Ed Driscoll » That’s a lot of Decline to Hide
What can be done to raise standards? Pseudo science infests the Academy and distorts public policy. The traditional way of dealing with suspect academic fads was to multiply the number of departments in a university. This worked for a short time when resources appeared unlimited. Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies in the Liberal Arts were created as ghettos for the technically suspect who brought more jargon than content to the table. Unfortunately the progeny of these programs sought jobs and invaded the faculty lounges, crowding out the adherents of traditional scholarship. They became Mockingbirds who throw the legitimate offspring out of the nest. In the sciences Environmental Studies served the same purpose. It became a less rigorous alternative to traditional programs in Biology or Geophysics where results were predetermined and students learned how to advocate instead of objectively test the theory.
Perhaps the National Academy of Standards can sponsor a movement to ensure that every PhD in a recognized field has to pass an independently administered oral exam that would ensure that they meet the base level of competency of anyone from a good school who entered the community in the year 1970. It should be possible to collect a pool of 200 questions in each discipline from which the aspirant will face 20 during a 2 hour session. Five Examiners from outside schools scoring from 0 to 3 on each 5 minute answer. A score of 250 should be needed to pass. If each Examiner is given a pool of 10 candidates to whom they may disburse their points and if they gave each candidate a perfect score that would take 600 points. My suggestion is that they each be given only 525 points. That would force them to weed out the weakest candidates.
This plan would also draw a line between the Doctorates from the traditional disciplines and those who would lack the higher level of validation. Specialists in Environmental Science, Communications Arts and Gender Studies would be viewed on campus like Podiatrists crashing an AMA convention. Ethnic Studies programs would probably revert to becoming Committees training their students to meet the more rigorous standards of old fashioned departments of History or Anthropology.