To be perfectly honest, it isn't that hard to get a Ph.D. if one is not terribly picky about the name of the institution on the diploma. It's hard to write a great dissertation. Writing a bad one only takes the willpower to sit down and pound the thing out on a keyboard. Such a dissertation, if the author could find three to five Ph.D. holders willing to sign off on it (difficult but perhaps not impossible), would be useless for the purposes of academic employment. But hell, if he or she is just really excited about the opportunity to call oneself "Doctor" without being factually incorrect, this would do the job.

The point is, Ph.D. holders are not common but neither are they rare. We all would like to believe we are very special and brilliant, of course. In reality most of us just made it through the process with persistence and a little help from the people guiding us through grad school. I like to think of my degree not as a sign of brilliance, but as an indication that I was willing to stick it out in a process where most people get frustrated at some point and walk away. And in higher education, a field in which nearly everyone has a doctorate of some kind, you are just as likely to encounter knuckleheads as you would be in law, medicine, business, the military, social work, or any other profession. It's possible to be the holder of a real, hard-earned Ph.D. and to call oneself "Dr." and still be kind of a doofus. Trust me.

One thing that isn't common, though, is the Ph.D. equivalent of a "diploma mill" for a Bachelor's degree. There's kind of a well-defined process and most colleges and universities have no interest in doing the kind of hoop-jumping necessary to receive accreditation as a Ph.D.-granting institution. So the set of places where one can get a Ph.D. in at least one field is necessarily limited to a small segment of higher ed, tending toward the large and well funded research universities. Your local commuter school can't simply decide to grant you one at random unless they have a Ph.D.-granting program already in place in your field. They usually don't.

An established political scientist has done some digging into Trump favorite and self-described "terrorism expert" Sebastian Gorka's Ph.D. He and the conservative media just love throwing around the "Doctor" title as though it grants him papal infallibility on all matters Islamic. Gorka, it must be said, seems like a total fraud. One of my former students – so proud! – got him to melt down at a panel Q&A session by asking him about his membership in Nazi-affiliated organizations. Everything about him screams "Who the hell is this idiot and where did he come from?" Fortunately a guy with a real Ph.D. from a real university did the light digging necessary:

Gorka is a fraud – a charlatan of the most brazen hue – a snake-oil salesman whose supposed Ph.D dissertation would have never passed muster in America or Britain and to put the cherry on the cake was approved by an fraudulent panel of examiners.

Gorka is Hungarian-English. He gained an American passport in 2012. His nationalist parents fled to London from Budapest in 1956. His dissertation – Content and End-State-based Alteration in the Practice of Political Violence since the End of the Cold War: the difference between the terrorism of the Cold War and the terrorism of al Qaeda: the rise of the “transcendental terrorist” – was apparently granted in 2007 by Corvinus University of Budapest. The tract is long on Islamaphobia and the unsubstantiated claims of the polemicist but short on theory, evidence or academic rigor. Corvinus is not an institution with a profile, so I looked: sadly it doesn’t even make the top 1,000 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Even Gorka’s attendance poses a mystery. When exactly was he a graduate student at the university? Did he take classes? Did he receive any training in Islam or Islamic studies? His CV notes that he left Hungary in 2004 to work for the US Defense Department in Germany and then in 2008 relocated to the US. There is no evidence that he ever returned to live and study in Budapest.

Two of the three referees did not even have a Ph.D. One was the US Defense Attaché at the American Embassy in Budapest at the time, while the other was employed at the UK’s Defence Academy and just had a BA from Manchester University awarded in 1969. This ‘neutral’ examiner had published a book in Hungary with Gorka three years previously. While graduate students sometimes collaborate with their advisors the independent external examiners must have no nepotistic ties with the candidate. More important, a basic principle of assessing educational achievement is that your examiners have at least the degree level of the degree they are awarding. Undergraduates do not award Ph.Ds. In Gorka’s case the only examiner who lists a doctorate was György Schöpflin – an extreme right wing Hungarian Member of the European Parliament who recently advocated putting pigs heads on a fence on the Hungarian border to keep out Muslims. I have been told that Schöpflin was a family friend. Both Schöpflin and Gorka’s father fled from Budapest to London in the 1950s and both moved in exile right-wing nationalist circles.

If that is true, we are left in sum with a degree that was awarded in absence – on the basis of a dissertation without basic political science methodological underpinnings – and apparently from an examining committee of two of Gorka’s diplomat friends, with only BA degrees; along with an old family friend, Schöpflin.

In essence, that is a fake Ph.D. from a university nobody has heard of. He might as well have gotten two of his college roommates together with his fascist Dad's also-fascist friend and called it a dissertation committee.

Oh, wait. That's kinda what he did.

80 thoughts on “THE GAME”

  • Mike Furlan says:

    Good luck finding even one Republican official who cares.

    If anything, they think more of him for "beating the system."

    In a world where Trump can be President, he can be a Doctor.

  • Walden university is one for-profit that made boatloads of money promising advanced degrees, then spread out the process -and the debt load- over years to maximize its profit. There's currently a class-action suit against them, though of course it will do nothing to stop the cashing in on rubes who don't know what college is but feel the need for its prestige anyway. You know, the audience for "God is Dead" 1&2&infinity…

  • I tell everyone I got my fud by saving a lot of box tops. (Hellova lot of cereal I had to eat!)

    I have been told by reputable sources that a lot of (majority of?) Chinese fuds are outright frauds as well. Dissertations are mostly plagiarized portions of published works the candidate didn't even put together, the "committees" are party "good-old-boys", and, as with everything here, money can buy you anything. There's a reason Chinese "scientists" don't win Nobel prizes, and it isn't racism against Asians.

    Also too, it is my opinion that anyone after their first year post-fud who constantly introduces themselves as "Dr." or demands everyone call them "Dr. Smuck" is an ass. Pompous ass. And a dickwad.

  • (True story – I came back from England to my Midwest hometown with my fud and a husband. Everyone – I mean LITERALLY EVERYONE – was way more impressed that I had gotten married than that I had gotten fudded.


  • Sean Beatty says:

    I worked in foreign educational credential evaluation for a minute. If I had a nickle for every rich kid in India whose parents wanted him to be a doctor who failed basic anatomy more than 5 times…

  • Staledimsum says:

    I worked in foreign educational credential evaluation for a minute. If I had a nickle for every rich kid in India whose parents wanted him to be a doctor who failed basic anatomy more than 5 times…

  • Actually, Chinese universities are mostly frauds as well. The education system here is as follows: grade school is hard, middle school is harder, high school is fucking child abuse – the kid gets a score on a final, overall exam and that score determines which uni the kid will go to and (much of the time) even the major the kid will "study". Then the kid spends the next three years with some well-rewarded goofing-off time. After graduation the person gets a job based on the uni's prestige whereby the company will teach that person how to do the job. The Chinese are very good at rote memorization and doing EXACTLY what they're told to do. Oh, and connections – especially Party ones – are very important in that person's future as well.

    I have talked with people with degrees in biology who really didn't know as much bio as a Western 5th grader. Ok, maybe that's a little harsh. As much as a Western high school student who took bio.

    One of the biggest problems we who work in programs like mine that send students to Western unis have is convincing the students that unis in the west are HARD. They never believe us. Then again, they, and especially their parents, don't really care if they flunk out of their Western uni. All they care about is getting accepted to the highest-ranking uni they possibly can. (To be fair, most of the students in programs like mine come from rich families, so if/when (they don't ALL fail, of course) they do fail, they can just come home and work for the family business or get a cushy government job.)

  • I always wondered how Shrub graduated Ivy League law, let alone high school, which is beside the point here.
    Buying creds is as old as "civilization", no? Just blown to Trumpian proportions in these strange times.

  • Well on the using the doctor title I'll give my friend Dr. Lazer a pass. Come on, if you were named Lazer it's just unacceptable to not try to attach a Dr. on it as soon as possible.

    Also random PhDs in anything from anywhere can be useful in some jobs such as getting a high school job or being a language instructor at a foreign university.

  • @April:

    I was telling s PhD economist freind of mine–we're drinking beer and listening to an open mic (he just sang some tunes)–that I was thinking a good idea for a dissertation would be how/whether the confucian system of the mandarins compares to the current state of affairs in non-merit system like the one you describe obtaining at present.

  • I have PhD in Development Economics from the Univ. of Sussex (UK) though I'm American. There it's called a DPhil, which makes more sense since the degree is Doctor of Philosophy, after all. Also, there you present a "thesis" not a "dissertation" since your research proposal is based on a hypothesis, which guides the field research (in my case) or lab research to prove or disprove. A dissertation, based on its literal definition, is a debate or discussion. This is what Masters degrees produce. They basically discuss the literature on a specific topic and/or they may use secondary source research to develop a hypothetical project. But the point of a PhD/DPhil is to do original research that contributes to the literature of your field not just discuss it). I've had this debate about terms for a long time with American colleagues, including my wife. It's a cultural difference, basically.

  • @Mainmata – Don't know if this is universal in England (or just an old-fashioned system….things may have changed now) but in B'ham in the science dept. the system was to give us a room with a bit of equipment and some spending money and then your "advisor" yelled "Go." We had to figure out a question (based usually on what your advisor and his (in my case) previous grad students had done, but not necessarily), figure out what things we needed to learn in order to answer that question (this is where my advisor came in handy. He knew a lot of people in the subject so could make the introductions necessary for me to be able to visit their labs and learn shit) and then write it up, with little (or misleading. Seriously, my advisor would give me bad advice. He said the point of a fud is to create people who COULD THEMSELVES figure out what was good research/writing.) and then answer questions in the Orals. There was no prior submission to the committee of thesis – one went into the Orals having no idea if your thesis was acceptable, boarderline, or a total failure that Darwin himself couldn't defend.

    One chance. You got ONE CHANCE. No rewrites.

    A suicide now and then was considered acceptable collateral damage.

  • Steve Holt! says:

    @mago Says:
    April 25th, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    I always wondered how Shrub graduated Ivy League law, let alone high school, which is beside the point here.

    Shrub has no law degree. He got a Masters of Business Admin. He was gonna be "the CEO President", after all.

  • Alternative headline: "Despicable Human Being Also Shameless." Not exactly shocking–and not exactly likely to send him scurrying back into the slime-crusted hole in the wainscoting he crawled out of.

    Because in order to hold the kind of views Gorka holds, you already have to be more than sufficiently piece-of-shittish to have no qualms about making up your credentials, as well as to feel in no way diminished by the discovery of their fraudulence. (Plus you just KNOW he'll argue that his work couldn't have received a fair review from an accredited university, because they're all run by Those People, You Know The Ones I Mean, Watch Me Imply A Large Nose And A Yarmulke.)

    Gorka actually becomes less interesting as a fraud–a genocidal bigot with fake credentials is like a Nazi with bad manners–it's so expected that you can just write him off. It's the Nazi with good manners that draws the eye–just like it's the Ph.D. who made it through a rigorous review process and yet still remains a genocidal bigot–now THERE'S the guy that makes you wonder: "How could so much information make it into your brain, and yet somehow 'mass slaughter is not cool' bounce off the force field?"

    That's not the case with Golka, though. He's just unrelievedly shitty, and what's compelling about that?

    (And I know what you're thinking: He's invoking the wrath of Godwin; only I'm not, because Gorka is an honest-to-God fucking NAZI. I wonder if he has good manners?)

  • For what it's worth, as a favor I "edited" (read: utterly re-wrote) two dissertations (girlfriend and brother in-law) that didn't previously pass muster. I, unlike them, had spent time reading other than textbooks and could write. The ex-girlfriend is now a prestigious (and presumably rich) psychologist and the ex-bro in-law is a failed microbiologist (but he earned a lot for a long time) teaching science to middle-schoolers in Detroit. Anecdata! I myself got a BS and got out and got a relatively low-wage job on campus.

    I guess the point is… Oh, I don't know what the point is. Something about the role of bullshit in the granting of degrees. He was NPD, which ruined him, but good at microbiology, but couldn't write. She was good at therapy, but couldn't write. Both of them deserved jobs in their fields. But PhDs? They got them because I could write.

    And did they cut me in? No. Did they even ever say "Thanks!" after they were doctors? No.

    I'm obviously feeling sorry for my self-aggrandizing self, and probably shouldn't click on Submit Comment.

    Gonna do it anyway.

  • I dunno Ed and Co, I got a MPH, non-thesis route, and then got the hell out of Academics. You people are better than me, I would not seek a DPH now if my life depended on it. It was two years surrounded by some of the most miserable assholes I've ever met in my life, and I live and work in DC now for goodness sake.

    I give you all a tip of the hat for making it through.

  • Thanks Steve Holt. Often get it wrong. Don't check facts, just fly by the seat of well worn pants. Hm. Could be a universal malaise.

  • @DC – Well, the Gaokao IS merit-based, and it's even weighted so that students from poorer districts can get decent scores. Of course, as with everything, kids from richer households with plenty of food, intellectual stimulation, time for homework because they don't have to milk the cows and what not and with access to private tutors will, generally, do better.

    My criticism of it is that it just tests one's memorization skills. There's no critical thinking involved, and Chinese students who don't attend programs like mine never learn how to do it. The Chinese government gets this, and is trying to figure out how to make modifications to the entire system so that China can become innovators for the future. Once they crack that code China will rule the world. Literally.

    (Assuming there's any world left to rule. Why aren't those shitheels in prison, yet??)

  • My brother taught Conversational English and Writing to first year engineering undergrads in China for eight years. Apparently some of his students were from one high school situated basically the other side of the fence from a huge airport and industrial area. Students from there had zero English speaking skills because THEIR ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE WAS FUCKING NOISY ALL THE TIME. They were given some kind of waiver/curve on admissions.

  • An easier route to a "real" Ph.D.? Education departments.

    Or Harvard Divinity and / or Harvard Kennedy School.

    (The rest of Harvard is pretty damn tough, or so I've been told.)

  • HoosierPoli says:

    I've always tried to impress on my students the fact that in the bookstore, if you see an author's name with "Ph.D" after it, you should ignore anything that person has to say. Real academics do not feel the need to point out that they have a doctorate, because they realise, as Ed does, that it isn't a very significant market of intelligence and none of their peers will care, because everyone has a Ph.D. Even the dreaded "popularizers" don't do this. Neil deGrasse Tyson does not append "Ph.D" to his name because he knows he's a legitimate scientist and so does everyone who matters. The "Ph.D" title is simply an argument from authority, and a highly suspicious one.

  • "Corvinus has a wiki page and while not Oxford is not a fake or fly by night school."

    Two words. Donald FUCKING Trump.

    Corvinus U. is listed as being the latest iteration/name change of a 150 yo school that has been named, among other thing, "Karl Marx U". It has no listing, afaict, for a department that would be teaching anything to do with Gorka's PhD. Just sayin.

  • @ Hoosier – After a couple of months with my present company I was ordered – ORDERED – by my boss to add the "Ph.D." after my name in all my emails. The company liked the status.

    I agree with you totally, by the way.

    (Are you English? Or Canadian or brave native of Oz or any other of those countries attached in some way to GB?)

  • HoosierPoli says:

    April – No, but I think my work computer is set to British English because it wouldn't accept that "realize" was a real word, so I succumbed to cultural imperialism.

  • is anyone surprised about this man's jacky credentials? The liar-in-chief has surrounded himself with Charlatans and those with no credible background for the posts they hold. In addition to his unqualified relatives he constantly quotes right wing pundits and news outlets. I wonder sometimes where he finds these people. He must have an entire staff devoted to finding the worst of the worst. Their only qualification seems to be that they believe all of Trumps lies and have plenty of money that they can devote to the Republican party. Just take a look at who is running the country a Health leader who has been accused of rigging laws to line his pockets, an urban director who knows nothing about urban life, an EPA leader who doesn't believe in global warming, a national security person on the pay of Russia and Turkey, and numerous Wall street skevies who made money off the backs of ordinary americans. Is it any wonder that this guy faked a PHD?

  • On rare occasions I have had a Ph.D. introduce themselves as "Doctor…."

    (and not in a professional capacity)

    That's when I say "If we're doing titles – mine's Lt. Colonel"

  • postcaroline says:

    Non sequitur: Andrew Reynolds' department is located in the "FedEx Global Education Center", which makes it sound less like a place of higher learning and more of the FedEx version of Hamburger University.

    This Gorka revelation made me think of the would-be Kansas superintendent who was flaunting a fake PhD from Corllins University. This institution is an actual diploma mill. But Corvinus is real, and based on some scanning of their website, my guess is that they offer a PhD in some sort of no or low residency fashion. And yeah, the standards must be low.

  • FYI
    As a special consideration to the readers of Gin and Tacos, The University of Sluggo, will grant a Phd in sluggonomics, for the very reasonable fee of $500, for a limited time.

  • seniorscrub says:

    @Mike Furlan
    "In a world where Trump can be President, he can be a Doctor"

    I read this with the voice of The Movie Trailer Guy in my head….

  • postcaroline says:

    I went to a small liberal arts college and (I know, you can fill in so many blanks based on that preface) everyone, in what I suppose was an attempt at promoting egalitarianism, went by their first name.

    Everyone, that is, except for this one professor, who insisted that everyone address them as "Doctor". Not Professor, but Doctor. I don't want to name this person other than to say they were young, and explained to students that they didn't spend however many years in grad school to be addressed by their first name. And everyone else thought that was obnoxious, since that person was literally the only one on campus who insisted on a title.

    p.s. I just looked up the Dr to see where they are now, and sure enough, they landed at an institution where all of the faculty have "PhD" appended to their names. Found their tribe!

  • @seniorscrub

    COMPOUND FRACTURE GUY: Are you *aggghhhh* really a doctor?

    RANDOM BYSTANDER: (tugging at exposed bone) No, but I stayed in a Trump Tower Express last night…

  • "That's when I say "If we're doing titles – mine's Lt. Colonel"

    Back when I was a USAF E-5, my last job was @ HQ-USAFE CE where I was one of about seven enlisted out of approximately 100 people. The others were civilian clerks, typists and exec assistants (40+/-) and officers most O-4 (Major) to (g-6).

    Exactly ONE of the O-4 was an asshole. I was pulling strings with a couple of dopesmokin' palz in procurement to get some decals for his Team (something that didn't happen without "agency" of some sort). He stopped me in the hall one day and inquired about the process. I updated him and when he asked another question, said, "Yeah, not a problem.". He said, "That's, 'Yes, Sir.', Airman!'.

    I went totally cravesequious and prolly said, "Sir" at least eight times in the next 30 seconds. After we parted ways, I went back to my office and shitcanned the paperwork. When I got stoned with my buds that night in our barracks, I told them to lose the paperwork on their end. He never got those decals before I left Germany–and knowing my buddies he never got them at all. What an asshole.

    Otoh, my boss who was a Bird when I got there, got a star and then another one a couple of years later. A decent man who wanted his people to do their jobs, honor their commitments and confine their craziness to off-cuty time. He was the best boss I ever had.

    @ seniorscrub:

    "I read this with the voice of The Movie Trailer Guy in my head…."

    I keep waiting for the newsfeeds to start showing a "breaking news" crawler and then, "Previously…", like they do for all of the idiotic serialized tv shows that are on these days.

  • Well, of the comments I've read so far, the general tenor seems to be, "Pfft. Happens everywhere, all the time. Old hat."

    I disagree (respectfully? Not sure.) We're not in China or India. We're in the US and having "Dr." in front of your name is, as Ed says, generally accepted as a sign that you didn't just write off to Phoenix for a piece of paper.

    It's that impression Gorka is — fraudulently — trading on.

    Even the fact that this Corvinus place exists is not the point. The point is that he got a couple of workplace undergrads and his Dad's old fascist buddy to sign off on a degree apparently completed when he wasn't even there.

    This is way beyond Gorsuch cribbing a woman's earlier work in his research papers. This is third degree fraud and it's very useful to point it out.

  • johnny qwest says:

    Having interacted with a number of Corvinus undergraduates and faculty members, all of whom were astonishingly more cosmopolitan and educated than their typical Anglophone colleagues, I will say that Corvinus seems, at least at the undergraduate level, a respected institution of sufficient academic rigor. A beautiful campus in Budapest.

    In unrelated matters, Andrew J. Bowen, I saw your name dropped on the comments section the other day, and you seemed to respond. Was it really you? We were fellow members of Sarah Baker's circle at Rice. Drop a line.

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    Whenever I read or listened to Gorka, it was always Fox News shit about evil Islam, dressed up with multisyllabic words. So his academic fraudulence doesn't surprise me.

    Dave Barry once made a joke about academics who belong to A.P.W.C.T.D.E.T.T.O.H.P.W.A.C.M.P. (the Association of People Who Call Themselves Doctor Even Though They Have Only PhDs, Which Are as Common as Milkweed Pollen).

  • Obviously I talk about Chinese education a lot. So, this…

    " I am a product of the traditional Chinese school system, according to which children follow a strictly prescribed path to academic success.
    My son, however, enjoys a Western education, which is more organic and innovative. The Chinese method is much more teacher-centered, and is based on memorizing facts. As one might expect, this is less than ideal for developing individuality and creativity. The American system emphasizes student participation and personality development, but to some extent it also eschews a solid foundation of knowledge. For these reasons, I always try to give my son space to think independently, while also supervising him closely to ensure that he develops good study habits."

  • April, don't you have adult-age children? My youngest started school just as No Child Left Untested became a thing, and the public schools seemed to pour all their energy into teaching the kids to be good test-takers and learn only what was being tested. At the same time, "diversity" classes mean if you have a child who's blind, deaf, autistic, and has cerebral palsy, you can sue the school system to make them include your snowflake into the regular classrooms with typical kids, and of course there's no money for aides, so the teacher spends the day trying to manage the multiple issues of a child who's never going to learn anything anyway. Creativity? Heck no–there's just no time or money for that.

  • Katy – Yep. 25 and almost 28. (Can't believe I'm so old.) Homeschooled them until they were 8 and 10. My youngest spent middle school years in a gifted school which was an AWESOME place. High school was ok for younger, mostly pot and skipping for older. (She was living with her dad at the time.)

  • @April, Katydid, it's our KIDS who are old, not us : )

    Also, I have a PhD from Trump University, so that's DR. geoff to you, peasants!!

  • Robert Walker-Smith says:

    Alveda King, niece of the late Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., received an honorary fud from Saint Anselm's College a few years back. She's been describing herself as 'Dr.' King ever since.

    An honorary doctorate!

    At least Bill Cosby paid the upcharge for an official one.

  • Agreed, it's our KIDS who are old!

    I homeschooled the older one for high school; he went to community college half-time and took online classes the other half. Now he's in grad school, but he would have dropped out of the regular high school had he gone. The schools in this area completely ignore the reasonably-bright kids in order to make accommodations for the minimally-conscious in hospital beds in class (I swear I am not making this up).

  • @Geoff – I love you! :)
    @Katy – As someone who VERY BRIEFLY taught in an American HS…you're right, of course. I didn't have any kids in hospital beds (not saying they don't exist, just that I didn't have any) but I did have learning disabilities and out-of-control behavior, and OF COURSE those kids get the attention. What else can a teacher do?

  • Katydid, I almost always enjoy/agree/am interested by your commentary, but I have to say, what. the. fuck? Autistic, dyslexic, adhd diagnoses are just snowflakes who whined extra loud?

  • I have a PhD and don't get the vapors when other PhDs refer to themselves as "Doctor." My fellow PhDs simply limit their use of "Doctor" to the job (university campus and professional contexts) and don't use it outside in social settings. It also doesn't bother me a bit when a writer uses the title PhD on his/her book cover or in the blurb on the inside book jacket. Not a big deal.

    Having said that, I wonder if people get annoyed at medical doctors (MDs) for referring to themselves as "Doctor" outside of their medical context or expecting others to refer to them as "Doctor" when they meet at the grocery store.

    Anyhow, Ed is right that some PhDs are strange critters. I can think of a few just in my department. It seems to me that Research I universities probably attract and retain a larger proportion of these folks than do other universities. I could be wrong.

  • @ Redleg:

    When I get to know my doctors, outside of the medical setting (which used to happen a lot when I worked in the ONLY REAL HARDWARE store in a really large area) I usually call them by their first name, with the Dr. on the front. Satisfies me, they've always seemed comfortable with it.

    @ Robert Walker-Smith:

    Alveeda King is seriously mentally ill, afaict.

  • postcaroline says:

    You know who had a PhD? Don Davis. Now if you're thinking of the preeminent historian of libraries, you may be confused as to why I'm pointing out he had a PhD, because duh, of course he did. But no, I speak of the late Don Davis who played Major Briggs on Twin Peaks. I'm just imagining his name in all green caps reading DON DAVIS PHD during the intro, because you know what he didn't spend all that time in Carbondale to be called Don Davis.

  • @Greg, What I'm saying is the parents insist that their children be mainstreamed in regular classes despite the fact that the teachers can't possibly meet these kids' needs in a class of 30 – 35 because their kids are just special, special snowflakes and it "will do the other kids good and teach them patience" to be stuck in a classroom with a student who cannot learn the material with a teacher who cannot teach the material because she's so busy trying to assist the child who can't possibly learn anything.

    Tried to find the newspaper article online for a child who was basically in a vegetative state who was sent to the public school *in a hospital bed* (and a fulltime aide)–what possible use could sitting in a high school be to this student? However, the logistics of the aide moving the hospital bed from class to class, adjusting the breathing tube and various hanging IV fluids, meant that the kids in the class were perpetually distracted.

    One banner year in my son's elementary experience, he was one of 28 students in a class with 3 Down Syndrome students (one so low-functioning that she didn't know her colors, numbers, or alphabet and would melt down every. single. day), several kids most likely on the Autism spectrum, a couple of ADHD kids, and one with Tourettes (and possibly something else) who bit my son several times over the year. I had to get a lawyer involved because my 8-year-old kept coming home with human teeth marks breaking his skin and the school told me I'd "just have to accept it". The teacher, of course, never saw a thing because she was too busy trying to rein in the other kids. The principal accused my son of biting *himself* for the attention (really? He bit HIS OWN BACK?!? Please show me how.)

  • What you are describing is the utter failure of most school districts to honor their obligations under federal law because they are underfunded by the techurzz r dumb crowd and typically not able to afford necessary staff trained in special ed, and terrified for their test scores.And the attendant desperation that comes with that. It's systemic and deliberate and not terribly tied to the "snowflake" obsession that commenters here have. A low functioning college student who thinks a/he's the center of the universe is one thing and an elementary student not getting appropriate assistance in managing his/her medical issues due to a lack of resources is another. Horrible anecdotes or otherwise.

  • I apologize for the mansplaining; it was the best I could do at avoiding the stream of profanity I typed initially. Guess I need to work on age-appropriate management of temper.

  • Having no children I, of course, find it very easy to critiicize folks who do. It's sort of the same thing with money, talent and wives. Okay, now, to be serious for a moment.

    "Mainstreaming" IS important for children with various physical disabilities both obvious and subtle. I have ADD and spent 13 years being told I was lazy/stupid/bad because it was FUCKING impossible to sit still and learn in the envrionment I was in–unless I was REALLY interested in the subject matter and could actually understand what was going on. I was completely unable to diagram a sentence above the level of a "Dick & Jane" storyline and math was/is an impenetrable mystery. I managed to get through it, mainly by being obviously bright, emotionally fragile and a major league pain in the ass to my teachers. I was lucky to have 10 siblings who went through the same system; lucky in that my siblings gave my teachers a way to know me a little bit and see that I wasn't some hellish monster bent on the destruction of Cath-O-Lick education. I was lucky.

    The sort of scene that Katydid mentions, I have not seen, but I have seen plenty of students whose learning skills are severely compromised be placed in schools to, afaia, "socialize" them–and not much else.

    I know a lot of teachers and have done so over a lot of years. I know school counselors, social workers and psychologists. All of them are, in my experience, dedicated professionals who labor in a profession that is consistently undervalued by the communities they serve, underfunded by (and micromanaged–for political reasons) budgetary authorities/taxpayers and denigrated for delivering an end product, graduates, who are ill-prepared for life in an increasingly complicated world.

    None of the people I know want to see their students fail–none of them. All of them, even the ones who piss and moan about all of the crap they have to put up with, continue to do the job. Yes, the pay and benefits in some cases are good but that is not why many of them stay. They stay because the process of education and preparation that they are trained for is something from which they derive a measure of satisfaction in the absolutely hellish environments that some of them report to every day.

    Public education may be the one issue in modern U.S. life that is most difficult to fix. It is almost certainly the most important issue to address if we are to be even competitive, never mind dominant, in the future.

    So, the scenario of a student in a hospital bed, virtually comatose is an outlier as is the scenario of the genius student from the slums of Rio who overcomes the horrific conditions they are born into to achieve greatness. The rest of the educational process falls along an arc with, obviously, a huge "average" population. Those average students, being taught by average teachers in average facilities with average amounts of resources are actually the students most at risk.

    The current SecEd, Betsy DeVos knows not one fucking thing about education, afaia. She would love to see public schools unfunded and shut down, to the betterment of for-profit charter schools. She is dangerous and uninformed. She is prolly not going to be able to wreck education all by herself but she will be an enabler for KKKristianist asshats in every school district to begin the process of dismantling public education.

    NOW, this is where the relative "value" of a PhD comes in to play. If your PhD in whatever discipline, earned by rigor and diligence is the same as the PhD of some dickhead like Gorka–yeah, that's not good when it comes to "debating". Otoh, you're oneathem Ivory Tower Pointyheads that the Reichwing derides. On the other flipper, they have a Jen-U-Whine PROFESSOR who knows just as much as you do. We've seen this with the AWG situation.

    Okay. My breakfast is waiting–for me to make it. Fight dirty amongst yourselves!

  • Thank you democommie for the measured response my professional pride prevented.
    Two things about Katydid's snowflake crack pissed me off even 24 hours later. One was lumping the blind, autistic, attention-challenged kids into one undifferentiated disruption as if the same solution would work for all (or as if blindness is a learning disability) and the other was the contemptuous dismissal of any disability as some kind of narcissistic special pleading. This last is exactly how Paul Ryan thinks of those students I am sure, and the former harks back to the days when the cripples and retards could be warehoused until death because after all they were useless.
    I'm sorry your school district was incompetent t dealing with these matters, katydid, but I'm also really disgusted that those experiences persuaded you that the Republican science is correct and the stupid, like the poor, have only themselves to blame.

  • Greg, let's see if I can make it more clear. *IN MY EXPERIENCE* as the parent of 2 children, as someone who went to the PTA meetings and was an active member in the school, I saw *MORE THAN ONE* parent insist that THEIR child be placed *not* in the Special Ed program in the school (which was completely functional and staffed), but instead in the mainstream classes because it would be *SO GOOD* for their children to associate with neurotypical, non-developmentally delayed kids. So, instead of being in a class of 4 with a teach and an aide, their precious, precious offspring had to be put in a class that was already past the maximum student load for effective teaching. Hey, maybe it was great for their kids, but it bred profound dislike and fear in the gen pop of the classroom who were being routinely assaulted by and held responsible for the teaching of, these kids. It didn't breed the kumbaya luv & snuggles the parents of these kids were hoping for–instead, it taught the opposite message–that being around a disabled person means you lose your own safety and right to learn anything. My son kept getting bitten because–at age 8–was put in charge of his seatmate and held responsible for that child's education and discouraged from reporting being physically assaulted because apparently the handicapped person's rights always come before a regular kid's.

    This is the reason we went to private school–we made the sacrifice to pay for what should have been our children's right to have by law–a fair and appropriate education.

    It wasn't just my kid suffering; a couple of the little girls in the private school were there because much-older boys were developing sexual interests and wouldn't leave them alone, and of course they had no rights in such a system.

  • What you describe is a school system failing to act appropriately and deserving a lawsuit. Your experience was terrible and not indicative of the way the law should work to be equitable, and that is in large part because of a total inability to provide FAPE due the systemic choking off of public education by the various school reform assholes.
    Believing [marginalized group] gets special rights by [law mandating equal treatment] is still what the rethuglicans want us to think.
    Thank you for clarifying the reasons for your bitterness.
    My experience was mostly after the students were failed by their district and wore all the wounds of those experiences and humiliations. We were a private school paid by school boards who failed to provide FAPE until they were forced to pay up via arbitration. As you can imagine though such private schools are thin on the ground and the public districts have been crippled in their already limited ability to fulfill their legal obligations to learning disabled students. Your school district failed your children AND the LD ones, and that's why to me your anger seems misdirected at those damn whiny parents and their broken children with the special rights. But I'm gonna assume from your capitals that this exchange is over.

  • Thanks for your comments, Greg. Actually, a large part of the problem in my school district, as I stated above, is that parents refused to have their children in the existing Special Ed classes in the school and instead demanded that their children be mainstreamed. That's what really burned my hide–how dare someone insist their child's need for socialization outweigh the fair-and-appropriate education and basic personal safety of everyone else's kids? It was accomplishing the opposite of what they'd hoped and a fair number of parents pulled their children out of the public schools on the basis of basic public safety. Thanks to the lawyer, the school district had to pay for my son's private (college-prep) school because they demonstrably couldn't guarantee his safety in the public school class because the parent's right to inflict a poorly-socialized child on the rest of the classroom apparently outweighed my son's right to be safe.

  • To clarify what seems to be contradicting statements; when we won our battle with the public school and they had to pay for a private school for our son, we put our daughter in the same school because the logistics of getting them to 2 different schools that kept 2 different school-year calendars was too crazy. Also, when we left the public school, we lost the convenience of the school bus. Between the commuting costs and school uniforms, more-and-better field trips, after-school activities, and other random expenses, we shelled out a lot of money out of our pockets because other people demanded their kids be allowed to terrorize everyone else.

  • Robert Walker-Smith says:

    Huh. I spent several years in elementary school in what our school district called the Educationally Handicapped program. Both of my sons are in what our current school district calls Programs for Exceptional Children.

    For what it's worth, Katydid, my husband and I worked very hard to get our kids into that program, specifically to get them the additional attention and assistance they need. I wonder if the monster parents you're describing were motivated by a desire to prove that their child wasn't *really* 'defective'. Over the years, I've gotten the impression that having your own biological offspring deemed far enough outside the norm to require special assistance is a very different emotional experience from adopting a child who has already been identified as 'special needs'.

  • Robert that shame you identify is very real and very corrosive. It infects the kids of those parents who are *acutely* aware of the stigma attached to them.
    And katydid, that you needed a lawyer due to the district caving into parent demands like that is nuts. The school is supposed to work with parents to meet the FAPE goal but it isn't supposed to just roll over and not be a team of professionals that says "we understand what you want but that is not the appropriate environment for your child."
    Obviously that can be easier said than done but the situation you describe is grossly dysfunctional and well beyond simple compromise.

  • Professors of Studio Art are not generally required to get PhD's. For one thing, except in odd institutions, there are no PhD programs in our field. In liberal arts faculties, however, a prejudice persists against those with "only" M.F.A.'s, never mind whatever other accolades, inclusion in important collections, etc. are part of one's c.v. I've been totally convinced of the rightness of studio arts and arts faculties as part of a 'regular' college curriculum, but so far as general faculty bigotries, it's been an uneasy fit. My old chairman made enemies when he commented to a student newspaper, "You know what a PhD recipient is, don't you? Someone who knows how to use the library." A friend, tired of being patronized for being PhD-less in academe (and denied promotions because of it), found a program at NYU and got a PhD in studio art. It entailed a gallery show and a paper approved by her committee. I didn't see her paper but saw others from the program. I remember a monograph on Georgia O'Keeffe, which read like a souped-up undergraduate paper. So much for the illusion of "parity" with the other disciplines. Of course Ed is right–it depends on the status of the university and its program. But the amount of snobbery that existed was all such a crock. For faculty quality and professional standing, you always have to look under the hood.

  • Thanks, Robert and Greg…wow, the emotions this post has dragged up. In short, the public school system did not serve us very well. On the other hand, I'm a fan of fixing the problems, not handing out vouchers for questionable charter schools.

  • Greg, Katydid, Robert Walker-Smith, Another Bozo and others:

    I have volunteered to do photography at several "Backyard BBQ for Special Needs" picnics. The events were held, the first two years at a beautiful private estate and I was asked, the first year (and for the next two) to take a group photo of up to 150 people. The group included "clients" (about 50 of them) with their aides or other caregivers and in the cases of some severely disabled people, family to help them.

    I found a spot to work in, arranged for the group to be gathered in a meadow and got a stepladder to give me some elevation.

    When I had the group assembled in front of me and was ready to shoot, I saw a number of people in the group in front of me looking to my left or right instead of at me. I looked around and realized that there were people waving at their children from the sidelines, doing photos and video. I whistled, quite loudly and then shouted (they were over 100' away in some cases), "Don't look at them, look at ME–I'm the only one getting paid*! You can look at them the rest of the day! Look at ME!!".

    I blasted off about 100 frames in 30 seconds and thanked them all.

    A bit later, the father of one of the clients came over and said, "I was watching those kids out there and the ones who had enough motor control were looking at you after you asked them to.". I said, "Yeah, they have problems, "stupid" isn't one of the. And, they like their pictures to be taken.".

    I wish I could use that picture, sometimes, especially when I'm trying to take a group photo and people are not being co-operative**, but I can't.

    I cannot imagine trying to work with any of those kids/young adults never mind working with them and a classroom full of "normal" kids.

    Quantiying disability is difficult for so many reasons and to expect anyone with a gen ed or other bachelor's degree in teaching to deal with disabled students and still teach effectively is just one in a list of additional tasks that school boards and state ed departments charge teachers with.

    * Untrue, pro-bono is always pro-bono.

    ** I don't even look at them myself, privacy issues are pretty strong for me.

  • Demo, you never cease to amaze me. You can do any damn thing you set your hand to–music, photography, dog wranging…it just never ends!

    BTW, I used your recipe to make dog cookies. They were a huge hit! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Going back to the original post…

    Michael Ian Black‏
    Verified account
     @michaelianblack 21m
    21 minutes ago

    Michael Ian Black Retweeted Noah Shachtman
    Jeez, a guy belongs to ONE Nazi-affiliated organization and fakes ONE Phd and the President throws you overboard. No loyalty.

  • @April:

    Sounds like Sebby's gonna get gorka'd.

    @ Katydid:

    I've done a lot of things in this life, most of them non-paying and once I decided that the money wasn't going to be coming, I relaxed into doing what I wanted, instead of wondering what others wanted of me.

    I'm glad your doggie likes his treats. Buddy says he wants to taste test them!

    It's not there at the moment but give me a couple of days and I'll have a photo of Buddy the Wonderdog up @ my blog: I have to screen comments due to fucking trollz but I try to take a look at them every day or two.

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  • It appears that GorKrap is going to be reassigned.

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