"Good Ideas, Bad Ideas" AQ Issue in Print

Ashley Thorne

We are often told that the university is supposed to be a “marketplace of ideas” (in fact there’s a new higher ed reform book by that very name). That generally means that higher education should offer a wide variety of thought that scholars and students must learn to sift for themselves, so that they “buy” only sound arguments.

When why is it that ideas that are discredited in the larger world tend to live on in the university? The fall issue (vol. 23, no. 3) of our quarterly journal Academic Questions, now online and in print, examines both good and bad ideas in higher education.

NAS members have already received printed copies of this issue in the mail. If you are a member and would like to read journal articles online, email nasonweb@nas.org with “AQ access” in the subject line. We’ll email you a unique link which you can use to set up your online AQ account. If you are not a member of NAS, please join us! We welcome everyone who agrees with our principles. Membership is renewable annually and includes a one-year subscription to Academic Questions in print and online. 

Our special spring issue on “Sustainability” is still fully available FREE online.

Here are the featured articles from the “Good Ideas, Bad Ideas” issue (there are also additional reviews, poetry, and “books, articles, and items of academic interest,” not listed here). The first three articles are available free at www.nas.org.

The Glut of Academic Publishing: A Call for a New Culture

Stanley W. Trimble, University of California at Los Angeles

Wayne W. Grody, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Bill McKelvey, University of California at Los Angeles

Mohamed Gad-el-Hak, Virginia Commonwealth University

Academic publishing produces far too much material of far too little substance, and this wasteful trend shows no signs of stopping. Stanley W. Trimble, Wayne W. Grody, Bill McKelvey, and Mohamed Gad-el-Hak offer recommendations for trimming the glut that would greatly enhance the quality and usefulness of scholarly articles published today.

Scoping Out the International Spy Museum

Ronald Radosh, The Hudson Institute

For those who haven’t had a chance to visit, Ronald Radosh takes us on a largely enjoyable tour of the popular and successful International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., citing a few small but significant factual inconsistencies and misdirections along the way, notably within the Cold War exhibits. The museum is given space to respond to his careful criticisms, and Radosh provides a rejoinder.

How Scholarships Morphed into Financial Aid

Jackson Toby, Emeritus, Rutgers University

“A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” Based on an excerpt from his The Lowering of Higher Education in America: Why Financial Aid Should Be Based on Student Performance (Praeger, 2010), Jackson Toby examines the shift from merit-based scholarships to federal financial aid for returning soldiers in the G.I. Bill, and how the desire to increase access to higher education ballooned into a heavy financial bleed on our already overburdened economy.

“Students’ Right to Their Own Language”: A Counter-Argument 
Jeff Zorn, Santa Clara University
The impulse behind “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” (SRTOL) was to support the aspirations of poor, nonwhite, and culturally marginalized students, but the actual document offers such students only underachievement and provincialism. Jeff Zorn carefully dissects SRTOL to reveal “a shameful piece of work the ongoing endorsement of which warps and stains language education in the United States.”

Yale University Press: Disseminating Lux et Veritas? 
John B. Parrott
University presses exist in part to “promote a diversity of scholarly perspectives,” and in its mission statement Yale University Press (YUP) claims “to aid in the discovery and dissemination of light and truth.” John Parrott reviews YUP’s 2009 trade offerings in American government and American political history and discovers instead a doctrinaire press that disseminates “knowledge” almost entirely from the progressive viewpoint.

An Analysis of the Myth of Cultural Equivalence
John Lange, Queens College
John Lange, professor of philosophy at Queens College, offers a “Pierce-ing,” rational dissection of the notion of cultural equivalence that exposes the hypocrisy of its purveyors.

Diversity in Teacher Education: A Double Helix
Nicholas J. Shudak, Mount Marty College
Nicholas J. Shudak surveys teacher education literature and finds that its recommended solution to the ever increasing diversity of the school population lies in reprogramming white teachers to affirm the values and learning styles of the cultures of the minorities they teach—despite the acknowledged lack of any proof of this method’s efficacy in terms of educational outcomes. 

Competitive Colleges: Addressing Minority Performance Gaps 
Russell K. Nieli, Princeton University
Russell Nieli, who has written extensively on affirmative action for AQ, contributes a long review essay on No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life, by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford. Nieli finds the book commendable and informative in many ways, but questions the authors’ devotion to a stringent social democratic ideal of enforced and engineered group parity, while contrasting it with the freer ideals of classical liberalism.    

Cheerleading for a Crumbling Academy 
John M. Ellis, Emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz
In this review essay, John M. Ellis reviews Louis Menand’s widely praised The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University—without rose-colored lenses or lavender kid gloves. In exposing the book’s inadequacies Ellis asks why the academic humanities establishment is so incapable of communicating honestly with the general public. 

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