WASHINGTON — Sixth District Rep. Tom Petri has received an education award at a Washington conference for the National Association of Scholars, an organization of academics who seek to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America's colleges and universities.Now, here are the first five graphs of a press release sent out by Petri's office regarding the same honor:
"It's an award in appreciation of really outstanding legislation and a truly good and timely idea, and that is bringing the resources of government behind an effort to improve the quality of civic education in our colleges, and through our colleges throughout the entire system of education, because college influences everything," NAS Chairman Stephen H. Balch explained in a press release.
"He (Petri) was the sponsor of the Higher Education for Freedom Act, a bill which gives the Department of Education the authority to make grants in support of centers and institutions and scholars who are studying free institutions, the American founding, traditional American history — constitutional, political, intellectual — and Western civilization. These are subjects that were, for many, many, many years, thought of as the essential intellectual core of American higher education. But in recent decades they have been increasingly slighted for a variety of reasons, and this legislation is an effort to help put them back on center stage."
The legislation was inserted into the higher education reauthorization bill that President Bush signed into law Aug. 14, 2008.
"I'm delighted to receive this award from the National Association of Scholars," Petri said. "They have been a leading national organization in the area of trying to maintain and improve standards in higher education. One area that we very much need to do a better job is learning about our shared history as Americans. Hopefully, this program will help us do a better job there."
They are almost word for word the same text.
I'm bringing this up because the National Association of Scholars isn't exactly an uncontroversial organization -- despite the generic name. Stanley Fish, whose academic street cred is legion, has said the organization is "is widely known to be racist, sexist and homophobic.'' That was a while ago, and while the rhetoric of the Association has been tempered a bit, the goals remain the same.
So this was conceivably an interesting story about a controversial group honoring a local politician, presumably for working for the controversial principles held by the group, but was just passed off by the NW in the form of a press release by the elected official.
Now, I'm not entirely blaming the NW for missing the boat on this one since the article was "authored" by the Gannett New Service, so whomever cleared this for syndication should be given a few strong words on the importance of objective reporting.
But a retraction or a note of some kind would be a good start too.