Marvin Olasky
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Fellow promotion committee members: Let's go through the checklist on Assistant Professor of Sociology Bob Woodberry's request to receive tenure at the University of Texas at Austin.

Educational background: Check. Ph.D. from the highly regarded University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Caution: Undergraduate degree from evangelical Wheaton College, but he's probably outgrown that.

Publications: Check. Numerous articles in refereed journals such as the American Sociological Review. Chapters in books published by the Oxford University Press and other prestige outlets. Caution: Some odd publishing choices — why would anyone write for the Encyclopedia of Missions and Missionaries?—but I guess it's important to document how missionaries exploited natives.

Grants received: Check. Brought to UT a lot of money from both private foundations and government payers. With Rick Perry and legislators saying professors are overpaid and underworked, this is big.

Teaching (not that this matters all that much in promotion): Check. Outstanding student appraisals and awards. Caution: High ratings probably mean Woodberry is wasting time on students that he could use to publish even more journal articles, but some professors have twisted priorities.

Multicultural? Check. Grew up in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Worked in China and Japan and traveled to more than 50 countries.

OK, due diligence time: Gotta read a couple of his articles, instead of just weighing them.

Let's see: Woodberry's data show how Protestant missionaries created schools and had mass literacy campaigns in British colonies because they wanted people to read the Bible in their own language. Hmm. He acknowledges that some missionaries did harm. Good. But wait—he shows with multiple regression analyses that "evangelism by 1900 is by far the most consistent predictor of modern elementary education." He's FOR evangelism?!?

At least he has lots of statistics. How about these tables in his American Political Science Review article? Wait, they show a positive association between years of exposure to Protestant missions and the growth of democracy—and it's consistent across continents and world regions, even when controlled for geography, climate, disease prevalence, and many other factors.
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Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit www.worldmag.com.
 
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