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Czech EdMin's Master's thesis cites research lauded by Nazi Germany

Prague, 22.11.2011 16:51, (ROMEA)
The cost of this official portrait of the minister is just one of many scandals in which he has been involved during his time in office.

Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš has been persistently reiterating that only top students should be admitted to college so Czech universities can maintain their high standards. Dobeš himself graduated with a degree in psychology, but experts now say his 1994 Master's thesis shows such enormous gaps it should never have been accepted.

Czech daily Mf DNES contacted experts to evaluate the thesis and concealed the identity of the author from them so they would not be influenced by the fact that it had been written by the Czech Education Minister. Their verdict: The work is exceptionally shallow, inept and sloppy - a veritable caricature of a thesis. "The work you have submitted to me should never have proceeded to the defense stage," Professor Jan Keller of the University of Ostrava told news server iDNES.cz. Another five experts, psychologists included, agreed with him.

Dobeš rejects the criticism and stands by the work, which he performed at Masaryk University in Brno. "I succeeded in defending the purpose of alternative forms of punishment," the minister said. However, the experts were bothered by the superficial conclusions of the work, which paraphrases lecture notes and even makes use of pieces of research that have not been considered relevant for some time. One such piece of research cited in the thesis is a 1929 study by Johannes Lange, whose research on twins provided inspiration for the leaders of Nazi Germany as to how to justify their racist ideology.

Speaking last week, Dobeš said the old system of education, which he labeled "deformed", had given even mentally underdeveloped individuals the opportunity to reach the level of Bachelor's studies. Dobeš sees the future of the system as lying in the testing of fifth- and ninth-graders in elementary schools and in the statewide graduation exams at high schools. "Let's establish the material that a child must excel at in order to enter college. If he can't handle it, he really shouldn't be there," Dobeš said in an interview for iDNES.cz .

The deficiencies of the minister's thesis were evaluated by the former Rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Jiří Zlatuška, the psychologist Slavomil Hubálek, and Professor Jan Keller of the University of Ostrava as follows:

1. The work does not meet the elementary requirements of an academic study. The author did not use footnotes to indicate where precisely he got the information on which he based his text. According to the experts, that is one of the reasons the thesis should never have reached the defense stage.

2. The bibliography is weak. It contains a mere 25 works, only 19 of which are not works of fiction, irrelevant publications, or non-academic literature. The author mentions several pieces of research and studies from abroad, but does not list them in the bibliography.

3. The group of young delinquents studied by the author was poorly selected. One group studied had committed the crimes of brawling, fraud worth millions of crowns, and repeated thefts, for which they were sentenced to prison, while members of the group who logically turned out better by comparison - the criminals sentenced to alternative punishments - had committed only petty shoplifting and less serious crimes than those sentenced to prison.

4. The research results are not sufficiently analyzed. The research sample of 40 people results in trivially described conclusions which do not include the kind of analysis required in a Master's thesis. The text also documents the author's irresponsible approach toward psychological diagnostics and interpretation.

5. The author included forms, interviews and questionnaires as part of the text which should have been presented in appendices. Without that material, the text of the thesis would have been essentially much shorter.

6. In the introduction, the author briefly cites research on twins that was performed by Johannes Lange in 1929. That research became one of the founding documents of racist theory in Nazi Germany.

7. The author writes that the intelligence of prisoners (which he measured with the Raven test) can fall, but that the intelligence of people given alternative punishments can rise. The experts consulted consider that statement absurd and say that for more than half a century, any first or second-year psychology student would have known better than to ever make such a claim.

František Bikár, Gwendolyn Albert, brf, Mf DNES, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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