Friday, January 14, 2005

Problems in the American Academy

Over at Left2Right, Don Herzog wrote a very interesting article about problems (real and perceived) in American institutions of higher education. While slapping down the rather breathless criticisms of Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, Mr. Herzog acknowledges that not all is well by providing a link to The Chronicle of Higher Education's article about plagiarism among teaching professionals. The article details how these academic criminals often allowed to work without reproach or punishment even after extensive documentation of their misdeeds have been given to the relevant professional organizations. Disturbing numbers of professional academics are basically allowed to steal from one another with little possibility of detection, most professional organizations lack the resources to investigate possible offenses, or punishment, as there is no listing of offenders and there is no way for institutions to determine whether their new hire has skeletons in his closet. In The Chronicle Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood write
In one of the rare surveys conducted about plagiarism, two University of Alabama economists this year asked 1,200 of their colleagues if they believed their work had ever been stolen. A startling 40 percent answered yes. While not a random sample, the responses still represent hundreds of cases of alleged plagiarism.

In his general defense of the American Academy, Herzog asks "may professors silence or sneer at some positions?" Herzog answers yes, citing situations where Holocaust deniers and slavery defenders are told to keep their mouths shut. However, what Herzog does not realize or acknowledge is that Conservative students are often unfairly lumped in with the mouth-breathing crazies. Remember the poor Air Force cadet called a disgrace by a professor at Chicago Saint Xavier University. Mr. Herzog is probably a good man and a good Professor, but he must realize that some of his colleagues cannot and will not distinguish between bad or offensive arguments and differing political opinions.
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