20.12.16

UNDOING THE EPISTEMIC CLOSURE.

Rice University sociologist E. H. Ecklund decides that emulating Pauline Kael is not healthy for higher education.  "I am a professor of sociology who did not vote for Donald Trump, and I do not know of a single academic colleague who did. (And if they did, they are certainly not disclosing this in academic circles.)"  To her credit, though, she's calling on her colleagues to re-evaluate their priors.
Most of us would be hard-pressed to give a well-reasoned, conservative argument in response to any social issue. And more than one academic colleague has told me that if their neighbor had a Republican sign on his lawn, they probably would not make any effort to get to know the neighbor.

I join my colleagues in the fight against social inequality in all its insidious forms. But many academics like me have not spent much time trying to understand the groups of people who likely voted for Trump, nor have we spent much time trying to translate our academic work to these groups.
The arguments exist, and they're relatively straightforward.  In theory, social construction makes more sense if the constructions conserve evolutionary advantage.  In practice, the Law of Unintended Consequences undoes Good Intentions and trips up Wise Experts.  And there's no end of research questions.  Some of them might even produce Minimal Publishable Units.  But the faculty must be serious about encouraging the sifting and winnowing.
When colleagues say things that cut off dialogue or say that certain views are not welcome, I might feel freer to gently challenge. I might spend more time in my community translating my work, and I might take my students with me. I might try harder to bring that community to campus. In the best case, the election provides a chance for the academy to reflect on itself and achieve a new vision of service to the broader society.
Well, if you can't play around with ideas in a university, when are you going to play around with ideas?  Maybe the Academic part of the Democrat - Media - Academy - Entertainment Complex will take an education from a loss.

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