Is This For Real?

I’ve been staring at this article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed for twenty minutes trying to figure out if this is meant to be some sort of a parody or if it’s all for real:

You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. . . Then there is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s.” Ms. Taylor believes there was apparently some kind of conspiracy in the federal government’s promotion of single family homes in black neighborhoods after the unrest of the 1960s. Single family homes! The audacity! But Ms. Taylor sees that her issue is still relevant today. (Not much of a surprise since the entirety of black studies today seems to rest on the premise that nothing much has changed in this country in the past half century when it comes to race. Shhhh. Don’t tell them about the black president!).

On the one hand, I don’t think it’s possible that Chronicle of Higher Ed would publish something this racist and egregiously stupid.  I mean, people who are at least marginally familiar with the academia have got to know that we, the scholars, study things that happened long before the 1970s and do consider them relevant today. Some of us even write dissertations on the Medieval Spain or the Ancient Greece because the study of the past is something we find to be useful and enlightening. And we do proceed on the assumption that things that happened a long time ago are still relevant today because the present is a result of everything that happened in the past. I feel like an idiot explaining all this because it’s very self-evident.

On the other hand, there is no indication that this article is supposed to be a joke. It is written in a very uneducated language of a person who cannot possibly be part of the academia. Has it been placed there to ridicule brainless uneducated people who criticize research they are not intellectually equipped to understand? Was this the goal of publishing the article?

I’m very exhausted from round-the-clock grading at this moment and I feel like I’m missing something important here. Has anybody been able to figure this out?

19 thoughts on “Is This For Real?

  1. OH MY GOD!!! I am totally and completely horrified at what you posted. I went and read the OP and astounding as it is, it’s totally legitimate. I don’t know what most offensive about it. I generally avoid the Chronicle because I find it boring at best and offensive at worst. But now I will actively refuse to read it. Wow. How could they publish something this egregious? And one that attacks graduate student dissertations? How low is that? I would have been crushed if my dissertation got panned by the Chronicle! Here is more information on the “writer.” Ugh. Thanks for letting us know how horrible this “journal” has become.


    1. I don’t know what’s happening to the Chronicle of hIgher Ed and Inside Higher Ed. Both periodicals are getting egregiously anti-intellectual. One publishes a review of a book the reviewer hasn’t even read. Another attacks dissertations the author hasn’t read and only has seen the titles of.

      What is with this new trend to bash the material one hasn’t even read? And how come academic publications are promoting this weird attitude???


    1. That’s a great response! I agree completely that the Chronicle has lost its standards. Shame on them.

      Disagreement is fine, but people criticizing the stuff they never even read is bizarre.


  2. Clarissa, you looked at the article for 20 minutes and the only thing you saw is that the author was opposed to studying something that happened in the past? Yikes. The author is not criticizing the study of things that happened in the past, she’s criticizing the paranoid conspiracy theory in one publication, and the political correctness in another publication.


    1. Which “publication”? These dissertations haven’t been written yet, so this author couldn’t have read them.

      The idea that people would bash research they are unfamiliar with because they don’t like the working title is completely shocking.


      1. Okay, I assumed that the dissertations had been published somewhere. But take out “publication” and put in “dissertation” and the point still holds.


        1. Once again, she hasn’t even seen these dissertations. I’m in academia, and I can assure you that bashing an entire field on the basis of a few titles of as yet unwritten dissertations is beyond silly.

          This blogger is an arrant fool.


      2. Clarissa, so when a grad student tells his dissertation advisor he wants to do a dissertation on whether Elvis lives on the dark side of the moon, can the prof say the topic is absurd without having read the dissertation first?


        1. This woman is not those students’ prof. She isn’t anybody’s prof. Dissertation prospectuses are approved by a group of scholars and include a lot more than just the topic. When my committee decided if my topic was good or not, they didn’t base that decision on the proposed dissertation title. They read a 30-page-long prospectus that included a detailed annotated bibliography. Nobody based any decisions on one-sentence topics. This isn’t first grade, you know.


  3. The article puzzled me. I fail to see (based only on the titles, of course) what exactly is the woman’s problem with those dissertation subjects. Also note how she didn’t just dismiss African-American studies, she sneered at the subject of childbirth itself — in other words, she dismissed something having to do with women as a whole. White male gaze much, lady?

    I mean, I can understand not being interested in the subjects oneself. I’m not interested in midwifery or anything else having to do with childbirth. But it isn’t exactly a trivial subject, and it has been neglected as “unimportant women’s stuff,” and obviously African-American women’s part in this area has been neglected even more. In any case, many people have studied things I’m not interested in, but you don’t see me writing articles in publications decrying someone else’s interest in those subjects. (Well, except sports. Sports are stupid and no one should play or talk about them. ;))


    1. I can only imagine what this person would say if she saw the “completely irrelevant” subjects we study at my department. I have a colleague who specializes in the history and literature of the Holocaust which is, like, so old. But then there is that colleague who studies the Indo-European roots of various languages, which is even more outdated. And besides, we all keep bothering with the cultures of other countries and who needs that boring and irrelevant stuff.


      1. We should totally only study things that make us tons of money. Knowledge is only important if it enables us to get rich. I notice that according to her about page this woman went to Harvard. Is it catty of me to think she got in on a legacy and feels guilty about it and this is her way of lashing out?


        1. Among the great students at Yale and Cornell, I’ve seen these brainless brats who are only interested in showing off their BMWs and who roll their eyes so much at all the boring intellectual stuff that they look perennially constipated. So yes, I think she’s one of those.


    2. Twisted Spinster, do you really want a truthful answer to whether you’re being catty?
      You’ve not only attributed to her things she didn’t say, but you’ve speculated on her motivations completely out of whole cloth. Also, the people who are writing the dissertations are going to be making tons of money so that’s not what the author is complaining about.


      1. So you think that everybody who starts writing a doctoral dissertation ends up making “tons of money”?

        I blame insane jerkwads like this unhinged loser of a blogger who spread lies about academia. She is obviously traumatized by the fact that intelligent people find her useless and ridiculous, so she lashes out.

        I find it extremely weird that anybody would defend the stupid blabber of a crazed clown who criticizes scholarly work she has not read.

        And no, profs don’t do such things. Stupid idiots like this blogger do.


      2. AYY:

        You are a humorless bore. Okay, that out of the way, I didn’t actually “attribute” (whatever you meant by that) anything. She really did sneer at studies done on childbirth — I quote:

        How could we overlook the nonwhite experience in “natural birth literature,” whatever the heck that is?

        Sneer quotes in her article. And yes, dismissing 1) the subject of childbirth, and 2) African-American experience in such are displaying the traditional white, male attitude towards anything that isn’t considered “important” to white males. Women’s experience of childbirth is not important to white males (children — that they can mark as their own issue and property — are all white men are supposed to care about according to tradition; how the kid gets out of mommy and into the world is all icky girl stuff and Real Men™ aren’t supposed to bother their heads about that), and the experience of African-Americans of anything is likewise not supposed to be of any importance in the traditional white, male universe. Women who have built their lives around pleasing men and getting their approval in order to be allowed into the Boy’s Club of success will display the attitude that this author has shown towards any subject white men don’t care about.


  4. The government of America? Conspiring against minorities in the 70s? Everyone knows the second the Civil Rights Act was passed the US loved black people forever. Those century-old societal attitudes shared by millions of people vanished the second LBJ put ink to paper.

    And I hate, hate, hate the attitude that the past isn’t relevant. History is the reason we are the way we are now. There’s every reason why I’d want to study the Cold War to better understand the foriegn policy of my country today. Past and current events are part of the exact same process, so of course they’re relevant to each other.


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