Education Reform Professor Jay Greene to Lecture on ‘B.S.’

Sep 14, 2018 | Education Reform

sneak previewBullsh**t — to loosely quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart — is something you know it when you see it — or do you? In some cases, it’s easy to detect.

“Advertising is mostly B.S. Does this toothpaste really make my teeth whiter?” said Distinguished Professor Jay Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform. There’s also plenty of B.S. on the campaign trail: “Politics is just a subset of advertising, where you’re selling candidates and ideas.” 

Greene defines a key feature of B.S. as a “certain recklessness about the truth,” and points to instances where it’s less easy to detect, from academic research with desirable outcomes finding quick placement in top journals, to self-delusion, “and that’s where B.S. gets dangerous, because it undermines our pursuit of the truth,” he said. 

Jay Greene will present a lecture on B.S. at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, in Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26). All on campus and in the community are invited to attend. The lecture will also be streamed via Facebook Live on the Honors College Facebook page.

Greene’s lecture previews his spring 2019 Signature Seminar, B.S., which will attempt to define its essential features, tease out both the negative and positive aspects of B.S., and help students differentiate between more and less acceptable contexts for B.S.

“We tend to structure what we believe around some broader agenda of what we believe to be true, which gets us into trouble,” Greene said. “They’ll be better scholars, and better students, if they can look at individual claims and evaluate each on its own merit.”  

“I think this course, in particular, is a must for honors students who want to pursue nationally competitive awards such as the Truman, Marshall or Rhodes scholarships,” said Honors College Dean Lynda Coon. “It will prepare them for challenging interview questions on pressing contemporary issues.”

Jay Greene’s current areas of research interest include school choice, culturally enriching field trips, and the effect of schools on non-cognitive and civic values. He is also known for his work to improve the accurate reporting of high school graduation rates, address financial incentives in special education, and the use of standardized tests to curb social promotion. His research was cited four times in the Supreme Court’s opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case on school vouchers. His articles have appeared in a variety of academic journals, including Education Finance and Policy, Economics of Education Review, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, and Sociology of Education.

Prior to coming to the University of Arkansas, Greene was a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Tufts University in 1988 and his Doctor of Philosophy from the Government Department at Harvard University in 1995. 

Next spring, in addition to Greene’s course, the Honors College will offerSignature Seminars on Aging, taught by Michelle Gray, an associate professor of exercise science, and Brain and Music, taught by Elizabeth Margulis, distinguished professor and director of the Music Cognition Lab, and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, a nationally respected behavioral neuroscientist. The Signature Seminars, designated HNRC 4013H in the university’s Catalog of Studies, focus on a wide range of cutting-edge topics, including cancer, water, internet, free speech and bad medicine. Honors students must apply to participate in these courses, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Scholars. The deadline to apply is Thursday, Oct. 25.

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