Sunday, April 20, 2008

More from "One of the Most Wide-Ranging Intellectuals in America"

In 1993, Terry Teachout penned a brutal review of Houston Baker’s then-most recent book. “The argument of Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy,” noted Teachout, “can be summed up briefly: (1) Black studies is an indispensable part of American higher education. (2) Rap is a creative and authentic expression of the urban black experience and should thus be taken seriously by academics, particularly those working in the field of black studies. (3) Anyone who disagrees with (1) or (2) is a racist.”

Baker’s views on rap? “They are, controlling for polysyllables, mostly indistinguishable from those of the average thirteen-year-old, and are in any case asserted rather than demonstrated.” The book itself, according to Teachout, was “a veritable omnium gatherum of latter-day academic clichés”—characterized by rampant errors (Baker misspelled the names of S. I. Hayakawa, Carol Iannone, Catharine MacKinnon, and Salman Rushdie) and preening (Baker: “I recently (February 1990) had the experience of crossing the Atlantic by night, followed by a metropolitan ride from Heathrow Airport to North Westminster Community School in order to teach Shakespeare’s Henry V to a class of GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) students. … To make an exciting pedagogical story brief, we took off—as a group. I showed them how Henry V was a rapper—a cold dissing, def con man, tougher-than-leather and smoother-than-ice, an artisan of words. … eight or nine of the students surrounded me after class seeking, as they put it, ‘scholarships’ to go back with me to America— ‘now, Sir!’”)

Scott McLemee has reviewed Baker’s most recent publication, Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, which takes on a host of black intellectuals “through a mixture of critical analysis and personal insult — blended in portions of roughly one part to three, respectively.” That style wouldn’t surprise anyone who encountered Baker through the lacrosse case.

According to McLemee,

Baker assures readers that he, at least, is using the best tools available to the true black public intellectual. “I am,” Baker assures us, “a confident, certified, and practiced reader of textual argument, implicit textual values and implications, and the ever-varying significations of written words in their multiple contexts of reception.... I forgo ad hominem sensationalism, generalized condemnation, and scintillating innuendo where black neoconservatives and centrists are concerned. The following pages represent a rigorous, scholarly reading practice seasoned with wit.”

Baker, alas, seems to have been no more careful with facts in 2008 than he was in 1993. Writes McLemee,

Baker points out that in the 1940s, Irving Kristol, the founding father of that neoconservatism, abandoned the constricted world of left-wing politics “in search of a more expansive field of intellectual and associational commerce (one in which he would be ‘permitted’ to read Max Faber)....”

That parenthetical reference stopped me cold. I have a certain familiarity with the history of Kristol and his cohort, but somehow the role of Max Faber in their bildung had escaped my notice. Indeed, the name itself was totally unfamiliar. And having been informed that this book was “the product of “a rigorous, scholarly reading practice” — one “seasoned with wit,” mind you, and published by Columbia University Press — I felt quite embarrassed by this gap in my knowledge.

Off to the library, then, to unearth the works of Max Faber! But before I could get out the door, a little light bulb went off. Baker (who assures us that he is a capable judge of social-scientific discussions of African-American life) was actually referring to Max Weber.

It’s a good thing the author of this book is “a confident, certified, and practiced reader of textual argument, implicit textual values and implications, and the ever-varying significations of written words in their multiple contexts of reception.” Otherwise one would have to feel embarrassed for him, and for the press that published it. And not just for its copy editors, by any means.

So argued the man described by Vanderbilt University as “one of the most wide-ranging intellectuals in America.”

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Weber, Faber mere typos. What's the difference? Is baker a Communist?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Professor Johnson could explain that in spite of the obvious problems with Baker's work, known since at least 1993, he remains a well respected member of the academic community. Are there no standards?

I must admit I simply can not understand it. It's not as if there aren't minority scholors genuinely worthy of the respect wasted on Baker. He should be an embarassment. Historically it will be clear he was a fraud and a racist.

Anonymous said...

What does Baker think of Carl Marks?

Anonymous said...

Or what does he think about Carl's cousin Karl Marx

Anonymous said...

He hasn't read Marks yet; he's too busy working his way through Lennon.

Anonymous said...

And for the pleasure of instruction from such a "respected member of the intellectual community" the parents of Vandy students are shelling out $40,000+ a year? How can the admissions reps go out on their recruiting trips with a straight face?

Anonymous said...

4/20/08 8:51 PM:

You're being sarcastic. It's not likely Prof. Johnson can explain in printable terms. But evidence suggests yes, there are indeed standards. Unfortunately, the standard-setters are people like Houston Beaker. (Everyone now has license to spel names rong.)

-- No, not that Glenn

Anonymous said...

What a tool. He is NOT well respected outside of a TINY field in which vitriol replaces actual scholarship and pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes is considered racism.

Debrah said...

The "sun people" and "ice people".

I had almost forgotten this article that we discussed earlier inside Wonderland.

LOL!

I think the Diva must be a combo of sun and ice.

It's all so confusing.

Such a complex formulation.

No doubt, Houston Baker will do a subsequent "book" and delight and thrill us with his "wide-ranging" intellect.

Debrah said...

This letter in the H-S brings up a significant issue and one which the candidates for Prez need to acknowledge.

The multitude of carte blanc free programs that many politicians favor and implement are just as draining as any corporate entity that receives favor.

The only difference is that the free government-provided services are payed for directly by taxpayers.

This guy makes a very good point.....and I would extend this point to include the way in which health care is doled out.

Kristen Butler explored this issue once which revealed, quite accurately, that people who pay for their health care out-of-pocket pay much more for the same care than is charged for services for people with health insurance......which is astounding when you think about it.

I discussed this issue at length with an administrator at a local university hospital.

She said that insurance companies routinely pay a fraction back for the doctors' fees and the lab fees for their clients' services.

The doctors and the insurance companies have a very interesting relationship in which a payment scale is agreed upon.

But if you walk into a doctor's office and pay your bill on your own, you are charged an outrageous fee for the simplest service.......all the while they push a false scenario saying that you get a discount if you pay out-of-pocket.

The health care industry in this country is a sham.

From the doctors...to the insurance companies....to the administrators of hospitals....to the drug companies.

Each entity devises their projected bottom-line for the year and they will adjust anything in any way to meet their profitable financial goals.

If anyone should be getting a real discount it is the patient or "customer" who pays in full and walks out the door. There is no office work to do in such a case, no administrative filing of insurance claims, etc......

.......but what actually takes place?

They escalate the fees for such a person as a way of making up for those who get their care for free.

The waiting rooms are full of women with multiple children, non-citizens, and any bum off the street who can come in and get the same kind of care and not worry about the fee.

Along with "tax cuts for the rich", the candidates who are serious about such issues must address this problem.

There's a whole lot more affecting the pockets of ordinary middle-America than what is currently being discussed.


Riders should pay

Once again the leadership of our fine city is showing its ignorance of the way things really work. There is now discussion about providing free bus fare for our city buses. Nothing the city does is free -- it is paid by our tax dollars.

The proposal to offer free fares is an attempt to gain more federal dollars for the DATA system. But federal dollars are still our tax money. The problem is, citizens won't feel the increase that our little increase would cause. We will feel, however, as all the other cities in the country move toward this plan.

The riders of our city buses should be paying their own way. I am very upset to learn that the current fares only pay for approximately 20 percent of the cost. The riders should be paying 100 percent.

My truck, insurance, maintenance and gas are not spread out over the community, nor would the cost of me driving two miles to the nearest bus stop, parking my truck, adjusting my schedule, and walking a mile on the other end of my ride to get to my job by seven in the morning be paid.

The bus is a convenient service. It allows those who choose to use it, and those who are able to, a cheap way out. How about bumping their cost up to create more equality in our world? This is just another symptom of the cancer of socialist thinking that destroys a democracy.

TOD PUCKETT
Durham
April 21, 2008

Anonymous said...

Reading the work product of the current crop of "intellectuals" leads me to think Vanderbuilt is right, this guy is the cream of the crop.

Debrah said...

To illustrate just how well-organized Barack Obama's campaign is.....last night I got another phone call as a follow-up to the previous message from Obama.

A campaign worker from Chicago who is traveling to the various states during the primaries called to "chat" and make sure I was going to be ready to vote in May.

I assured him that I was definitely going to vote and that I planned to support Obama.

I then outlined all the issues with which I disagreed with Obama and the guy was so intrigued that I had voted for GWB previously.

I made clear that I was pro-Israel to the death and how significant our support of Israel was for the future of the Middle East.

He said that Obama wasn't the hardliner with regard to Iraq and other issues as perhaps he has been perceived during the primaries.

I also told him that Michelle Obama should lighten up. LOL!!

And he agreed.

Although Obama is definitely liberal, I don't think he's quite the radical that most of his far-left-Gang-of-88-esque supporters might imagine.

But what the heck. He'll have their vote.

Again, his campaign is being run so well and obviously very well-equipped to pay workers to provide such a hands-on approach as the calls I have been receiving.

W. R. Chambers said...

The criticism of Prof. Baker's work shows that the intellectual community is engaged in a process that will, eventually, provide public access to facts and arguments which will enable a wider auidence to reach its own judgments about the ideas and claims Prof. Baker puts forth.

The marketplace of ideas - perhaps unlike the financial marketplace - seems to be working, at least in this instance.

Debrah said...

Attorneys for lacrosse players have filed an amended complaint.

It takes a while to load.

martin said...

Like many other "professors of literature," Baker attempts to use words and language simultaneously to showcase his adolescent cleverness and pleasure himself. He is as pathetic as he is harmless, evidenced by his brain dead attempts at writing.

Anonymous said...

Too bad students who really want to learn about black history, have to put up with all the rage, anger, bias, racism etc or not take the courses. Nevermind the cost etc.

Re: health care (not that this is what the blog is about) is a very complex issue, which Hillary messed up in the 90's and then dropped it, I have no confidence that she will do any better this time around. I have looked at Obama's summary (put out by the AAFP) and he doesn't seem to get it either (and I would like to be able to vote for him.)
Briefly, insurance companies do pay MD's less than fee for service.
The problem is often the MD's have no choice and they are having a hard time (primary care) surviving. Individual MD's have no "negotiating power" with insurance companies, so they pretty much have little choice. Pt's have no loyalty either, if you are not on their plan, most go elsewhere, and since plans change, so do pts.
I have dealt with healthcare for over 20 years and it is a mess and a crisis, which most people don't understand. Along with education, I think they are the 2 biggest problems we have right now, but, until enough people say enough! it won't change or be fixed either.

Anonymous said...

Is Max Faber the founder of Faber College?

Anonymous said...

8:51

Yes, there are standards. Do you know why Kellogg's Frosted Flakes are great, but Coccoa Puffs are crazy? Ask Baker. He be knowing what da standards are . . . it isn't so much that he is a racist as he is a con-man big time. Fraud, that he is, he knows what he is doing . . . he is a bully plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

I would agree that problems in education are a huge concern. It begins at the elementary level where the "Lake Woebegon" belief is alive and well - if a student is not getting an "A" it is the result of poor teaching rather than little Johnny or Jane failing to do what is required. Fast forward to the jr and senior high level where more often than not there is little control in the classroom - a result of administration failure to uphold a standard of discipline, teachers who either do not know their subject matter (a result of being "taught" by the likes of professors like Baker); are unable to command the respect of their students; or who are just plain burnt out by the increasing paper work, parental interference, and students who want to be entertain rather than to be engaged.
It is amazing that Baker has been allowed to get away with the howlers that he has - along with the atrocious grammar and spelling. What is even more remarkable is that schools with such a vaunted reputation as Vanderbilt hire and promote him as such an intellectual.

Anonymous said...

"Is Max Faber the founder of Faber College?"

Yes. Remember how the inscription on his statue reads:

"Nolij iz gud"

Debrah said...

Why don't the media go after this story ?

I haven't seen 24/7 cable coverage of these facts.

Debrah said...

Check this out.

Like Karla Holloway, Houston Baker's entire identity is wrapped up inside the subject of race, race, race.....

Reading the things they write and the things they say, I can only conclude that they suffer from a kind of mental illness.

Debrah said...

OMG!

This was written just today.

Obviously, not everyone at Vanderbilt is happy about Houston Baker being there.

Debrah said...

Correction:

The date on the previous item that I linked was actually 4/3/08.

I was looking at the current date at the top of the page and assumed it was today before seeing the fine print.

In any case, it's a very good post.

Debrah said...

Another Baker blast from the past.

More puffery and fluff.

What kind of work does it take to show up and spout a few ridiculous clichés?

"tools of the trade".....indeed!

Debrah said...

A 2005 Baker delight.

Anonymous said...

Somebody should send Baker the link to Max Faber on IMDB.......

8JAN

Anonymous said...

How appropriate that a post about Baker has spawned the funniest comment thread in a while.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about spending 40k per year at Vanderbilt? Is it worth it to jump thru hoops to go there?

Not that it matters, but the school has done almost a 180 in what type of kid they want. The same is true at Northwestern and most of the elite big name schools that all parents want their kids to attend without investigating what type of lunatics run the asylum.
At our suburban high school we used to get many kids admitted. In the last few years, despite numerous athletics, extra curriculars and high gpa and great test scores no one has been admitted. We have become the boring high achiever who doesn't add much to the social engineering going on at the big schools.

Debrah said...

Someone needs to ask her why her mother--the big Hillary who supposedly is able to handle everything--did not speak out about the atrocious civil rights violations of the lacrosse players......some of whom were her constituents.

Someone ask that question.



The Herald-Sun

Apr 22, 2008

Chelsea Clinton to visit Duke

DURHAM -- Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton, will visit Duke University today.

From 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Chelsea Clinton will receive a private tour of the Center for Integrative Medicine on the Duke Center for Living campus off Erwin Road.

From 12:30-1:30 p.m., she will speak and interact informally with Duke students at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy in a visit sponsored by Duke Democrats.

This event is open to the public, and Clinton will answer questions from the audience after speaking.

Debrah said...

Chelsea must be answering "questions from the audience" right about now given the projected time of her "talk".

Debrah said...

Kristin Butler's farewell.

Good job, Kristin!

Anonymous said...

I case you just passed over the link on the first line- "brutal review"- read the entire review. I think it took a lot of guts to write what Terry Teachout wrote !!!

and in 1993 !!! such foresite.

bill anderson said...

I believe that Vanderbilt would have been better served declaring that Houston Baker is one of the most wide-ranging frauds in America. At least it would have been true.

Anonymous said...

Is Baker obsessed with co-eds?

Gary Packwood said...

Anonymous 4/22/08::8:30 AM said...

...Thinking about spending 40k per year at Vanderbilt? Is it worth it to jump thru hoops to go there?
....Not that it matters, but the school has done almost a 180 in what type of kid they want. The same is true at Northwestern and most of the elite big name schools that all parents want their kids to attend without investigating what type of lunatics run the asylum.
At our suburban high school we used to get many kids admitted. In the last few years, despite numerous athletics, extra curriculars and high gpa and great test scores no one has been admitted. We have become the boring high achiever who doesn't add much to the social engineering going on at the big schools.
::
Most disturbing.

I suggest that your parent group notify your elected officials of this fact and ask how these schools continue to be tax exempt? And that includes the endowment fund and annual return on investment of the endowment ...which are also tax exempt.

My best to the high achiever kids at your school. Never give up!
::
GP

Anonymous said...

If Houston Baker is an "African-American scholar", then that term is an oxymoron.

As I was writing that, I recall some years ago reading that (paraphrasing) "there is only one black person in America who is regularly called 'an intellectual' without any reference to his race". I don't think I even need to identify him. Of course the "African-American scholars" hate him.

RRH