Non Sequitur of the Year

I’ve just done a study, one which involved reading one article from the THES and coming to a conclusion about it. My conclusion is that the guy doing the study the article discusses is, well, over-interpreting his evidence just a tiny bit. What did he find in his pioneering research which involved watching a popular quiz show on tv and seeing what kind of people won? He found that non-academics (or ‘housewives’ and workers, as the article oddly called them) did better than academics. Uh…gee…really? Could that be because shows like Wer Wird Millionär? don’t usually ask qestions about quantum mechanics or the Duhem-Quine thesis? On account of how most of the people who watch them aren’t academics themselves? Is this a big surprise to anyone? But the industrious researcher draws a rather sweeping conclusion from his study.

The study was in its early stages and the number of cases he had studied so far was not enough to reach final conclusions, Professor Prinz said. He plans to study more contestants and other quiz shows. “The results I have so far achieved are not conclusive, but they do prove that popular culture is just as valid and important as a good formal education.”

The results are not conclusive but they do prove something. Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction right there? But never mind that. The point is – have you ever heard anything so ridiculous in your life? Because I haven’t. Was the poor guy misquoted? That can happen, of course. Journalists will do that. But then again, if he’s silly enough to bother studying a quiz show in order to inform the world that many of the questions come from ‘showbiz, sport and pop’ then he probably did say it. So let’s ridicule him. Right, here we go. The fact that popular culture enables one to answer questions posed by a popular culture quiz show proves that popular culture is just as valid and important as a good formal education?? Full stop? Just as ‘valid and important’ (whatever on earth that means) for all purposes? Such as for instance detecting circularity in one’s own conclusions? Or asking oneself whether the ability to answer silly trivial short-answer questions posed by a tv quiz show is exactly what a good formal education is designed to do, and if so why and if not why not? Or asking oneself what one means by ‘valid and important’ and why one thinks answering questions on a quiz show is ‘valid and important’? Oh well, perhaps the Times Higher was just having a little August joke with us, and Professor Prinz is a hoax.

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