Some professors not only have erroneous knowledge of their own subjects but also feel obligated to preach about that which they do not know.
During a cyber correspondence on capital punishment, Sister Elizabeth Linehan, Ph.D., the professor of the graduate Criminal Justice Ethics course I was taking at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, claimed that executive clemency “is so politically unpopular that it is almost never used today.”
Dr. Linehan was no ordinary professor. Not only was she a religious, she was also the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Joseph’s.
Despite these impressive credentials, her research was lacking. An American Bar Association study
of the political consequences of granting clemency to murderers concluded, “Governors who have made the decision to grant clemency have not suffered politically…. Of the 15 governors who granted clemency since 1993, only one was defeated for re-election (James) while three were re-elected or elected to higher office…. granting clemency does not result in low approval ratings or threaten success in a future election, since nearly all governors who granted clemency received high approval ratings or were re-elected if they sought re-election or higher office” [emphasis in original]. 1
Harvard Law Professor James Cavallaro signed a letter urging that President George W. Bush be impeached because of the Iraqi prison scandal. When Sean Hannity interviewed Professor Cavallaro, he asked him who his favorite president was. Cavallaro replied FDR.
Hannity then asked how Prof. Cavallaro’s favorite president could be a chief executive who was directly responsible for interning Japanese citizens. Was that internment not impeachable? The professor replied that it was. Yet, despite the fact that Prof. Cavallaro believes FDR should have been impeached, he considers him his favorite president.
Perhaps impeachability is how Prof. Cavallaro rates his presidents. Maybe he likes President Bush because he thinks Bush is impeachable. Of course, this would mean that Prof. Cavallaro absolutely worships Bill Clinton.
The Case of the Historically Challenged Historian
Columbia History Professor Robert Jackson once emailed me that in 1941 Hawaii was not United States soil.
Dr. Jackson and I were corresponding via email about the issue of Japanese internment. Specifically, we were discussing his commentary for The History Channel’s Movies in Time show. This is a program where historians or experts on a certain event analyze the accuracy of a movie about that event.
Dr. Jackson was analyzing the film From Hell to Eternity, a movie about Guy Gabaldon, a Japanese-speaking, Hispanic-American Marine whose fluency was invaluable to the Marines during the Pacific campaign. Gabaldon lived with a Japanese family in Los Angeles after he was orphaned as a youth. Just after Pearl Harbor, his family was interned. Dr. Jackson remarked that the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II was racist.
After the program I emailed him that I did not think it was racist. I felt that since people at the time believed that the Japanese were going to invade the West Coast, they panicked.
Dr. Jackson compared the internment of the Japanese to the treatment of the Germans and Italians, who he said were not interned, suggesting that this was only because of racism.
I reminded Dr. Jackson that Germans and Italians were in fact interned, despite the fact that neither Germany nor Italy invaded American soil, as was done by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
Dr. Jackson then made the incredible statement that Pearl Harbor was not American soil—remember, this is the chairman of the history department at one of the most prestigious institutions in the United States.
Academics are people society pays to think and to teach. Given that the cost of education routinely outpaces inflation, it is important that we ensure that these people are intelligent and informed. How can they solve problems and educate people if they are incompetent fools?
I believe parents need to know what they are getting—or rather not getting—for their tuition dollars. Since parents are ultimately financing these institutions, they need to demand investigations into the sort of outrageous behavior I’ve shown here.
Politicians are all too anxious to complain about the price of oil. Then they complain about the cost of health care.
Maybe they should start complaining about educational price increases. Maybe they should also start an investigation to determine whether we are getting our money’s worth.
A Philadelphia police force veteran, Mr. Tremoglie recently served as vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Scholars.