March 3, 2005

Jacob Laksin correspondence

My e-mail to Jacob Laksin and his reply appears in the full entry. (See this morning's entry for more information about his column and the entry he was commenting on.)

First, me:


I saw the FrontPage puff piece on academics writing about academic freedom and Ward Churchill this morning—thank you for spelling my name correctly (even if you got "corporatization" wrong).

Now, the next time you mention me in an article, could you actually take issue with the core argument I'm making?

And Mr. Laksin's reply:

I’ll happily take your compliments about my spelling in the spirit with which they are intended (I can feel my conservative knuckles rising, ever so slowly, from the ground). I wish I could return the compliment, but having looked on your website this morning, I see that you have misspelled by name in the link you so kindly provided to my piece. (Laksin, not Lakson) [SJD: He's absolutely correct: I misspelled his name. We're now even on misspellings.]

As for not engaging your argument, I offer in my defense that I was constrained by two factors: One: that it was an article about the patently idiotic humbug our leftwing professoriate were proffering in Ward Churchill’s defense, not the putative merits of same. Two: that your argument was, excuse me for speaking frankly, patently idiotic humbug, and I therefore decided that by engaging it on its merits, such as they are, I would have been risking incalculable damage to my (already embarrassingly mean) intelligence.

Basically, professor, what it comes down to is this: A depressing number of academics may thrill to the notion that insert-your-leftwing-fad has a more deleterious effect on an institution of higher learning than the hiring of an academic fraud who boasts no obvious qualifications to teach a subject, and is thus compelled to turn his classes into a forum for anti-American indoctrination and conspiracy mongering. For the rest of us, however, the primary concern of a university should be serious teaching. The university must be nothing less, to borrow from Thomas Hardy, than a “school where we must give/our lives that we may learn to live.”

So you must excuse me for being more concerned about things that imperil this mission, like the Ward Churchill’s of the world, than the latest anti-corporate fashion to find an enthusiastic audience among academics like yourself.

All right. I was snarky in the e-mail. No question there. But I'm astounded at Laksin's biting and worrying at seven words out of an entry. Surely a conservative would agree that the athletics recruiting scandal at the University of Colorado is a serious danger to its main academic mission. A conservative just might take issue with my claim that there is a conflict between the university as moral conservator and the university as a place of ideas. A conservative who has read William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale should certainly have something to say about my comments on trustee politics. C'mon, Mr. Laskin. All I'm asking for is for some honest-to-goodness close reading of a source. So my latest epistle:

I'll take responsibility for misspelling your name, of course, and I apologize. I'm a little curious how you could miss everything except seven words in a piece of writing—surely there's more for a conservative to disagree with than my statement that the coverup of soliciting athletes with sex and other inducements is a greater threat to the educational mission of a university than Ward Churchill. I suppose it's your American right to focus on (or obsess about) any snippet you choose to. I just was hoping for a somewhat higher level of discussion, or at least an accurate reading. Darn it all, hurl calumny at what I actually wrote, not what you think I wrote!

Oh, and about his larger question about Churchill's qualifications and teachings: That's a separate post, but I think that's two allegations, only one of which have been made at the moment (except in this e-mail by Mr. Laskin).

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Posted in Academic freedom on March 3, 2005 5:02 PM |