Sunday, April 01, 2007

In today's Washington Post, there are two opinion pieces that pratty much claim the recent troubles at the Smithsonian are attributable to Smithsonian being 'commercialized' and that if only the Smithsonian had someone of 'science' running the place, all of their troubles would be so far away...

What a silly concept... and, not only that, both pieces are poorly argued.

The first starts by citing a number of instances where Smithsonian projects came in behind schedule and over budget.... but never explains how commercialization is responsible. In fact, one might think that someone with a focus on 'science' might be more inclined to make the mistakes in budgeting and construction management that lead to delays and cost overruns than would be someone with a business background.

The second makes the claim that someone of 'science' would have somehow magically avoided some of the recent controversies over some of the Smithsonian's exhibits (the column cites a couple, to which I would add the Enola Gay exhibit). Yet, the reality is that these controversies arose precisely because the 'scientists' at the Smithsonian wanted to put on exhibits that many, many people found objectionable ad because the 'scientists' were tone-deaf about the visceral reaction their planned exhibits would have on a good number of people. It would have been nice had the writer explained how having another politically tone-deaf 'scientist' running the Smithsonian would have made things better... but he didn't.

What is really going on is that both writers are part of a group who found their interests and priorities pushed down in favor of some other group's interests and priorities. They're not happy and they're taking the opportunity afforded them by former President Lawrence Small's resignation last week to push for a return to the days when their agenda ruled the day. What an intellectually cheap trick. Not exactly what one would hope for from a couple of people who decried the 'politicization' of the Smithsonian... but exactly what I would have expected.