On Using Terms Like ‘Incompetent’ to Describe Others in Academia

You all know the drill.  Someone disagrees with an argument made by someone else and they decide this person must be ‘incompetent’ because their argument is different.

This. Has. Got. To. Stop.

This tactic helps exactly zero people.  Unless someone is just plain wrong (i.e., they place the fall of Jerusalem in 40 CE, or something comparable which is completely bonkers, and they defend this point without any evidence), this polemical attack does nothing but alienate sides farther from each other without any real benefit to the audience.  Case in point:

“I will write a complete response to McGrath’s entire review in a future post. However, for now I am incensed enough at his outright incompetence (or is it plain old intellectual dishonesty?) and failure to write a straight and truthful account of Brodie’s Memoir that I will address just one of his remarks.”

Now whether or not James McGrath is missing something, or he is not reading Brodie sympathetically, or he is merely interpreting Brodie differently, is obviously an important part of a discussion.  But this does not ipso facto implicate James as ‘incompetent’ (he isn’t) or ‘dishonest’ (simply because he disagrees with something).  James holds advanced degrees which he could not have earned had he been incompetent (incompetence is when someone barely passes or fails a course–these people don’t generally find work in academia and I doubt many could write a successful dissertation) and he would never have received his Bachelors had he been dishonest (dishonest people are the sort who copy-verbatim-Wikipedia articles and turn them in as assignments; this is something I’ve witnessed happening in my own classes).

So let’s be clear.  James is not incompetent and he is not dishonest.  Is James perhaps guilty of not fully reading the material on which he writes?  Perhaps.  He has been called on this before–but this doesn’t make him incompetent.  It doesn’t make him dishonest.  And if one were to simply direct James to the information responsibly–you know, like civil human beings will do–then James can then correct or amend his claims based upon information he may have missed.  As an academic, James has many responsibilities–responsibilities that an amateur like Mr. Godfrey cannot understand fully (as he does not have these same responsibilities–nor would he likely want them).  But this is why so little is ever fruitful in conversations with Mr. Godfrey.  Every response James gives, regardless of its tone, is understood by Mr. Godfrey as an attack or assault upon some cherished belief.  He will likely interpret this very post as some aggressive move against him, rather than the constructive criticism it is.

So maybe we can start treating each other with a little more respect here?  Maybe we can do away with all the polemical name calling?  It is intolerable and I find that I have a hard time reading through all the vitriol to find the point that is being made.

The Paperback of ‘Is This Not The Carpenter?’ Off to the Printers this Week

We just heard from the publisher (Acumen) that they are sending the book to the printers this week! They have informed us that the paperback will be available in early July! This is huge news and we sincerely appreciate the hard work that went into this early release by the good people at Acumen. They’ve done a phenomenal job.

For those who pre-ordered (and for those still interested in pre-ordering), the book will release first in Europe as the publisher is in the UK; while North Americans will receive their first copies a few weeks later as they ship via ocean to the North American distributor (ISD), who then ship them out to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc…

The fastest way to get a copy is ordering directly from the distributors (Acumen for Europeans and ISD for North Americans); the downside is that you will pay full cost for the book ($29.95–far less expensive than the hardback at any rate), so ordering from Barnes and Noble or Amazon (both have a list price of $19.62 as of this posting) may be a better option for those who want to save a few bucks but who don’t mind waiting a few more weeks to flip through their book.

Summer has Arrived!

It is warm and sunny (not today, but most days now) and so I will not be blogging here as often.  In fact, I have been spending more time at my second blog (American History and Ancestry)–that is probably where I’ll be most of the summer. So if you want to keep up with my musings, and for a slight change of scenery, you can saunter on over to that blog and follow me there (and I recommend it).  Lots of postings already to keep the reader occupied.  I’ve been posting up daily journals from the Continental Congress, for example, and will continue to do so.  Also I’ve been tackling some political misuse of American History and those sorts of posts always generate discussion (which is welcome).  Finally, for those who enjoy doing fun things like genealogical research or venturing out to reenactments, I will be posting tons of content related to both.

Rest assured, when my Fall Semester starts, I shall return here to continue on with my real passion (ancient history).

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