Casting Out Devils

Speaking Conservative Truth to Evil-Doers

How One Liberal Got a Ph.D without Really Trying

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In 2000, I ran across an article in the “Liberal rag,” The Houston Press, marking the passing of Dr. William Simon (not the former Secretary of the Treasury, who coincidentally died the same year).  Who Simon was will be discussed within my review, which I reprint below.  Simon’s life, and death, is “old news,” but it remains appropriate to consider what it means, today as well, to earn (or be granted) the appellation, “Dr.,” especially the privilege (for such it is) of using the post-nominal letters, “Ph.D.”

The phrase, “the power of the Ph.D,” is a commonplace in academic and intellectual circles.  How many of us, when we want reliable facts or educated opinions, look for those letters after the name of a book author or the subtitle under a “talking head” on television?  We have been convinced somehow that “this guy is a Ph.D, he must know what he is talking about,” and the exact opposite for those not thus endowed.  Accrediting associations have, wittingly or not, contributed to this conceit (if such it is) by requiring ever-higher percentages of teachers holding doctoral degrees (as opposed, in some cases, to those with teaching skills and practical experience) for preferred levels of accreditation.

I note here that the renowned Bible scholar F. F. Bruce was further renowned for never having earned a doctorate.  With “the right stuff” and the right connections, he found that he never needed one.  But he is an exception.

A Ph.D can be hard to come by, especially when the student, vying for the honor, stands for an unpopular social, religious, or political opinion.  I was informed by one insider at a certain university that any professor at that institution, considering, for his own reasons, that a given student (under his tutelage) did not “deserve” a doctorate, could use the comprehensive testing process to delay that student’s advancement by forcing him or her to take additional coursework, perhaps ultimately derailing that student’s ambitions.  I have first-hand experience with a similar procedure by which a student may be terminated with little cause and no recourse.

In the case of William Simon, on the other hand, one finds that those who wield academic power can sometimes grant that power, arbitrarily from an academic standpoint, defying any inconvenient rules and conventions, to those who, for their own reasons, garner their approbation.

Originally published online in Spiritual INSIGHT: On History, Religion, & Society, Volume 6, No. 2, September 2000.

HOUSTON, JULY 2000 — Activist and Sex Researcher William Simon Passes

Left-wing activist, author, Kinsey Institute researcher, and college professor William Simon died of cancer just one day past his 70th birthday. Based in Houston since 1975, Simon was a tenured professor at the University of Houston, and was active in local as well as national liberal causes.

Descended from Polish Jews, Simon was born in New York City but moved to Detroit at age 10. Rebellious, Simon dropped out of school in 8th grade. At 15, he led other teens in a raucous protest against a leader of the America First movement. He caught the eye of a local socialist, and soon became a leader in the (Trotskyite) Socialist Workers Party. In the 1950’s, he met influential intellectuals who helped him obtain a graduate degree at the University of Chicago, even without a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree.

Simon’s research at the Kinsey Institute was funded by federal grants. His conclusions and methods were at variance with the Institute’s late founder, however, and he considered Kinsey’s methods unscientific. While Kinsey viewed sex as “biologically driven,” Simon saw it as learned behavior, “just another thing people learned how to do.” In Postmodern Sexualities (1996), he wrote, “The most important truth about sexuality is that there may be no important truths that are permanent.” Simon often wrote for Playboy in support of the acceptance of homosexuality, testified for the defense in obscenity trials, and authored a number of books and articles. While testifying for Gay Student Services against Texas A&M University, he was asked under oath if he had ever engaged in homosexual activity. “Not since early adolescence,” he replied, quoting reports that many young boys experimented with same-sex conduct. When Allen Ginsberg and his lover visited Kinsey Institute, Simon reportedly participated in filming them performing a homosexual act.

“He was so highly skilled and adept verbally, and so very persuasive, that you knew what this man was saying came from the bottom of his heart,” said sociologist Veronica Diehl Elias. Many of his students “worshiped” him, but amongst his UH colleagues he was considered a “pariah.”

Asked why his “elitist tastes seemed so at variance with his plebian politics,” Simon labeled himself a “Neiman Marxist.”

(Source: Tom Curtis, “The Accidental Sexologist,” Houston Press, August 24, 2000)

© 2014 Paul A. Hughes

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Written by biblequestion

September 3, 2014 at 8:20 PM

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