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What a Joke: Michelle Robinson-Obama’s BA Thesis


4040_900-300x296MICHELLE LaVaughn Robinson (now Michelle Obama) wrote a thesis at Princeton University as part of qualifying for her Bachelor of Arts degree. It is titled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” You can find the PDF copy of the entire thesis here.

It appears to be a study about the changing attitudes of the Blacks who had previously graduated from Princeton University. Apparently, Michelle went to the school’s Alumni Records Office and asked someone named Pat Larue to help her in sending a questionnaire to these Black alumni.

The focus of the questions seem to be ascertaining the extent to which these earlier Black Princeton graduates still considered themselves tied to the Negro community in general, as measured by the degree to which they believed themselves to be morally obligated to engage in pro-Black social agitation, in the event they were not in positions of political power, and in blatant favoritism toward Blacks at the expense of Whites, in the event that they did hold positions of political power.

No, Michelle wasn’t so explicit as this. But what else could she mean?

Some time went by, and a few of the prestigious Congoids mailed her their replies. Michelle promptly gave each of them the benefit of her expert scholarly analysis. There are several pages of monologue that appear to have a superficial relevance, and some of these pages show references in footnotes. In conclusion, Michelle said that people feel most comfortable with the people that they spend the most time around.

Presto, Michelle has fulfilled the Affirmative Action requirements for Blacks getting a bachelor’s degree.

You might be tempted to regard the conclusion as being irrelevant to the thesis it purports to arise from. But perhaps not. It may be relevant in the sense that Michelle is trying to figure out how it is that educated Blacks often become Uncle Toms, “fogittin dey roots,” and how this might be prevented. Michelle might have chosen to leave unwritten the idea that educated Blacks should have their option of associating with Whitey curtailed, so that the benefits of their educations can be redirected into the community of poorer, less-educated Black people.

When I was after a bachelor’s degree in astronomy, I did seminars that were far more technically elaborate than Michelle’s thesis is. I wrote, for example, an undergraduate paper in which I calculated the density of Saturn from telescopic observations of the motion of Saturn’s moons: Titan, Enceladus, Tethys, and Dione. And this was merely a class assignment, not a graduation thesis.

If a White student at Princeton, pursuing the same major that Michelle did, wrote a paper very much like Michelle’s on the same subject, except that it focused on White alumni instead of on Black alumni, what do you think would happen? Here’s what. Aside from the inevitable humongous stink about “racism,” the paper would be judged unworthy of being a partial fulfillment of the BA degree that the White student were seeking. He’d have to start over, essentially “repeating a grade,” because, unlike Michelle Vaughn Robinson, he would not have the benefit of Affirmative Action as a substitute for actually writing a paper with scholarly merit.

I suggest that you actually read Michelle’s paper. Of what do her data consist? They are nothing more than the volunteered self-summaries of several persons’ feelings in regard to their comfort while interacting with other people of various races. How did she quantify her data? Search the paper all you wish: it will remain a mystery. Michelle doesn’t show her questionnaire in her thesis, though she does describe it in general terms in her “Independent Variables” section. With what equations did she manipulate her data? Physical scientists use equations derived from centuries of experience with natural phenomena. But Michelle didn’t use any equations. Instead, she appears to have used her feelings as a substitute for empirical analysis to judge a poll about the feelings of several Black Princeton alumni.

Michelle’s paper isn’t worth a hoot as an academic effort. Apparently, if you want a Princeton Bachelor of Arts degree, then you must either (1) have money, be smart, and work hard — or else, (2) be Black and just enroll.

  • sav

    Being a white male I can’t really speak for black females but it seems to me that most of them would have dumped the whole black/white thing and pursued the jobs that paid the best. For the right salary and a chance to pay down the mortgage they would have felt strong incentive to become whatever the boss wanted.
    High ideals and pro black social agitation are the exclusive preserve of those with cushy government jobs . . . . . . like community organizer.

  • ThomasinaPaine

    link? what link? EDIT: OOPS, so obvious I missed it.lol

  • ThomasinaPaine

    Having read the first part of the thesis, I can tell you that my 10th grade (public school) English teacher would have torn it to bits. Grammar, spelling, sentence construction, punctuation, Wow! Miss Seale would have had a field day with her red pencil. And Princeton accepted this as fulfilling the requirement?
    (BTW, previous comment was correct in that a .pdf containing only the first 25 pages is found via the link)