The Ominous Patterns of Dr. [X] and the Failure of the Senior Faculty
Published Nov 21, 2012  printer-friendly

[[[[ The letter below was addressed to a professor called here Dr. [X] and cc'd to several of the senior faculty, including the administration. There is a reference in this letter to another letter sent to this professor from another student with a similar complaint about this professor's conduct regarding students whose political views differ from the USC OT orthodoxy; that letter is not published on this website. **The inclusion of a discussion regarding a source authored by Paul Krugman was added for readers of this website]]]]

Nov. 18, 2012

Re: The Ominous Patterns of Dr. [X] and the Failure of the Senior Faculty


Dear Dr. [X],

          In September you gave a guest lecture in my mental health class taught by Dr. XXXXX. In that lecture you said that you use a “leftist approach” to the DSM. I found the reference peculiar because I have taken roughly 23 weeks of the year-long mental health course with you before I dropped it in 2011, and in those 23 weeks I never heard of a “leftist approach” to the DSM. When I asked you what that meant, you said it means you “question the document, that’s all I meant.

          I then followed up with an email to you. I wanted to get a better understanding of what exactly you meant. I wanted to know if your approach to the DSM is something recognized by the academic literature in mental health, or if this was your own vocabulary based on your own analysis of the subject. I was also curious as to what other approaches were possible under a schema that conceptualizes a leftist approach as one that questions the document, because it suggests that a “rightist” approach is one that does not question the document. You have ignored my email.

          The following letter is written using the method of activism you teach in your class by having students write to business owners and others who use what you consider to be inappropriate language. I think it is an effective method of activism for engaging those who value sound argumentation and informed discussion. I write with the goal of persuading occupational therapy professors that their pedagogy and scholarship on matters of public policy and political philosophy harms their students, harms the profession, and harms their institutions.

          At the root of the problem is the pride of place professors have given their politics – their leftist politics. Professors have intertwined their politics with their pedagogy, sometimes making promoting their politics more important than educating their students. When this happens, the culture of a school, which includes the way professors interact with their students, changes for the worse and the foundation of the professor-student relationship is compromised.

          I.                    Professionalism as an Invited Speaker  

          One way the professor-student relationship is compromised is when professors refuse to answer questions. That is actually a very serious breach of the professor-student relationship because the asking and answering of questions related to course lectures and materials is at the heart of such a relationship. Professionalism requires that when one receives the privilege of an invitation to lecture in a classroom, the guest speaker should not make politically provocative comments unless those comments are an inherent part of the subject being presented. The lecture you gave in Dr. XXXXX’s class was not inherently political, and so, there was no need to state your political predilections.

          If a guest speaker does end up making politically provocative comments, however, professionalism demands that she answer simple follow-up questions, such as if the vocabulary used in the presentation is found in the academic literature on the subject.

          Because you have refused to respond to the simple question regarding the leftist approach to the DSM, the impression is that your reference to such an approach was gratuitous. If so, it was a particularly insensitive reference considering my history with the department. As a mental health professor, you should be more aware than others of the difficulties people experience when they try to function in an environment where their values are not welcomed. You may have overlooked the privilege you have of being in an environment with people who share your values, a privilege some rarely get to experience. By refusing to answer my email, you give the impression that your mention of the leftist approach in the classroom was made with something in mind other than engaging and educating your students.  

          Dr. xxxxx told me that you discussed with her what part of the course I had already completed before I dropped your course last year, so you were aware of my presence in the classroom. The reason I am in Dr. XXXXX’s class to begin with is because it was my desire to avoid any conflict with you. To the end of avoiding any conflict, I requested to be transferred from your course for second-years this semester to Dr. XXXXX’s course for first-years precisely because I did fear how you treat students who disagree with your politics. Specifically, I refer to the incident with [Student], your student from 2010-2011.

          II.                  [Student’s Letter to Dr. X Complaining of Dr. X’s Treatment of Her]

          In 2011, [Student] sent me a copy of a letter she wrote to you and Dr. XXXX, complaining of your treatment of her. I have attached that letter with this email. After describing her background, which included being homeless and physically abused, she wrote:

          “I felt dismissed and moderately personally attacked for the thoughts that I shared during the class discussion on Thursday.”

          [Student] further stated that:

          “I do not appreciate being talked over or to have my life experiences called into question, especially in an academic environment and in the context of a group discussion designed for learning, exploring and growth.

          It is one thing to be insensitive and to make her feel personally attacked, but to do so in front of others is particularly egregious. You should not need to be reminded that you are a professor of mental health, and as such, should be more sensitive to the psychological state of your students, and how your behavior can affect them. Not only did you shame [Student] in front of peers, but you signaled to other students that they should never express views that conflict with the liberal orthodoxy that represent your political beliefs.

          [Student] wrote that your behavior:

          “was also shocking to one of the group members who felt you were very condescending in your comments directed towards me.

          The group member she is referring to is [Name of Another Student in Group].

          I have included Dr. XXXX and Dr. XXXXXX here because their talent and professionalism are perfect examples of what is possible at USC OT. Dr. XXXXX and I disagree on very important political and pedagogical matters that are close to our hearts, but she has always been exceedingly courteous with me and has made me feel welcomed.

          Dr. XXXXX has similar talents. What made her stand out in my eyes is that I found the structure of her course particularly challenging, yet she never stopped being helpful and never stopped reaching out to me. She brings to the task of connecting with her students the best of what occupational therapy has to offer. More importantly, what was impressive about her was that her subject dealt much more intimately with legislation and public policy than yours, but she never interjected her political views, she never had to make a disparaging comment about this or that group, or about being leftist or whatever. She knows how to create a perfect environment, adapting her course to individual needs and keeping the whole class open to discussion for everybody. I often wish every professor was a [Name of the very Good Professor].

          III.                The Failure of the Senior Faculty

          As the specific incident with [Student] was recounted to me, it involved a group discussion of an assigned reading that dealt with a schizophrenic who wanted an increase in his government stipend, which he partly spent on cigarettes. That he spent this money on a product that was hazardous to his health was the crux of the issue. [Student] disagreed with the group, and stated that his stipend should not be increased. At this point you interjected, stating, “I can’t believe you think that,” which you repeated in what was interpreted by others as a shockingly inappropriate and condescending manner. 

          I have addressed the ultimate, more philosophically foundational, cause of this incident elsewhere in my writing. What I would like to address here is the proximate cause, the cause more directly tied to the specific kind of education given at USC OT by the senior faculty. When a student advances an argument in a philosophical or political discussion, and a professor responds by saying “I can’t believe you think that,” it signals a certain kind of failure, especially when done by a recent graduate, or, in your case, a graduate student close to completing her terminal degree. It means that either this new graduate has failed her professors by not learning the lessons taught her, or it means that her professors have failed to teach her what they should have taught her so that she would have a better response to a student expressing an unorthodox opinion than “I can’t believe you think that.

          Every piece of evidence indicates that it is the senior faculty who has failed you. The specific way in which it appears the senior faculty has failed you is by not exposing you to different points of view and by not forcing you to give serious consideration to the arguments and evidence used to support the beliefs of your political opponents. If your education had exposed you to great thinkers from a variety of political and philosophical perspectives, you would have no reason to say “I can’t believe you think that;” you would not have been so emotionally charged when an idea from some of these great thinkers was expressed by one of your students. That you said what you said, and that you were so emotionally charged when you said it, reflects a serious deficiency in the education the senior faculty has provided you. 

          And the issue is not just one of the kind of education provided by the senior faculty, but of the pedagogical practices they employ in the classroom and which served as a model for you. Being familiar with non-liberal thinkers is a good start, an important first step, but it is not sufficient.

          The best practice is for professors to expose students to these thinkers in the course syllabus so students know that they are not alone in their thinking. Such a practice would do much to generate discussion and thinking in the classroom. The reason for this is that many students may disagree with the left-wing orthodoxy at USC OT, but they will not share their disagreement because they are not as (seemingly) well-informed as their professors. Disagreeing with the orthodoxy, then, typically means not just disagreeing with the professor, but with all the liberal books and articles assigned in the course. It would be one student standing against an army of Ph.D.’s. Against such odds, it is better to remain silent, or just say what you think the liberal professors want to hear.

          The pedagogical practice of just about every professor I have ever had who addressed political or public policy issues in class was to engage in the simpleminded practice of using his self-perceived magnanimousness as the means of generating a class discussion. They all, in essence, convey something to the effect of, “You are free to say and write what you really think because I don’t grade you down for expressing a point of view I disagree with;  I am a sophisticated, open-minded person and welcome discussion from all perspectives.” It would be foolish to think that such a self-serving sentiment is true of 100% of those who convey it.

          What students need from professors are not self-serving sentiments but the benefit of the thoughts of great thinkers, which means books and articles where serious people have given serious thought to arguments and evidence that challenge the political orthodoxy at USC. It is by making these sources part of the architecture of a course that a professor encourages free thinking and lively exchange in a safe environment. Professors need to recognize that self-perceptions about their own sophisticated open-mindedness are incredibly deceiving; a misguided means towards establishing a safe classroom where students feel free to express themselves. The attached letter from [Student] stating that she felt “personally attacked” for expressing a viewpoint contrary to the liberal orthodoxy at USC should serve as a permanent reminder that self-perceptions of one’s sophisticated open-mindedness are a very fallible guide to structure pedagogical practice.

         IV.                The Need to Understand How One’s Ideological Opponents Think  

          Last semester I gave you a package of several books and articles. It was with the hope that some scholars with viewpoints contrary to what students are routinely exposed to would become part of your syllabus. Students should be able to recognize, for example, that occupational justice is a concept of the political left. The way it is presented, as if it is a politically neutral idea, is poor pedagogy, resulting in indoctrination. Professors use the excuse that these articles in occupational justice are the occupational therapy literature and so the professors are just exposing students to that literature. Keeping students in the dark as to the political nature of that literature, however, is irresponsible. It’s only benefit is that such an approach is an incredibly effective technique in getting students to accept the political values guiding that literature. Getting students to become first rate thinkers would require exposing them to different points of view. Getting students to unwittingly accept the political views of the USC OT faculty, on the other hand, will require the exact opposite; it will require keeping them uninformed. Professors should acknowledge the left-wing bent of the occupational therapy literature and use reading assignments that reveal its nature and demonstrate alternative approaches to these issues.

          One of the authors specifically mentioned in my letter to you that accompanied the package of books and articles was the philosopher David Kelley, who contributed an article to the book The Morality of Capitalism. Kelley earned his Ph.D. at Princeton, and wrote his dissertation under Richard Rorty, who is especially admired by both Dr. XXXX and Dr. Morgan. Kelley also published an article in Health Care Analysis titled “What are the Public Obligations to AIDS Patients?”(2002) that could have been useful in the discussion [Student’s] group was having over the schizophrenic’s government stipend. Kelley’s article indicates that he would have shared [Student’s] view that the stipend should not have been increased. I don’t believe that if Dr. Kelley sat in [Student’s] place that day, expressing the same view she did, that you would have been openly condescending towards a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton on this matter, especially at a time when you had yet to earn your Ph.D.

          The question, however, is not whether you would have expressed your condescension, but whether you would have thought the same thing: “I can’t believe you think that.” A reasonable guess, considering the nature of your education, is that the internal response would have been the same. And this touches upon what is a problem for liberals in general: the poor ability to understand how non-liberals think. The problem was revealed by the research of social psychologist and Democratic activist Jonathan Haidt in his recent book, The Righteous Mind (2012).

          Much of the work on political views by psychologists is not very helpful because it is done by leftists who do not recognize how their own ideology produces biased studies. What makes Haidt’s study better than others is that he recognized a varied approach to moral values, rather than holding left-wing egalitarian redistributionism as the absolute standard of morality. His schema allowed him to test which side of the political divide better understood how political opponents thought about issues. He found that when describing the thinking of political foes:

          “Liberals were the least accurate” (Haidt, 2012, p. 287).

          And what should be a wake-up call for occupational therapy professors, particularly the senior faculty, is that he found that among liberals, the worst ones at describing how political foes thought were:

          “those who described themselves as ‘very liberal’” (Haidt, 2012, p. 287).

          This is a very liberal man, and accomplished scholar saying that the very liberal are the worst at understanding how others think. He now says he is much less liberal as a result of trying to understand how his political opponents thought about morality and justice.

          The biggest errors for liberals came on questions of justice (Haidt, 2012, p. 287). This was the precise issue being discussed by [Student] in her group, and the precise issue that compelled you to admit that you “couldn’t believe” how people with different political views thought. What Haidt’s research shows is that it is very common for very liberal people to say “I can’t believe you think that” when a non-liberal expresses his beliefs about justice.

          At a conference for social psychologists in 2011, Haidt warned about the preponderance of liberals in the field. It was bad for the profession of social psychology, he said, because it was very easy for professors to become trapped in a bubble of like-minded flatterers, which encourages left-wing taboos against conservative thinking, something that would blind them to biases in their own research (see “Social Scientists Sees Bias Within,”, accessed Oct. 27, 2012).

          Haidt suggested that to protect themselves from their liberal bias, social psychologists needed to start reading thinkers on the right. As a side note, that any group of professors would need to be told this speaks to the habits of mind of the professors in that group. And social psychologists aren’t the only group of professors who need to heed such advice.

          One important book recommended by Haidt was A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (1987) by Thomas Sowell. You may recall Sowell’s name as I included one of his other books, The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999), in the package I left for you. Sowell is one of the most important thinkers on the right today and one of the many must-reads to understand why the right rejects the ideology of the left. I examine Sowell’s work as it applies to issues in occupational therapy in my article “The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Dr. Braveman’s Social Justice,” found at, under the AOTA tab.

          V.                  The Influence of Dr. Morgan  

          Recent graduates exemplify the values and practices of the senior faculty when they perform their duties as professors and scholars. One of the things that I pondered in what happened between you and [Student] is Dr. Morgan’s influence on your intellectual development. What generated my thinking on the matter was Dr. Morgan’s book, Why Sports Morally Matter (2006). There he states his ardent commitment to left-wing activism – along with his profound antipathy towards the political right. For example, he wrote that:

          “it is to the Left that we need to turn to for moral counsel on how to improve the lot of our fellow citizens” (Morgan, 2006, p. 3).

          He also wrote that he wants to promote a Progressive moral ideal and political program to be used as a cudgel against the right:

          “it is precisely this Progressive ideal, moral identity, and political program that I am urging the Left make its own and wield as a cudgel in its struggle against the Right to reclaim the moral soul of America” (Morgan, 2006, p. 130).

          Furthermore, he made plain his refusal to compromise with the right in this moral struggle. He declared that in this moral struggle, he will:

          “concede nothing to the Right as to how the composition of the moral center of America should look” (Morgan, 2006, p. 126).

          These passages made me wonder how Dr. Morgan’s attitudes are interpreted by his students. Is it understood that professors are not to cudgel their students with his leftist approach? Or, is it understood that students must be cudgeled if necessary to promote the leftist agenda? Are students seen as appropriate combatants in Dr. Morgan’s battle over America’s moral soul? Were you heeding Dr. Morgan’s advice to not concede any ground to the right on matters of morality when you attacked [Student] for disagreeing with the left-wing orthodoxy? These are all inconvenient questions, but the evidence requires that we investigate them.

          I must note here that Dr. Morgan has faithfully executed his stated commitment to fair play and respect for evidence-based inquiry, as he was the only occupational therapy professor from USC to give me a copy of his syllabus for my research on social justice pedagogy. I hope for further engagement with him.

          What this section will examine are the practices and attitudes in Dr. Morgan’s writing that are being acted out by professors in the department.

          As I once wrote to Dr. XXXXX, politics is a realm where blows are given and taken in the battle over what we think is morally right and wrong. That is why it is dangerous to introduce it into an academic context with the purpose of promoting advocacy rather than understanding. Dr. Morgan’s writing in Why Sports Morally Matter, where he relentlessly pummels the political right, proves my point better than most other academic books could. Dr. Morgan’s animus towards the right, however, is disconcerting as he seems especially focused on dismissing and expressing disdain for his ideological opponents rather than on engaging their thinking.

          For example, he refers to Born Again Christians as “so-called born again Christians” (Morgan, 2006, p. 128). What is so-called about them? That is what they call themselves. The “born again” simply refers to a spiritual birth Jesus talked about in the Bible. It is meant to distinguish one’s birth from the womb from one’s spiritual birth as a Christian when one decides to accept the tenets of Christianity. This is not to defend their belief system, as no atheist could, but the “so-called” is an unscholarly, derisive, sarcastic, remark that does not belong in a professor’s scholarly writing, especially a professor who knows he will have Born Again Christians in his classroom. This example gives the flavor of the disdainful and dismissive attitude taken by Dr. Morgan towards the right. And the style of the writing affects the substance of the writing. This is seen in the following passage:

          “the Right seems to think that even to mention the moral and social problems that presently beset our country and its representative sports is in bad taste” (Morgan, 2006, p. 3).

          One wonders who Dr. Morgan is referring to when he says that there are those on the right who seem to think it is in bad taste to mention moral and social problems. The statement does not make any sense, but if some information about such people were provided, perhaps it could. As it stands, it seems to be the distorted interpretation of a liberal who does not understand how non-liberals think. If Dr. Morgan is going to make claims against a group of people, there must be some evidence that the people being criticized do actually hold the view being attributed to them. Dr. Morgan, however, does not give a specific quotation, he does not give the name of a single person, and he does not give a citation that would allow the reader to determine whether his conclusion about these unidentified persons is warranted.

          Citations are important because writers are often very passionate about the things they write about. Citations are a way to bring some objectivity to the process. It could be that the writer is mistaken. Citations permit a way of checking. They permit engaged and curious readers to determine whether the writer is venting unwarranted emotions, expressing political prejudices, or is engaged in evidence-based communication.

          In the Introduction to Why Sports Morally Matter, Dr. Morgan accuses the right of engaging in class warfare when it calls demands for the government to confiscate and redistribute wealth “class warfare,” a phrase Dr. Morgan says the right uses as a “cranky cry” and “knee-jerk retort” to “prevent us from thinking” (Morgan, 2006, p. 3).  It is a “rhetorical strategy” by the right that Dr. Morgan finds “especially contemptible” because it uses this strategy in order to put “the poor and humiliated out of our mind,” which, he says, is “the real way in which class warfare is waged in our country” (Morgan, 2006, p. 3).

         The term “class warfare,” then, is legitimate when used by Dr. Morgan to criticize the right. Although Dr. Morgan claims that the right is engaged in class warfare when it uses the term, Dr. Morgan believes he is not engaged in class warfare when he refers to “the freedom that the rich use to rip off both [the poor] and . . . the middle class” (p. 127), or when he praises left-wing policies for “stopping the rich from ripping off the poor” (p. 95). Nor is he engaged in class warfare when he explained the conservative approach to morality and society as “a half-hearted attempt by the haves to ease what little moral conscience they evidently have left”(p. 116), or when he criticizes the second President Bush’s policies for having “abandoned any moral commitment to the redistribution of wealth in the name of equality and civic solidarity in favor of an economic commitment to fill the coffers of the wealthy investor class” (p. 109) (emphasis added). This is an odd state of affairs because it is precisely the language of the “rich ripping off the poor” and the “rich ripping of the middle class” and “the wealthy investor class” “filling its coffers” that people usually understand as the language of class warfare.  

          In search of the specific people who made specific statements supported by specific citations that served as the basis of Dr. Morgan’s condemnation in the Introduction, I examined chapter five of his book, which is titled “A Short Moral History of America.” The search however, was in vain because, although Dr. Morgan shows a deep-seated contempt for the right, and expresses that contempt often, he only names two people on the right (the second President Bush and William Bennett), does so in passing, without identifying specific arguments, and never provides a citation to a book or article by someone on the right so that the reader can determine who exactly is saying what, when, and under what circumstances.

          William Bennett was the Secretary of Education under President Reagan. In a paragraph criticizing the privatization of morality in American life, Dr. Morgan mentions Bennett as an example of “conservative moralists” whose notion of morality focuses on private sexual conduct over helping the poor (Morgan, 2006, p. 119). This is why, according to Dr. Morgan:

          “when such conservative moralists as William Bennett bemoan the ‘lack of moral outrage’ in modern-day America, they are not referring to its citizens’ turning their back on their poor compatriots but to their failure to get worked up over the private indiscretions of their prominent citizens, especially the sexual antics of such conservative political nemeses as former president Clinton” (Morgan, 2006, p. 119).  

          This is a very powerful accusation. Dr. Morgan is saying that Bennett and conservative moralists like him bemoan the “lack of moral outrage” when people do not “get worked up over” the private sexual lives of prominent citizens, yet they do not seem to care so much when everybody turns their backs to the needs of the poor. It was difficult to tell if the quoted phrase “lack of moral outrage” was attributed to Bennett or to some other “conservative moralists” because there is no citation. The reader, then, is inhibited from exercising independent judgment to determine whether Dr. Morgan has accurately and fairly conveyed Bennett’s position.

          Fortunately, the internet made it easy to discover that Bennett wrote a book titled The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals (1999). Since this was a book about moral outrage and President Clinton, I assumed it must have been one of the sources for Dr. Morgan’s analysis. I purchased the book on my Kindle and ran a search for the term “moral outrage.” It only produced one hit. This is that passage: 

          “Defenders of both Richard Nixon and of Bill Clinton forget that the cost of raising the threshold of moral outrage is paid out over generations – and with compound interest. How much of the political cynicism that today says ‘they all do it’ can be laid at the feet of actions committed twenty-five years ago during the Watergate scandal? Twenty-five years from today, what will be the cost of the Clinton scandals to the America of our children and grandchildren?” (Bennett, 1998, The Death of Outrage, Kindle Locations 680-684, Kindle Edition) (emphasis added).

          This passage reveals that Bennett’s concern when he used the term “moral outrage” is trust in public officials, whether it is the Republican Richard Nixon or the Democrat Bill Clinton. It seems Bennett is concerned with the same things Dr. Morgan is concerned with in his chapter on the moral history of America: morality and trust.

          Simply browsing through the book reveals how unreliable is Dr. Morgan’s representation of the “conservative moralist” Bennett. Dr. Morgan refers to “private indiscretions of prominent citizens” and says that this “especially” applies to the “sexual antics” of President Clinton (Morgan, 2006, p. 119), making it seem as if moralists like Bennett are mainly concerned with private sexual behavior. That was not Bennett’s focus, however, and to present it as such distorts his position. The scandal involving President Clinton was not about a “private indiscretion,” and presenting it as such reflects a gross misunderstanding of the Clinton affair and does a disservice to one’s readers.

          The crucial fact in the matter is that the president broke the law when he lied under oath about his treatment of a female employee, then held a news conference where he lied to the entire country. Nor was the issue about “sexual antics.” President Clinton was not impeached, fined and disbarred because of his private sexual behavior. These are some pertinent facts on the matter:

·         Judge Susan Webber Wright, who presided over the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton, did not fine Clinton $90,000 and order him to face disciplinary action because he had an extramarital affair. The judge did these things because she found that Clinton had purposely lied under oath. (“Mr. Clinton’s Disbarment Case,” New York Times, May, 2, 2000,, accessed Nov. 2, 2012).

·         The U. S. Supreme Court did not disbar Clinton for private sexual antics, but because he violated the law by lying under oath (“Clinton Disbarred from Practice Before Supreme Court,” New York Times, Oct. 1, 2001,, accessed Nov. 2, 2012).

·         The Arkansas Supreme Court did not suspend Clinton’s law license and force him to pay a $25,000 fine because of private sexual conduct, but because he violated the law by lying under oath (“Clinton Disbarred from Practice Before Supreme Court,” New York Times, Oct. 1, 2001,, accessed Nov. 2, 2012).

·         The House of Representatives did not impeach President Clinton for a private sexual relationship, but because he committed perjury and obstructed justice.


          If Dr. Morgan is going to use William Bennett as an example of someone who bemoans the lack of moral outrage involving private sexual behavior, especially Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior, then academic rigor requires that he address the specific arguments made and the specific facts used to make those arguments, especially since Bennett wrote a book about Bill Clinton and the lack of moral outrage regarding his illegal conduct. To not explain the facts above, which were available to Dr. Morgan at the time he wrote his book, calls into question his ability to present fair and accurate information about the views of his political opponents. That is an important fact in determining what students learn from him, because if the most important picture they get of the right is from Dr. Morgan’s highly contemptuous and inaccurate portrayals, then this would result in his students becoming bigoted against a group of people rather than educated about them.

          It is also curious how Dr. Morgan evades the context of Clinton’s lying considering he expresses his concern for the humiliation women face in our society (Morgan, 2006, p. 229 fn. 69). If one’s concern is the overt humiliation of women, then one should be concerned about one of the very important ways that humiliation manifests itself. That is by pressuring women in one’s employ to perform sexual acts as part of their employment. That was precisely the basis of Paula Jones’s lawsuit against the president. That was the importance of Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky: it would have shown that he is the type of man to engage in sexual affairs with his female employees. Dr. Morgan’s blithe disregard for such an egregious form of humiliation also casts doubt on his ability to present his readers with fair and accurate information regarding those who support his political agenda.

          Dr. Morgan’s own trustworthiness as an author who can accurately present his opponents’ views is often called into question because maligning political opponents for the sake of advancing his political agenda seems to override the purpose of educating his readers. An example of this is found in a section discussing the “bad behavior of the poor” (Morgan, 2006, p. 118). Dr. Morgan attributed the poor’s behavior to the resentment that comes from “always being on the short end of the stick” (Morgan, 2006, p. 118). He did state, at least, that “the deeds that spew from this resentment are hardly justifiable” (Morgan, 2006, p. 118). This is what Dr. Morgan wrote:

          “Putnam and others report that the have-nots that are crowded into our inner cities (for most the only place they can afford to live) are [1] three times more likely to cheat on their taxes, insurance claims, and bank loan applications,78 [2] are more likely to engage in overt, often virulent, forms of racism, sexism, and gay-bashing, and [3] tend to be even more conservative than their bosses on such cultural issues as abortion, affirmative action, and gun ownership" (Morgan, 2006, p. 118).

          The passage gives three categories of behaviors and traits of the “have-nots”:

(1)    criminal fraud;

(2)    bigotry against women, Blacks and gays – which could even include physically assaulting gays, depending on the meaning of “gay-bashing;

(3)    being “even more conservative” than their employers on cultural issues.

          This was the list of things that followed the sentence referring to “the deeds that spew” from the poor’s resentment, in the paragraph about the “bad behavior of the poor.” In other words, the implication is that among the bad behavior of the poor is being even more conservative than one’s employer. The clumsiness of the juxtaposition here could be innocent, or it could reflect such a deep-seated animus towards conservatives that it makes objective scholarship impossible because the objective of the scholarship is to disparage opponents in order to push a political agenda. When the purpose of writing is to harm political opponents in order to push a political agenda, a writer is unlikely to notice sloppy writing or careless research when those failings produce sentences that have the effect of making political opponents look bad.

          An active-minded reader would have immediately noticed a problem with the statement presented above. Dr. Morgan is using an undefined, poetical category, “the have-nots,” to which he is ascribing defined, non-poetical, statistical characteristics, which he says were reported by “Putnam and others.” But “Putnam and others,” if they are doing solid social science, would have had to define the categories they are collecting data on, and this creates a question as to whether Putnam and the others defined Dr. Morgan’s poetically phrased “have-nots” in the same way so that all are talking about the same group of people. Fortunately, Dr. Morgan does give the reader one name here – Putnam – and one citation, which is represented by the highlighted superscript 78 in the quoted passage above, which references Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone (2000), page 138.

          The Putnam reference only applies to the first category listed by Dr. Morgan, the criminal fraud.  Recall that Dr. Morgan is saying that the “have-nots” are people “crowded into our inner cities” because that “is the only place they can afford to live,” and he cites Putnam for the statement that these people are “three times more likely to cheat on their taxes, insurance claims, and bank loan applications.

          The problem for Dr. Morgan is that these are not the people Putnam is referring to. Putnam is not referring to “have-nots” on page 138 when he wrote about cheating on taxes, bank loans, etc. Instead, Putnam, in the paragraph in question, is discussing the attitudes of people from cities versus the attitudes of people from small towns. This is the sentence in Putnam’s book that served as Dr. Morgan’s source:

          “Cheating on taxes, employment forms, insurance claims, and bank loan applications are three times more likely to be condoned in cities than in small towns” (Putnam, 2000, p. 138).

          Putnam is not talking about the “haves” versus the “have-nots.” He is talking about the attitudes of people in cities versus the attitudes of people in small towns. That is why Putnam begins the paragraph in which that sentence is found with the statement:

          “Take, for instance, the case of city size” (Putnam, 2000, p. 138) (emphasis added).

          He is talking about how city size influences attitudes. The term “have nots” does appear on that page, but it is in another paragraph, and used to express an idea that was limited to that paragraph. Dr. Morgan failed to read that page carefully.

          Nor is Putnam referring to people who “cheat on their taxes, insurance claims, and bank loan applications,” as Dr. Morgan claimed. Putnam is not talking about actual cheating. Putnam is, instead, referring to the attitudes people have about those things. He is referring to the fact that these behaviors are “three times more likely to be condoned” by people who live in cities than by people who live in small towns. Condoning cheating is different than actually cheating. Dr. Morgan’s statement regarding the first category, criminal fraud, is a distortion of the source provided.

          It would have been useful to examine the other two categories mentioned, that of bigotry and being even more conservative than employers. Unfortunately, Dr. Morgan only referred to nameless “others” who serve as the sources for that information, failing to give an actual citation. This means his readers cannot determine if his statements are an accurate presentation of the evidence, or a distortion of it as it was with the reference to Putnam.

          Another instance where the sources failed to support the picture painted by Dr. Morgan was when he wrote about:

          “the average working couple and family, where average means both husband and wife work full-time for production (nonsupervisory) wages of somewhere between $7.50 to $8.00 an hour to support two kids” (Morgan, 2006, p. 110).

          There is no citation so it is not possible to verify what exactly is being spoken of here as there are various ways to account for this kind of information. For example, why does he call this family arrangement average? Neither the year nor the section of the country are mentioned.

          Dr. Morgan then explained the following about this allegedly average, hypothetical family living in a nondescript hypothetical part of the country in a hypothetical year:

          “For such a family would pull in a paltry $30,000 a year, which puts home ownership out of their reach and gives them barely enough money to rent a one bedroom apartment (in fact, they would have to spend more on shelter than the 30% of income considered affordable for this purpose)” (Morgan, 2006, p. 110).

          The reader is once more given an unsourced description fitting the tale of misery and woe that Dr. Morgan wants to tell. Fortunately, later in the paragraph, Dr. Morgan quotes the philosopher Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America (1998), page 84. Reading this page reveals that Dr. Morgan was presenting the same discussion as did Rorty, using the same figures as did Rorty, and not surprisingly, coming to the same conclusion. The problem is that Rorty’s figures also lack a source. The only reference given by Rorty in this discussion is to a magazine article, which he refers the reader “for an account of a family trying to get by at this income level” (Rorty, 1998, p. 147 fn. 3).

          The reference is to a 1995 article by Susan Sheehan in the New Yorker titled “Ain’t No Middle Class No More” (available at, accessed Nov. 8, 2012). It is about a family of four from Iowa. The husband works for $7.30/ hour (Sheehan, p. 83) and the wife works for $6.50/ hour (Sheehan, p. 84), with both children in high school. The previous year they made just above $30,000 (Sheehan, p. 85). Unlike the unspecified family living in an unspecified location in an unspecified year of which Dr. Morgan said could barely afford “to rent a one bedroom apartment,” “with homeownership out of reach,” home for this specific family in a specific place in a specific year is described as a “two-story, three bedroom house” (Sheehan, p. 82.) The house is owned by the family, which they took a mortgage out on (Sheehan, p. 83).

          When Sheehan asked a consumer counselor to examine this family’s finances, the counselor concluded that the amount the family spent on vacations was “outlandish” (Sheehan, p. 89). Furthermore, the husband’s spending habits were cited as an issue. After getting married:

          “He needed two jobs, because he regularly spent more than he and [his wife] earned, just as he had overspent his own pay when he was single” (Sheehan, p. 90).

          The husband’s spending seemed to be a life-long issue. At one time, according to Sheehan:

          “every year or two, he bought a new car” (p. 90).

          As Thomas Sowell once said, even millionaires will go broke if they try to live like billionaires. Despite the husband’s spendthrift ways, however, this husband and wife were still able to buy a three bedroom home, accumulate $8,000 in equity in it, and were well-off enough that they could decide to have two children.

          But the point here is not the plight of this family, which is sad in many ways. The issue is whether the story portrayed by Dr. Morgan in his moral history of America is supported by the evidence he himself cites to substantiate it. He accepted Rorty’s unsourced figures and came to the same conclusion as Rorty – that home ownership is out of reach for such a hypothetical family – yet the one citation given by Rorty includes a family with two children living in a two-story, three-bedroom house that they own. Again, there is a disconnect between what is being written and the sources used to substantiate it.

          A more egregious contradiction between what Dr. Morgan wrote and the sources he used occurred when he discussed the annual average compensation of the American worker. This is what Dr. Morgan wrote about the 30-year period ending the 20th century:

          “In that same period, the average annual compensation of the American worker, again adjusted for inflation, fell about 10% from its 1973 level” (Morgan, 2006, p. 109).

          This sentence has no citation. The sentence before it, however, does. The sentence before it is about the rise in CEO pay, information taken from an article by Paul Krugman. In the same paragraph used by Dr. Morgan to get information about CEO pay, Krugman wrote the following, which is the complete opposite of what Dr. Morgan just said about the average annual salary in America:

          “Over the past 30 years most people have seen only modest salary increases: the average annual salary in America, expressed in 1998 dollars (that is, adjusted for inflation), rose from $32,522 in 1970 to $35,864 in 1999. That's about a 10 percent increase over 29 years” (“For Richer,” New York Times Magazine, Oct. 20, 2002,, accessed Jan. 5, 2013) (emphasis added).

          Where Dr. Morgan tells his readers about a 10% decrease in the average annual compensation in America, one of his sources reported a 10% increase in average salaries.

          Dr. Morgan is Cherry Picking his sources to tell the story of right-wing malignancy. His zeal for promoting his left-wing agenda along with his antipathy to the political right seems to have clouded his judgment, resulting in a distorted picture of the subjects he addressesIf his sources contradict each other, rather than explain the discrepancy to his readers, he goes with whatever source promotes his political agenda. That is no longer schoalrship. That is political campaigning.

          At times, the failure to name specific people and give a citation in order to know who represents the object of Dr. Morgan’s analysis becomes especially egregious because the accusations are infused with so much contempt. For example, he wrote of the right’s idea of morality that:

          “the issue is that by privatizing their notion of morality, the great public vices that eat away at our society in an especially pernicious way . . . are given practically no notice at all – so much so, that it seems a mockery to refer to these conservative talking-heads as social critics let alone moral ones” (Morgan, 2006, p. 230 fn. 81) (emphasis added).

          Dr. Morgan is calling a group of people “talking-heads,” ones whose attitude towards social problems is so deficient that it is a “mockery” to believe that they are really “moral” critics. This is a very powerful claim, one so powerful that the reader should know who these talking-heads who falsely consider themselves moral critics are. But no answer is given. No quotation. No name. No citation.

          Dr. Morgan makes similar incendiary claims throughout his chapter on the moral history of America. For example, he wrote:

          “What is so morally discomfiting about this conservative take is not just that it is self-deluded in trying to pass off market outcomes rigged in its favor as altogether just ones (representing as it does a half-hearted attempt by the haves to ease what little moral conscious they evidently have left) but is something far more troubling” (Morgan, 2006, p. 116) (emphasis added).

          Who are these “self-deluded” conservatives with “little moral conscious” who are “trying to pass off” these things?

          No quotation. No name. No citation.

          Furthermore, according to Dr. Morgan:

          “These market aficionados were especially contemptuous of any effort to import moral notions and ideals into economic matters, arguing that mixing such economic principles as the law of supply and demand with such moral considerations as fairness is like mixing oil and water: they cannot be mixed because of their fundamental incompatibility, and any effort to do so will lead to disastrous consequences all around” (Morgan, 2006, p. 107) (emphasis added).

          Who are these “market aficionados?”   

          No quotation. No name. No citation.

          Dr. Morgan is saying that the right wants to keep certain moral considerations out of economic matters. He strongly suggests throughout this chapter that the right’s main concern is with money and a preference for freedom at the expense of community and concern for others. Since the only explicit reference to someone on the right is William Bennett, aside from references that included the movie Wall Street and the novel The Bonfire of the Vanities (p. 110), and to the second President Bush, as well as to a poet who died in the 1800s (p. 128), it would be useful to see what Bennett said on the matter of economics and morality:

          “if we have full employment and greater economic growth— if we have cities of gold and alabaster— but our children have not learned to walk in goodness, justice, and mercy, then the American experiment, no matter how gilded, will have failed. A strong economy is a good thing. But it is far from everything. That, at least, is the traditional American understanding of things” (Bennett, 1999, Kindle Locations 466-468) (emphasis added).

          Bennett, therefore, can’t be included in the people Dr. Morgan calls “market aficionados,” who believe morality should be kept out of economic matters. Bennett, much like those on the left, erroneously dichotomizes the issue and so places the development of one’s moral character above any economic value. In fact, Bennett and Dr. Morgan have much in common as evidenced by Bennett’s statement that:

          “Unbridled capitalism is a problem. It may not be a problem for production, but it's a problem for human beings. It's a problem for the whole dimension of things we call the realm of values and human relationships” (quoted in “Atlas Around the World,”, accessed Nov. 3, 2012).

          Notice the similarity to the words of Dr. Morgan:

          “what most threatens us today is capitalism itself: more precisely, capitalism run amok, in which everything is up for sale precisely because nothing is considered so sacrosanct that it cannot be subjected to the egoistic calculus of the business deal” (Morgan, 2006, p. 7).

          They sound very similar. Bennett speaks of the alleged problem of “unbridled capitalism” whereas Dr. Morgan speaks of “capitalism run amok.” Either one could have made either statement.

           Bennett appears to have much more in common with Dr. Morgan than Dr. Morgan wants to reveal. But if one’s goal is to cudgel political opponents in the process of promoting one’s political agenda, such a purpose is undermined by presenting a more complete and complex picture of the conservative moralist one is attacking.

          So, again, who are the “market aficionados?” The reader can’t know. And perhaps most left-wing readers don’t care. Perhaps enough of them just enjoy reading bad things being said about the right, whether true or not, whether logical or not, and, if nothing else, Dr. Morgan’s writing indulges such tastes with an exposition that names no one on the right but Bennett and Bush and selectively cites to nothing but left-wing authors who support the story he wants to tell. 

          A common feature of Dr. Morgan’s writing in his chapter on the moral history of America is a penchant for pronouncement over explanation. He did it with both affirmative action and abortion, where both subjects are merely mentioned, attached to a wide-ranging opinion that is meant to function as an explanation for a vast array of individual beliefs. For example, in addressing the specific ways in which unnamed “conservative moralists” distort the country’s moral outlook, Dr. Morgan points to “our often-fierce opposition to” affirmative action, but does not explain it. He simply states that this opposition is due to:

          “the very idea of collective agency itself and the public good in which it trades” (Morgan, 2006, p. 120).

          This is not an explanation, however. It is a pronouncement. It would help his readers if he went through the philosopher’s process of actually examining arguments that oppose it or the historian’s process of showing who opposed it and what facts were involved in their opposition to it. Then his interpretation would be directly tied to real people making real arguments. This would serve to educate the reader on the subject of the presentation. But writing like this, where subjects are identified, be it abortion, or affirmative action, followed by Dr. Morgan’s opinion, which isn’t tied to identifiable people, facts or arguments, helps no one, least of all Dr. Morgan.

          As it stands, there is no reason why someone should accept Dr. Morgan’s conclusion. He did not quote a single person’s belief about affirmative action, nor did he explain what is involved in affirmative action debates that would lead to his conclusion that people’s fierce opposition to it is because they reject the notion of collective agency and the notion of the public good when “it means something more than the mere summing up of individual goods” (Morgan, 2006, p. 120).

         His interpretation is not persuasive because it is conceptually far removed from the very real reasons why people do actually oppose affirmative action. An informed and active-minded reader needs to be taken step by step from the most basic historical facts and philosophical arguments regarding the opposition to affirmative action to Dr. Morgan’s conclusion. The reason so many people oppose affirmative action is because they believe it is wrong to give preferences in university admissions or employment based on racial characteristics. This is a moral argument against affirmative action, an example of which is found in the book Naked Racial Preference (1995) by the philosopher Carl Cohen. But considering the moral arguments people make against affirmative action is not something Dr. Morgan bothered to do.

          Dr. Morgan could have also dealt with the argument that affirmative action policies are destructive to the societies that implement them as reported by Thomas Sowell in Affirmative Action Around the World (2004). But this is another path Dr. Morgan chose not to follow.

          Dr. Morgan could have addressed the argument that affirmative action policies by universities put Blacks and Hispanics in a position where many are more likely to fail or to change to non-science majors because their skills will not match the more competitive campuses many Blacks and Hispanics find themselves on due to the ethnic and racial preferences involved in affirmative action. The most recent authors to address this argument are the law professor Richard Sander and the Brookings Institution fellow Stuart Taylor in their book Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help and Why Universities Won't Admit It (2012). This is another route Dr. Morgan avoided.

          Dr. Morgan could have also dealt with the much more difficult argument that such policies may serve as a disincentive for Blacks to improve themselves so that they can compete academically and economically with other groups without racial preferences. This is the argument made by literature professor Shelby Steele in White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (2006). This would have afforded Dr. Morgan the opportunity to deal with the incredibly difficult issue of what he and Rorty call the humiliation of Blacks in a more sophisticated manner than positing liberals as the good-hearted, and others as “sadists.” This option, however, he eschewed.

          After he addressed the arguments against affirmative action by informed and gifted authors, a reader of Dr. Morgan’s book could have then determined whether these authors reject affirmative action because, as Dr. Morgan wrote, they oppose “the very idea of collective agency itself and the public good in which it trades,” or because they have very good reasons for rejecting affirmative action on the basis of their research and thinking.

          The result of actually analyzing why these authors reject affirmative action would reveal the hollowness of Dr. Morgan’s pronouncement. This is especially so since Sander, Taylor and Cohen are all liberals. Dr. Morgan’s pronouncement does not account for why liberals would accept other parts of the liberal agenda that deals with collective agency and the public good in which it trades, yet reject affirmative action. It doesn’t explain, for example, why Californians, who in 1996 passed Proposition 209 banning racial preferences, also voted for President Clinton in the same election. It doesn’t explain why Michigan, another state that embraces the liberal agenda, also voted to ban affirmative action in 2006.  

          VI.                Who is to Blame

          If Dr. Morgan is going to wage a moral battle against the right, it will not be very effective unless he starts addressing real people making real arguments, citing sources that corroborate the historical events he is interpreting.                   

          The weaknesses mentioned here, and the many others that have been omitted, do not address Dr. Morgan’s argument in his chapter on the moral history of America. That is covered in my series of eight articles titled “Beware the Googlers: A Note on Method,” which is discussed below.

          When a writer makes inflammatory statements, as does Dr. Morgan, the standard of evidence becomes incredibly high. Powerful statements must rest on equally powerful evidence. By failing to meet the standards generated by his own writing, Dr. Morgan has left the impression that his main concern is with maligning political opponents to advance his political agenda.

          Here are some of the many insults and accusations he made against the views of the monolithic group of essentially unnamed individuals whom he calls conservatives or the right.

·         “self-deluded” (p. 116).

·         “morally disingenuous and dangerous” (p. 116).

·         “a half-hearted attempt by the haves to ease what little moral conscience they evidently have left” (p. 116) emphasis added.

·        they use “the language of moral abdication” when they tell the state to “stay out of the moral business of redistribution” (pp. 116-17).

·        they offer “empty moral platitude[s]” (p. 117).

·         they use the “cranky cry” and “knee-jerk retort” of “class warfare” as a “rhetorical strategy” to “prevent us from thinking,” in order to put “the poor and humiliated out of our mind” (p. 3).

·         “seems a mockery to refer to these conservative talking-heads as social critics let alone moral ones” ( p. 230 fn. 81) (emphasis added).

·         “the Right’s rendering of America is an ideological sham” (p. 130). 


          It was noted above that Dr. Morgan wants the left to use his moral and political ideas as a “cudgel” against the right in the struggle to “reclaim the moral soul of America” (Morgan, 2006, p. 130) and that he wanted to “concede nothing to the Right” in the battle for the moral center (Morgan, 2006, p. 126). To end the chapter on his moral history of America, Dr. Morgan wrote:

          “This is more than enough evidence, I believe, to shake off any objection that now is not a propitious time to press the Progressive case, that trying to press that case as hard as we can on turf the Right has grown accustomed to calling its own” (Morgan, 2006, pp. 130-31).

          Dr. Morgan’s writing warrants the inference that his work is geared towards recruiting readers to his politics in order to win his moral battle against the right rather than on educating them to be informed thinkers on the issues he addresses. The question is, what attitudes has he conveyed to his students at USC and what have they learned from him about those who oppose his left-wing agenda. The evidence points to a professor who is teaching his students to be hostile to the right, rather than teaching them to be informed thinkers who, when they become professors, can accept that not all students will subscribe to the political and moral ideals espoused by the left and that they will have good reasons for their views.

          Dr. Morgan is not the only member of the faculty to express these negative attitudes or instruct students in such a way that leaves them oblivious as to why the political opponents of liberals believe what they believe. This has many negative consequences.

          The type of education being given at USC OT is tantamount to being taught only the even numbers in the multiplication tables. Professors know 2 x 4 exquisitely. But when a student confronts them with the idea of 3 x 5, they will respond by saying, “I can’t believe you think that.” Multiplying with odd numbers becomes a perplexing mess, one that must be attributed to morally impaired “sadists,” who make political decisions based on resentment against women or minorities, even when they themselves are women and minorities (Morgan, 2006, p. 129).

          An environment where ignorance of opposing viewpoints, and attitudes of disdain and dismissal towards those viewpoints, is the norm, brings out the worst in the junior faculty as they come to believe that political views that differ from those of the senior faculty must be controlled, attacked, ridiculed or prohibited. Here I judge from the behavior of controlling, attacking, ridiculing and prohibiting I’ve observed. The values of the environment result in the kinds of things that have happened at USC OT.

         That is why I do not blame you for attacking [Student] when she expressed a contrary point of view in your class; I blame the senior faculty who taught you to “concede nothing to the Right” on moral matters.

          That is why I do not blame Dr. [A]  for using a bigoted cartoon in one of her lectures to mock the political right; I blame the senior faculty for teaching her that it is a “mockery” to consider moral critics on the right “moral” critics since they support uncaring policies that may even humiliate women, gays and minorities, without ever teaching her to understand opposing points of view.

          That is why I don’t blame you or Dr. [A] for distributing a voter list to students, telling them to vote for every Democrat running for state-wide office and every liberal proposition on the 2010 ballot; I blame the senior faculty for telling you to wield your political and moral beliefs like a cudgel against the right.

          That is why I don’t blame Dr. [B] for having students put on what amounted to a cheerleading session promoting the left-wing single payer initiative using a video that presented data that had been repudiated by the editor-in-chief of the report from which the data came, an editor-in-chief who called the data “unethical,” “spurious” and “meaningless;” instead I blame Dr. Morgan for setting the example he set in his chapter on the moral history of America – which, after a one-sided exposition condemning nearly 40 years of American history covered in several dozen pages of text, a condemnation inspired by conservative moralists and market aficionados – (1) names only one conservative moralist, and does so by distorting his view, (2) names no market aficionados, (3) gives the reader not a single citation from the people being criticized, (4) tells a story with sources that contradict some of his claims, and (5) concludes by saying that he has presented “more than enough evidence . . . that now is [] a propitious time to press the Progressive case” (Morgan, 2006, pp. 130-31) (emphasis added).

                Why did Dr. [B] permit misinformation in the classroom? Because the habits she has been taught stem from the value that (1) partial knowledge is knowledge as long as it is knowledge of the politics favored by the senior faculty; that (2) half-knowledge is knowledge as long as you have a lot of good intentions about what the government is supposed to do; that (3) one-sided knowledge is knowledge as long as it involves occupational therapists advocating for more political pull. These values make a virtue of ignorance and so hardly any evidence at all is more than enough evidence as long as it is the type of evidence that pushes students to accept the political values of their professors.

          The habit of mind entrenched by such a value system makes knowledge of opposing views superfluous. An epistemological policy committed to half-, partial, and one-sided-knowledge in a culture of advocacy only breeds hostility to views that contradict the values of the professors. The hostility can be expressed openly, such as when you attacked [Student], or when Dr. [A] put up a bigoted cartoon, or when Dr. [B] forbad her students the use of the term “illegal immigrant.” The hostility can also be expressed passively, as when professors do not answer emails about their politicized pedagogy. It’s hostility all the same. A hostility that is really a confession, revealing both the nature of the education one has received and the habits of mind one has developed.

          VII.              One Liberty of Thought and Discussion 

          The problem of one-sided knowledge is not just an institutional problem at USC, however. It is a profession-wide problem. To address it I have written [a book] titled Beware the Googlers: A Note on Method which will be published on my website soon. It is a sociology of occupational therapy’s epistemology. The “Googlers” referred to are professors: professors who simply fish in databases for information they want to use to confirm their predetermined conclusions. My argument is that the scholarship in occupational therapy that touches on issues of political philosophy or public policy is of little value because the professors do not seek to teach, or even to know themselves, the complexity of the issues involved. All they do is start out with their political views, usually uninformed of how others would treat the subject, and then proceed to collect a bunch of liberal authors who will substantiate what they want to claim, excluding information that would interfere with the story they want to tell. This process influences pedagogical practices in the classroom and the interaction among occupational therapists in professional organizations such as AOTA.

          Beware the Googlers examines 16 professors, some of the most important people in the field, several from USC, including you and Dr. Morgan, and shows the deficiencies in their approach to their scholarship, their work in the classroom, and as members of AOTA’s Ethics Commission. My goal is to promote a new approach to teaching, writing and thinking about political philosophy and public policy in occupational therapy.

          My hope is that the senior faculty will be persuaded by my arguments, though history suggests such hope is in vain. What the physicist Max Planck once said has relevance here:

          “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it” (quoted in T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition, Kindle Locations 2870-2873).

          I do not offer a new scientific truth, but merely an old idea presented by John Stuart Mill. It is found in the second chapter of On Liberty (1859), titled “On Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” where he wrote:

          “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination” (On Liberty, p. 98 in the Pelican Classics edition, 1978) (emphasis added).

          Mill goes on to explain why one should not be content with summaries of opposing views by those who do not share those views, but must learn about those views from those who actually hold them:

          “Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or to bring them into to real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them: who defend them in earnest, and do their utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form” (On Liberty, pp. 98-99 in the Pelican Classics edition, 1978) (emphasis added).

          It should be clear from these passages that even though the idea Mill presents is not a radically new scientific truth, it will be a radically new method in occupational therapy. To meet Mill’s standard for the liberty of thought and discussion, professors would have to accompany readings that touch upon issues of public policy or political philosophy with something that challenges the orthodoxy. Mill’s standard would require, for example, that an article assigned on the subject of occupational justice be accompanied with a chapter of Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice, which criticizes the idea. This would do much to disabuse occupational therapy students, including those who later become professors, from the idea that they are the educated, morally good ones who have special knowledge that makes those who disagree with them not so good and not so smart. When meeting Mill’s standard becomes common practice, the administration would have to worry much less, if at all, about the predilections or temperament of any one professor. The practice itself is inoculative. 

          Because new ideas and new methods are more enthusiastically embraced by the young and new, I am reaching out to you, to new graduates, to current students and to future professors. The idea that a curriculum should meet the standard set up by Mill, that students should learn both the even and the odd numbers of the times table, will be less likely to be deemed illegitimate by those still open to new ways of thinking; they may even find that it makes a lot of sense. I hope that you find it makes a lot of sense.

          VIII.             Conclusion

          Beware the Googlers: A Note on Method is still in the editing stage, but if you are curious as to how the argument will proceed, you are invited to read my article dealing with Dr. Brent Braveman's discussion in the OT Connections forum on social justice titled, “The Intellectual Bankruptcy of One Professor’s Social Justice,” posted on my website,, under the AOTA tab. Dr. Braveman is an accomplished scholar with FAOTA status, who served as a guest-editor for the American Journal of Occupational Therapy’s special social justice edition. I highly recommend the post-script for an example of a synoptic reading list, which is what professors should strive for when dealing with issues of political philosophy and public policy. It is an example of an approach to a reading list that educates rather than indoctrinates.

          My message here is that your leftism should not just question the DSM. If questioning accepted orthodoxies is how you define being a leftist, then I am a leftist too; perhaps even more leftist than you. But I think that we should not limit our leftism to questioning diagnostic documents in mental health. Leftism, so defined, is too potent a tool for human beneficence to be so restrained. We need to extend our leftism to all aspects of intellectual life, so that we question our professors, question our education, question our curriculum, question the books they assign (as well as the books they don’t) and question the words that they use. To that end, I wish we would all be leftists.








Dr. William Morgan







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