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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Anonymity: Its strange rewards

I do not usually bother with anonymous posts, but some strike me as interesting.

Take this one on ID-friendly law prof Frank Beckwith's tenure case
Beckwith is not a law professor. He does not have the requisite education to be a law professor. He has no juris doctorate. Therefore, he can only teach at the undergraduate level. And even then, he can only teach the "philosophy of law." Not law itself.

Now, at the time, I wondered why the hoo-haw a person so knowledgeable about the state of law teaching should wish to send me an anonymous post. But people who detract from the reputation of others - particularly those others who may be their superiors in a variety of ways - often resort to anonymity, and very advisedly, if I may say so.

Anyway, I looked into the matter. Here is what I found:

Beckwith is not a law professor. That is true. His appointment is in the department of church-state studies, which offers a PhD, which is a higher degree than a law degree. He has a graduate degree in law—Master of Juridical Studies—not a JD. It is from the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, a university and law school ranked considerably higher than Baylor University or Baylor Law School. Unlike the requirements for the JD, he was required to write a scholarly dissertation for his degree, which was published as several law review articles and then revised as a book and then reviewed positively in Harvard Law Review. Not bad. His PhD is in philosophy from Fordham University.

So, he is a philosopher with a graduate degree in law with more publications in law reviews than virtually all the law professors in Baylor’s zip code. He is more than qualified to teach in a law school in the areas in which he has expertise, Law and Religion, Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law, Bioethics, etc. He’s taught these subjects in programs of higher academic rigor than law schools—PhD programs--and once in a non-ABA law school. Without revealing any names, before receiving tenure from Baylor two weeks ago he was approached by an ABA accredited law school for possible employment. This law school has a much higher average LSAT scores than Baylor and is more difficult to get into.

The person who wrote this knows nothing about law school education and the sorts of profs who teach at such places. For example, Jules Coleman teaches at Yale Law School and he has the same degrees as Beckwith does (a PhD in philosophy and a Master of Studies in Law from Yale; the latter is Yale’s equivalent to what Beckwith earned at Wash. U.). Paul Finkleman, who is know at Albany State Law School, held the Chapman Chair at University of Tulsa. Paul has a PhD in history and did post-doc work at Harvard Law School (but did not earn a degree). Both men are outstanding scholars in the law, though neither has a JD. Former president of Utah State, and editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Supreme Court Opinions, Kermit Hall, is in the same boat as the rest including Beckwith. He has a PhD (history) and a MSL (Yale Law School). And before he moved to Utah State, Hall had dual appointments in the law school and the department of history at Indiana University. Hall’s lack of JD didn’t mean much to the folks at Indiana. The same is true of Carol Swain of Vanderbilt Law School: PhD (political science) and a MSL (Yale Law School). Although he doesn’t teach at a law school, Robert P. George is considered one of the greatest legal scholars in America. He is a JD (Harvard Law School) with a DPhil (Oxford). He happens to hold the McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University, which was once held by Woodrow Wilson. Now George doesn’t teach at a law school, but he’s clearly superior to anybody at Baylor in the areas of expertise, his number and quality of publications, and his influence in the academy and the public square.

But I don't think Mr. Anonymous would really care.

I used to get that kind of anonymous letter from old women raising cain about the fact that I dug up my lawn some years ago and planted Rose of Sharon trees, which was considered deviant in some circles. ("She doesn't know anything about gardening, you know ...")

Plus ca change .... In a way, that's kind of comforting. Yeah, plus ca change. And Beckwith still has a job.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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