December 6, 2012
PERFESSER PLUM writes:
Ignore not only studies of same-sex households, but almost all research in the so-called humanities.
I’ve taught at several universities—in sociology and now at a college of teacher deaducation—since 1970. I can tell you that left-leaning, so-called liberal, progressive, “critical” research on family, gender, feminism, social justice, equality, disadvantage, discrimination, achievement gap, and the rest of the assortment of agenda-driven writing is mere propaganda. It is an effort by the self-appointed and self-anointed Gnostics in “liberal” arts and education, and their lesser light (as-yet-untenured) useful idiots, to take over the entire apparatus of how to identify and define societal problems, how to think about problems, and what (the only correct) sorts of solutions there might be.
They control the dissertations; they are on the editorial boards; they run the university senates; they are the provosts and deans; they decide who will be hired (“We need someone in our doctoral program who studies discrimination against male transgender athletes.”), re-appointed, and tenured so that every chink in the wall is plugged with party liners, and no light at all will be allowed through; and they write the leftist syllabi (readings by Michael Apple and Bill Ayers) that any new hire who might be a conservative must follow.
It’s not merely that their literature reviews in journals and books are self-serving cascades of citations of their own and their supporters’ work, or that they cherry pick the data that they present as evidence for their pre-formed conclusions. More than this, what they do doesn’t even amount to research. Their questionnaires and interviews are childish; their samples have 20 sophomores; they draw policy implications from findings that at most “suggest.” In the same way that liberal-run family, church, and school have been turned into paper mache’ puppets of what they once were, research is nothing more than form without substance. But it needs no substance. They have the power. Their audiences of undergraduates and fawning public want to be told, and have no desire to think—even if they could think.
I suspect that the best thing is largely to replace universities with online schools. They can’t possibly do worse and would better serve persons who want to read and think for themselves. And they would not have perfessers who do research.
— Comments —-
James P. writes:
Professor Plum wrote,
“I suspect that the best thing is largely to replace universities with online schools. They can’t possibly do worse and would better serve persons who want to read and think for themselves. And they would not have perfessers who do research.”
From the standpoint of a student, a university serves both to impart knowledge and to provide a credential. Online courses can perform the first function. I am not sure that even online schools are necessary for this in the “liberal arts” realms. If you want to read and think for yourself, you don’t need a course, just go do it! I have learned a lot more from independent reading than I have from formal university courses.
Online universities can provide the credentialing function in a limited sense. If all a future employer wants to do is “check the box” that you have a degree, then an online degree will do that. However, if the employer cares about the prestige of the credential, then online degrees are an actual drawback, since their prestige is low. (This will be even more true if online degrees are increasingly associated with conservatives and thus signal political incorrectness.) To the extent that employers are often looking for a reason to reject candidates from a large pile of very similar candidates, an online degree might get you tossed on the reject pile.
I don’t know whether it is possible or not, but if a student could take his “general education” (liberal arts) courses online, and get credit for this while attending a “brick and mortar” university, that might be a way to gain the prestige of a “real” college while avoiding the craziness of its liberal arts departments.
Joseph Ebbecke writes:
Many years ago, I remember reading the Australian philosopher David Stove on the plethora of feminist studies he encountered in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As I recall, these purported to show that assorted ‘alternative’ family structures were as good as, or better than, the bitterly hated ‘traditional nuclear family.’
Professor Stove said he would browse through the abstract of these studies, and then hurl them into the trashcan. I was a little appalled at the time; after all, he was an academic; did he not want at least to look at the evidence?
After reading through a few of these studies, I realized how right he was. These were ‘social science’ in the sense that Lysenkoite studies in the 1930’s were ‘biological science.’
The humanities and the social sciences are not one and the same. Humanities refers to things like history, literature, foreign languages, philosophy, etc. Social sciences are sociology, psychology, political science, women’s studies and the like. While I agree that both are “agenda driven” on today’s college campuses, the latter are far more so than the former. Indeed, social science departments are more like political parties than actual disciplines.
Since I feel you are a person who believes that such minor points of clarity are important, I felt the need to bring this to your attention. I have a bachelor’s in literature from Umass (humanities) and even had an Anglo-Saxon professor of Old Catholic stock who was an unabashed traditionalist and one of my favorite instructors. He took an immediate interest in me when I asked if nephilim were listed on medieval chains of creation.
I doubt that such people exist in the sociology or economics department.
Yes, it’s an important distinction. I interpreted Professor Plum’s comment as referring to both the social sciences and the humanities. He referred to the humanities and research in “family, gender, feminism, social justice, equality, disadvantage, discrimination, achievement gap,” etc. and he himself is a sociology professor. But, while both are heavily left-leaning, it is possible at many schools to find professors, particularly in the classics and literature, who are traditionally oriented.
Jesse Powell writes:
In my own independent research on various subjects, I have found academic journals accessible through college online databases to be quite useful and interesting. What I have found that is pervasive in social science research even when there is no obvious political agenda that I can detect is the ever present assumption of the “rational man” hypothesis. Usually how a study is constructed is that some interesting phenomenon is “investigated” to see if there is any “correlation” between a hypothesized “cause” and “effect.” For instance a study will look at birth rates of women with no college education and compare them to the generosity of welfare benefits over time. The point will be to see if higher welfare benefits really “led to” or “caused” higher birth rates among women likely to use welfare benefits. There are an endless number of studies of this type where cause and effect hypotheses are “tested” against data relative to the hypothesized cause and effect. The data selected as relevant and the commentary offered invariably are based on a “rational man” hypothesis that assumes that people act rationally to serve their own best interests. This “rational man hypothesis” is so pervasive that it is never recognized as a hypothesis or assumption; the authors of the studies simply act as if all possible cause and effect relationships necessarily have to be the result of “rational” choices being made by individuals according to their circumstances.
I’m sure many studies on politically sensitive topics where people with established agendas are the ones conducting and publicizing the studies are biased in many different ways in a “politically correct” direction; however in the research I’ve done on a broad range of topics it is the “rational man” assumption that is the most pervasive and bothersome. Under the “rational man” hypothesis there is no such thing as social pathology or even cultural trends; all societal outcomes necessarily have to be the result of specific rewards and punishments present in the environment that people then “react” to. Government policy is often involved in the hypothesized “causes” under study; it is as if the research is done to better help government to “reengineer” society to produce “favorable outcomes.”
When I look at data and try to learn useful things from it I find there are a lot of interesting things going on. There is a lot of useful social science research and study that could be done. My starting assumptions however are different. I do not subscribe to the “rational man” hypothesis; I instead go out of my way to find social trends that might explain data better. For me social pathology is a perfectly legitimate explanation when an obviously negative trend persists for a long time. To me anti-feminism itself is founded on social data and social indicators.
I am totally in favor of social data and social research; it is just that people’s starting assumptions and biases are wrong. The data proves it.
Yes, it’s the presuppositions at work that are typically faulty.
Posted by Laura Wood in Uncategorized