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June 11, 2010 [feather]
Much ado?

Inside Higher Ed picks up the Cry Wolf scandal, and asks whether those who are critical of the Cry Wolf project are themselves crying wolf. I'm glad to see the story make it into the higher ed news, but disappointed by the way it's written: the article reproduces the partisan framework of the Cry Wolf project itself, describing the issues entirely in terms of political gamesmanship:


Some prominent liberal academics are soliciting short essays from faculty members and graduate students to document a pattern in American history of major social advances being opposed by conservatives who "cry wolf" about the impact of proposed reforms. The campaign -- known as the "Cry Wolf Project" -- hasn't been officially announced. But conservative bloggers obtained some of the solicitations of essays and published them this week, along with considerable criticism.

And we're off! It's all about liberals vs conservatives--just as the Cry Wolf project is all about liberals vs conservatives. Because, you know, there's no other way to think. There just isn't. Just ask the professors!

What's sad is that this is not about liberals vs conservatives. Well, maybe it is for some people, but those are the people who don't get it. What this is about is principle. That would be why, when I first posted on this, I didn't talk about liberals and conservatives--I talked about patterns of behavior, academic norms, and professional ethics. Those issues exist for me consistently, regardless of politics. I don't think academics should be paying for "research" that is actually agitprop--or soliciting "scholarship" that will only ever come to a foregone conclusion. And I think that no matter who the academic is, and no matter what political outlook dominates academic culture. I would venture to say that KC Johnson, who has also written about Cry Wolf and is also cited in the article, would say the same. And for the record, I don't think either of us can very comfortably be described as a "conservative." KC is a self-described democrat and Obama-voter. I'm an independent when it comes to voting; am very liberal when it comes to things like gay marriage, abortion rights, repealing DADT, legalizing marijuana, and so on; and am right of center, but not far right, when it comes to economic questions. I think our government should be smaller and should spend less. I think that's pretty mainstream, and I don't think that this is accurately captured by the adjective "conservative."

Anyhow, all of this is to say that on this sunny Friday, I have a dream. It's a dream of a world where we can finally let go of all the partisan crap that is poisoning our culture, our educational system, our relationships, our press, and, yes, our government. It doesn't have to be that way--and the academy is, in principle, supposed to be a place where it isn't.

UPDATE 6/14: More from KC Johnson, who notes that academic defenses of the project are actually helping to confirm the critiques you have seen here and elsewhere. KC's critique traces how the poisonously moralized framework of "conservative vs liberal," in which conservatives are implicitly bad, immoral, and anti-intellectual, while liberals are implicitly good, ethical, and academically responsible is shaping a debate that really ought to be about matters of principle, not partisan labels.

posted on June 11, 2010 7:16 AM




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Comments:

Inside Higher Ed picks up the Cry Wolf scandal, and asks whether those who are critical of the Cry Wolf project are themselves crying wolf. I'm glad to see the story make it into the higher ed news, but disappointed by the way it's written: the article reproduces the partisan framework of the Cry Wolf project itself, describing the issues entirely in terms of political gamesmanship:

Might I respectfully suggest that calling something a scandal doesn't make it a scandal. Might I further suggest that you dissect the others who picket up this story--or non-story-- and defend the position that Breitbart's BigJournalism is either academically respectable or politically neutral. Do it without logic-chopping, and do it in such a way that Regency and other presses which public "academic" books of an exclusively conservative bent for which they pay get tarred with the same brush. Thank you.

Posted by: Michael Swanson at June 14, 2010 8:44 AM



Beg pardon for sloppy proofreading. Regnery books is what I meant.

Posted by: Michael Swanson at June 14, 2010 8:50 AM



Michael,

You are correct: I cannot create a scandal simply by naming something a scandal. Nor can anyone else. But neither can you disappear scandalous behavior on the part of academics by refusing to name it as such. Respectfully, your point about language is a bit tautological.

As for Big Journalism and Regnery: Please, no red herrings. I don't speak for either, and the outlook of these organizations is *irrelevant* to the critique that may be made of the Cry Wolf project. There is a very real and substantive difference between a website and a publisher that exist in the for-profit sphere, and the work of academics, whose research is conducted at non-profit institutions, and is required to transcend the kind of crass "political viewpoint for hire" determinism that frames the Cry Wolf project. Academic integrity, institutional reputation, and tax-exempt status all depend on that. A different and higher standard? Of course. An unfair one? No way.

Posted by: Erin O'Connor at June 14, 2010 9:00 AM