Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The self-inflated Juan Cole

As I have noted before, Cole is as thick as a brick

University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole is desperate for you to know that he is eminently qualified to speak publicly on the Middle East. He is, we are told in the opening paragraph of his recent response to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg,

[a] Middle East expert who lived in the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, travels widely there, speaks the languages, writes history from archives and manuscripts and follows current affairs ...

But from this triumphalist beginning, the story takes a tragic turn: In spite of these qualifications (which you, dear reader, almost certainly do not share), Cole "found that none of [his] experience counted for much when [he] entered the public arena in the United States."

It's not that he's thin-skinned or the like; no, it's that his experience in the real world "is like being a professional baseball player ready for the World Series" who is "kidnapped" and taken not to Yankee Stadium, but to a "secret fight club," where he must take on a "giant James Bond villain." Even when he protests to his kidnappers, "I bat .400," he's made to fight "for insulting our great aunt."

However bizarre the images of Cole's imagination, he is not lacking in self-regard. Baseball fans know that batting .400 is a difficult feat: The last man to accomplish it was Ted Williams back in 1941. Among the game's best hitters who have fallen short of this mark: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, and Albert Pujols.

But if Cole's self-image is accurate, then why does he strike out so often when he attacks his critics?

In his response to Goldberg, Cole attempts to smear Middle East scholar Martin Kramer (who has penned devastating critiques of Cole): "He has a relationship with the so-called "Middle East Forum," which runs the McCarthyite "Campus Watch," and which was part of a scheme to have me cyber-stalked and massively spammed."

At no time has any project of the Middle East Forum taken part in anything remotely resembling the actions described in these baseless assertions. I challenge Juan Cole to produce evidence that Campus Watch or the Middle East Forum have, at any time, been part of a "scheme" to have him or anyone else "cyber-stalked and massively spammed." Such charges are self-serving conspiracy-mongering with no basis in truth.

As for Cole's other charges: How is the Middle East Forum, an IRS-approved 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization, the "so-called Middle East Forum"? This is the organization's legal name. If this is an attempt at sarcasm, it's lame.

In labeling Campus Watch "McCarthyite," Cole resorts to the most hackneyed cliché in the left's repertoire. (In fact, he made the same charge against us just last month -- we corrected it here.) As we have written countless times, we critique professors of Middle East studies; we do not silence them. How could we? We do not possess, and do not seek, governmental powers to issue subpoenas or silence critics.

Cole's accusations against Campus Watch fit his pattern of responding to criticism by engaging in conspiracy-theory-mongering and ad hominem attacks. To explain his failure in 2006 to land a chair at Yale University, he blamed a "concerted press campaign by neoconservatives," who used Cole's frequently intemperate writings on his blog, Informed Comment, to paint him as a radical. Cole dredges up this episode again in his response to Goldberg when he attacks Michael Oren, a Middle East studies scholar who is now Israel's ambassador to the U.S., who, Cole says, "weighed in against my receiving an appointment" to Yale.

Yet as CW contributor David White documented in his article "Juan Cole and Yale," Yale's decision was "based on an assessment of Cole's scholarly work," which several senior scholars "deemed insufficient." As a Yale political scientist told White, "At the end of the day, it wasn't his blog; it was his scholarly work. And that's why he was denied the position."

We challenge Cole to prove his latest charges against Campus Watch. Surely the self-declared Ted Williams of his discipline can hit this ball out of the park.


Mr Ordinary is the perfect role model for boys and not celebrities who set a bad example, warn British teachers

Their humdrum lives may lack the glamour of a footballer or TV star. But teachers say ‘the ordinary working man’ should once again be held up as an example to young boys being led astray by today’s celebrity-obsessed culture.

They warned that traditional working-class virtues are being undermined by the trend to celebrate drunkenness and excessive spending. Rather than badly behaved footballers and reality TV stars, it is hard-working and responsible fathers who are the ‘real superstars’, according to a teaching union.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that a generation of white working-class boys was growing up believing life on an ordinary wage had little meaning or purpose.

Children are losing sight of old-fashioned values such as taking pride in a job, paying their own way and looking after a family. At its conference in Manchester, the union demanded a campaign to raise the profile of community role models and ‘the ordinary working man’.

The call comes after research showed that white workingclass boys do worse at school than any other group. Teacher Ian Bonner, of ATL’s Cheshire branch, said: ‘It’s almost as if you are a nobody if you don’t earn millions. ‘If anything, the lives of the well-paid footballers demonstrate that vast wages and poor examples generally go together.’

He said celebrities were often hailed as role models even if they had committed crimes such as possessing drugs or hitting photographers.

‘The ordinary honest working man can be a good role model and is an essential member of a society that needs to function well,’ he said. ‘Getting up, going to work, doing a good job, looking after your family, if you have one, not being a drunkard, living within your means, not running up debts you can’t pay, looking after your house or flat, are all part of the role that needs to be presented as important.’

ATL members backed his call for the union to ‘publicise the contribution made to society by men who support and care for their families in a positive and responsible manner’.

Mr Bonner said: ‘It is hard work bringing up children to be responsible and well-behaved, caring and considerate, generous and just good. ‘These are the real superstars in our society and without them this society would go belly-up within months.’

These unsung heroes are ‘far more essential to the life of our nation than those who get paid millions for kicking a ball around or who have found instant stardom on a talent show’, he said.

Suitable role models needed to be promoted for white working-class boys so they can see that ‘life can have as much, if not more, meaning and purpose without lots of expensive possessions’. ‘They will see that raising children to be good members of society is harder than jetting around the world and being in the papers,’ he said.

Mr Bonner told the conference working-class boys were ‘not motivated to learn because they see the education provided for them as irrelevant’. ‘They do not see it as relevant because they do not see people in society who came from their background making the news in a positive manner,’ he added.


Australian student doctors not learning anatomy

This is incredible. Anatomy is utterly basic

MEDICAL students at some universities are receiving minimal training in anatomy, undergoing as little as 56 hours in a five-year course - 10 times less than their counterparts at other institutions.

A comparison of anatomy tuition at 19 medical schools found enormous variations in teaching time, ranging from 85 up to 560 hours across some six-year courses, and as low as 56 hours among five-year degree programs - even though four-year courses managed to offer at least 75 hours.

The research - triggered by recent controversies over newly graduated doctors' shrinking anatomical knowledge - also found most staff who taught anatomy were not senior doctors, but instead non-clinical staff who included physiotherapists and even other medical students.

Further, more than half of Australia's medical schools did not set a minimum level of achievement for their students in anatomy and did not separately mark it. Several universities admitted this meant students could do "very poorly" in their anatomy studies, but could still progress and graduate if they did well in other disciplines.

The study's lead author, Steven Craig, a recent medical graduate, said he could recall fellow students not bothering to revise anatomy in the lead-up to barrier exams that would decide whether they continued in their course, knowing that poor knowledge of the topic would not jeopardise their place on the program.

"We believe consideration should be given to developing undergraduate learning goals or guidelines for anatomical teaching," the authors wrote in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery.

"A standardised national curriculum and perhaps even a standardised national examination to assess anatomical knowledge prior to graduation may be needed to ensure all graduates attain at least some minimum acceptable knowledge base in gross anatomy."

The findings mark the first attempt to gauge how much anatomy tuition Australia's medical schools are providing, after The Australian in 2006 reported growing concern among senior clinicians and academics that many medical schools had cut anatomy teaching to potentially unsafe levels to make way for other topics. Some experts have attacked the priority given to non-medical topics such as communication, ethics and cultural sensitivity.

The medical colleges for surgeons, anaesthetists and pathologists, which train specialist doctors and oversee standards, said the findings vindicated their longstanding concerns and called for all medical schools to properly assess students' knowledge of anatomy and other basic sciences.

John Quinn, executive director of surgical affairs for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said "a large variation" in anatomical knowledge was already apparent among recently graduated doctors.

Those with poor understanding of anatomy ordered more tests, including X-rays and CT scans that exposed patients to potentially harmful radiation, when these might not be necessary. "I think it would be reasonable to have a national minimum standard of teaching (anatomy)," Dr Quinn said.

Ross Roberts-Thomson, president of the Australian Medical Students Association, said no student should be able to graduate without being tested on essential topics such as anatomy.

But he rejected calls for a national curriculum or exam, and said students at medical schools that delivered less formal anatomy tuition might be learning in other contexts not captured by the figures. "If you are learning about heart attacks, you learn about the anatomy of the heart during that assessment," Mr Roberts-Thomson said.

Jim Angus, president of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, said he was concerned at the claim some students appeared to believe anatomy could be safely left out of exam revision. "Game-playing should not occur - I don't like the sound of that at all," Professor Angus said. However, he rejected the call for national standards.


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