Wednesday, 22 August 2007

On K.C. Johnson's Durham in Wonderland and Until Proven Innocent (The second installment can be read here.) With all due apologies to Ralph, Scott, Timothy, Miriam, and the rest of the good folk at Cliopatria, I've got to say: keeping K.C. Johnson on the roster does the rest of the contributors a disservice. He divined the truth of what happened in Durham on the night of March 13th long before the police announced the results of their investigation. He was correct. Those who believed three Duke lacrosse players had raped an African-American women were incorrect. Granted. But I spent an hour this afternoon catching up with Johnson's Durham-in-Wonderland. If the research presented on the blog is indicative of the content of his soon-to-be-published book—Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case—then I can only conclude that the book'll be positively Horowitzian in tenor and substance. Like Horowitz—and clocks twice a day—Johnson occasionally nails his target. Consider his series of profiles of the "Group of 88." That Wahneema Lubiano is a tenured associate professor in the Program in Literature with one edited volume on her CV and two monograph that've been perpetually forthcoming since 1997 infuriates me. It also infuriates every academic struggling for tenure, so the notion that her position is indicative of a general rot in the academic humanities is willfully misleading. One down, eighty-seven to go. Only he's not going to get to all eighty-seven. He's shutting down the blog when Until Proven Innocent's published in September, and as of August 30th had only written fourteen—and even that's being charitable, since the final three were group profiles. I can imagine the response: "So what? He's found fourteen intellectual frauds in a group of only eighty-eight professors! That's a damning percentage." It certainly is. Were he a baseball player, he'd be hitting a Ruthian .159. But he isn't even hitting that well. Consider his profile of Joseph Harris, the director of Duke's University Writing Program. He's published three books and numerous articles. His articles are published in the most important journals in the field of composition studies. He has what can only be described as a stellar publication record for someone working in composition and rhetoric. Johnson's dismissive description of the books—"each of which discuss how to teach writing"—is a blatant attempt to minimize the work of the entire field. (A field, I should add, whose lack of respect is often lamented by conservative critics when they bemoan the reading and writing skills of the contemporary college student.) What really galls me about Johnson's profile of Harris is his attempt to mislead his readers into believing statements like the following point to the liberal bias of Duke composition classes: In a 1991 essay, he asserted that composition classes should "teach students to write as critics of their culture," with "teaching itself as a form of cultural criticism, about classrooms that do not simply reproduce the values of our universities and cultures but that also work to resist and question them." That's about...

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