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October 2002

Historian Michael Bellesiles has resigned from Emory. The report of the external investigative committee is here. (Adobe .pdf file.) For those who would like a quick summary: Emory charged the investigative committee with answering five questions. The first three ask whether Bellesiles lied about specific pieces of evidence. The fourth question asks whether he lied in creating a key table in his book Arming America. And the fifth question asks whether he deviated from "accepted practices" in carrying out or reporting research. The committee concludes on the first two questions that Bellesiles might just have been profoundly incompetent and astonishingly naive. (On the latter, this lovely line: "Even at this point, it is not clear that he fully understands the magnitude of his own probate research shortcomings.") On the third question, the committee concludes there were "questions about his veracity." On the fourth question, the committee finds "evidence of falsification." And on the fifth question, the committee finds that Bellesiles "falls short."

Bellesiles responds here. (Again, an Adobe .pdf file.) Although more specific than other responses from him I've read, there are parts that can only be descibed as Clintonian. Perhaps the most entertaining is the instance in which he was asked by another researcher where he had read certain key microfilms. Bellesiles replied he read them in the federal library in East Point, Georgia. The researcher contacted that library and discovered that it has absolutely no such microfilm. Bellesiles now says--his answer appears to have changed at least once, though he denies this--oh, he read the microfilms there, but they weren't from there. He read them there because all the microfilm readers at Emory were lousy. But he got the microfilms from somewhere else, from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous!

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. uses not only Richard Feynman's cargo cult metaphor but also Wolfgang Pauli's great wisecrack to explain why a lot of educational research is dopey. Hirsch's article is long and rather academic. If you'd prefer the same conclusion in a much shorter, more colorful form, I urge you to read Joe Bob Briggs's tour de force.

As usual, Lileks has something interesting to say. "If this is Islamic terrorism, then they've made another characteristically stupid move: that line about 'your children are not safe anywhere anytime' is the sort of thing that shoves otherwise peaceable soccer moms into the Bellicose Women Brigades. . . . We don't dress up our children in dynamite belts - and they think this makes us weak. We shield our children from death, not marinate them in its bloody juices, and they think this means we lack conviction. Morons. Come after our children, and you don't know what you're in for. You heard the part about awakening a sleeping giant? The sleeping giantess is the one you want to look out for, because she'll tear off your head and lactate down your throat. Do not mess with American moms."