Open discussion topic - accrimonious debate invited

Wed, 2 Mar 1994 14:49:34 EST

More than a few private and public posts have come across on the list
I initially submitted, some in agreement, some in total disagreement,
some in partial agreement and disagreement and some incoherent and angry.

Good . . . the topics need discussed in a professional forum.

Three demand an answer in that forum. Seeker1 has adroitly added closed
mindedness (a total refusal to see anything beyond the tip of one's nose)
. . . and I could not agree more. This is particularly apt for anthropology
and sociology, and the other academic disciplines to one degree or another
- but usually less. Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
FIRST EDITION ONLY applies (before he was forced to recant and soften his
position, in order to keep it). I TOTALLY AGREE WITH SEEKER1. NARROW
MINDEDNESS is perhaps the biggest problem in our discipline. Collectively,
we are not willing to even pretend to scientific investigation or humanistic
free thought. For the most part, if an idea is submitted to one of our
journals that doesn't fit the mainstream . . . it is either totally ignored
. . . insulted by reviewers who are to ashamed to admit they have no idea
what the author is talking about . . . or lost in the administrative cycle.
If a professional presents their credentials with something slightly off
the beaten track in terms of experience, or tries to investigate new fields
of study . . . for the most part, current day anthropologists, psychologists
and sociologists can't deal with it. They don't know how to categorize that
person, thus they tend to bypass them for any consideration for anything.

A second post called for what we can do about the problems. Here is one
immediate answer. Any social scientist reviewing a paper whose ideas appear
different or drawn from sources unfamiliar to the reviewer should give
serious consideration to asking someone else to review the article, or
recommend publication so that we can have free debate and free inquiry at
all levels in our journals. More, editors of journals should stop making
ironclad rules about what kind of structure to articles will get published,
to fill their pet frameworks. For example, in sociology in the past it has
been impossible to publish in some journals unless one submitted an article
using multiple regression analysis of questionnaire data. In anthropology,
it is becoming increasingly impossible to publish articles that do not have
an immediate fieldwork/ethnographic/ethnological component . . . thus
theoretical considerations are being eliminated from print. Do something about
it (?) . . . yes, individually we can reincourage free debate and open

The third response was from AZagarelli. That also demands a return comment,
iffor no other reason that AZagarellie either grossly misunderstood my original
post and second post on the topic . . . or is advocating what I consider to be
ethically, morally and legally indefensible positions.

1). My academic and intellectual life is hardly boring . . . and if
you were precise enough to have read the second post on the open discussion,
you would have been able to quote me with the proper word . . . `disgusted.'
So don't try the old rhetorical trick of putting words in peoples' mouths, and
then denigrating the people for saying them. That is passe'
2). My position has nothing to do with my belief in the necessity of
cultural, ethnic and biological diversity. The position I expressed has to do
with my total REVULSION and DISGUST with those who raise melanin content,
biological sexual differences, and so forth to the level of a cause for
blantant discrimination.
There is an old adage in the folk culture: two wrongs do not make a
right. Thus, anyone who tries to justify an immoral and unethical position
of policies of discrimination based on age, sex, gender, national origin or
whatever . . . with no stronger argument than "its ok, cause your folks
grandparents did it to other people" has advanced no further in legal, moral
or ethical development than the very grandparents bemoaned as the cause of
discriminatory practices.
In fact, my gripe has less to do with cultural diversity, and more to
do with people who try to impose irrelevant criteria for academics. If one
wants specifics that can be documented . . . try the acting chair of Kent
State University's sociology department during the spring/summer of 1993 who
makes rude comments to male job candidates about how much of a pity it is
that they don't wear skirts or have more melanin in their skin. How about
the same university department placing open advertisments for positions,
claiming not to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, national origin and
so forth . . . for positions that are specifically designated for gender
preference or racial preference hire. If that is false advertising and blatant
discrimination, what is. How about a university in Illinois that has just
told a candidate for a sociology position that they cannot be hired, even
though they are Hispanic descent . . . because they don't `look' ethnic
This list could go on, but lets face it. Bigotry and discrimination
are bigotry and discrimination by any other name.
In the vernacular, just because you call cow dung . . . jasmine . . .
it doesn't smell the same at all.
Political correctness . . . several posts have commented that humans
are indeed political animals . . . there is no disagreement. Several have
commented that political correctness blows like the wind, depending on where
one is RIGHT, LEFT, NEGATIVE, NONE, VALUE FREE whatever: no disagreement. My
gripe is with the idea of required `correctness' - not with normal political
processes in the discipline. The idea - which may have been forgotten -
is academic freedom of speech and thought.
Seeker1 also asked about the illiteracy comments. The gripe is that
far too many university students don't know how to spell, won't use a word
processor, and are barely able to put noun-verb-object structures together.
Of course there are good ones . . . but why pass the illiterate one's? If
one wants to do something about that, there is always what is called an `F'
instead of bending over backwards to give passing grades, because someone
might complain.
Illiteracy in the professions is a different matter. That has to do
with overspecialization, and the failure to be presented with relevant
materialsfrom other areas - or to be familiar with them. This problem is
serious outside of anthropology, where in some disciplines . . . statistical
analysis of independent and dependent variables passes as theory - and the
analyst may be hard pressed to lucidly discuss the philosophical and
theoreticalassumptions behind their work.
The final issue is the downsizing of the social sciences in the US, Canada
and Britain . . . when student demand for courses in those areas has never been
higher in some cases. Much of this comes from a pervasive budget cutting
mania among administrators . . . who save a fortune by putting together classes
of 400 people, and not paying one full-time academic salary to teach them.
Let's see . . . 400 divided by 20 = 20, at ass. prof. level 20 to a class . . .
three classes per prof . . . comes out to approximately seven full time faculty
at salaries of 25-45k plus benefits - conservative estimate - 210,000 dollars
a year . . . versus under 10k for part-time or grad students. NOT BAD HUH . .
.it pays a lot of 100,000 administrative salaries. Want something
done about that . . . we could by collectively refusing to put up with it
anymore. It might amaze people how fast new slots could materialize if the
disciplinesimply refused to teach unless they did - and so much for
accreditation without
the discipline.
Considering the proposed policies on education at all levels from the
Federal government, and the level of discouragement in the discipline . . . the
to be addressed in open forum, in my opinion.

J. O'Brien
Indiana University