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[Xmca-l] Re: Professors, We Need You!
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- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Professors, We Need You!
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- Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2014 15:32:49 -0800
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Thanks to you both.
Locally the discussion is around "public scholarship." Lots to rhetoric
at audiences on the inside, little action vis a vis the outside.
On Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 1:41 PM, Cliff O'Donnell <email@example.com> wrote:
> Thank you, Peter, for bringing Kristof's piece to our attention. In
> psychology an important part of the problem is the distinction between
> basic and applied science. Those who make this distinction and value basic
> science believe that basic science leads to Truth and dismiss applied
> science. Participation in public debates then is seen as a distraction at
> best. Basic science in psychology typically means studying people in
> laboratories designed to seek basic principles by isolating participants
> from the context of their everyday lives.
> The bad news is that separating people from context can lead to limited
> and, often, inaccurate knowledge. The good news is that there are areas of
> psychology where many researchers reject the distinction between basic and
> applied science. They study people in context and often participate in
> public debates about their work and its implications for public policy (see
> www.scra27.org and www.spssi.org). One model for this work combines basic
> and applied science ''where no action step is contemplated without
> questioning about its theoretical significance and no speculation about
> underlying processes occurs without asking about its action implications''
> (Price & Behrens, 2003, p. 222).
> Price, R. H., & Behrens, T. (2003). Working Pasteur's quadrant: Harnessing
> science and action for community change. American Journal of Community
> Psychology, 31, 219-223. doi:10.1023/A:1023950402338.
> Cliff O'Donnell
> On Feb 16, 2014, at 5:09 AM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
> Professors, We Need You!
>> FEB. 15, 2014 Nicholas Kristof <http://topics.nytimes.com/
>> SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world
>> are university professors, but most of them just don't matter in today's
>> great debates.
>> The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: "That's academic." In
>> other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.
>> One reason is the anti-intellectualism in American life, the kind that
>> led Rick Santorum to scold President Obama<http://www.youtube.com/
>> watch?v=NkjbJOSwq3A> as "a snob" for wanting more kids to go to college,
>> or that led congressional Republicans to denounce spending on social
>> science research<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/us/humanities-
>> studies-under-strain-around-the-globe.html>. Yet it's not just that
>> America has marginalized some of its sharpest minds. They have also
>> marginalized themselves.
>> "All the disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and
>> more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general
>> public," notes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson
>> School at Princeton and now the president of the New America Foundation.
>> There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics,
>> history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business,
>> and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law
>> professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer
>> public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a
>> generation ago.
>> A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that
>> glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.
>> This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation
>> through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed
>> or driven away.
>> "Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction
>> from real research," said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the
>> Brookings Institution. "This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine
>> qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics
>> who 'waste their time' writing for the masses will be penalized."
>> The latest attempt by academia to wall itself off from the world came
>> when the executive council of the prestigious International Studies
>> Association proposed that its publication editors be barred from having
>> personal blogs<http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/
>> The association might as well scream: We want our scholars to be less
>> A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their
>> insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public
>> consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals
>> - or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep
>> readers at a distance.
>> Jill Lepore<http://scholar.harvard.edu/jlepore>, a Harvard historian who
>> writes for The New Yorker and is an exception to everything said here,
>> noted the result<http://chronicle.com/article/The-New-Economy-of-
>> Letters/141291/>: "a great, heaping mountain of exquisite knowledge
>> surrounded by a vast moat of dreadful prose."
>> As experiments, scholars have periodically submitted meaningless
>> gibberish to scholarly journals - only to have the nonsense respectfully
>> My onetime love, political science, is a particular offender and seems to
>> be trying, in terms of practical impact, to commit suicide.
>> "Political science Ph.D.'s often aren't prepared to do real-world
>> analysis," says Ian Bremmer<http://eurasiagroup.
>> net/about-eurasia-group/who-is/ian-bremmer>, a Stanford political
>> science Ph.D. who runs the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. In the late
>> 1930s and early 1940s, one-fifth of articles in The American Political
>> Science Review<http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/APSRNov06_Sigelman_Co-
>> evolutionEssay.pdf> focused on policy prescriptions; at last count, the
>> share was down to 0.3 percent.
>> Universities have retreated from area studies, so we have specialists in
>> international theory who know little that is practical about the world.
>> After the Arab Spring, a study by the Stimson Center<
>> Full_Pub_-_Seismic_Shift.pdf> looked back at whether various sectors had
>> foreseen the possibility of upheavals. It found that scholars were among
>> the most oblivious - partly because they relied upon quantitative models or
>> theoretical constructs that had been useless in predicting unrest.
>> Many academic disciplines also reduce their influence by neglecting
>> political diversity. Sociology, for example, should be central to so many
>> national issues, but it is so dominated by the left that it is
>> instinctively dismissed by the right.
>> In contrast, economics is a rare academic field with a significant
>> Republican presence, and that helps tether economic debates to real-world
>> debates. That may be one reason, along with empiricism and rigor, why
>> economists (including my colleague in columny, Paul Krugman) shape debates
>> on issues from health care to education.
>> Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the
>> public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have
>> been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, it was TED
>> Talks by nonscholars that made lectures fun to watch (but I owe a shout-out
>> to the Teaching Company's lectures, which have enlivened our family's car
>> I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply
>> admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don't
>> cloister yourselves like medieval monks - we need you!
>> I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground<
>> http://www.nytimes.com/ontheground>. Please also join me on Facebook<
>> http://www.facebook.com/kristof> and Google+<https://plus.google.
>> com/102839963139173448834/posts?hl=en>, watch my YouTube videos<
>> http://www.youtube.com/nicholaskristof> and follow me on Twitter<
>> A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 16, 2014, on page
>> SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Smart Minds, Slim Impact.
>> Order Reprints<https://s100.copyright.com/AppDispatchServlet?contentID=
>> 2014&author=By%20Nicholas%20Kristof>|Today's Paper<
> Clifford R. O'Donnell, Ph.D.
> Professor Emeritus
> Past-President, Society for Community Research and Action (APA Division 27)
> University of Hawai'i
> Department of Psychology
> 2530 Dole Street
> Honolulu, HI 96822