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A Credo, and a Move From Blog to Book

Written with Michael Brown.

Note to our readers: As we move on to the next phase of our writing partnership, we would like to thank you for joining us this past year at Old School, New School at The Chronicle. We firmly believe that more academics should write in public and use public venues to actively engage ideas and readers. We thank The Chronicle for hosting us and our editor, Jean Tamarin, for her amazing support and enthusiasm for our work. We would especially like to thank Lee Skallerup …

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Reward and Punishment for Public Engagement

Faculty who choose to act on their sense of social responsibility, beyond research and teaching, are not often rewarded by universities, and perhaps should be. I do not feel confident in what I believe might be done to remedy this situation. I am not sure that encouraging public engagement without clarifying what it means and entails is even a benefit to society.

Most of us would probably agree that engaging the public is good for some things and bad (or matters of indifference) for others. An e…

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From Community Engagement to Public Impact

If writing op-ed pieces for newspapers such as The New York Times and The Boston Globe is  considered public engagement, why isn’t that considered community engagement as well? Shouldn’t community engagement be part of public engagement?

From an institutional perspective, does community engagement require that campuses be active in their local “host” communities, or would communities in cities across the state, country, and around the world count? What are the goals of this engagement? What…

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Anti-intellectualism In and Out of Academe

Written with Michael Brown

Mike: I have to admit that I’m not comfortable saying that there is an anti-intellectual tendency in American life. Intellectuals have always been a minority, and their work has always appealed primarily to specialists. So claiming that some present condition is due in part to such a tendency doesn’t quite get to the most general obstacles to critical thinking, creativity, and the like. Randy Martin’s recent book, Under New Management, provides a slightly less pessim…

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Knowledge, Power, and the Politics of Life

I think we can all agree that higher education is a major social structure of civil society. I would like to think that it follows that it is also an important space for civil discourse. That said, what components are necessary to encourage dialogue rather than silence dissent? The anti-intellectual trend that is deeply embedded in U.S. culture marginalizes and silences academics in society and also silences less moderate academics on our campuses. I am a firm believer in the idea that including…

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You Can’t Keep Politics Out of Education

Should we agree with Stanley Fish and others who feel that we should eliminate references to politics in debating the importance of the humanities and the future of higher education? Is it even possible to defend the humanities without placing the debate in an abiding political context, whether we like it or not? We need to acknowledge that the debate is taking place at the very moment that policy initiatives are aimed at reconstituting the curriculum and the institutional structure of higher ed…

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We Need Less Talk, More Action

Written with Michael Brown

Mary: Faculty members and administrators often talk over and around one another. When it comes to discussions about the crisis in the humanities and ultimately, the crisis in higher education, many faculty members take a theoretical approach to the issues. On one level, those arguments are very appealing. But they rarely have the power to translate into practical, on-the-ground changes that can be immediately implemented at our institutions.

Perhaps I am too pragmatic,…

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Saving Education From the Right

Short-term economic goals are insufficient to justify sacrificing longer-term goals, and there is agreement among economists and sociologists that job creation in the short run is no longer on the agenda of those in power. So the problem of higher education is not merely one of meeting short-term job needs in a way that can be made compatible with the long-run goals of education. It is that those goals are also no longer on the agenda; and the defense of the humanities is certainly as weak thus …

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You Failed. Now What?

Iain Pears calls for a new model for the humanities, telling A.C. Grayling that he and his generation had their opportunity to protect the humanities, and they failed, miserably. Instead of coming together to create a shared vision, they squabbled over course modules, created inhospitable departments filled with petty competition and back-stabbing peer review, and spent their time and energy setting course for their own individual success stories—every tub on its own bottom.

If the purpose of hi…

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Protecting the Humanities From What?

Written with Michael Brown.

Mike: In the debate over the New College of the Humanities, what is often missed is that the so-called attempt to “protect” the humanities is more fundamentally designed to protect other fields from anything that raises questions about the increasingly narrow and short-term ways in which those fields are defined –as essentially oriented to markets in products and jobs. To me, this seems to be what is involved in the most prominent attempts to preserve the humanities …