APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2007-02 > 1170567096
From: Sharon Sergeant <>
Subject: [APG] Genealogy Straw man - academic discipline
Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2007 00:31:36 -0500
Another common question from the informal survey I initiated at
is "What's a strawman?" - ie the adjective phrase for the preliminary
academic curriculum proposal.
You can visit a site like http://www.halexandria.org/dward314.htm where
there is a formal definition of "straw man" from Black’s Law Dictionary,
and get the idea that I am a third party and have no official status
with any of the party's involved, but may be able to facillitate a
transaction that might not happen through existing channels.
You can also see other Black's Law refs for "Legal fiction" and get the
idea that I might even be a sort of fictious entity :)
It might be more useful to think of the straw man in the "Wizard of Oz"
story, who just wanted to have a brain.
The brains behind any academic program are not in my head, but in the
heads of the leaders who have created decades of scholarship.
A straw man proposal defined by Wikipedia illustrates the idea that the
purpose is to "generate discussion of its disadvantages and to provoke
the generation of new and better proposals"
It's a "stake in the ground" attempt to move into an academic program
process that can create a focal point for the real experts to converge.
If you ignore the details of the following particular learning narrative
arguement and look at the diagram progression, there are some very
useful concepts to consider
These concepts also partially address another common question in my
informal survey - "Why theory over research practice/practicum?"
Some researchers want to know how academic theory will help them deal
with the compelling specific problems they address every day. Why not
just inch along with conference/seminar/institute course selections
that address specific region, ethic, record or problem types?
Others want to know how experienced genealogists, who want accessible
and challenging courses can access a post graduate level program if they
do not have an undergraduate degree.
And still others want to know how a seed program with a post graduate
professional development certificate can progress into a Masters and PHD
program when there are no advanced degrees in a genealogy discipline.
Do I particularly know the answers? Nope. But I do know it is a process
that has been worked out for other emerging disciplines. I also believe
there is convergence in many areas that will make this possible for
genealogy as an academic discipline. Asking the questions and offering
suggestions furthers the possibilities.
The Spring 2006 Avotaynu "The International Review of Jewish Genealogy"
article "Genealogy As an Academic Discipline" by H Daniel Wagner
(Professor of Materials Science at Weizman Institute of Science in
Rehovot, Israel; also co chair of the 2004 International Conference of
Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem) discusses macro and micro genealogy
academic issues and applications through many sources and references. If
you are unable to access a copy of this journal through your favorite
library, you may see if you can order a copy through the website
I lean towards making the G-word a scientific academic discipline, but
have also received inquiries about "art vs science", including whether
we are talking about an MA or an MS as a goal in post graduate degrees.
However, even in Elizabeth Shown Mills 2003 NGS article discussing the
academic discipline of "Generational Historians", there is much in the
histriography that points to scientific rigor in the historical
development of scholarly standards
While I think that "dodging the prejudice bullet by creative naming
conventions" has it's merits (eg, the naming of the "Godfrey Scholar
Program" was a stroke of genius because it avoided the G-word prejudice
http://godfrey.org/ ), I also think that the G-word should be put on the
Heck, I use genealogy methods in provenance projects and just this week
heard the word "provenance" used on a 6 o'clock TV news bit about the
likelihood that a "famous" painter at least touched a particular
painting, even if the painter was not the source of the painting. I'm
infering a DNA connection in that ereport, but did not hear enough to
know that was exactly the case. The point is that word usage can be
transformed dramatically with the right popular news story, so I am
personally inclined towards positioning those opportunities and giving
the G-word it's day in the academic sun.
I do have 22 respondents so far from the original post
but really would like to hear from more folks before I wrap up the
preliminary and informal survey, and report the results, then followup
up with a more formal survey.
|[APG] Genealogy Straw man - academic discipline by Sharon Sergeant <>|