Professoriate’s Self-Proclaimed Neutrality

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

With a straight face, professors mostly tell you that they avoid advocacy. “The American Economic Association has never taken a position on any public-policy issue,” Beth McMurthie wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education on February 21, 2014. “The American Political Science Association is thinking about becoming more active.”

“And some members of the American Studies Association are wishing their organization were less so. In academe, where every argument quickly finds a counterargument, the role of the disciplinary association in matters of public advocacy is a curious one. Recent, heated debates within the American Studies Association and Modern Language Association over Israel and academic freedom highlighted the risks that academics take when they weigh in on issues that go beyond their immediate concerns.”

“But, when, exactly, should academic groups speak up on matters of national, or international, concern? Science associations regularly speak out on public-policy issues that they deem relevant, like climate science and the teaching of evolution. In the humanities and social sciences, by contrast, the answer seems to vary by discipline.”  Actually, it’s not the advocacy we mind so much but the accuracy, or rather, the lack thereof.