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[Xmca-l] Re: Public intellectuals

This discussion seems to me vitally important. The nice thing about us, the xmca-ers, is that we are able to muster this special, critical-ironic look at things. 

Not always, though, the criticism and irony go far enough. I think the discussion, so far, has not acknowledged the seriousness of the problem. Bad, very bad things are happening in academia these days, some of them signaled in the present conversation, and some of them still left unmentioned. In my opinion, we are witnessing academic climate change and are possibly heading toward the annihilation of the world of scholarship. These are strong words, I know, but I wonder what counter-arguments the deniers may offer. I also think that perhaps the only way to fight this imminent catastrophe (and our own present predicament as the dwellers of the ivory tower) is to refuse collaboration with the forces that cause the erosion. I do realize, of course, that such decision is easy to make when you have already had your time in the academia and are relatively untouchable. Still, if we refused collectively…. 

In this context I want to recommend two relevant publications: first, the book by the British sociologist Michael Billig with the title that says it all: Learn to write badly: How to succeed in the social sciences.  (2013, Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press; note the pessimistic ending of the book); and second – the text by Zaheer Baber, titled "Said, Mills and Jargon" - see


To these, I am adding yet another piece of writing, this time by myself (see the attachment). This is a fragment of a text, now in print, which I wrote for the celebratory 100th issue of a small but exceptional journal in mathematics education with the name somewhat unusual in its form, "for the learning of mathematics" (note the adverbial format and the lower case).  Run by Canadians, the journal follows the unwritten rules established by its founder, the Englishman David Wheeler. These rules make it stand out within the general landscape of the academic publishing (or to protrude from the academic box, if you wish). In fact, it is the relative absence of rules and the editors' courage to make their own "crazy" decisions that makes it special. The attached fragment speaks about the context (landscape) rather than about the journal itself. 

Hope some of these will make for not-too-demanding weekend reading. And if you think all this is a provocation – well, you are right. I am just doing what I believe is the order of the day.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Preiss
Sent: Saturday, February 22, 2014 3:30 AM
To: xmca-l@ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Public intellectuals

Please see below in the link a clever response to Krystof's piece. It is still a very USA centered debate. It would be interesting to hear a bit how it resonates in other countries. As for Chile university profs are quite engaged in public debate, specially those in the social sciences. Many of them are more invested there than in the mainstream academic media, which is not necesarilly good as the connection between research and public discourse weakens. 


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