The Chattering Classes 2013

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Academics say, and do, the darndest things. This year:

  • Brian C. Mitchell, president emeritus of Bucknell, described his chosen field by noting: “I replied that presidents are better thought of as King Solomon determining how to divide the baby.”
  • “In modern history, only the forced labor camps of the former U.S.S.R. under Stalin approached these levels of penal confinement,” Alice Goffmann, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison claims of the six million incarcerated in U. S. prisons. Actually, “From 1929 until Stalin’s death in 1953, an estimated 14 million people passed through the Gulag,” Radio Free Europe reports. “About 1.6 million people died there.”
  • Cornell historian Holly Case claimed that many of Stalin’s victims were of a pre-1934 vintage, despite evidence from the UN, the Library of Congress and many other sources never recognized as hostile to the Soviet Union.
  • Andrew Seal, Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale lamented in The Chronicle Review that “It’s alarming to me that most [Das]Capital-quoters I have encountered are white men.”
  • Martin Kich who teaches at Wright State in Ohio claimed that the Obamacare information sites “have proven to be so in demand that some of them have repeatedly crashed under the heavy digital traffic.”
  • University of Kansas journalism professor David Guth was placed on administrative leave after his anti-NRA tweet on gun control in response to the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. last week. Guth’s tweet, since deleted, said that “blood is on the hands of the NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”
  • A professor at a Catholic college claims to make “a Catholic Case Against MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses]” but his arguments never veer far from the secular.  “Moral education, which Catholic institutions promise (and secular ones, too, should offer), relies on dialogue and physical proximity. Students therefore need accessible mentors on the faculty as well as counselors, advisers, and chaplains,” Jonathan Malesic of King’s College in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, writes. Yet the moral education he envisions is not one that necessarily involves the seven sacraments but does primarily include himself. “By forswearing the production and consumption of MOOCs, Catholic colleges would also show that social justice entails not replacing human labor (here, faculty) with cheaper, less effective machine labor,” he asserts.
  • Meyer “Mike” Alewitz teaches Fine Arts at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). His Rate My Professor ratings indicate that he possesses, to put it mildly, an artistic temperament. “He told a girl he wanted to kill himself after he looked at her work, in front of the whole class!” one reviewer wrote.
  • The Princeton catalogue proclaimed that “The Undead are everywhere: on movie and television screens, in books, even in the academy.”
  • Princeton also has a course entitled “The Environment Can Be Funny.”
  • Tulane University economist Douglas Harris found that at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, there are “380 unique departments and almost 200 supervisors who managed a single employee.”
  • Economist Jonathan B. Wright actually attempts to connect the Ivory Tower with the outside world, yet his course in “Moral Antecedants of the Global Economic Crisis of 2008-9” could be too rooted in the faculty lounge to make much of an impact on Main Street. “Your job here is to engage yourself and improve your human capital,” he tells his students. Yet, his method for doing so might prove a hard sell to employers.“The seminar’s first lesson was on the importance of ambiguity and the unknowable nature of truth,” Berrett relates. “The students had come to the first class having read an essay by Andrew W. Lo that appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature in 2012.” “It compared academic and popular analyses of the financial crisis to Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 file Rashomon, in which a crime is recounted by four people, whose interpretations vary drastically.”
  • Stanford Law professor Deborah L. Rhode observed of the U.S.  Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision that “Although the outcome was a happy one, there is much to dislike about the process by which it was achieved.”
  • Aaron BarlowNew York City College of TechnologyEnglish, faculty member, said of the idealistic youth he instructs, “I cannot, however, teach them grammar and proofreading in the course of a semester when their high-school educations have been shoddy.”
  • Dartmouth economist Ethan Lewis claimed at the Cato Institute  that “We benefit from bringing low skilled workers” into the United States, but admitted that “we may be raising inequality.”


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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