Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Question of Academic Integrity

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Question of Academic Integrity

Article excerpt

One scholar challenges the scholarship of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

After reading Ronald Roach's interview (see Black Issues In Higher Education, Aug. 11, 2005) with Dr. Michael Dyson concerning Dyson's latest book - Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has The Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?) - my first impulse was to do what I have done for years now; grit my teeth and simply ignore Dyson. But after watching him on a recent edition of Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," I can no longer remain silent Far too much is at stake here, especially for African-American scholars and Black studies programs.

What is this great risk? That there will be further disparagement of the academic integrity of Black scholars by those who have long questioned their professional competence.

Over the past decade, Dyson has become one of the major voices in the African-American academic experience. He has written 10 books; appeared on numerous network and cable programs; lectured at a number of colleges, seminaries and universities; and held teaching positions at six major universities. These are remarkable accomplishments that few scholars, even the most insightful ones, ever achieve.

What then is the problem with Dyson? Anyone who reviews his record will discern a serious disconnect between these mighty achievements and his scholarship. Despite his impressive credentials, Dyson's writings and public speeches expose him as little more than an "exciting" interloper who has crashed the gates of scholarship, knocking aside even its minimum expectations. Through his books, Dyson proclaims himself to be an expert on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye and, most recently, Bill Cosby. But there is a huge gulf between his claim and reality.

None of his writings suggest more than a passing mastery of his subjects or their issues. Instead, they disrobe him as attempting to win readers to his side by playing to their passions rather than informing their minds. For example, attempting to sway readers against Bill Cosby, Dyson claims that although it had not made "the papers," Cosby had made a statement [about the Black poor] that "left people aghast."

According to Dyson, Cosby had wrongly attacked the Black poor by telling them that "pretty soon you're going to have to have a DNA card in the ghetto to determine if you're making love to your grandmother because she has a baby at 12, the baby has a baby at 14, she's 26 years old - you [at 12] may be trying to have sex with your grandmother and a DNA card is necessary." Dyson claims that these kinds of statements "more accurately characterize the tone and tenor of Mr. …

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