
Is the way that conservatives contest something vigorously by making fun of the title without reading the work in question? Seems about right.

Sigh.

Scholarly works have titles and a section at the beginning called an abstract precisely so you don't have to read through the entire work before you subject yourself to reams and reams of b*llsh*t.

Oh wait. Scholarly works. That would explain your confusion.

Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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Steve Koch said...

From WSJ:

"By NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a cover story called "Black Studies: 'Swaggering Into the Future,'" in which the reporter described how "young black-studies scholars . . . are less consumed than their predecessors with the need to validate the field or explain why they are pursuing doctorates in their discipline." The "5 Up-and-Coming Ph.D. Candidates" described in the piece's sidebar "are rewriting the history of race." While the article suggested some are skeptical of black studies as a discipline, the reporter neglected to quote anyone who is.

Like me. So last week, on the Chronicle's "Brainstorm" blog (where I was paid to be a regular contributor), I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and "a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap," at worst.""

I don't see the problem in reviewing the work of the 5 Phd candidates that CHE had previously singled out as up and coming (the creme del la creme of Black Studies Phd candidates). Phd dissertations are public documents, meant to be reviewed, they are not written anonymously. Phd students are adults and should be treated as adults. Althouse seems to think that student is equivalent to child.

Althouse is getting lost in minutiae and missing the big picture. The big picture is that the CHE leans waay over to the left and axed Riley because she did not conform to the lefty catechism. Par for the course in the USA's corrupt leftist academia.

Kudos to Riley for telling the truth.

Alex said...

No doubt Ms. Riley fucked up by writing up essentially was a troll post instead of a real article, but the real issue isn't Ms. Riley but the whole gender/ethnic studies scam. Firing Ms. Riley will not make it go away.

Dave said...

I'm no fan of any of the artificial disciplines suffixed by "studies", but your point is well made. Riley's critique is weak, even if all the dissertation are poorly done it doesn't get the core question. What new knowledge does this faux discipline bring, if any? What possible benefit does this discipline bring to society? Is it simply a form of grievance studies intended to anger and divide or is there substance to be found? Who would benefit from such a degree? Who would hire someone with such an academic chip on their shoulder? Does this serve anyone's best interests?

Ann, I think your critique is especially thoughtful. There is a solid line of argument to lay out against this discipline, but instead Riley poked fun at some silly dissertations. You score points with your own crowd that way, but convince no one who is not already predisposed to point of view.

Michael said...

Canuck. You are correct. Dissertations not complete. In the case of the student writing on the housing topic she has only been in the program for 5 years so it is way premature to critize.

Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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Steve Koch said...

What lefties don't get is that in the long march through institutions, once they have corrupted an institution (such as American academia) and turned it into a bastion of lefty propaganda, they have also destroyed the credibility of that institution.

It is hilarious to see lefties profess indignation and shock that institutions they have politicized are no longer respected by a huge chunk of the population.

Academia in the USA is a great target for creative destruction (the process that the traditional media are suffering through now). We can radically reduce the cost of higher education while at the same time delivering a grievous blow to corrupt lefties that hurt America, win-win!

Michael said...

If students' work aspires to be serious enough to be a contribution to the literature, then it ought to be open to any form of criticism, including mockery.

To think otherwise is to assume that PhD candidates in black studies are merely children. Is that really what they want? Would this have been better and less insulting if she had said "Look at this dissertation title, this kid has a lot of growing up to do?"

Dave said...

My PhD took 6 yrs and I had to do 2 post docs to find permanent work in the field. The overproduction of PhDs is another part of the academic scam.

Carnifex said...

Is anyone but me amused by the acronym C.H.E.? I find it wonderfully solipsistic.

Dave said...

Michael,

The whole lefty perspective is infantilizing; they expect to be pampered and mothered every step of the way.

Mary Beth said...

According to Alexa, site traffic was up by a good amount recently. Maybe the site needs more controversy, not less.

Who wrote the original article on "the young guns of black studies" that inspired her article? Could the real problem be that the first article's author got hurt feelings?

Nathan Alexander said...

Cornerstone of liberal worldview:

Attacking individual children of GOP politicians? No problem!

Criticizing individual scholars for their public writings apparently increasing a racial divide they purportedly should help reduce? Beyond the pale.

Blatant hypocrisy noted.

Canuck said...
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dreams said...

I think Naomi Schaefer Riley and her defenders are right on. As to Fluke being a student, I see her as a 30 year old woman which is almost middle age. She was a 30 year old liberal activist.

Steve Koch said...

Canuck said...

"The dissertations were not finished yet. They were NOT public. And these students were not superstars. They have NO jobs and NO reputations."

The CHE singled them out as up and coming in the Black Studies field. Riley was responding to tht article. You don't have to be a superstar to be treated as an adult. Student is not equivalent to child.

Riley responded to the titles of the Phd dissertations, which were public. BTW, critiquing something before it is finalized tends to improve it.

Kevin said...

I'm just mad that all of the initial days of stories left out the most important element of the story to me. She's pretty freakin' hot!

I cared about the story before, but I care a lot more now.

Steve Koch said...

"In the case of the student writing on the housing topic she has only been in the program for 5 years so it is way premature to critize."

Canuck said...
"Average time to completion for a PhD in English in North America is 8 or 9 years. Biology is 7 years, I think. So, yeah, somebody could revamp their work if they are only 5 years into a program. It's not over until it's over."


Your sarcasm detector seems to be broken.

J said...

This is more civility bullshit from Althouse.

"impolite"? The truth is often impolite. She was spot-on with her critique of those titles.

If you are going to criticize her for being "impolite", at least have the courtesy to counter her claim.

Lazy.

Althouse often shows her Obama-voting side by trotting out civility bullshit when she wants to while calling others on it when she wants to. Hypocrisy in action.

Steve Koch said...

Canuck said...

"The dissertations were not finished yet. They were NOT public. And these students were not superstars. They have NO jobs and NO reputations."

It may be different in Canada but in the states using caps for words denotes shouting and is done almost exclusively by dumb asses.

Matthew Sablan said...

"The Chronicle can't be seen to approve of not reading work before peer review. That's insane. The fact the work was not published made it worse. The fact the authors were students made it worse."

-- So, are we firing the people praising the work before peer review?

Ann Althouse said...

"This is more civility bullshit from Althouse. "impolite"? The truth is often impolite. She was spot-on with her critique of those titles."

Nope. That's not my point at all. I'm talking about persuasiveness and motivation.

Based on what Riley did and assuming her to be competent, I think we, being competent readers, need to see that she most likely intended to stir things up and make people mad. If you want to take on the Black Studies program and want to talk to the people who actually support it, you don't talk like that.

Now, she's playing the victim, which is ironic, since she taking the stance of a critic of victimology.

I say: if she really wanted to be a critic of victimology, she would have framed a more persuasive attack.

I believe a persuasive attack on Black Studies wouldn't just invite readers to laugh at dissertation titles and speculate that there are no conservative writings in Black Studies departments. It would attempt to show that the students lured into the majors are disserved, that these benign efforts are in fact misguided. But is that true? That's where you'd go if you wanted to persuade people to change direction.

Riley made herself an easy target for firing, and I'm assuming she did that on purpose and she's reaping the benefits for herself right now. The safety of the arms of the Wall Street Journal was something she could always rely on.

She's not a victim.

PatCA said...

Yes, the critic was unserious in her comments. But I can say from years of experience that these titles and abstracts reflect the majority of topics in all of the humanities. For the most part, dissertations are supposed to prove you can state a principle, however insipid, and defend it. They are not meant for popular reading.

Of the hundreds of papers I read, I would say five at the most reflected a center or conservative POV, which were the most interesting to me because they were not regurgitations of dogma. Mostly ALL of them are victim studies!

lewsar said...

both sandra fluke and la tasha (!) what's her face are at least 30 years old. it's one thing to protect elementary through high school students, who are children after all. it is quite something else to protect graduate school students who are approaching middle age.

i also was under the impression that each thesis was intended to be defended before a body of the thesis' writer's peers, which includes the public at large. is this no longer the case?

Kirk Parker said...

Canuck,

"The students were not superstars "

Actually, the dissertation-authors in question were just featured in a Chronical piece about up-and-coming PhD candidates.

And enough with the "professional standards" bullshit--The Chronicle is not a scholarly journal.

Scalito,

"Rush's comments on Sandra Fluke... involved an actual attack on a person's character. "

Oh, crap; this means that the MSM spin has won? Rush's comments were a reductio ad absurdum on Fluke's "testimony" at the staged "hearing".

Of course it can be argued whether the reductio was well done or not, effective or not, appropriate or not.. but the suggestion that Rush was actually interested in Fluke's private behavior, rather than trying to push back against her claim that we needed to give her free stuff, is just preposterous.

Jason said...

When I was 22, I took the oath of office as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army. When I was 23 I graduated the Infantry School at Ft. Benning and got to lead my first platoon of 40 professional soldiers.

When I was 25, I was a detachment commander, with a platoon (+) and signed directly for $3 million in equipment and a building.

The Army would have no trouble holding me personally and directly accountable for anything I lost.

So I don't have a lot of patience for these men and women being accountable for their academic work, both good and bad.

But if you read CHE's response, announcing the purge, they make reference to hundreds of readers feeling "betrayed." That's the word they used. Hundreds - even thousands - of acadumbics had to retire to the fainting couch because someone said "oh, these dissertations that CHE just publicly lauded? Look at the subjects! They're a wast of time!"

You don't need to read the papers themselves to know the subjects, and it's the subjects themselves that were a waste of effort... at best, they would represent a triumph for the trivial, when complete.

If they can't handle that little bit of criticism (I note that Ms. Clare Potter still has her blogging gig, despite her personal attacks and well-established dingbattery), then academics must be the most pathetic bunch of hothouse turds on the planet!

Joe said...

One of the claims of academia, and the major argument for tenure, is that there must be a debate. Whether Riley was right or wrong, being trivial or a troll, there was no debate here; simply massive claims of being betrayed. Talk about cliche.

Steve Koch said...

"I believe a persuasive attack on Black Studies wouldn't just invite readers to laugh at dissertation titles and speculate that there are no conservative writings in Black Studies departments. It would attempt to show that the students lured into the majors are disserved, that these benign efforts are in fact misguided. But is that true? That's where you'd go if you wanted to persuade people to change direction."

Haha, you are criticizing Riley because her criticism is too shallow? Pot meet the kettle.

Riley popped out a quick blog that was a specific response to a specific CHE article about the up and coming Black Studies Phds. She took a look at their dissertation titles and decided to mock them because they were ridiculous. You would think somebody who specializes in gossamer light blogging that is primarily concerned with entertaining would understand that most blog posts are shallow, they are quick takes.

Re: Riley's victimization, this is all about the righteous destruction of the CHE. Riley wants people to understand that the CHE is your typical lefty academic institution that throttles conservative voices. This helps prepare the ground for the creative destruction of lefty academia.

Pretty soon funding for Black Studies departments will vanish from state universities that are not located in lefty states (budget crisis, doncha know). The idea that lefties are sufficiently open minded, courageous, and intelligent enough to drop part of their lefty catechism is ludicrous (but we can cut their funding). Lefties can't be persuaded but they can be defeated.

Chip Ahoy said...

We see what she did there with "black ...

Like me."

damikesc said...

She named the students by name.

After CHE praised them by name. She didn't pull them out of her hat.

There are lots of great conservatives the Chronicle could hire in academia who would love to write for the Chronicle.

...who have seen how conservatives who anger the PC gods are treated and won't waste their energy.

ThomasD said...

But combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media...

Horse apples.

These were not weak, inconsequential undergrads. These were graduate students purporting to be conducting rigorous academic inquiries. As such they are playing in the deep end of the pool, and if they cannot stand up to commentary on a blog then one really must begin to question their fitness for the rigors of true academia.

Maybe they were not on par with 30 year old Fluke, a committed long time political operative, but they are not children, nor should they be fetishized as such.

Shanna said...

-- So, are we firing the people praising the work before peer review?

I doubt it. They clearly wanted to run their little puff piece with no criticism. That's what bugs me about this.

If you think those disertation topics are worthwhile, defend them!

Synova said...

Maybe It's just me but how, exactly, does making fun of a dissertation titled something about Black women's special relationship to nature and popping out babies reflect on the poor graduate student?

Perhaps I don't understand the process I never having gone through it (graduate school, not birthing babies) but while a student suggests topics, isn't there an advisor and committee of some sort that has to approve?

So it's not (to me) that these bright stars of Black Studies departments have come up with what seem to be light-weight dissertations it's that they were approved.

Also, a graduate program itself has to be approved.

And each dissertation has to be defended.

How is a challenge, at this level, inexcusably hostile?

mik said...

@Alex

"I'd really like to know how many Black Studies PhDs were on the iPhone design team."

Probably zero on design team. But you could be sure that Apple employs dozens of them directly and indirectly to keep race hustlers at bay and fight Disparate Impact/Disparate Treatment scams and lawsuits.

Apple's employees demographics in the USA, too many whites and Asians, very few blacks and Hispanics, virtually invites US Gov race enforcers and private race profiteers to blackmail Apple on Disparate grounds.

So far Apple was very successful to keeping vultures away.

I'm sure there is some contribution of Black Studies phonies to that success.

harrogate said...

"I'd really like to know how many Black Studies PhDs were on the iPhone design team.'


Well! THERE'S a good barometer of value!

bagoh20 said...

Riley is being interviewed right now on the Dennis Prager show. She says that 6500 academics called for her firing over this.

Synova said...

Riley not being a victim is irrelevant.

This isn't about poor little victimized blogger. She almost certainly went home and had a party.

Its about free speech and higher ed.

It's about setting up programs that marginalize and trivialize African-Americans. Ushering students into those programs with zero job prospects. And then calling OTHER people racist.

JAL said...

Myabe someone above mentioned it already -- if so, sorry to repeat it.

Riley is married to an African-American who is on the Board of the WSJ.

Repeat -- Naomi Riley's hubby is a black dude.

Hilarious.

Sigivald said...

I suggested that the dissertation topics of the graduate students mentioned were obscure at best and "a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap," at worst.

So, about par for the course for _____ Studies grads?

Though in fairness, being "obscure at best" sounds about normal for a dissertation topic - all the non-obscure stuff's been done, and dissertations are supposed to be novel contributions, right?

Jason said...

I suspect not too many young conservatives would want to write for CHE after this. The "chilling effect" libtards are always warning about always seems to be an ill wind blowing from the port side.

Jason said...

Professor...

Easy for you to say. You have tenure, which exists specifically to protect you from people like Liz McMillen, who would purge you from the faculty for sexism for the phrase "let's take a closer look at those breasts," if you crossed them ideologically and they just wanted an excuse to get rid of you.

Are you willing to renounce your tenure protections? If not, how about cutting Ms. Riley a little slack?

Scott M said...

Ushering students into those programs with zero job prospects. And then calling OTHER people racist.

Or, rather, ushering them into those programs to train them to call others racist. This is part and parcel with the "it's a cause, not a discipline" aspect of the story.

JAL said...

As to Fluke being a student, I see her as a 30 year old woman which is almost middle age.

Hear. Hear.

Beating a dead horse, but one of my 30 year olds was immersed in learning how to save lives in Emergency Rooms at age 30.

One was flying Petraeus and Rice around Iraq in a $7+ million helo.

A third isn't even there and is raising funny, well behaved kids who will contribute to society in who knows what ways.

A lot of folks need to stop the perpetual adolescent meme.

Time to grow up , boys and girls. And get off the parent's dime.

The Crack Emcee said...

Riley made fun of dissertation titles,...but combining that blogging style with an attack on named, individual students, where you are speaking from a high platform in the established media... that's the problem, and I don't see Riley stepping up and acknowledging it.

Please explain how she could make fun of the titles without insulting the people who wrote them.

Seems like a Catch-22 to me,..

The Crack Emcee said...

I can think of one way:

The students could be mature and weigh her ideas accordingly.

I know - a really tough order, in this environment, but still,...

Hagar said...

Try to control your soft and creamy insides, Professor.

Riley is not "playing the victim;" she is pointing out that the whole system is freaking nuts.

And as Steve Koch says, lefties can't be persuaded, they can only be defeated. There is no use talking to them; it is the rest of us that need to cut the funding from under these institutions.

Nathan Alexander said...

Well! THERE'S a good barometer of value!

Which is exactly the point.

So you are on board for dissolving gender/black/identity studies because they add zero value to anything? Good.

Amartel said...

Everyone's focused on the critical theory and not on the criticism of criticism of critical theory.

On the one hand, you can't drop kick a hornet's nest and not expect to get stung. OTOH, the glaring hypocrisy and double standards, incoherent blind rage, and lack of intellectual diversity and free thinking in academia is on full display. Which is instructive. From a distance.

If she was goring a conservative ox, everyone would say she was "just asking questions" or "opening the topic for discussion," or "evolving." Nobody would be criticizing her method of criticism.

Dave said...

I this issue in too parts, first Riley's argument was weak; mocking is not an effective strategy if you intend to be read by liberals and CHE has long been a liberal outlet. Likely, she never cared about persuasion.
I'd bet that even if the argument was sound it would still have generated outrage, because the left is intolerant of criticism. Note that it was not the poor quality of her position that generated comments. Further a weak/poor argument is not a reason to fire someone; it's a reason to provide editorial guidance. She was clearly fired in response to pressure from the lefties, proving that, while they embrace racial diversity, they are intellectual bigots who can not tolerant dissent.

Bryan C said...

"But yeah, you can't read somebody's dissertation until it is finished."

If you volunteer that your dissertation has a stupid title in exchange for some press in the Chronicle then you can't complain when somebody else in the same paper repeats the stupid title and notes that, hey, that sounds pretty stupid.

Dave said...

Ugh that should read " I see this issue in two parts". I must remember to edit!

harrogate said...

Nathan,

Bad faith comment. Makes discussion impossible. Which is good if you know everything, but not so good, if you don't.

Canuck said...
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damikesc said...

The history of midwifery and slavery is a legitimate topic for a book.

Out of curiosity, what isn't a legitimate topic for a book?

Plenty of books have been written about unbelievably stupid ideas. You can find books that defended phrenology. Alchemy. Books exist about these things.

Nobody should note that they are absolutely idiotic? Doubly so if a friggin' post-graduate dissertation is dedicated to them?

damikesc said...

I would be surprised if anyone who regularly reads the Chronicle is impressed by her behavior.

Given Progressive academia's long-standing love affair with open inquiry and open dialogue --- you're probably right.

Speaks rather poorly of them.

Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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Hagar said...

Canuck,

You totally miss the point. These departments are like the TSA. They do not need critique and reformation; They need to be abolished.

damikesc said...

I am unimpressed with the professional quality and argumentation of her posts.


I find "Burn the heretic" dramatically less impressive.

A topic that is overdone, or does not contribute significance to the field.

...so, those dissertations qualify as not being worthy of a book topic.

Your dissertation committee should not pass you unless you have proven a new contribution to the field.

Which was kind of her point with those 3. It's not like she picked 3 specifically bad ones. She picked 3 of the best.

Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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Steve Koch said...

Canuck,

Your stubborn sophistry is a waste of everybody's time. Just to wrap this up, can we agree that CHE canned Riley because they don't want a conservative who clearly mocks lefty stupidity and that you treating black adult Phd candidates as if they were children is ridiculous and insulting to them and that your argument is a bunch of hand waving designed to draw attention away from the fact that lefty academia is extraordinarily intolerant of any thought that departs from the leftist dogma?

The best way to attack useless departments like Black Studies is to simply cut their funding, problem solved.

BTW, you didn't need to tell us that you aren't an expert on everything, we figured that out immediately. For Canada's sake you might want to change your screen name.

Canuck said...
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Canuck said...
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J said...

Althouse, you still didn't address the issue.

Was she wrong in saying that those dissertation titles are a joke if they represent the best of black studies as the Chronicle purports they do?

They sure look like a joke to me.

philosoph said...

Ann:

I see your reaction to Riley as missing her point. She is raising the issue of the legitimacy of what she calls academic entrenched "causes" which are not pursuits of truth. She characterizes Black Studies ( as well as Women's Studies, and all the rest) as starting from a Conclusion and then all the work in the field is wending the way back to the particular situation which will now be awarded the conclusory characterization. I see this as a trenchant point. All these special "Studies" are special pleading for political positions ( essentially Marxist Anti-Oppression tracts) and from the political position. In an ironic touch, Riley's characterization helps us see these Studies programs as deductive enterprises -- much like theological apologia. You focus upon her holding up for ridicule what is, indeed, ridiculous. Your use of the putatively gallant -- "Hey these are only students"-- is misplaced ( same as the similar attribute to the 30 something apparatchik, Sandra Fluke.
These dissertations are written by adults and submitted for doctoral degrees. In fact, I understand, these authors have been awarded their doctorates! Do you still want to coddle such authors and protect them from the criticism and ridicule they deserve? Why would this be your position. The academic left plays a very dirty and brutal game. You surely know this. Why do you want to appear to make it seem they are above criticism. If these "doctors" sincerely believe they have achieved something significant, well, they are deluded. Surely, you are not deluded.

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