Last week, in The Irish Times, an opinion piece was printed on third level education. Penned by Paul Mooney, sometime President of the National College of Ireland, and now back as a fulltime management consultant. To put it mildly it was…astonishing. Fuller than straw men than a wizard of oz convention, it has been mercilessly critiqued. Even the comments below the fold in the Irish times run 10-1 ‘against’ his broad thrust. I have yet to see a comprehensive piece defending it. Richard Tol, no friend of lazy academics, opened a debate on Irisheconomy, where the public sector is not exactly flavour of the month, and yet the overwhelming perspective of the commentators was that while for sure there were and are issues of concern in irish higher education Mooney’s article was so over the top as to be risible. The estimable Rob Kitchen, socioeconomic geographer and writer of excellent crime novels on his IrelandafterNAMA blog cocludes “The first rule of publishing in academia is to get your facts straight and to produce an evidence-informed analysis. If his opinion piece was a student essay, I’d give it a ‘F’.” Other articles in other fora have all addressed a central theme of weakness: that the article by Mooney, despite his profession being one where one would hope the marshalling of evidence is then juxtaposed against theoretical and observational findings to come to conclusion, is a farrago of half baked anecdotes and factless musings. And so to our analysis. I should note that this piece is co-authored by my colleague Charles Larkin. For our views on how we might see a transormation in Irish higher education, see this piece.
We below take each paragraph of Paul’s article, and critique it. He asked, and he is correct in doing so, for a debate, so perhaps he will come back on this or on any other blog, in public, and address these and other criticisms. So far he has not.