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    Naomi Schaefer Riley and the Rules of Academe

    So, Naomi Schaefer Riley has been fired from blogging at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Since I recently called the blog post that got her fired stupid and racist, I'm not sorry about her firing. I also pointed out that the kind of "anti-reverse-racism" racism that her post traffics in has become the refuge of losers and whiners making excuses for their failure.

    Cue Riley's defenders on the right-wing (Abby W. Schachter, Rod Dreher, Katherine Lopez), who immediately put on a clinic in resentment studies. I would like to thank them for making my point for me; like so many right-wingers who pretend to be defending meritocracy from "reverse racism" or "political correctness," they shamelessly play the victim card to excuse the predictable failures of a mediocrity. In their narrative, Riley was "shouted down" after offering "polite and coherent criticism." Her only substantive flaw was allegedly "not reading the entirety of the dissertations" she trashed; in fact, Riley did not read a single word of those dissertations. And her firing is called, I kid you not, "tyranny."

    Apparently, it is tyrannical to require that an opinion writer know anything whatsoever about what she is writing about. And the Chronicle of Higher Education apparently owes her a regular salary for writing blog posts without doing even basic research for them. Evidently that's somewhere in Burke.

    There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, except for conservative pundits. They are the main victim of tyranny in our time.

    Let me explain something about the way academia works. People like to say that academics have a left-wing bias. Maybe, maybe not; I don't have space to argue that here. But the real truth is that academics have much more powerful biases that aren't part of their politics but are just part of being an academic. These include some "unwritten rules" that aren't left "unwritten" to exclude outsiders but because they seem so intuitively obvious, so much a part of what college professors do every day, that they go completely unstated. But sometimes outsiders do need things explained.

    So. Here are the two most important rules in the academic world:

    1. Talk about things you know.
    2. Don't talk about things you don't know.

    That's it. There are a bunch of other rules that naturally arise from these two, but these are the fundamental ones. Talking about things you know and not about things you don't know is the basic ethos. If you break these rules at a college or university, you are a jerk. Period.

    Riley not only broke those rules, but pointed out how badly she was breaking them, and scoffed at the silly people who would ever have a silly rule like that. If you're writing that in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it's not a firing offense. It's a resignation letter.

    Scholars are not necessarily smarter than other people. But they do study more. That's what makes them scholars: the intense and sustained effort they put into knowing things. There's the basic mastery of their discipline, learning whatever it takes to become an anthropologist or a physicist. And then there's laborious research to find out something new that no one but you knows yet. Knowledge is what gives scholars their academic authority. It's the basic currency of our trade. Knowledge allows us to publish. Knowledge is our qualification to teach. (Teaching people things that they already know is pointless, and teaching them things that you don't know is impossible.) No matter how smart we might or might not be personally, we stand or fall by how much we know. And almost all of us became academics in the first place because we wanted to know things. Trust me, you don't spend as much time as I do thinking about 16th-century theater history because you're looking to make a few extra bucks. I actually want to know about it.

    When Riley dumped on the idea that she would read even a page, even a paragraph, of a dissertation before publishing her condemnation of it and then condemning its entire field, she was dumping on the value of knowledge itself. Why should she read something before publishing her judgment of it? Why bother to know what she's talking about? Boasting about ignorance, being proud of not knowing, to an audience of scholars is like bragging about arson to an audience of firefighters. That Riley was being deliberately inflammatory didn't help. But what really did her in was that she was trashing her audience's most basic values. Why the surprise that they don't want to read more from her?

    She was also breaking academic's biggest social taboo. University faculty can, alas, find all kinds of ways, subtle or crude, to express their personal sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, or homophobia, and always have. Expressing a nasty prejudice only requires the right choice of words and of listener. But talking about stuff you don't know is a universal academic taboo and brings embarrassment to anyone who breaks it. This behavior gets policed not by liberal or conservative orthodoxy, but by the sheer fact of being around other academics. If you talk about things you don't know at a bar, the bartender politely ignores your bullshit. If you talk about things you don't know in a university, you quickly ending up talking your weak bullshit to someone who has spent an adult lifetime amassing knowledge about the very subject you're trying to bluff them on. Two guesses how that goes.

    Every academic is surrounded, every work day, by dozens of people who know vast amounts about things he or she does not personally know. The workplace has anthropologists and physicists, art historians and neurologists. But no one in the workplace is more than one of those things. I happen not to be any of them. If I try to bullshit my friends in the math department about algebraic topology, it is not going to go well. And if, by chance, someone decided to run their mouth about 16th-century theater history without anything to back them up, I would notice pretty quickly. Everybody in a university runs a constant risk of embarrassing themselves through their ignorance, and in the scholarly value system ignorance is the cardinal embarrassment. Which brings us back to the rule:
    don't talk about things you don't know.

    When Riley broke that rule and then, after the first round of criticism, flouted it, she was indulging the very behavior that every Chronicle of Higher Education reader instinctively cringes from, something we avoid so thoroughly that it's hard even to articulate what we're avoiding or why. She was also behaving in exactly the way that marks an academic among academics as an asshole. For us, talking about what you don't know about isn't just one sign of an asshole. It is the definition of being an asshole. A guy who's spouting off in a bar about string theory, which he doesn't remotely understand, is just a jerk. Now imagine that guy spouting off about string theory to Stephen Hawking. That's approximately how big a jerk you look like if you spout off about stuff you don't understand to other academics.

    Now, I understand that everybody outside the academy doesn't see this the same way. It is very obvious that many opinion writers, at least on the conservative side of the aisle, feel quite comfortable talking about things they don't know. Some of Riley's defenders seem genuinely surprised that not reading the dissertations she was trashing was held against her. Her own defense of herself has the unreflective confidence of someone who believes the norms of her profession are on her side, and feels serenely confident that reading the things she was attacking was not required. Reading the New York Times Op-Ed page makes the cultural divide all too obvious. Paul Krugman, the academic turned pundit, tends to stick closely to economics and talk about things he knows; David Brooks blithely alludes to new research in cognitive studies or some other abstruse subject about which he knows very little and, too often, understands less. Ross Douthat recently wrote a book, Bad Religion, in which he dismisses the last several decades of research on early Christianity, basically lumping in scholars like Elaine Pagels with New Age figures like Deepak Chopra. To someone like me, formed by years in academia, that seems ludicrous. Pagels, and scholars like her, have built up an impressive body of knowledge about early Christian and Gnostic writings; their conclusions might be wrong, but I work from the premise that proving them wrong would require a great deal of very specific knowledge that Douthat doesn't have. (This isn't about academic credentials. One of the great 16th-century theater historians of my generation is an independent scholar without a degree in a relevant field, but he is enormously learned. Saying that Ross Douthat doesn't have a Ph.D. is merely snobbery. Saying that Ross Douthat can't read Biblical Greek or Aramaic is merely a fact.) Douthat has strong opinions about Pagels's scholarship. But to me, that's a statement much like "Ross Douthat has strong opinions about the nature of electromagnetism." What could it matter? But clearly, talking about things he doesn't know is perfectly comfortable for Douthat. Opinion writers typically defend themselves by saying that they're not scholars, and are only expressing their opinions. But to scholars, expressing opinions about things you don't know about seems pointless and embarrassing.

    This basic difference in the way academics and pundits discuss things sometimes leads right-leaning pundits to accuse academics of lefty "political correctness" when we're simply behaving according to the normal logic of our profession. The downfall of Larry Summers as President of Harvard was widely denounced as the triumph of political correctness after Summers gave a speech that was widely (and all too plausibly) perceived as sexist. Harvard was yielding to political correctness! The President of the University was not allowed to express his opinion without being accused of bias. Summers, you see, had expressed the opinion that there might be hard-wired biological differences in male and female brains that led to a greater dispersion of mathematical talent among men then among women, with more men ending up in the ultra-high or ultra-low range. To pundits, Summers was expressing a perfectly reasonable position. To academics, Summers was spouting off about things he doesn't know. He is not a neurologist, not a cognitive scientist, not a biologist. Larry Summers is, in fact, an economist, and the research he was talking about was not his own. Researching the hypothesis that there's a different distribution of mathematical talent in the male and female populations is perfectly valid. That's not sexism, but science. Talking for some mysterious reason about some research someone else is doing outside your field, research whose quality Summers could not even evaluate for himself, is just talking out your ass, and that's how it was received. Summers began that fateful speech by saying that he could talk about the things that he, as President of the University, had been doing to recruit more women faculty in the sciences (i.e. talk about things he knew), but ... naahhh. It was more fun to talk about some research he had kind of heard about. He preferred to talk about things he didn't know. And for his fans in the conservative press, any objection to that could only be a sign of political bias.

    I know that the way academics do things, sticking to topics they know something about, must seem very strange to people at the National Review Online or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I know that our way of doing things seems bizarre and decadent to them. Naomi Schaefer Riley will happily tell you about how little intellectual integrity academics have. So let me boil down the rules for them in pithier form:

    Knowledge talks. Bullshit walks.

    But I understand that some have different values.

    UPDATE: Destor pushes back against this post, reasonably, and I do my best to clarify.


    I was amazed at her comment that only a few would read about the history of African American midwifery. There are non scholars whose hobby is American women's history. They recreate costumes and volunteer at historical sites. They all get their information from reading well researched texts. I agree she was begging them to fire her.

    Well, to qualify, only a few will read dissertations (typically the student, maybe mum & dad, and the advisor). Only a few read about American midwifery. Only a few read African-American women's history. Combine those three circles in a Venn diagram, and it's pretty taught. 

    Nevertheless, that doesn't qualify whether it's important or useful, while the thesis itself is as much about birthing choices, available options and practices for African Americans, not just midwifery.

    I don't think that would make what would look like a typical Venn diagram. That first sentence, to be relevant, should say "only a few will read a particular dissertation" (otherwise, it's not true, as many people read dissertations in general). If that dissertation is about American midwifery and African-American women's history, then those people will also have read about those topics.

    1. Talk about things you know.
    2. Don't talk about things you don't know.


    Okay, ya got a lot of stuff here that I must analyze a little bit more.

    I do know that I don't know that much and if I talk about things I don't know...well all I am qualified for is talk radio!

    And I aint gettin any invitations!


    "So. Here are the two most important rules in the academic world:... 2. Don't talk about things you don't know."

    OH right, academia says to shut up until you've been anointed with final wisdom, to never question until you know. By this rule, we would have never gotten past heliocentric astronomy.

    ​By this rule, Chomsky should have been told to STFU and stick with linguistics, not politics. No one would be allowed to comment on global warming except for acclaimed climate scientists, who would have to wait 50-100 years to be truly informed.

    "Scholars are not necessarily smarter than other people. But they do study more." Really? So the PhD student that spent all his time in the bars studies more than the researcher that left school early to get an industry job? Or someone who just is interested in a subject as a hobby and avocation? Can we be any more in love with the Ivory Tower?

    " in fact, Riley did not read a single word of those dissertations" - yes, the dissertations have not been finished yet, much less published. Of course the person who wrote the glowing assessments of the 5 top dissertations hadn't read them either. Are they an asshole too?

    " It is the definition of being an asshole. A guy who's spouting off in a bar about string theory, which he doesn't remotely understand, is just a jerk. " - too funny. Many think that all of string theory is a massive flight of fancy that predicts nothing, so can't be disproved. The perfect Ivory Trope.

    "Summers, you see, had expressed the opinion that there might be hard-wired biological differences in male and female brains that led to a greater dispersion of mathematical talent among men then among women, with more men ending up in the ultra-high or ultra-low range."

    Summers had quoted someone else's research in a larger context as to a potential small difference as 1 of 3 factors. If twins separated at birth can manifest shared interests and behavior from drastically different social environments, isn't it remotely possible that nature can program X & Y chromosomes to have not only large physical differences (I hope you accept that one), but also some small subtle almost statistically insignificant intellectual, emotional, instinctive, behavioral, psychological or avocation differences for a group as a whole? [hint: look up epigenetic inheritance for a new, much more complex model of development than Mendelian pea pods]


    Summers had prefaced his talk, saying he was adopting an "entirely positive, rather than normative approach" and that his remarks were intended to be an "attempt at provocation."[35]

    Summers then began by identifying three hypotheses for the higher proportion of men in high-end science and engineering positions:

    1. The high-powered job hypothesis
    2. Different availability of aptitude at the high end
    3. Different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search[35]

    The second hypothesis, different availability of aptitude at the high end, caused the most controversy. In his discussion of this hypothesis, Summers said that "even small differences in the standard deviation [between genders] will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out [from the mean]".[35] Summers referenced research that implied differences between the standard deviations of males and females in the top 5% of twelfth graders under various tests. He then went on to argue that, if this research were to be accepted, then "whatever the set of attributes... that are precisely defined to correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley... are probably different in their standard deviations as well".[35]

    Summers then concluded his discussion of the three hypotheses by saying:

    So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.[35]

    Summers then went on to discuss approaches to remedying the shortage of women in high-end science and engineering positions.

    "Knowledge talks. Bullshit walks."

    Spoken like a perfesser. May your students still find the energy to explore where they've been indoctrinated and spoon-fed.

    PS - my previous comments over here, including noting that some on the left like Kevin Drum object, not just those on the right.

    Holy cripe!

    4:00 in the morning?

    I thought I was the only one here without a life. hahahahahhaha

    All I learned over these last 6 decades or so was that:

    The corps will make you sign an agreement (a contract) and that agreement has become so complex as to enable the corp to control your every movement.

    And here is Pat Robertson on his Christian Network (which he sold for 90 mill years ago) telling us that we must feel remorse over the fact that some corporate idiots are sent to prison for filling out some form wrong.

    Let us just start over.

    Send all the corporate felons to prison for a hundred years.

    Let us send all politicians who made money over the last three decades to prison for a hundred years.

    Let us send everyone who ever filled out a form wrong from some corporate body to prison for a hundred years.

    And we can just start over!

    Oh and go ahead and free 4 of 5 people in prison today.

    That will take us to 1970 or so.

    Oh and Robertson has to be sent to prison for a 100 years even though he is close to the 100 year anniversary of his birth. Everyone knows he is a crook anyway.

    That's all I got.

    the end

    er almost!

    Not everyone's in your time zone - or even in your galaxy ;-)

    Well say "hello" to censorship, eh?  I'm sure that your heart bled for Solzhenitsyn when he was being slowly starved to death in the Gulag.  Would you like Ms. Schaefer Riley to end up there too?

    p.s.  No wonder that when right-wing dictatorships take power, the first thing they do is to kill the so-called academics and their amen corner.

    Freedom of Speech does not guarantee that you continue to get paid for it.

    Freedom of Speech does not guarantee Freedom of Speech.

    It's just a euphemism. It means "free to agree" or "when it suits us".

    Those others who vex and annoy us can go get stuffed. They're abusing Freedom of Speech.

    Riley is free to say whatever she likes. She just has to say it for free.

    Should employers be required to pay people to write things that don't meet the employer's workplace standards? How much should they be required to pay them, for how long? And who should force these employers to pay bloggers who aren't making the grade?

    Are you demanding a government regulation?

    Though even if she said this outside of work, she could reflect badly on work (1000's of emails?) so could still be fired.

    Free speech is fine as long as it doesn't embarrass a company.

    Of course "making the grade" meant 1 column (I don't think anyone besides myself checked her past work). But sometimes once is enough - look at Galileo.

    I think we should nip this "free speech" thing in the bud - yes, you're entitled to free speech when you're alone. But when you're around other people, you better watch yourself. We are at war, you know.

    I love your rules, they are exactly correct.

    She deserved to be fired. However, for the life of me I still cannot figure our why the hell no editor caught that piece and dealt with it on the spot, she freely admitted she read no dissertations. I still don't understand that? I don't know if I ever will. 

    The Summers episode is a perfect example of why it isn't a great idea to step to far outside your academic expertise and make sweeping statements like he did.  It seemed like Summers was channeling Charles Murray when he spoke about women in the hard sciences.  I personally took offense to that, when I began teaching computer science, I was the only woman in the department way back in 1990.  It was a bit depressing knowing yet again, those men who ran the system, no matter how hard we worked, no matter how good we were at our discipline, we were never going to be considered equal to our male peers. Suddenly there it was in our faces again. It isn't as if we didn't get shit on our entire way through college by the many men who at that time dominated the field of CS who had no problem stating out loud, in class that women would never be good enough, cause we just weren't wired for this stuff.  For many women, it brought all those struggles, all the insults we endured and threw them back in our faces again. Ugh..  It still pisses me off.

    Sorry for venting, great column as ususal.


    Thanks, mac. I was ranting a little bit myself.

    Yes, Summers's dumb speech should also be taken in the context that he was scheduled to be talking about the progress Harvard was making on women in STEM fields. And, for heaven's sake, the school had been doing things better. He could have just talked about that. Instead, he uncorks this half-baked argument.

    Followed up, by the way, with observations about what kind of toys his children preferred.

    Though I have the theory that women are genetically better at biology than men, since there are many more of them in the field and they seem to excel at it. Me, I only got C's and D's in it.

    Keep walkin', Doc. 

    I'm sure Riley is an idiot, but your "knowledge" riff? In an Internet age? Sorry, it was pretty 16th Century. 

    Just for starters, the world's intellectual history is chocka with really smart people who worked in one field, but read intensively in numerous others, cross-fertilized like crazy, and made major innovations - and oddly enough, often in more than one field.

    Also, not to be too picky, but the theory of knowledge you put forward here is pretty weak. (It's a specific field, you see?) But that "get knowledge by putting in years of reading" thing is pretty much a non-starter, really.

    Other than that, I'm with you on Riley and the Resentments of the Right.

    Doc, I think you're conflating two questions: Was Riley's firing justified? and Why was she fired?

    The first hinges on the Chronicle of Higher Education's editorial standards, not the opinions of the academic community. If Riley violated them, then she should have been fired. Case closed. And if she did not violate the publication's standards, her editor should stand by her, regardless of public opinion.

    The reality seems hazy. From the Chronicle:

    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. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.

    Since Brainstorm was created five years ago, we have sought out bloggers representing a range of intellectual and political views, and we have allowed them broad freedom in topics and approach.  As part of that freedom, Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley’s post was not reviewed until after it was posted.

    I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers.

    This commentary smacks of ex post facto rationalization, but let's give the Chronicle the benefit of the doubt on the justification for Riley's firing. They made an honest mistake, and they're rectifying it. How about that second question: Why was Riley fired? The editor's comment makes it pretty clear that without the race controversy, Riley would not have lost her job. Her research on other issues may have been just as shoddy, but without the controversy no one would have cared, and you would never have written about her at dag.

    The dictum, "Don't talk about things you don't know," is like Chinese corruption law--often violated and only prosecuted when the wrong toe gets stepped on. Outside the narrow purview of academic publications, which have far more rigorous standards than the blog section of the Chronicles, professors are not known for reticence on things they don't know. To the contrary, academics I know tend to have an inflated view of their own opinions on most matters, which is not surprising considering that they have been lauded for their intelligence all their lives.

    In general, the readiness of academics to speak about varied topics in less rigorous contexts is a good thing. Otherwise, we would seldom hear from them. If you didn't relax your standards and run the risk of talking out of your ass, how you could blog? How could professors write opinion columns and mass-market books?

    But when academic throw themselves into controversy under those relaxed standards, then they get into trouble. I don't follow Larry Summers very closely, but I doubt that his comment on sexual differences was the first time that he talked out of his ass in public. It's just that all the other times, no one cared.

    So let's not confuse the two issues. Riley may have been fired for failing to do her research, but that does not explain why she was fired.

    Disclaimer: I don't read the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I'm not an academic, though I did attend a Ph.D. program. I am sometimes prone to talking out of my ass.

    Well, Genghis, as I said in my response to Destor's post, I'm sorry to have created the sense that this I'm talking about experts vs. non-experts.

    What I am talking about is the obligation to be able to back up what you say, which is a standard expectation in scholarship and used to be standard in opinion-writing, too.

    OK, thanks, but the expert opinion issue that Destor addresses was not really the point of my comment.  It was that Riley's failure to back up her point may have been the justification for her firing, but that wasn't why she was fired--any more than Summers was fired because of the weakness of his argument for sexual differences.

    Okay, then. I cede your point. It is much easier to talk about shit you don't know when you stick to uncontroversial topics. (And yes, by my standards there are some other people at the Chronicle who could be let go.) Talking about what you don't know is not, itself, a sufficient cause for getting in trouble.

    But neither is talking about some sensitive topic, itself, sufficient to get in trouble. You're right that it has to be both. But it has to be both.

    There is a traditional protection for saying controversial, and even inflammatory things that you can present reasonable evidence for. Riley had the "academic debate" card to play. But for that you need to do at least some minimal homework.

    If Riley had gotten a bunch of recent PhD dissertations, read parts of them, and then trashed them in detail, she might still have gotten accused of bias. But she wouldn't have been fired over it.

    Agreed. But think about the implications. Writing that violates standards of "political correctness" is by its nature inflammatory. So if you penalize sloppy conservative writers who challenge academic orthodoxy on race and gender (inflammatory writing) but ignore sloppy liberal writers who embrace the orthodoxy (non-inflammatory writing), you employ a de facto double-standard. Add to this consideration the phenomenon of confirmation bias--where people tend to be more critical of ideas they disagree with--and you can see why conservatives feel abused by academia.

    That is not in to validate the hyperbole and hypocrisy of "reverse-racism," which you so eloquently pulverized in your last piece, but it does suggest that there is much more to this incident than sloppy research.

    I think there are inflammatory leftists, too. But I take your point.

    In the end, I can't get around confirmation bias. The Bell Curve and its authors got denounced as racist, but were certainly not silenced. E. O. Wilson got criticized for Sociobiology, and he's done just fine. Ward Churchill talked out his ass on inflammatory topics, and eventually got his ass fired.

    So yes, I see why conservatives feel ill-used. But short of allowing them to say whatever they want without evidence, or censoring liberals who do have evidence, I don't see any way to mollify those conservatives. I think Riley is a pretty easy test case. But people on the right wing are doubling down to defend her when she's got nothing.


    I would never ask you to mollify a conservative. It's icky and almost certainly futile.

    I was just trying to keep you honest. :)

    Fair enough. Thanks.

    It is shameful what is happening in our places of higher learning! They should be a place where different points of view are argued, not censored, and definitely not a place where someone is fired because he/she has a difference of opinion and an outspoken mob believes that is the solution!!  What are we teaching our children? If someone disagrees with you, get them fired?  And then out of the other corner of our mouths we decry that there is too much bullying in our schools!

    So how about we do read those dissertations and see if they support Ms. Riley's contention.  Are they available?

    No, they're ongoing research, not finished nor published yet.

    Someone posted elsewhere that Riley was married to a black man, the implication being that she could not therefore really be racist. She is in fact married to Jason Riley, a senior editorial writer for the WSJ, whose latest article, Affirmative Action's Stigma, supports the right-wing meme that Elizabeth Warren got a job by claiming to be a Native American.

    Keeping up with hubby, Riley wrote a shallow piece, "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations!" but didn't actually read the dissertations. Her article would have fit right in at the WSJ, or most MSM outlets, where pushing hot buttons means ratings, baby, ratings! But apparently CHE readers want something better than what they can see, but probably don't bother watching, on TV. When she was called on not reading the dissertations, she doubled down. "There are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery," essentially saying she has a right to pontificate without knowing what she's talking about. That is not an unknown viewpoint on dagblog—neither is doubling down—but we don't encourage it.

    Brian Leiter makes an excellent point:

    The allegations of racism arise from the fact that one could have undertaken the same exercise with dissertation titles in most fields, even philosophy.  (Think how much fun a malevolent fool like Schaefer Riley could have with recent dissertation titles from Princeton!)  But Schaefer Riley chose a field rich with "hot button" issues that lent themselves naturally to the various stereotypes into which the Right-Wing Blob deposits ideas and positions it can't understand.  That all these issues, and the stereotypes, are demeaning, directly and indirectly, to African-Americans is no doubt what led many to assume Schaefer Riley is a racist.  Maybe she is, but let's not lose sight of the most important fact, namely, she's a moron who couldn't defend her tripe in a debate with any serious scholar anywhere.  This last point is really the more important one:  her failing is not really moral, but intellectual, as anyone who has read her other "blog postings" at CHE would have known long ago.

    Her firing is a triumph for intellectual standards in the public sphere.  It should be celebrated.

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