The liberal blogsphere is all a-buzz about a controversial MA thesis by Republican candidate for the governorship of Virginia, Bob McDonnell in 1989 while he was in the join MA/JD program at what was then called "Christian Broadcasting Network University" and has since been renamed Regent University. The title is "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade." Now most of the buzz is about some of the more controversial statements within the thesis itself. From the title, you can imagine some of the highlights: women in the workplace is bad, contraception for unmarried couples is bad, the Roe v Wade ruling is referred to as "the 'legalization' of abortion" (note the sarcasm quotation marks), divorce is bad, divorce and teen pregnancy are "closely related," and a 15 point "action plan" for conservatives. There are also a few choice ideological outbursts like "The family as a God ordained government has an area of sovereignty within which it is free to carry out the duties it owes to God, society, and other family members under the covenant" (page 13).
Monday, August 31, 2009
Now, while I find the world view McDonnell expresses in this "thesis" (note the sarcasm quotations) distasteful and disagreeable, I will not focus on them further in this posting. What I am bothered by most is what passes for an MA Thesis at this "university" (note the sarcasm quotations). I gave the thesis a good skimming and I would want to read more thoroughly to comment on it or grade it if he were my student. But I can say that it is 100% polemic. There is no scholarly content whatsoever. Most of the citations are to other works of polemic or unverifiable public statements at conferences or the like. The entire thing is an expression of Mr. McDonnell's personal political views, passed off as policy analysis. It is the pre-blogger equivalent of an extensive blog entry. I can assure you that it would not be tolerated in any quality political science or public policy department at any level and certainly not as partial satisfaction of the requirements for an advanced graduate degree. If he were my student, I wouldn't even let him get the point of writing a draft before I would head him off and get him to focus on less normative and more positivist aspects of his interests.
I do not contest Mr. McDonnell's right to have these views. Nor do I wish to stop him expressing them or punish him for having expressed them. I do wish to hold up for ridicule anyone who would attach their signatures - and professional reputations - to a document asserting that in expressing these views, Mr. McDonnell has engaged in scholarly research.
There are fields where this kind of pure polemic is accepted. Various fill-in-the-blank studies fields are plagued by this kind of stuff, especially on the left. I don't have much respect for this kind of stuff either. I think these fields give social science and academia in general a really bad name. So please don't try to call me out by saying I'm only upset about conservatives.
This is more than simple academic snobbery (although, I openly confess that is a part of my reaction). Regent University is the alma mater of many of the Bush appointees to the Justice Department (I'll leave it to LTG to elaborate again on that little scandal). One of the hallmarks of a professional bureaucracy is that its members will exhibit appropriate qualifications to perform their tasks. When organizations like Regent University ape real universities in form and style, they allow unqualified people to displace qualified people more easily. They provide cover for politically motivated hacks to claim that one degree is the same as another and so on.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 5:20 PM