Critical Thinking, Hoaxes, and Constructivism

PUBLISHED: Oct 16, 2018

In This Episode.

Dave and Steve tackle the controversial “Sokel Squared” hoax by academics who got fabricated articles published in academic journals. Join us for spirited commentary on what this hoax accomplishes, why it is dangerous, and how it possibly emerges from an erroneous conception of constructivism.

Episode Archive

Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast, we bring you research driven solutions to critical thinking education. Why? Because as Bertrand Russell said, most people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do so. And now your hosts Steve Pearlman and Dave Carillo.

Steve Pearlman: Hey, welcome back to the Critical Thinking Initiative podcast. This is Steve.

Dave Carillo: And Dave.

Steve Pearlman: And today we’re going to talk to you about one of the hot topics that’s come up recently. If you’ve seen The Atlantic article that’s titled What an Audacious Hoax Reveals about Academia by Joshua Monk, is that how you’d say that Joshua Monk, Dave

Dave Carillo: And Mo Unk Joshua Monk or Monk Monk? Maybe.

Steve Pearlman: Anyway, we want to talk about that article, and it’s going to go into how some academics did perpetuate a hoax publishing articles that were false and got them through the peer review process. And there’s been a lot of attention to this now. The Wall Street Journal has covered it and some other places as well. And so it’s kind of a hot topic around academia and stirring up a lot of the anti-intellectual tide that’s out there as well and condemnation of academia as being erudite and really just patently ridiculous and some of the things that it is willing to study in the way it’s willing to study it. But before we get there or actually sort of in the process, we also want to refer to an article that we saw years ago that we had on the docket to eventually bring into the podcast. And that’s an article by Peter Bogosian, who is one of the hoaxers. And the article is titled Critical Thinking and Constructivism Mumbo Dogfish to the Banana Patch, and that’s a reference to Steve Martin’s joke about playing with language with little kids and making them say nonsense things. And I want to say right off the bat to Peter, if you happen to hear the podcast that anyone who is willing to quote or can get a quote of Steve Martin in an academic journal is a friend of mine, sir. But we were eventually going to get to Peter’s article about Constructivism anyway, and it seemed like this was a ripe time to do it, given the article in The Atlantic about the hoax that was perpetrated.

Steve Pearlman: So we’re actually going to start this with Peter’s article critical thinking and Constructivism, where Peter makes a critique of Constructivism on the basis that ultimately one is not able to have critical thinking in a constructivist environment. And let me lay out what his critique is here. He writes in his introduction. The purpose of this paper is to argue that constructivism and critical thinking are at odds with each other with regard to critical thinking. A strict constructivist pedagogy cannot achieve its critical thinking ambitions. I will argue that beyond not providing an environment that nurtures critical inquiry, Constructivism and Constructivist epistemological presuppositions can actively thwart the critical thinking process. So on what basis does he make this? What he does is he goes ahead and he looks at a definition of critical thinking from the American Philosophical Association back in 1990. And the crux of this definition comes down to the notion that, as he says, the ability to correct one’s judgments, propositions, methods of analysis, reasoning, process, etc. is a vital element in the critical thinking process. And he’s referring to one aspect of the American Philosophical Association’s conception of critical thinking that requires this ability for self regulation and self correction. Now, I don’t know that I would fully embrace the American Philosophical Association’s conception of critical thinking or not, but it’s a reasonable definition of critical thinking, to be sure. And I think we agree, Dave, that this capacity for self regulation and self correction is a facet or an arguable facet of critical thinking. Would you

Dave Carillo: Write? We’ve discussed in the past the fact that you’re not going to be able to develop any sort of meaningful or effective pedagogy around critical thinking without that kind of self-correcting element to it? I mean, if anything, you know, when we’ve designed our target critical thinking framework and the critical thinking ecosystem that fleshes that framework out, that kind of metacognitive framework is a significant part of the kind of work we get students to do. So, yeah, that self-correcting element is definitely important to critical thinking.

Steve Pearlman: So because Ian takes this notion of this need to have something that’s self-correcting and pits it against this conception of Constructivism, where he says an epistemology of Constructivism rejects the traditional or classical view of knowledge as justified true belief. And he writes that for the epistemological constructivist, knowledge and beliefs are not about some external reality, but about one’s private, experiential world and its episodes. Knowledge does not exist independent of the meaning that one attributes to one’s experiences. Now that’s where for us, this article starts to break down right away because we agree that this notion of self regulation is arguably critical to critical thinking, but I’m not sure that this conception of Constructivism is a fair conception of Constructivism. It is possible that there are extreme persons in Constructivism who think that there is no external reality, and that knowledge does not exist independent of the meaning that one attributes to one experiences. So let me give you an example of what he talks about. I’ll give you an example here that I think maybe rings true for a lot of people and or have experienced something to this effect. He’s pulling this from Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning, and the example he gives is this and he I’m quoting him here in the article, which is quoting that text.

Steve Pearlman: A middle school language arts teacher sets aside time each week for a writing lab. The emphasis is on content and getting ideas down rather than memorizing grammatical rules. Though one of the teacher’s concerns is the ability of his students to express themselves well through written language. The teacher provides opportunities for students to examine the finished and earlier drafts of various authors who allow students to select and create projects within the general requirement of building a portfolio. Students serve as peer editors who value originality and uniqueness rather than the best way to fulfill an assignment. And his critique of that is essentially that there is no critical thinking going on in any of that. Now that’s an example that he uses. Is that a fair conception of what’s happening there? Well, there’s an arguable truth there that it is possible there is no critical thinking going on there. And in fact, we would argue that without an assessment, we’re not going to claim that there is right and that assessment would drive that. So we certainly can’t say that there is critical thinking going on there. But to conclude that students who are evaluating what might be originality, what might be unique and what might be worthwhile about that necessarily aren’t putting forward any critical thinking also is potentially problematic.

Dave Carillo: Steve, you’re right. If we’re going to go by what we have in this text, we can’t necessarily say that students aren’t doing any critical thinking. And I’ll be honest, I would argue to some extent that Bogosian is right that from this particular example, you’re not likely to see too much critical thinking. There are a lot of assumptions that he’s making, as well as this assignment, especially in terms of valuing originality and uniqueness, among other things. And I guess this one moment where I’m going to backtrack a little bit because this article has been on our docket for like two years now. I mean, we ran into this a while back and before that and then since then, I don’t think that we’ve really ever come out as some sort of champions of Constructivism. And I don’t think it’s really what we’re trying to do here is to defend Constructivism against the because that’s not at all. But it did strike us as interesting for a lot of different reasons that we felt that we needed to discuss it. And then this happy accident because you and showing up again just recently clinched it for us.

Steve Pearlman: We’re certainly not advocating for Constructivism per say yes, but I also think that we’re not necessarily against it, and I would consider myself in certain respects a constructive business, not the point of this particular podcast. So we hear that middle school example and students are sort of making their own determinations about these essays. And he writes later on. He said critical thinking cannot arise when subjectivity or an individual learner’s personal experiences are privileged over an objectively knowable world and public rules of language use. This argument is similar to Wittgenstein’s reasoning for why there could be no private language that is a language invented by and known only to the speaker. And that’s fair. I agree with that premise. We cannot say that critical thinking is happening when personal experience are privileged over an objectively knowable world in public rules of language use. Correct? Absolutely right. But I’m not sure that’s what’s happening in that middle school example. What I see in that middle school example are students trying to make some determination about originality and uniqueness about a text. I don’t think there’s necessarily a commentary there that grammar is irrelevant. In fact, it says that the educator is in fact concerned about grammatical rules in a certain respect, and they’re just also engaged in this exercise where they’re examining something different. But let me jump in then with where this becomes problematic. The conception of constructivism that’s being put forward here, which is that personal experience or privileged over a knowable world is not really what Constructivism is, and that’s where I feel as though this significantly breaks down. Constructivism is the notion, as I understand it, at least, that there is some kind of reality out there.

Steve Pearlman: But any knowing of the world is a construct such that we are always viewing the world through some kind of epistemological lens. And he talks about the importance of having referring something to. Which we can refer to on which to base our judgments and where those reference are not available. We have socially correctable uses of language so that if I point to a chair in my office and I call it a cat, somebody would point out to me that cat is not the proper term for the thing that I’m pointing to in my office and the thing that I’m pointing to being the referring. That’s certainly true, but we are knowing that chair through a certain epistemological means, that being site, that being language use, and those are both epistemology through which we are trying to identify that thing that does exist, that we all agree that that thing that does exist. But what we call it and how we call it now becomes a matter of question and debate and epistemology. So let me give you a harder example. Let’s say we take the planet Pluto. And we might say, for example, that we have to be able to identify that Pluto is real, that there is something real that’s out there that is this mass that is we’re calling Pluto. Well, that’s fair enough, because we can see it, we can observe it. We know that it’s there. For a while, people would have argued that Pluto is in fact a planet, and then new epistemology emerged. New scientific method, or at least new scientific technology emerged such that we then became to question whether or not Pluto is in fact a planet and the general consensus and the decision for a while there was that it’s not now.

Steve Pearlman: Actually, I just read an article that they are coming back around to thinking maybe Pluto is a planet. The point being that Constructivism isn’t saying that. There’s no thing there that we are identifying it. Constructivism is saying that we can only know that thing through certain epistemological means, and those means should be subject to interrogation. That we should recognize. What those means are that when we are valuing things like grammar, we are valuing it because grammar exists in a construct where it is being valued by society for certain reasons. Those reasons might be that notion that he points to of a public language so that we are able to arrive at different conclusions and challenge each other suppositions based on our language use without certain grammatical structures in place that might become more difficult or impossible to achieve. But it’s looking at that construct. That’s the nature of Constructivism. It’s not just saying grammar is right or grammar is important, it’s saying there’s a construct around what’s making us consider it to be the such. So since I think he’s missed conceiving constructivism in a certain respect here, and I think giving it an unfair conceptualization, maybe only pointing to the most extreme views of Constructivism where everybody’s truth is equal, which is really held by I really know anybody who really holds that belief, then I think that ultimately his point starts to fail in terms of the criticism he’s making of Constructivism. Dave, I think you have a different way of pointing out where you think that this was problematic.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, you’re pointing to these moments where he is relying on a definition or thinking about Constructivism, that these definitions and concepts sort of exist on the edges of philosophical framework of constructivism. But you know, earlier than where you were quoting him, he’s talking about pedagogical constructivism. And he says, quote, well, these manifests themselves in different ways. They can generally be seen as outgrowth of epistemological constructivism with a fundamental tenet being that the learners construct their own knowledge and meaning. And that’s what I’m keying in on here. And he goes on to say the objective of the pedagogical constructivist is thus not to teach students how to understand the true or objective nature of reality, or to make accurate knowledge claims about the world, or to develop and refine a learners ability to make and articulate, increasingly reliable justifications. And this is where I start to have questions at that moment. In his article, he’s saying like this fundamental tenet being that learners construct their own knowledge and meaning, and that there’s no sort of attempt to understand the true or objective nature of reality. And even if there is not as much critical thinking as we need or want, or if it’s not necessarily being done well, and Freire talks about this, when you’re being lectured at, you’re essentially separate from that information.

Dave Carillo: There’s no engagement there, and there’s no means to construct meaning about that information, and there’s no way to understand how you’re building meaning and so on and so forth. And so he’s using these very sort of narrow definitions that in a lot of other ways, speak to these overarching moves that educators are trying their best to work into their curriculum, such that students are engaged with the material in the class rather than just being lectured to and rather than just being told to memorize a bunch of stuff and you’ll be tested on that for no, for really no reason whatsoever other than this grade that you’re going to get on that test. And that’s kind of where it falls apart for me. You know, in saying that students are being taught not to say there’s a table there because it serves their means better. Educators are now trying to make sure that students understand that either they’re going. To be in a position to actively engage with the material that are being given, whether it’s in school or out of school, or they’re just going to be taught to passively accept it. And that’s the big critique for me here.

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Steve Pearlman: I totally agree, and I would add that Constructivism isn’t arguing that there is no table. As you’re saying, it’s arguing that you can recognize the table. You can try to also make that learning meaningful for the students that they can internalize it. And that would involve, as he says, a way for them to articulate increasingly reliable justifications. How does that happen? By knowing the construct and the epistemology through which we are understanding that table? It doesn’t mean it’s not there. It means that we can look at things through different lenses, those different lenses or different constructs, and that helps us to understand it in different ways. It doesn’t mean there’s no referring.

Dave Carillo: Yeah, OK, so I’m going to jump in with just two more things. I found it somewhat ironic that part of how he’s defining or actually the way he’s defining critical thinking is through the American Philosophical Association’s quote, extensive and comprehensive study of critical thinking. And he goes on to talk about how they wanted to define critical thinking. And to do that, the APA chose a panel of experts consisting of forty six men and women in the United States and Canada. They represent in many different scholarly disciplines in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, education unquote, and the way they actually came to the conclusion of how to define critical thinking. It strikes me as fairly constructive in its nature, and it’s called the Delphi technique, which I found interesting. I’d never heard of that, but I’m assuming it refers to the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle Delphi would listen to the goddess. Who is it? Athena, not Athena. The other one, maybe goddess of wisdom, maybe speak of the gods and Oracle would go into these sort of trance and speak in tongues and insane types of things.

Dave Carillo: And what you would get is the oracles interpretation of what the gods were saying. And later, I think some scholars came to the conclusion that part of the reason why they were so good at interpreting these is because one or more of these temples were built on volcanic hotspots. And so these poor oracles were like hailing a lot of like methane and other gases and just they were actually sort of hallucinating because they were just continually poisoning their minds with gods. But at any rate, this Delphi technique basically means that. And he goes he goes on to describe it. A central investigator organizes the group and feeds them an initial question. The central investigator receives all responses, summarizes them and transmits them back to all the panelists for reactions, replies and additional questions. The central investigator summarizes the arguments and lets the panelists decide if they accept them or not when consensus appears to be at hand. The central investigator proposes this and asks if people agree. If not, then points of disagreement among the experts are registered. That’s constructive. So he’s.

Steve Pearlman: He’s criticizing Constructivism with a definition built out of Constructivism,

Dave Carillo: Which is named after literally a process where one human would into a bunch of guys and interpret. Yes, right? That’s one of the things that really kind of gets me. So he’s not only using a definition that seems to have been built in within a constructivist way, but it’s also this sort of like interesting element that like, I guess he’s assuming that because it was experts, they’re able to be constructivist and they’re able to interpret and

Steve Pearlman: Interpret if they’re experts. It’s an actual, authentic definition as opposed to a constructivist.

Dave Carillo: Well, it speaks to that.

Steve Pearlman: They’re talking about the actual reality.

Dave Carillo: Right? Well, exactly. Then again, the other point that I want to make really quickly is I value the fact that he gave us concrete examples of what he he sort of seen in these classes. But there’s some really bad examples, and it seems like he’s only really going to one or two of these classes. So he uses example towards the end about how a math teacher asks her students in an introductory math course to journal about their fears about math. And then they get together and they talk about those fears and how to apply math and those kinds of things. And he leaves the class being like, This is not how critical thinking happens. And this is an example of constructivist pedagogy at its worst. And yes, in that one class, I would say maybe, right? Because who knows, if it’s an introductory math class, maybe just to. Get over your fears so you can start doing math is worthwhile, and who knows whether they’ll be doing the kind of critical thinking that Bogosian wants them to do later on in the semester. But it’s not that he’s entirely wrong because he’s definitely seeing gaps in the kind of classes that he uses, but there’s a lot more gray going on here.

Steve Pearlman: I agree completely, and I agree with his premise that critical thinking must have this sort of self regulatory or absolutely regulatory mechanism, and I agree that there could be examples within Constructivism that would disregard that. I’m sure there are, and certainly I also agree that some of the examples he gives are in fact potentially problematic with respect to critical thinking. I just don’t accept the premise of Constructivism or the extremity of the examples as being representative of

Dave Carillo: Construction, right? You can see that some of these constructivist premises are actually overwhelmingly vital to the kind of critical thinking education that we’ve been calling for for years. That is absolutely necessary at this point.

Steve Pearlman: So let’s take this and bring it back to the

Dave Carillo: Yes to the article at hand

Steve Pearlman: And this hot discussion about these hoaxes. And so he ends his article by saying epistemological relativism, which rests at the heart of some of the more extreme versions of Constructivism, is a toxin to cultivating critical thinking as a practical idea. And we agree that if we take these most extreme examples, it very well might be. The problem is that I think that in some of the hoaxes that he and his colleagues perpetrated on the journals, he’s guilty of only using those more extreme methods now. I think Dave and I both agree that we want to step back here for a second and say, first of all, although we share some of the concerns expressed by some of the people who have reported on this about the importance of having integrity with respect to how we approach journal articles, we also, I think, really side with Bogosian and his colleagues in the sense that academia needs to be tested and these journals should be tested. And if they cannot hold the line with integrity, that’s a problem. It doesn’t invalidate them entirely. It doesn’t mean nothing worthwhile is being published. But those are flaws that should be exposed in some fashion, at least. And we shouldn’t be above being tested by these means because they matter. And we want to be able to demonstrate that those who are doing peer review are not infallible, but at least effective gatekeepers in a lot of respects.

Dave Carillo: Ok, so just to give you a really quick synopsis of this article, and I’m looking at the one in the Atlantic. Bogosian and his colleagues, James Lindsay and Helen Polocrosse, aimed to repeat an experiment that occurred in the late 1990s in which Alan Sokol, a professor of physics at NYU, wrote essentially a bogus article and used as much fashionable jargon as possible to make the argument that certain theoretical frameworks I think he uses feminist and post structuralist among them have have allowed for various and valid critiques of Western science. So Sokol was essentially using as many big words as possible to write an article, a hoax article that use all sorts of other theoretical frameworks to say that physics is wrong or debunk physics. And he got that paper published in a very famous journal of the time called Social Text that had been publishing work by a lot of very famous scholars at the time, and that became known as a so-called hoax. And our three authors, Lindsay Pluck, Rose and Bogosian, wanted to see if that still held up today. And so their experiments called Sokol squared, and they wrote many. They were 20 articles and sent them to a variety of journals, and their findings essentially were that there are still plenty of journals out there that, like in circles time, were willing to accept any old claims and conclusions if the academic jargon and formality and framework rules were used in the process of saying

Steve Pearlman: That, I think that’s a good synopsis of it. And let me give you an example of one of the ones they did, which was and I’m quoting from the Atlantic here. One of their papers reads like a straightforward riff on the Sokol hoax, dismissing quote Western astronomy end quote as sexist and imperialist. It makes a case for physics departments to study feminist astrology or practice interpretive dance instead. All right, so let’s take that one as an example of something that may be on its face. More preposterous, right? Because astrology is not a substitute for astronomy, right? And so any discussion of merging those two things to just really be dismissed out of hand. I’m not an astronomer, but I’m going to guess most astronomers. We’re not consider themselves to be astrologers, but they’re not all exactly the same. And some of these things are offering what are important questions in terms of their premise potentially, but are developed in ways they use a lot of jargon. So, for example, one of the articles they published was rubbing one out, defining meta sexual violence of objectification through non-consensual masturbation. I’m quoting The Atlantic. The fictitious author argues that men who masturbate while thinking about a woman without her consent are perpetrators of sexual violence. And quote from the study reads by drawing upon empirical studies of psychological harms of objectification, especially through depersonalization and exploring several veins of theoretical literature on non-physical forms of sexual violence, this article seeks to situate non-consensual male order erotic fantasizing about women as a form of meta sexual violence that De personalizes her.

Steve Pearlman: Injures her on an effective level, contributes to consequent harms of objectification and rape culture, and can appropriate her identity for the purpose of male sexual gratification. Now here’s the problem at a fundamental level, asking the question of whether or not how men fantasize about women and potentially objectify them in that process contributes in some way to how they treat women, contributes to or perpetuates a rape culture is a legitimate question to ask. Certainly, they stretch it to injures her being on an effective level, as if there’s some immediate injury to the woman who is being fantasized about it. She doesn’t have any knowledge of it stretches that out, and all the jargon certainly is problematic here. So perhaps this is an article that certainly shouldn’t have been published, and I haven’t read the whole article. So it’s very possible that the entire article is just a bunch of jargon that makes no sense. But I want to be careful about any assertion here that certain things shouldn’t be studied because we don’t know what it would yield or we don’t know what happens as a result, because we don’t know sometimes the value of studying something until after the study is done, or most of the time, sometimes it yields no particularly valuable information or the null hypothesis is confirmed, and nothing particularly interesting happens as a result of that study.

Steve Pearlman: It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been examined. Let me give you another example here where they look at the article is titled Human Reaction to Rape Culture and Queer Performative at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon, and they published this article about rape at dog parks among dogs. By the way, we want to be clear to specify here and look, the authors are completely right that they were never asked for any data on this. So there was no knowledge that this was really done. But does that mean that any study of rape among dogs isn’t potentially going to yield something important? Now, maybe we could argue there are better applications of our resources at this time, and that very well might be true. Maybe that’s not the thing we most need to study right now, or that’s not where study funding dollars should go. Should this have been a funded study and what have you? We always have to have those debates, but I’m very uncomfortable with the premise that because in particular idea seems a little absurd on its face means it by necessity shouldn’t be studied at the same time. Don’t want to defend every study that’s ever been done.

Dave Carillo: I mean, maybe that’s the one sort of baseline that we can we can agree on, is it? Yes, a lot of these articles sound ridiculous, and they wrote 20 of them. And so the degree to the ridiculous, the ridiculousness is not necessarily known. The ones that the Atlantic are using are obviously just absurd. But I’m looking at one of these examples, and I guess I just have a lot of questions for them, right? Like why now? Why these journals? What were they trying to show? To what extent were are they going to do anything with the results?

Steve Pearlman: And I agree with you and I think and just to make the connection for our listeners because I know, you know where I’m going with it, but I think that’s where we see is philosophy that this extreme epistemological relativism breaks down. And these articles, I’m speculating, I’m supposing are articulations of that theory of his that he can put a bunch of stuff here where there is no referring, where people aren’t concerned at all about any kind of knowable reality, and they’re just valuing the individual personal feelings about the world rather than the objectively knowable. And these articles are a case in point, and that’s why these articles are successful because of people who are not really valuing critical thinking. This is a connection. Theorizing is being made, at least on some level.

Dave Carillo: No, I know, and it sounds about right, but I would love a little more context as to exactly why we’re doing circle squared or why at this point. But you know, again, I just wonder why they’re doing this, because if it is just to say, Hey, Constructivism is scholarship in bad faith, then fine, but you chose a really terrible time, then what we’ve proven is that there are crappy journals out there the same way they’re crappy ice cream flavors and crappy everything else. And I get the need for a much more rigorous peer review process from the Journal of Dog Park studies up through college, English and anything like that. But you know, my questions remain like, What are they going for here and why now? And what do they plan on doing with this? And case in point, the author of The Atlantic article kind of goes into a little bit about the debate that is now going on and one that you would expect to go on. The quote, right, have grabbed onto this as a way to show that scholarship is bogus, the article says.

Dave Carillo: Like just about everything else in this depressing national moment, SoCal Squared is already being used as ammunition in the Great American Culture War. Many conservatives who are deeply hostile to the science of climate change and who dismissed out of hand. Studies that attest to deep injustice in our society are using so-called square to smear all academics as biased culture warriors, federalist a right wing news and commentary. So it went so far as to spread the apparent ideological ideological bias of a few journals in one particular corner of academia to most professors, the mainstream media and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. So obviously right, the right is all jumping on this really poorly timed. If all we’re here to say is yes, on the bottom of the barrel, there’s some lousy journals out there, and I really wish we had some better sense of what they were trying to argue or accomplish with this, even as now they’re clearly gained a lot of notoriety and brought to the attention something that is clearly needed throughout scholarship, which is stronger. Peer review process all around, right?

Steve Pearlman: Sure. So I don’t know which academics would say we don’t want strong peer review process. I don’t know which academics would say there aren’t flaws in the peer review process. Of course, it’s flawed for people. It’s flawed with scientific studies. It’s flawed with everything. It’s flawed. And that doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not valuable. It doesn’t mean it’s not good. And we also have a case here where those particular academics who are able to manufacture the jargon, who are able to target specific journals, who are able to fabricate an article that could be appealing to the readers of that journal or work with at least work within the context of that journal are able to game that system much in the same way. Dave, that I could lie to you successfully, I’m sure under certain circumstances or get you to believe certain things because I know you know me. Yeah, you’re naturally gullible, of course. But the idea being that, yeah, if you’re an insider and you’re specifically targeting certain ideas, of course, there will be cases where you’re able to cheat. And if that’s the point here, that’s one thing. But as you’re saying, using this as an example, that all of academia is horribly flawed in its approach to peer review and what it publishes is all this relativistic garbage junk is so problematic, it’s using these isolated examples as a way to make generalizations about the larger construct.

Dave Carillo: And that’s dangerous. It’s majorly dangerous. I mean, we’re already seeing like the Atlantic article said, All right. So now people are using this in part to discount climate science because climate science is academics and academic journals are clearly just publishing anything because this experiment showed that academic journals are clearly publishing anything, and the kind of assumptions that those particular individuals are making are like garbage assumptions that we would call like any one of our students on. If this now somehow gets appropriated into the argument that climate change is not happening, that it’s just this sort of liberal academic construct, then this is just really poorly timed in a way and point. Are we trying to make here? And that’s my argument here. Like if we’re trying to make this very academic point that certain times of constructivist discussions are not necessarily as valid or as valuable or as substantive or

Steve Pearlman: As really teased

Dave Carillo: Out or as easily teased out as others. Ok, fine. Make that point. But like now, you’ve just poured a lot of gas on the fire. And as far as I know, like you just did the same SoCal thing, just more of it. And at a time when to be, whether we know the argument is fallacious or not. The argument exists that climate change isn’t real because it’s a it’s a liberal academic conspiracy. And what the most recent report came out that we’ve got what roughly 10 years to go before. We can’t do anything at all about climate change, and now we just have scholarly work saying that all other scholarly work is crap. And that’s, well, it’s questionable. And maybe I’m sounding a little bit too cynical here, but my questions remain like, what were we trying to do here? Why were we trying to do it? And what are we going to do with it now? And how are we going to control some of the fallout for this as it goes forward?

Steve Pearlman: And I guess that comes back to where we started with the article and a way to start to close this out, which is that, yeah, if you have a particular axe to grind about constructivism and critical thinking and meaning making and so on, that’s first of all, I think, built largely on a false premise. But you want to grind that ax nonetheless and you want to stab at some targets from the inside, then you can do that. Congratulations. You have validated your own self-perception of things, which is exactly what’s being criticized. You validated your own self-perception. Right? But what’s really meaningfully been achieved? Where has the conversation gone forward? And I think that’s where that original article sort of ties back in here. Yeah, and I’m speculating, but that’s how I see the connection, right?

Dave Carillo: And yeah, all these excerpts from these papers are pretty insane. And now we’ve got this whole sort of debate on our plate in. Terms of things like climate change and any of the other discussions currently having in the social political environment,

Steve Pearlman: Right, it contributes to this notion of a post-truth era, right? And I guess where we find this problematic from a critical thinking initiative perspective, is that the thing we are most trying to get students to do is to have a construct for doing the very things that Bogosian quite nobly at least calls for in the original article. And this undermines so much of what academia is at least trying to do in terms of trying to lend some voice to different perspectives, even if those perspectives are necessarily ones that we immediately agree with. But do they deserve to be heard so that people can make that evaluation right?

Dave Carillo: I mean, and that’s an excellent point. And the my last point, too is have you checked any of the major scholarly databases recently as to how many journals are floating around out there?

Steve Pearlman: I do not know the exact way. It’s not

Dave Carillo: 12. No, it’s not higher than 12. I think I would go. I would go. So far as to say there are probably about a thousand academic journals, at least a thousand academic journals. So out of the 20, they wrote what six got published. So? So so far right. So a percentage of a percentage of a percentage of a percentage of the journals out there are really lousy, which roughly follows, I’m sure, the bell curve for most things.

Steve Pearlman: And it’s not even indictment of the entire journal, right? I mean, right journal might also still publish really important. Sure.

Dave Carillo: One thing might have gotten through or two things might have gotten through. I guess my point is, you know, what do your study know? And I hope it brings you great success. And I hope this sort of fuels very a lot of positive discussions about how to strengthen peer review and what it means to do scholarship. And nevertheless, wow, this is some bad timing just to do a bigger circle.

Steve Pearlman: And I agree with that. And also, I would raise the question for those who perpetuated the hoax. If if a student has ever con them, have they ever been conned about a dead grandmother or have they ever been conned about a printer that didn’t print? Have they ever been conned about a source that was used in an article or moment of plagiarism, right? If they’ve been in academia for years, it’s hard to conceive that any of us have never been conned. And so are we to venture the same criticisms upon them as they have ventured upon these articles. So anyway, I guess we’re running out of time.

Dave Carillo: We’re totally out of time. But thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed today’s installment of the critical thinking initiative.

Steve Pearlman: Maybe next time won’t be so dark and cranky. Maybe. Or maybe it will. Yes. Take care, everyone. Bye bye.

Voiceover: Got questions about critical thinking questions about pedagogies related to critical thinking. Questions about writing, reading, grading or anything else in the critical thinking realm? Contact Steve and Dave at Info at the Critical Thinking Initiative. Talk with your questions or your feedback about the podcast. Thanks for listening.


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