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Ron Radosh

Academic Malpractice: The Case of Grover Furr

November 13th, 2012 - 4:47 pm

Hook made the following argument:

The question of freedom and control in the schools is not political. It does not involve civil rights but the ethics of professional conduct. Heresy in the schools, whether in science, economics, or politics, must be protected against any agency which seeks to impose orthodoxy. For the scholar there are no subversive doctrines but only those that are valid or invalid or not proved in the light of evidence. The primary commitment of the teacher is to the ethics and logic of inquiry. It is not his beliefs, right or wrong, it is not his heresies, which disqualify the Communist party teacher but his declaration of intention, as evidenced by official statements of his party, to practice educational fraud.

The common sense of the matter is clear and independent of the issue of communism. An individual joins an organization which explicitly instructs him that his duty is to sabotage the purposes of the institution in which he works and which provides him with his livelihood. Is it necessary to apprehend him in the act of carrying out these instructions in order to forestall the sabotage? Does not his voluntary and continuous act of membership in such an organization constitute prima facie evidence of unfitness?

I do not know what organization, if any, Professor Furr belongs to. But to put Hook’s argument in today’s context, his analysis stands up in regard to Grover Furr. Professor Furr is not a heretic, but a man who argues on behalf of falsehood while pretending to be involved in actual academic inquiry, not politics. He pretends to be using regular methods of academic inquiry, when in fact he is violating every tenet of actual academic standards. He is, in Hook’s words, a practitioner of “educational fraud.”

Montclair State University is not regarded by anyone as one of our nation’s preeminent academic institutions. Most people have never even heard of it. But that such a man can use the pulpit and his position in this college to teach students and present such drivel says a great deal about the sad state of the academy. If I lived in Montclair, New Jersey, I would be horrified to find that a faculty member at their local college is getting such attention for the teaching of historical lies in defense of Stalinist terror to his students.

Academic freedom was not meant to protect the right of charlatans to teach, even at a small and rather little-known institution of higher education. Isn’t it time for residents of New Jersey, whose taxes support this institution, to carry out an investigation of whether Professor Furr uses the classroom to make the kind of arguments he presents in his website and in the new video?  According to student evaluations, it certainly seems that he might be guilty of just such practices.

If he is, Professor Furr should be fired for academic malpractice, and his tenure should not be used protect his employment.

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