Between Obama's announcement (sometimes I'm incredibly sappy and un-cynical, and today was one of those times - no doubt there were political machinations, but I couldn't possibly know what they were, and I choose just to be thrilled) and what's discussed below, I might as well sign up officially for The Left. Quick, conservative/libertarian readers, find me something equally egregious from the progressive end of things, so that I can return to my center-left comfort zone. I'm begging you.
Some of the comments there (and elsewhere) contend that she committed a terrible sin by offering a critical opinion about black studies based on just three dissertation titles. But blog posts are places for offering up opinions, not full-scale analyses. The dissertations sure look like the kind of extremely narrow and highly tendentious research that is common in many academic fields. I hope that someone picks up the gauntlet lying on the ground and reads, then writes a thorough critique of one or more of the dissertations. Are they scholarship that advances knowledge? Maybe so. Or are they in whole or part merely extended rants?OK, first off, and as I'm not the first to point out (see the post below, and comments), the title of the original blog post - "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations" - implied that Riley had "read the dissertations." Which, if she titled her own post, means she oopsed a bit, no? As for what Leef thinks these dissertations "sure look like," fine, he's making the point that a blog post is intended for weighing in on that which one knows nothing about, and is driving that home.
But what's truly amazing is his call to someone (why not Leef? isn't his job writing conservative critiques of education?) to read and tear apart these dissertations. "Are they scholarship that advances knowledge? Maybe so. Or are they in whole or part merely extended rants?" Nice way to dismiss the work, as it's not terribly ambiguous what Leef already knows - having read something about something about something about these dissertations. Nice pretense of an open mind.
Via PBC, there's a Minding the Campus post by John S. Rosenberg, which begins by noting that the Chronicle of Higher Education "used to be the pre-eminent publication covering higher education [.]" And what, pray tell, has replaced it? Archie Bunker's thoughts on the Meathead's studies? Rosenberg completely misses why the accusation of racism came up (which is to say, he thinks it's because Riley criticized Black Studies, when it's more because her criticism was, in effect, to say that Black Studies sure sounds like a load of bunk), then defends her by pointing out that Riley's husband is black, and that Riley herself did not bring this up. OK, points to Riley for not bringing that up in this context, but Simon Doonan has a Jewish husband, and, you know... Some-of-my-best-friends is certainly worse when employed by the person defending himself from a charge of racism, but, used on someone else's behalf, it doesn't magically clear the charges. If I've learned anything in the course of writing a dissertation on Jewish intermarriage in French history, it's that joyfully coupling off with someone from Group X and having unfavorable views towards Group X are not mutually exclusive.
Jonathan V. Last, of the Weekly Standard, offers something that might properly be viewed less as a disclaimer or disclosure and more as a reason not to take seriously anything that follows: "Naomi is a good friend of mine, a sometimes contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, and a fine writer." And - science! - this means she must have been wronged.
The great irony, of course, is that the whining and gnashing of teeth from the “Black Studies” crowd only reinforces Naomi’s point about the “discipline.” You’d never see chemists or physicists or mathematicians worked into a hysterical mob by a critical blog post. Because they study actual fields of knowledge—and don't simply tend the garden of their own feelings.