The Chronicle of Higher Education Gets Taken To School

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Naomi Schaefer Riley, left, wrote a piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education’s (CHE) blog entitled The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations. The trouble is: she didn’t read the dissertations, she read the titles and a synopsis of the unfinished documents, and then blogged about her speculations.

Perhaps Riley’s speculations are persuasive to some, but The Chronicle of Higher Education is directed towards academics. Academics were stunned that her substance-free hit piece was given a forum in the CHE’s blog, informed CHE of their concerns, and Riley was fired. The Right Wing Noise Machine went into full hyperbolic outrage mode calling Riley a “voice of reason” and elevating her to a “major critic” of black studies.

However, Riley is not a critic of the content of black studies, she wrote the post to make a “case for eliminating” black studies. Riley’s complaint that “high incarceration rates to low graduation rates” are problems not discussed in black studies departments is disingenuous when someone is trying to make the case for elimination of black studies departments.

Riley cites only three examples to make her case. In one example the student asserts that black Republicans like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and John McWhorter have “played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.” Riley writes:

The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights?

Riley has no way of knowing if the dissertation even mentions affirmative action, and offers no argument on why civil rights should be equated with affirmative action in this example.

Riley sees these dissertations as examples of “blame the white man” for the problems of blacks in America. But, she defeats her own position when she writes:

Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?

This implies that there are some fundamental problems in black culture that can be blamed on white people. Perhaps the “high out-of-wedlock birth rates” that concern Riley can be blamed on the war on contraception led by the white leaders of the Republican party.

There are some awesome, academically-rigorous dissertations out there:

H/T: Brian Leiter (& here & here), John Casey (& here), Jerry Coyne.

32 thoughts on “The Chronicle of Higher Education Gets Taken To School”

  1. So, how many of you knew that Squanto had twice traveled to England prior to meeting the Pilgrims? And his name wasn’t Squanto.

    But as I say. if all you know about Native Americans is what you learned in public K-12, then you don’t know Squanto.

  2. Squanto picked up that nifty trick of placing small fish in the seed mound while traveling through the English countryside on his first trip to Great Britain. He would make a second trip to England prior to his meeting with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock . He actually taught Englishmen how to farm like Englishmen.

  3. Pete is absolutely correct. That de soto guy from Canada or someplace thought he was discovering things like water and what not but all he had to do was ask the Indians and they told him. What he failed to do was warn the Indians that things like Hoover Dam or the killing off of all the buffaloes was in the future. He did not warn them of gambling casinos either.

  4. just think of those poor indians who tried to go from mississippi to arkansas the day after de soto discovered there was a river there.

  5. BarkinDog votes True. I dont know if it was Squanto but I recall a story about someone here teaching them about birthin peas in a pod or something.
    The notion of imperialism as making the world safe for democracy has morphed into the notion since WWII that we are “Exceptional”. We made the mistake at Nuremberg Trials of setting human rights standards for the world. That is going to come back at us for droning the people in Yemen for looking like they might belong to al qaeda.
    Some of the dogs in the dog pack say that I am being a bit rough in tone and language and that TalkinDog was more sophistic. I dont know what sophistic is but I think there ought to be a study done of the psychology of humanoids who put dogs in cages, tie them on the top of station wagons and drive them across country.

  6. Barkindiog, May 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm —

    “[M]ost of our college curriculum is White Studies. They still teach kids that Columbus ‘Discovered America’ yet gloss over the fact that the place was already populated by other humans. Or look at the book by that smug pug from the Kennedy dynasty era, Arthur Schlesinger devoted to the presidency and life of Andrew Jackson. Look at the footnotes or search the text in vain for the Trail of Tears or the war crimes of Jackson. So, Native Americans get left out of White History Studies written by the pals of the likes of the Kennedys.”

    And for the most part it is mythology that passes as history in White Studies. , especially the truck about “rugged individualism” or or genocide disguised as manifest destiny, or imperialism as making the world safe for democracy.

    Pop Quiz: Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops the Native American way — true or false?

  7. Unfortunately stupidity has found another footing……

  8. Waggin’ Dawg,

    I didn’t realize at first what you were getting at, but absolutely correct. Prissy was put in charge but didn’t know what she was getting into. Due to arrogance of privilege, Scarlet didn’t have a clue. At least Prissy knew when to back off. I don’t think Mitt knows that he isn’t qualified. He has the arrogance and ignorance of privilege. I guess the point is that we need to tell him what Prissy told Miz Scarlet, “he don’t know nuthin bout runnin this country”.

  9. The young kid in Gone With The Wind who was not really acquainted with midwifing was named Prissy. The movie was not really mocking Prissy. They were mocking Scarlett O’Hare for not knowing much about what she was about to get into and for relying on someone in the house not qualified for the task either, as she was young and had no children, and the battles were going on with the Yankees about ready to beat down the doors. The Black Studies programs might discuss such a movie and the role of Prissy. I analogized it to Willard wanting to be President when he is not ready. His upbringing was not correct. His daddy wanted him out of the house and out of mind and put him in an all boys prep school where they wear their little suits every day and keep track of the check books. Not a school of hard knocks. Willard dont know nuthin bout governing the country. A nation is not a business like Bain Capital. All of the folks who voted for Williard in the primary ought to have second thoughts about putting him in control of this nation. He was a bully and that says a lot about a person later in life.
    As far as the topic of Black Studies and folks who criticise it. I would reply that most of our college curriculum is White Studies. They still teach kids that Columbus “Discovered America” yet gloss over the fact that the place was already populated by other humans. Or look at the book by that smug pug from the Kennedy dynasty era, Arthur Schlesinger devoted to the presidency and life of Andrew Jackson. Look at the footnotes or search the text in vain for the Trail of Tears or the war crimes of Jackson. So, Native Americans get left out of White History Studies written by the pals of the likes of the Kennedys.
    Then the dogs. There are no Dog History Studies in American high schools or universities.

  10. What Frankly said. This article by Ms. Riley is a disgusting and uneducated attack. Plain and simple. Great job David.

  11. I have been instructed by the feline overlords to tell you that “I iz srsly lenomenal. Srsly.” may be the best academic paper of the year and the only one that comes with a catnip infused ball.

  12. Dye her hair blonde, a little rhinoplasty, a boob job –Fox News anchor material for sure.

  13. In certain segments of society, The American Dream needs a subclass to speak condescendingly down to, because that “dream” is actually a hostile illusion, deep down inside.

    The poor blacks were once that class to look down on, but they are not so remarkable any more:

    When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

    After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood — quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure.

    (The Homeland: Big Brother Plutonomy). Where the blacks were, when Affirmative Action was envisioned, is where the majority of The American Dream Aficionados are now:

    Let’s revisit some numbers before we get into the dynamics of how this plunder of America has taken place:

    Upon closer inspection, the Forbes list reveals that six Waltons — all children (one daughter-in-law) of Sam or James “Bud” Walton the founders of Wal-Mart — were on the list. The combined worth of the Walton six was $69.7 billion in 2007 — which equated to the total wealth of the entire bottom thirty percent!

    (The Few, the Proud, the Very Rich). This “30% of Americans” equates to about 100,000,000 American people, who have collectively as much “wealth” as those 6 Wal-Mart children.

    We pointed out that those ~100,000,000 Americans are in poverty or on the edge of poverty, one paycheck or less away from falling through to financial ruin, something those six of the 1% won’t worry about.

    Is this concentration of power a result of equal opportunity and fair play, the supposed ethic of the Amercian Dream, or is it the result of a nightmare war on America that functions as Social Kuru, the social disease of financial cannibalism?

    (The Homeland: Big Brother Plutonomy). The condescending, looking-down from the heights of The American Dream Plateau is an illusion.

    We need Affirmative Action like never before, for more Americans than ever, but it must come, now, from those who Dylan Ratigan calls out in his book “Greedy Bastards.”

    How is that going to work out for the

  14. Butterfly McQueen as slave/maid to Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. Maid – can’t remember her name – will take care of Scarlett but then confesses that she “don’t know nuthin’ bout birthin no babies” when the time comes. Someone else remember the maid’s name?

  15. Naomi is a Right Wing Authoritarian and so exercises her right to free speech in tandem with her right to make a fool of herself. In this current political climate there exists an undertone of bigotry, that the bigots themselves refuse to admit exists. However one feels about Barack Obama for instance, the appellation of his being the “most leftist radical President ever” is more an expression of his skin color, than of his politics. This seems true anytime RWA’s speak about persons of color, except to laud such fools as Thomas, Cain and Sowell.

  16. The article is a bit spacey as is the person and topic complained of. She might have well as stated in writing that she “dont know nuthin bout birthin babies.” Most Americans are not literate in the read and write of history books so lets go to the movie fanatics in the blog assemblage here. What character in what movie said that, and what was the context of the statement? This statement could apply generically when one wants to mock another person for not knowing anything about a topic. Like where Willard Romney speaks to the issue of gay rights or gay discrimination.

    When Willard yelled “Atta girl!” 40 someodd years ago to mock someone he probably knew not that some day American voters would look ascance at private prep schools, rich kids who attend because daddy wants rich kid out of his hair, and candidates who know nuthin about human rights.

    Perhaps private prep schools for the rich kids who are not wanted around the house should have mandatory courses in Black Studies, Rich Daddy Studies and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    And if my comment is not deemed relevant to the topic, I submit that the topic is open to all sorts of comment since it is a bit obtuse.

  17. Think Again: A Chronicle of Journalistic Malfeasance
    By Eric Alterman

    Earlier this week the Chronicle of Higher Education fired its blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley over a post in which, after mocking the titles of “black studies” dissertations listed in a Chronicle story, she called for the dissolution of the entire field. The post in question inspired, according to Chronicle editor Liz McMillen, “several thousand” responses voicing “outrage and disappointment that the Chronicle had published an article that did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us.”

    As a result, Riley got the boot. McMillen’s explanation: “We’ve heard you, and we have taken to heart what you said. … we now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet the Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles.” She then”sincerely apologize[d] for the distress these incidents have caused” and thanked readers for making their feelings known.

    Among the thousands of responses to Riley’s blog was one signed by 16 members of the black studies faculty at Northwestern University, upon which both the original article and the blog post focused. The faculty members objected to the “amateurish attack by Ms. Riley on our graduate students, and, by extension, on the black-studies academic enterprise, including those in other disciplines who contribute to black-studies scholarship,” and termed the post to be “cowardly, uninformed, irresponsible, repugnant, and contrary to the mission of higher education.” They added:

    “We are barely one generation removed from when African-American students were completely denied entry into many colleges and universities in this country. This kind of distasteful attack on the current generation of black students represents the unfortunate and unacceptable manifestation of contemporary forms of exclusion. We strongly and righteously condemn such regressive tactics to stifle young people’s educational pursuits.”

  18. Naomi has an easy path in front of her. She wrote a mindless attack on something she does not understand and worked hard to not learn about. When she got called on it she used the denial and attack the messenger method of rebuttal. The result is she can now run around pretending to be a victim of liberal intolerance and political correctness. This makes her a perfect candidate for wingnut welfare. Soon she will be writing mindless, thoughtless, baseless, BS for a site like the Daily Caller or National Review. If she is really good she will call a USSC justice a goat molester and turn that welfare check into a gig at CNN like Eric Erickson.

  19. The oppressed in the are part of the 99%, the oppressors are the 1%:

    For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh — and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less — the .1% — it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?

    Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through the corruption, but it’s pretty astonishing.

    In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs — the Plutonomy and the rest.”

    Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function.

    (Life In The Ferengi Home World, quoting Chomsky). Affirmative Action is something that can apply to most Americans immediately, it is just that Stockholm Syndrome induced by massive propaganda distracts many of the 99% from understanding that they are “the new blacks.”

    Nal has focused on Naomi Riley, who is a great example of a distracted member of the 99%, and who is adrift in a reality she cannot yet fathom.

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