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The Forum > Article Comments > Publish and perish? > Comments

Publish and perish? : Comments

By James McConvill, published 10/6/2005

James McConvill argues intellectualism is on the decline while mediocrity is on the rise, especially in universities.

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James McConvill "fears that the attack, still ongoing, against Bagaric and Clarke will provide another justification for academics to abstain from meaningful research, clinging tightly to a culture of mediocrity - crying into their soy decaf lattes" (the current preeminent lazy cliche of the right) .

His own intellectually confused article demonstrates that in some cases it may be too late. McConvill's basic 'argument' (make that 'assertion') is if you publicly disagree with people like his colleagues, Bagaric and Clarke, you are somehow intellectually mediocre. Yet McConvill states that the "... role of academics in society [usd to be] to raise ideas in a critical manner - to foster discourse, engender debate and enrich the community". Yet when academics do engage in discourse and debate against his colleagues, he crudely labels them "mediocre", while people with views like his are painted as "intellectuals" likely to become "an endangered species".

There is not one scrap of reasoned argument in McConvill's piece - no intelectual debate or engageent with academics or intellectuals who have views that differ from Bagaric and Clarke - just attacks on those who disagree with Bagaric and Clarke through wild assertion about the state of intellectual debate in our universities.

Maybe it is appropriate for Mr McConvill to return to practising law - at least he will see there the value of argument and evidence.
Posted by FrankGol, Friday, 10 June 2005 11:17:27 AM
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It may well be a poorly argued piece, FrankGol, but your picking on one aspect of it does not invalidate Mr McConvill's basic concern that universities are becoming increasingly part of the "packaged education product" industry, and that this trend allows little room for original thought.

This is not confined to Australia, of course. In the UK at the moment there is much debate on "the role of the University", particularly whether it has an obligation beyond simply turning out degree-qualified worker bees.

I have no experience from which to proffer an opinion, but it distresses me to see a potentially interesting debate squashed at the first post by a nit-picker.
Posted by Pericles, Friday, 10 June 2005 11:45:45 AM
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James has made a valid point in his article but he's simply chosen the worst possible example to illustrate an important point. Mirko Bagaric is no Bertrand Russell and when I read the Bagaric/Clarke article I had to ask myself James - what kind of psuedo-intellectual-wannabes does Deakin Law School produce?! A good piece of academic research can stand on its own, stand out from the crowd and stand the test of time. The Bagaric/Clarke piece was sloppy and simplistic and copped a bagging from a number of 'intellectuals' who took the time to fill in the glaring holes that the article created in public discourse. It is true that sometimes, if you publish you perish. But only if you publish rubbish.

By the look of Mirko Bagaric on the front page of the Age back when the story broke, behind his well polished desk, expensive 'do' and fancy suit I'd hazard a guess that he drinks soy decaf lattes. James, you just sound like a 'young academic' who wants to get in the good books with a beleaguered HOD.
Posted by Audrey, Friday, 10 June 2005 1:21:05 PM
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Well, from my very quick research on the web it appears James McConvill published 3 independently authored publications in 2004. Hardly something you's write home about.
The rest of his 9 publications were joint works with Mr Bargaric whom he quotes throughout this article. (will he count this as part of this yearís work?) Most of these publications appear to be legal opinion pieces and not the results of being a part of a team of researchers doing discovery research. And this is what lawyers do in developing their briefs is it not? Perhaps itís different for academic lawyers? Does anyone know?

Follow this link: http://www.research.deakin.edu.au/performance/pubs/reports/database/dynamic/output/person/person.php?person_code=mcconja
Posted by Rainier, Friday, 10 June 2005 5:40:01 PM
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Thanks for your comments Rainier. One of those articles was in fact a book, just to correct your point.

Regards,

James McConvill
Posted by James McConvill, Friday, 10 June 2005 6:15:30 PM
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Your welcome James,
The role of teacher in academia is greatly undervalued in my mind and while research certainly can enliven teaching, many areas of theory across the disciples do not require fresh research. Indeed, I would go so far as to say cookie cutter instructions framed around students attaining 'graduate or professional attributes Ďis the culprit rather than as you assert - the lack of connection between research and teaching. Critical thinking skills, research competency, and engagement with the respective history and evolution of disciplines (such as law) are being substituted with process learning and banking education. Students no longer spend as much time on campus as they once did. The classical traditions of teaching in higher education are not being replenished.

So what this creates is a decline is the debate around the decline of intellectualism. Another is the decline of simply reading widely (yes, good old text books). Why bother if you have the World Wide Web? But I could be wrong.
Posted by Rainier, Friday, 10 June 2005 10:25:28 PM
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