Academic Ignorance – A Tragicomedy

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

For years, reader replies to my published essays have run about six or seven to one in favor, occasionally more, but it’s usually the “one” that provides the greatest entertainment value.

Some are just vulgar and/or insulting, but the funniest – and most ill-informed – responses sometimes come from highly-credentialed, left-wing humanities department academics who display nearly-limitless self-regard, arrogance and condescension, but scant self-awareness and no sense of irony at all.

For skeptics who imagine that credentialed academics cannot be ignorant, here are some amusing examples of academic intellectual “acuity”:

It takes profound ignorance to dismiss a professional, highly-respected 35-year research geologist whose work one academic refuses to read because, among other empty excuses, the geologist “has only a masters degree, not a doctorate” and has held “no post as a professor.”

Ignorance of Google permitted said academic to imply his strong “scientific” credentials by withholding his specialty from a list of degrees awarded (Bachelors, Masters, PhD). Surely, if, like this highly-credentialed “expert,” graduate geologists earned degrees in more-relevant fields — like Art History with a specialty in West African art — they, too, would ignore the rich climate history in the geologic record and agree with a PhD whose online biography lists some part-time adjunct positions, but no tenured professorships. Said art historian does dabble in climate “science,” though, writing, “I believe in the scientific method” to excuse his refusal to read more broadly. Ironic, huh?

Ignorance produced one history professor’s snarky scold for overlooking “…four years of Republican congressional obstructionism, and ignor[ing] how Republicans blocked [President Barack] Obama and the Democrats at every turn so that the recovery would remain anemic and Obama would not be re-elected.”

That professor’s specialty cannot be Modern History, a/k/a, “Current Events,” or he might have remembered that, for two years beginning January, 2009, President Obama enjoyed Democratic majorities in both congressional chambers, including a filibuster-proof Senate. Democrats passed Obamacare, unread, without a single Republican vote. The entire blame for anything promised but undelivered by end-2010 fell on Obama himself and/or “obstructionist” Democrats in Congress.

Back then, Democrats didn’t address “inequality,” immigration “reform,” a “living wage” or gun control, failures for which they must now cynically blame Republicans, because, after rolling the dice on health care, the Democrats’ 2009-2011 majorities were inundated by a 2010 electoral tsunami.

Less-amusing academic ignorance is permitting undergraduates to believe that, somehow, all whites are “racist,” that, even though females represent campus majorities, the “patriarchy” holds women down, that capitalism is dangerous, but socialism isn’t. Ignorance is ignoring or glossing over Venezuela’s human misery and the lives destroyed by Marxist/socialists Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro and Mao Tse-tung. They’re all dead anyway, so who cares, right?

Self-ignorance inspired a comically-ironic “Krugman Principle” in which Professor Paul Krugman may have explained his own weekly appearances in the NY Times: “If professors with impressive-sounding credentials spout nonsense, it’s asking too much of a newspaper or magazine…to make the judgment that they actually have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Still laughing…