Public Sociology

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White monopoly capital: Good politics, bad sociology, worse economics

 

Many would like to consign the polarising debate about “white monopoly capitalism” (WMC) in South Africa to the margins. They argue that its proponents are nothing more than Marxist ideologues or mischievous political manipulators

But, even if we query the integrity of the term WMC, its introduction into South Africa’s contemporary discourse is indisputably good for the country’s politics.

Above all, it’s an urgent reminder that the inequalities of wealth, income and opportunity in this country are not only extreme but still highly racialised. It forces people to ask why, even under a black government, a white minority continues to dominate the most productive parts of the economy.

The extremes of racialised inequality in the country are not just an affront to social justice but are also politically explosive. Granted, the implementation of employment equity and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has somewhat ameliorated racialised patterns of wealth and ownership. But, no one should be surprised when black people at the bottom of the heap get angry. Neither should people be surprised that there are politicians who, for reasons good and ill, are willing to exploit that anger and mobilise around it.

For the last twenty years, mainstream politics has talked a lot about addressing the extremity of inequality, but has done little about it. The governing African National Congress (ANC) has indulged in much egalitarian rhetoric while the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has targeted “equality of opportunity”.

In practice, both have embraced the mantra that a rising tide in the economy will lift all boats. But, today the tide has long been out. The boats are stuck in the mud. And it’s taken the rise of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to shake the major parties out of their complacency by espousing a revolutionary assault upon WMC.

That’s a major plus for the country’s politics. A serious conversation about the continued racialisation of wealth, inequality and poverty is needed. Yet the problem for the EFF, and those who simplistically target WMC, is the dismal nature of their sociology.

Monopoly capital under apartheid

White monopoly capital was at its most cohesive and concentrated during the late phases of apartheid. In 1981, over 70% of the total assets of the top 138 companies were controlled by state corporations and eight privately owned conglomerates. These spanned mining, manufacturing, construction, transport, agriculture and finance.

Further concentration followed the mounting political crisis of the 1980s. Foreign companies disinvested and sold their assets locally. Unable to invest abroad during late apartheid, the conglomerates invested their excess capital by buying local assets that were often distant from their core business.

By 1990, just three conglomerates – Anglo-American, Sanlam and Old Mutual – controlled a whopping 75% of the total capitalisation of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Given the overwhelmingly domestic and white nature of the ownership of these companies, as well as the astoundingly high level of concentration of capital in a handful of conglomerates, we could fairly – even usefully – refer to “WMC”. But things have changed considerably since then.

Changing corporate landscape

The democratic era that started with the ascension to power of the ANC in 1994 has seen major changes in a corporate structure which had historically revolved around a minerals-energy-complex dominated by the major conglomerates.

The opening of the economy to the global market post-apartheid, led to major processes of “unbundling”, as conglomerates shed their “non-core” assets in search of “shareholder value”. By 2016, Anglo-American’s share of market capitalisation on the JSE had shrunk to as low as 15%.

In addition, foreign money poured in, some to purchase unbundled assets, some to invest in an expanding financial sector. Yet some simply sought to make short term returns from high interest rates. Correspondingly, the role of the banks and private investment institutions increased. By 2010, financial institutions (14%) – along with mining houses (37%) accounted for over half of market capitalisation of the JSE by 2010. The economy was now dominated by a minerals-energy-finance-complex.

Alongside the growing financialisation of the economy, there has been a shift in racial patterns of ownership. At the end of apartheid, companies listed on the JSE were almost wholly owned by white South African investors. But, by 2016, (if we accept the calculations done by Alternative Prosperity) white South African ownership was down to just 22%.

Meanwhile, foreign ownership had leapt to 39%, black direct ownership (mainly through BEE schemes) to 10% and black indirect ownership (largely through pension funds) to 13%, with another 16% uncategorised.

Such statistics are always a matter of controversy. President Jacob Zuma recently insisted that black ownership of the JSE was as low as 3%. Yet the trend towards both greater foreign ownership and increased black ownership is indisputable. Three major issues follow.

Evolving ownership patterns

Large scale capital in South Africa is less monopolised and more diversified in its ownership than it was under apartheid (even if major corporates continue to dominate). It follows that the country needs to grasp how the nature of capitalism is changing. For a start, the growth in black pension funds reflects the strong upward movement of black people into the higher ranks of the public service since 1994.

Even if we continue to refer to “monopoly capitalism” in these circumstances, it makes far less sense to refer to it, uncritically, as “white”. Yes, it’s probable that the major stake of foreign investment is ultimately owned (largely indirectly via institutional investments) by foreigners who are white. But, does this suggest that we would prefer that they were yellow or brown? Surely that takes us on to very shaky territory? Should we categorise the Gupta empire – the politically-connected family at the centre of state captures – as “brown monopoly capitalism?”

Critics such as Prof Chris Malikane, the economic adviser to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, have objected that the growth of black investment on the JSE is not significant. That’s because, they argue, black pension funds are largely controlled by white asset managers. And black direct investments via BEE schemes are largely funded through debt owed to white capital. These are certainly very real issues. But, is the main issue here the racial patterns of ownership and control – or the growing power of financial institutions and their lack of accountability?

All this means that it’s simply too crude, too simplistic and too out of date to depict the economy in broad brush terms as under the domination of white monopoly capital. The reality is more complex. It follows that suggestions that the decolonisation of the economy demands the nationalisation of WMC is profoundly bad economics.

The troubled experiences of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises such as South African Airways, Eskom and PetroSA do nothing to inspire confidence. What the economy might gain in terms of direct state ownership would be confounded by flight of capital and know-how. Class rule by capitalists would be replaced by class rule by state managers who would be no more accountable to ordinary citizens than their predecessors.

Innovative solutions needed

South Africa needs to devise far more inventive solutions than nationalisation to tackle the brutally unequal nature of its economy. Citizens need to pose profound questions about how to make international capital more accountable. They must ask questions about how to make the country’s corporate elite more accountable and how state capital can work productively with private capital while remaining responsive to local communities. And, yes, about how present patterns of corporate ownership can be not only de-racialised but democratised.

Yes, it’s a nice idea to think of overthrowing “white monopoly capital”, but we need to think very carefully of what we might replace it with!

 

By : Roger Southall (Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand)
Date : May 12, 2017
Source : The Conversation
https://theconversation.com/white-monopoly-capital-good-politics-bad-sociology-worse-economics-77338

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Why it takes women longer to pay off student loans

 

If you’re a woman paying for college with student loans, it probably will take you two years longer to pay them off than your male classmates.

A report released Wednesday by the American Association of University Women argues that student loan debt is a gender issue, disproportionately affecting women and especially women of color.

“Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans” found that women in college are shouldering more student loan debt than men — about two-thirds ($833 billion) of the country’s $1.3 trillion student debt, compared to the $477 billion that men hold.

And thanks to pay inequality between genders, women generally are expected to repay that debt with less money than male graduates.

Women working full-time with college degrees make 26 percent less than men. That percentage is smaller in the years immediately after college — 18 percent one year after graduation and 20 percent four years after, according to the report.

Lower income means less money to put toward repaying student loan debt. It also increases the likelihood of default, which is higher for women.

“This is disproportionately affecting women, and people are not talking about that,” AAUW senior researcher Kevin Miller said at the report “launch” broadcast Wednesday from Washington, D.C. “We’re hoping to change that conversation.”

An obvious reason women have more student debt than men is that the majority of the American college students are women. Fifty-six percent of students enrolled in American colleges and universities in fall 2016 are women. They earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S., according to the report.

The rising price of college is part of the student loan problem. From 1976 to 2014 the median cost of college has more than doubled, but median household incomes haven’t followed suit, according to the report.

In Louisiana, average tuition and fees for in-state schools went from $4,733 in 2010-11 to $7,871 in 2015-16. That’s a 66-percent increase in tuition and fees, according to the College Board.

That gap is being filled by student loans, which are some of the only options available to nontraditional students in Louisiana who don’t qualify for the state’s popular Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarship.

“Loans have been their only access to development,” University of Louisiana System President and CEO Jim Henderson said. “It’s a growing problem at a time when we have to educate more and more students. If you want 21st century opportunities, education is your foot in the door.”

READ MORE: Drafted veteran receives degree 50 years later | Louisiana digs deeper into last place in per-student spending

AAUW researchers found that women averaged about $1,500 more student debt than men upon completion of a bachelor’s degree, and black women take on more student debt on average than members of any other group, according to the report.

And then it takes them longer to pay it off.

Researchers found that men paid 13 percent of their student debt off per year, while women paid 10 percent of their debt per year. That difference translates to two years, Miller said.

As more nontraditional students enroll, there are other costs to consider, such as child care, which also disproportionately affects women over men.

Tressie McMillan Cottom, an assistant professor of sociology and panelist discussing the report Wednesday, said it wouldn’t matter if college was free if potential students can’t afford child care to attend. She teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Some universities in Louisiana offer child-care options, usually in conjunction with an early childhood education center or lab school on campus.

The practice is not widespread and is very costly for universities, Henderson said, but he recognizes the need for more child-care options, especially for female students.

“Access to quality child care is one of the biggest barriers to upper mobility, and it disproportionately affects women,” he said.

Doubly affected are students who start college, take on debt and don’t finish. They lose the increase in earning potential that a bachelor’s degree would provide and still must repay those loans, Miller pointed out.

Those former students are more than twice as likely as graduates to default on their student loans, even if they didn’t have the chance to take out a large amount. More than half of student debt defaults are on loan amounts of less than $10,000, according to the report.

The report provides more than statistics, offering recommendations to improve the situation. The first calls for strong federal and state funding of higher education, something Louisiana is not known for.

State funding for public colleges and universities in Louisiana has been slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade.

“Looking back at where we were at 2005, the state funded about 55 percent of our operation,” Henderson said. “Now it is less than 28 percent.”

Making up for state disinvestment has been “put on the backs of students,” Henderson said, referring to institutions’ increased dependence on tuition and fees to make up the cuts.

Other recommendations include addressing non-tuition costs like housing and child care; providing resources to help nontraditional students; help borrowers access loan refinancing and other tools; and address the gender pay gap and race pay gaps.

 

By : Leigh Guidry

Date : May 24, 2017

Source : The Advertiser
http://www.theadvertiser.com/story/news/local/education/2017/05/24/why-takes-women-longer-pay-off-student-loans/102096832/

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Sociologists to Study the March for Science

 

Researchers hope to use the upcoming event as an opportunity to examine the social science of political activism among science supporters.

As scientists and science advocates around the world prepare to participate in this weekend’s March for Science (April 22), a few groups are planning to use the opportunity to explore the social science behind political activism.

Four groups of researchers plan to collect data during this weekend’s marches, Science reported. Among them is a team led by Dana Fisher, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, who, along with colleagues, conducted a similar investigation during the Women’s March in Washington, DC, this January. The responses they collected from 527 marchers revealed that the Women’s March mobilized individuals who did not typically engage in political activism—33 percent of the participants were first-time participants, Fisher’s team found. In addition, the researchers found that people were marching for myriad reasons, including the environment, racial justice, and reproductive rights.

“Historically, protests focus on one social issue such as equal pay, climate change, voting rights or same sex marriage,” the coauthors wrote in a February blog post. “It remains to be seen how the energy from the march will translate into change locally across the country but recent protests suggest that citizens stand ready to protect their rights and the rights of others.”

Fisher told Science that—with the help of 16 faculty members and students—her team hopes to survey another 500 individuals during the DC March for Science by asking participants to fill out a two-page questionnaire asking about their occupation, level of political engagement, and reasons for marching. Other groups hope to find out about participants’ political identities, and about their thoughts on scientists participating in politics.

“The march is a unique opportunity to measure public perceptions of public engagement by scientists and the role of science in society,” Teresa Ann Myers of George Mason University, who will also be conducting research at the event, told Science. “There’s a lot of talk about that online, but there isn’t much in the literature.”

 

By            :               Diana Kwon

Date         :               April 17, 2017

Source     :               The Scientist

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/49205/title/Sociologists-to-Study-the-March-for-Science

 

 

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What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

Walk half a city block in downtown Washington, and there is a good chance that you will pass an economist. People with advanced training in the field shape policy on subjects as varied as how health care is provided, broadcast licenses auctioned or air pollution regulated.

Turn on cable news, and the guests who opine on the weighty public policy questions of the day quite often have some title like “chief economist” underneath their name. And there are economists sprinkled throughout the government — there is an entire council of them advising the president in most administrations, if not yet in this one.

But as much as we love economics here — this column is named Economic View, after all — there just may be a downside to this one academic discipline having such primacy in shaping public policy.

They say when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And the risk is that when every policy adviser is an economist, every problem looks like inadequate per-capita gross domestic product.

Another academic discipline may not have the ear of presidents but may actually do a better job of explaining what has gone wrong in large swaths of the United States and other advanced nations in recent years.

Sociologists spend their careers trying to understand how societies work. And some of the most pressing problems in big chunks of the United States may show up in economic data as low employment levels and stagnant wages but are also evident in elevated rates of depression, drug addiction and premature death. In other words, economics is only a piece of a broader, societal problem. So maybe the people who study just that could be worth listening to.

“Once economists have the ears of people in Washington, they convince them that the only questions worth asking are the questions that economists are equipped to answer,” said Michèle Lamont, a Harvard sociologist and president of the American Sociological Association. “That’s not to take anything away from what they do. It’s just that many of the answers they give are very partial.”

As a small corrective, I took a dive into some sociological research with particular relevance to the biggest problems facing communities in advanced countries today to understand what kinds of lessons the field can offer. In 1967, Senator Walter Mondale actually proposed a White House Council of Social Advisers; he envisioned it as a counterpart to the well-entrenched Council of Economic Advisers. It was never created, but if it had been, this is the sort of advice it might have been giving recent presidents.

For starters, while economists tend to view a job as a straightforward exchange of labor for money, a wide body of sociological research shows how tied up work is with a sense of purpose and identity.

“Wages are very important because of course they help people live and provide for their families,” said Herbert Gans, an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia. “But what social values can do is say that unemployment isn’t just losing wages, it’s losing dignity and self-respect and a feeling of usefulness and all the things that make human beings happy and able to function.”

That seems to be doubly true in the United States. For example, Ofer Sharone, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, studied unemployed white-collar workers and found that in the United States, his subjects viewed their ability to land a job as a personal reflection of their self-worth rather than as an arbitrary matter. They therefore took rejection hard, blaming themselves and in many cases giving up looking for work. In contrast, in Israel similar unemployed workers viewed getting a job as more like winning a lottery, and were less discouraged by rejection.

It seems plausible that this helps explain why so many Americans who lost jobs in the 2008 recession have never returned to the labor force despite an improved job market. Mr. Sharone is working with career counselors to explore how to put this finding to work to help the long-term unemployed.

Jennifer M. Silva of Bucknell University has in recent years studied young working-class adults and found a profound sense of economic insecurity in which the traditional markers of reaching adulthood — buying a house, marrying, landing a steady job — feel out of reach.

Put those lessons together, and you may think that the economic nostalgia that fueled Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign was not so much about the loss of income from vanishing manufacturing jobs. Rather, it may be that the industrial economy offered blue-collar men a sense of identity and purpose that the modern service economy doesn’t.

Sociology also offers important lessons about poverty that economics alone does not. “Evicted,” a much-heralded book by the Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, shows how the ever-present risk of losing a home breeds an insecurity and despondency among poor Americans.

It works against the tendency to think about housing policy as solely a matter of which subsidy goes to whom and what incentives ought to be in place to encourage banks to lend in poor neighborhoods. All that stuff is important, of course, but doesn’t really address the overwhelming challenge of insecurity that affects millions of people.

And a large body of sociological research touches on the idea of stigmatization, including of the poor and of racial minorities. It makes clear that there are harder problems to solve around these issues than simply eliminating overt discrimination.

It’s one thing, for example, to outlaw housing discrimination based on race. But if real estate agents and would-be home sellers subtly shun minority buyers, the effect can be the same. Professor Gans of Columbia has argued for decades that the stigmatization of poor Americans fuels entrenched, persistent poverty.

If the White House Council of Social Advisers did exist, one of its great challenges would be to convert some of these findings into actual policy proposals that might help. Part of the ascendance of economics in the policy-making sphere comes from the fact that economists tend to spend more time looking at specific legislative or regulatory steps that could try to improve conditions.

And trying to solve social problems is a more complex undertaking than working to improve economic outcomes. It’s relatively clear how a change in tax policy or an adjustment to interest rates can make the economy grow faster or slower. It’s less obvious what, if anything, government can do to change forces that are driven by the human psyche.

But there is a risk that there is something of a vicious cycle at work. “When no one asks us for advice, there’s no incentive to become a policy field,” Professor Gans said.

It may be true that these lessons on identity and community don’t lend themselves immediately to policy white papers and five-point plans. But a deeper understanding of them sure could help policy makers.

 

By            :               Neil Irwin

Date         :               March 17, 2017

Source     :               The New York Times

(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/upshot/what-if-sociologists-had-as-much-influence-as-economists.html?_r=0)

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Hungry and Unable to Complete

 

A new study points to food and housing issues that prevent many community college students from progressing.

Community colleges that want students to graduate increasingly focus not just on academic needs, but on transportation, housing and food issues.

A report released today by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees reveals that many community college students are dealing with a lack of basic needs.

The report — “Hungry and Homeless in College” — surveyed more than 33,000 students at 70 two-year institutions in 24 states and found that two-thirds struggle with food insecurity, half are housing insecure, one-third are regularly hungry and 14 percent are homeless. The report defines food insecurity as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and homelessness as a person without a place to live or residing in a shelter, automobile or abandoned building.

“We have more detail and information, particularly about homelessness,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University and the founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. “These students do have financial aid and they are working and they’re still not able to make ends meet. It’s not like they’re lazy or sleeping a lot of the time. … What we see is a portrait of a group of people who are trying hard and still falling short.”

Goldrick-Rab said past surveys may be underestimating the number of students who are food and housing insecure because many of these students drop out in the first weeks of a new semester, however, for this survey researchers were able to reach students early.

The report found that there was very little variation in homelessness and hunger between community college students in urban, rural or suburban areas of the country. One-third of students who identified as food or housing insecure were both working and receiving financial aid.

Those students who identified as homeless were also more likely to work longer hours at their jobs.

“The profile of homeless students in particular shows they’re just as likely as other students to be working, but they’re less likely to be paid a real wage — less likely to make $15 an hour,” Goldrick-Rab said. “Work doesn’t pay and college prices are too high and the cost of living is too high.”

As for those 28 percent of students surveyed who are also parents, 63 percent were food insecure, 14 percent were homeless, but only 5 percent received child-care assistance.

“One of the hardest things about serving people on the margins is finding them, and it’s becoming apparent these colleges have an opportunity to do some good here,” Goldrick-Rab said. “Now whether or not the college itself pays for it or the services are paid for by something external and located at the college is something to be worked out.”

There are a handful of colleges that are actively connecting low-income students to tuition, child-care assistance, food services and subsidized health insurance.

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, points to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland as an example of an institution that did its own analysis and found that many of its students were financially insecure. So the institution integrated access to public benefit services into its financial aid office, she said.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of colleges take that on across the country,” she said. “The fact is that Pell [Grants aren’t] keeping up, state financial aid programs are insufficient, and the degree of institutional aid is either nonexistent or inadequate.”

Not every type of service has to happen at once, she said. In one region of Kentucky, which saw a high number of men who were laid off from work coming into the community college system, there was a stigma around accepting most public benefits. But those same men were happy to learn they qualified for subsidized child care.

Still, many college administrators and faculty members feel providing these services or opening access to them shouldn’t be the college’s responsibility, Duke-Benfield said.

“We can talk about reforming developmental education until we’re blue in the face and have the academic side of a college be a well-oiled machine that meets all the academic needs of students, but if we still have students who are hungry or housing insecure, you’re still going to have a completion issue,” Duke-Benfield said.

A recent report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement, for instance, revealed that nearly half of two-year students reported that a lack of finances could cause them to withdraw from their institutions.

And with the focus on performance and outcome-based funding, colleges no longer have the luxury of ignoring these issues, Duke-Benfield said.

There are a number of initiatives that colleges and nonprofit organizations are taking on their own to combat student hunger and homelessness, like the Working Students Success Network, which is run by Achieving the Dream and 19 colleges across the country and helps connect students to public benefits, financial education, job training and placement.

There’s also the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which has more than 450 institutions as members.

At Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, the institution is piloting a food voucher program that gives 100 low-income students $7 a day to purchase food from the institution’s cafeteria. The pilot program — One Solid Meal — is funded by donations.

“But this is a short-term solution,” said Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill. “A longer-term solution would be some form of free lunch or some form of [food assistance] program that would help students in college, not only community colleges, but the four years as well.”

Eddinger, along with Achieving the Dream and the presidents of North Shore and Berkshire Community Colleges in Massachusetts, recently encouraged Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with Senators Edward Markey and Patty Murray, to request the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct a national study of the issue.

Eddinger said it’s difficult for people to acknowledge the problem because hunger and poverty, especially among adults, is stigmatized.

“Everyone wants economic growth for our country and everyone wants a larger middle class, and one way to do it is through education,” she said. “If community colleges have 50 percent of all undergraduates, then that’s our solution.”

 

By           :             Ashley A. Smith

Date       :               March 15, 2017

Source    :              Inside Higher Ed

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/03/15/study-shows-widespread-food-and-housing-insecurity-students

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Many among Indian diaspora in US communal, casteist: Professor

 

HYDERABAD: The Indian diaspora in the Unites States may seem like a united lot of migrants who moved to a foreign land. However, when you look closely, a number of them are communal, casteist and have been agents propagating violence, consciously or unconsciously.

This is one of the aspects that came out as part of the public seminar held at the Council for Social Development (CSD) where Bandana Purkayastha presented her paper, Intersectionality : Which Margins? Which Context?   Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian-American Studies, and head of Sociology department at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), her work on how the concept of intersectionality, which broadly takes into consideration, race, class, gender, sexuality and nation and how all these  factors impact violence among migrant population in US.

Discussing her findings, the professor started from defining the various spaces where people are susceptible to violence, from home, in a domestic setting to across countries and borders.
“The spatial context of immigrants and violence is constantly changing spatially. State sponsored violence that includes extreme surveillance, deportation and incarceration is one of the reasons. Increase of the use of technology, where virtual spaces are actually real, has blurred borders and there is constant surveillance. Migrants hardly have rights and they are not even in the position to exercise them,” the professor said.

Vasanth Kannabiran, activist and writer, bringing together the context of Purkayastha’s findings in the Unites States with the Indian diaspora in the country, said, “The most castiest and communal lot have been playing a major role in manipulating what is happening in the country. Mushrooming of Hindu funding organisations to propagate religious causes and ‘nationalist’ ideas that promote one ideology is an example of this violence.”

Purkayastha concurred, adding that some students in the Unites States were looking for funding for all sorts of activities. “There is no purpose for them to look at the source of the funds and they pump in so much money in the name of ideologies which are being redefined as the only ones that primarily stir violence.”
Kalpana Kannabiran, director, CSD said that in the Indian context, intersectionality often expresses itself in the form of those people who, in the name of a vague understanding of a nation create violence.

 

By           :              Express News Service

Date       :               March 16, 2017

Source    :              The New Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/hyderabad/2017/mar/16/many-among-indian-diaspora-in-us-communal-casteist-professor-1581831.html

 

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Engaging the Public

 

There is communication gap between our sociologists and larger public.

Sociologists are in the habit of ‘constructing’ identities in societies. They conceptualize everyday practices and built concepts. For instance, a category of women may be seen as upper caste, Janajati, Dalit or Madheshi, to name only a few. But how much of this identity construction is a product of engagement with the larger public and how much of it is the product of standard theoretical assumptions? To evaluate this, one has to first differentiate between the engagement of sociologists or anthropologists with their fellow professionals, and their engagement with a larger audience which may not necessarily include the aforementioned groups. Often the formulations of sociologists are not within the reach of the common public.

This points to lack of communication between the sociologists and the larger public from whose experiences they claim to derive conceptual framing. In fact, use of terms such as ‘common sense’ and ‘sociological sense’ point to the variation in understanding of an issue among sociologists and others. There have, however, been attempts to bridge this gap with effective communication. The product is what American sociologist Michael Burawoy calls ‘Public Sociology’. This is an effort to take sociological issues beyond conventional professional groups and to communicate with the wider public.

Sociology by nature is a science that questions the status quo. So questions pertaining to the interest of larger public are invariably raised. In this context, practice of public sociology is all the more necessary in contemporary Nepal which has witnessed unprecedented social, political and cultural changes in the past three decades. Issues of identity, nationalism and rights have come to occupy center-stage in Nepal. Many questions are raised on these issues. However, little seems to be coming from the practitioners of sociology and anthropology in popular discourse. For instance few professionals write in newspapers on these issues.

The practice of public sociology in Nepal is important as social issues need to be understood in their wider context so that the general public has a nuanced understanding.

If sociologists or anthropologists engage the broader public apart from their core academic world, they also shape the citizenship of the country by engaging in difficult but pertinent issues. Therefore, there is a need for a swarm of articles and programs in popular media to engage the public. In addition, a sociologist could be part of the social movement, where the engagement is more than at an ideological level. This also adds to new sociological insights for the sociologist.

But even if some feel their role is limited to the academic world, they still need to engage their only target audience: students.  If the teacher is able to engage constructively with this ‘public’, then half the battle is won, as you have nudged the critical faculties of these young minds. Pressing issues of the day should be put into their wider sociological context and discussed, in and outside classrooms. For instance, a teacher could ask the class to prepare a note on why Dr Govinda KC has been staging repeated hunger strikes. What does this say about the Nepali state?

In fact, issues like these need to be placed before the public in the wider context through popular writings. This is also an opportune moment for sociologists to formulate concepts and ideas which are organic in nature and not a replica of their Western avatars.

Sociologists by training are asked to look at issues in objective manner. This training, if utilized in engaging the public, can demystify crucial issues. For instance various current social movements have their own sociological grounds. People either tend to support or reject these movements. Sociologists can explain why some movements succeed while others fail. This is the academic framing which is currently largely confined to the comity of professionals. But if the same framework can be applied and explained at the popular level, it is certainly going to clear many popular misconceptions.

So professional sociology and public sociology should not be seen as exclusive domains.

Rather than compete they can reinforce each other and thus benefit mutually. After all, the same person could be teaching in a university system while at the same time also championing a public cause.

The authors are assistant professors at Kathmandu School of Law. 

By            :               Pranab Kharel & Gaurab KC

Date         :               November 29, 2016

Source     :               myRepublica

http://www.myrepublica.com/news/10048

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How Teachers Learn to Discuss Racism

 

Urban-education programs prepare them for imperative contemporary conversations with students.

After a rash of police killings last summer, H. Richard Milner, a professor of urban education at the University of Pittsburgh, set out to answer a question that had been gnawing at him for some time. As a noted expert on race in education, he frequently received calls from journalists seeking comment on how to help teachers talk about race in the classroom, typically following the fatal police shooting of a black victim. And he always thought the questioning was misguided and inadequate. “Rather than asking me how to help teachers … we should be asking teachers if they believe race is salient … something [they] should be interrogating and thinking about [in the classroom].”

So in early fall 2016, he surveyed 450 pre-service and current public-school teachers on their beliefs about race. Despite the small sample size, the preliminary findings from the nationally representative group revealed an intriguing disconnect. Teachers overwhelmingly agreed that race should be discussed in classrooms; they felt woefully unprepared to lead such
conversations; and they strongly rejected discussing racial violence, which Milner called “central to working with … black and brown students” who are frequently the victims of police shootings. “Basically, teachers said, ‘You’ve twisted my arm. We should talk about race. Nope, I don’t feel prepared to do
that. And I’m definitely not going to [talk about] violence against black bodies.’ That’s where we are in 2017.”

With a profession that’s characteristically white, female, and middle class—and with students of color and children in poverty rapidly making up the majority of the public-school population—it’s become a necessity to have teachers equipped and willing to talk about race and racism. The mere mention of these topics can be awkward and difficult, yet various research findings point to the need to confront the discomfort to improve student learning. Increasingly, that duty has fallen to urban-education programs—a special category of teacher preparation that is reimagining how teaching candidates are prepared and disrupting the race and class stereotypes surrounding urban students and communities.

The dictionary definition of “urban” relates specifically to cities and people who live in them, but population shifts have rendered the term somewhat imprecise. According to federal education data from 2013, some 14 million students (29 percent of total enrollment) attended public schools in cities during the 2010-11 school year. The city classification, however, ranged from urban areas with a population of less than 100,000 to those with 250,000 residents or more—and spanned school districts as geographically diverse as Anchorage, Alaska, and Baltimore to Nashville and New York.

More commonly, urban schooling is defined by bleak statistics and the prejudices encoded in the adjective “urban” rather than official government categories. A 2015 report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education offered a stark glimpse of the state of urban public schools, including one in four students not graduating from high school in four years. Additionally, a study probing the intersections of race and teaching found the word urban was regularly used as shorthand for unfavorable characteristics associated with students of color.

“People generally [believe] that if it’s urban, it’s negative,” said Milner, the director of Pitt’s Center for Urban Education, noting that includes student teachers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Much of his work—in this case, training undergraduates—is concentrated on cultivating “the skills, the attitudes, and the dispositions” to be effective in urban environments. “That means we think about this notion of urban [and] teachers’ belief systems about who these students are and what their capacity happens to be.”

A major impetus behind urban programs was to bring more nuance to teacher education, said Camika Royal, an assistant professor and co-director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education at Loyola University Maryland. Much of the history of education is rooted in psychology with a focus on problem-solving, she explained. Yet urban education is more encompassing—blending psychology with anthropology, sociology, political science, and other disciplines to shed insight on working in urban communities. In Loyola’s program, future teachers hone in on knowledge and practices especially relevant to urban schooling and working with racially, culturally, and economically diverse students. Among the core and elective courses offered are “Language, Culture and Literacy,” “Neighborhood and Community in Urban America,” and “Cultural Diversity in Communication.”

“Historically, we’ve seen education as a blanket thing,” she said. “Theories and practices are tried out in lily-white, suburban areas and then [brought] to urban centers that have much less funding [and] other extenuating issues. What urban-education scholars have said is … consider the context in which [teachers] work and how it may play out differently.”

Royal believes urban education, unlike general teacher education broadly, can give pre-service teachers the tools to navigate race, class, gender, culture, and language, as well as help them grow “an asset-based view” of their students and students’ families. Whether she’s teaching about curriculum or classroom management, Royal centers on anti-racism and anti-oppression in her urban-education courses—concepts that have special significance in urban schools and are equally applicable in non-urban districts. “In suburban schools where you have populations of black students, those same [biases] are often carried over. Our job is to debunk and to poke holes in their long-held beliefs [and] if we’re not upfront and deliberate, it doesn’t happen.”

Melissa Katz, an urban-education student at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, strongly agrees, and credits her professors and the extensive fieldwork she’s completed with unlearning and relearning what it means to be a white teacher in an urban school district. Now in the fourth year of a five-year integrated bachelor’s and master’s program, Katz student-taught in a North Philadelphia public school, where she was teamed with a white teacher she soon discovered was unequipped to work in an economically disadvantaged, mostly black and Hispanic neighborhood. The assignment was short-lived, but the memories were lasting. “She would talk about wanting to go back to the suburbs and students having alcohol- and drug-addicted parents … every stereotype you could imagine,” Katz said. “Worst of all, she approached [teaching] completely from a deficit mindset … it’s the students who suffered.”

The experience forced Katz to ponder the implications of her own racial identity in the classroom. “I definitely felt it on a personal level,” she said, adding that self-reflection was crucial when “students were so explicitly saying your whiteness is preventing you from seeing our humanity.” Katz further explored the subject in a blog post titled, “Teaching While White,” where she aimed to push white educators to “think critically about race, justice, and our own privilege, and most importantly—how these play out in the classroom as teachers.”

Relatedly, one area where Katz believes her urban-education program could be strengthened is in tying what she observed at the individual classroom level to patterns of institutional racism in communities of color—from health care and housing to the environment. Connecting to systemic inequalities, she said, would provide students like herself a “framework for going into a community [unlike] your own.” Similarly, Royal and Milner are pressing their education schools to sharpen and improve how teacher prep is packaged and delivered.

Taking a cue from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Anti-Oppressive Education, Royal is lobbying for Loyola to incorporate “anti-racist” as part of its identity as a school of education and all of its work: “If this is something [we] stand by, then [formally] adopt that into who we are as an institution,” she said. And in Pennsylvania, Milner is working with the state’s department of education to approve a special teaching credential for urban teachers. Modeled after the urban certificate program at his university, prospective teachers would complete 15 extra credit hours in addition to the state-mandated requirements for teacher certification—one year of intensive teacher development to “really disrupt and complexify … what they believe they know about race [and] students or families who live in poverty.”

For Katz, approaching the end of her college years, the urban-education program has taught her much more than the mechanics of teaching. It’s taught her to think more deeply about race—in white and nonwhite spaces. “One of my placements was in a very wealthy [suburban] district [that] reflected my lived experience. However, I wasn’t thinking about the racial aspect, which is hilarious because it was mostly white … the world we live in doesn’t treat white as a race. It’s an interesting tension, and I’m learning to sit in [those] uncomfortable places.”

 

By            :               Melinda D. Anderson

Date         :               January 9, 2017

Source     :               The Atlantic

(https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/01/how-teachers-learn-to-discuss-racism/512474/)

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Arlie Hochschild: Looking for answers from Berkeley to the Bayou

 

Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild — author of the best-selling book Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right — wrote her first book when she was nine years old. You could think of Colleen the Question Girl as a prequel to Strangers in their Own Land, which tries to make sense of why Trump supporters in Louisiana’s ‘cancer alley’ feel loyal to the oil companies who pollute their air and water, while despising the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Why don’t bears have horns?” “Why aren’t zebras plaid?” “Why are some houses so big and others so small?” Hochschild wrote in her first book. Even as a child — and Hochschild readily admits that Colleen was modeled after herself — she was asking difficult questions. “It was about a little girl who was trouble to the adults in her life,” she said. “She’s a little radical, and she was always trying to get her father’s attention.” Colleen starts out as a girl who asks too many questions but, eventually, she becomes the town’s question girl. “Question-asking spread all over town,” the young Hochschild wrote. “And over the years to come, questions flew out of Colleen’s dreams into a wind that blew all around the world.”

As it turns out, Colleen — first published in 1974 by the Feminist Press and now reprinted and available on Amazon — was prescient. Hochschild started teaching at the sociology department at UC Berkeley in the 1970s, at a time when there were precious few female sociologists. From the get-go, she started asking the kinds of questions that were not on her male colleague’s radar screen. Why is “women’s work” less valued than men’s work? What happens when traditional “women’s work” (such as childcare and elder care) is outsourced to strangers? And, more recently, how can blue-collar workers be so blind about billionaires?

Hochschild revels in these seemingly intractable questions. In between Colleen and Strangers in their Own Land, Hochschild wrote several other groundbreaking books, including The Second Shift, The Outsourced Self, The Managed Heart and The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work. But her latest book has been her most successful yet: it has spent time on the New York Times bestseller list, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It has been so popular that it was unavailable for three weeks before Christmas because Amazon could not keep it in stock. (Hochschild is still irritated about that.) “I have written 10 articles since the book came out: I never imagined I’d be doing all this,” she said.

But timing is everything and, once again, Hochschild was prescient. “Five years ago, here in Berkeley, I began to sense a terrible divide,” she told a gathering at the Hillside Club recently. “Not because the left was becoming more left, but because the right was becoming more right.” Look at a Republican such as President Eisenhower, she said. “He was a great sponsor of public infrastructure. Reagan was for gun control. Goldwater’s wife was one of the founders of Planned Parenthood. Nixon brought us the Environmental Protection Agency. And now we hear that the nominee to head the EPA is a climate-change denier.”

In Louisiana, Hochschild — who sheepishly told her interviewees she came from “Bbbbbbb … Berkeley” — encountered true Southern hospitality. She was served lots of sweet tea and gumbo. She was invited to family dinners and community barbecues and was taken out for leisurely boat rides on the (highly polluted) bayou.Hochschild began the research with one of her trademark questions: “How is it that the poorest states in our country, with the worst levels of education, the worst health, the lowest life expectancy — and states that take more aid from the federal government than they give back in taxes — how is it these states revile the federal government? I didn’t understand.”

She was also called a “communist,” an “environmental wacko,” and a “femi-Nazi” by her subjects. “Luckily, they always laughed after they said that,” she recalled. But she added that, “people in Louisiana were also concerned about the divide. They felt they were a fly-over state, and that they were considered uneducated and wrong-headed and Southern and redneck. They were glad I came down to see who they really were.”

Hochschild began the research with one of her trademark questions: “How is it that the poorest states in our country, with the worst levels of education, the worst health, the lowest life expectancy — and states that take more aid from the federal government than they give back in taxes — how is it these states revile the federal government? I didn’t understand.”

Louisiana was the poster child for this paradox: in 2004, Hochschild says, it was the poorest state in the union, and 44% of the state budget came from the federal government. “And they are very strongly Tea Party,” she said. “By the end of my journey, I discovered that they are enthusiastically for Donald Trump. For five years, I had been studying the dry kindling. When I went to New Orleans to see a Trump rally in 20016, I saw the match.”

Hochschild has always been interested in studying feelings and not just data, so it’s not surprising to hear her say that “we need to understand who the Trump supporters are, why that vote makes sense to them — without presuming they are deplorables.” The people Hochschild interviewed felt “culturally colonized [by liberal values] and marginalized. They felt like a minority group, that was unnamed and couldn’t — didn’t — want to name itself. They were victims, they felt, but couldn’t claim victimhood.”

They felt that Hillary Clinton’s economic and trade policies would push them further back, while Trump told them, “we’re’ making you great again, I am recognizing you, blue-collar people.” These communities felt looked down upon as a region but also as a social class. “There was a lot of despair and depression” among Trump supporters, Hochschild said, “and Trump was like an anti-depressant. He’s very good at drilling down for anxiety and deploying it. He said, ‘I will get you un-depressed.’”

But how can a billionaire from Queens understand the situation of blue-collar workers in Louisiana? “He’s been watching it out of the corner of his eye for 25 years,” Hochschild said. “He watched [George W.] Bush put on a cowboy hat and pretend to be a cowboy,” and he attempted a similar feat.

Democratic party policies, meanwhile, were not helpful to blue-collar workers, Hochschild said. “Raising the minimum wage does not help blue-collar workers,” she said. International trade agreements were not helpful to the people she interviewed, and government regulations sometimes made their lives more difficult rather than easier. “The Democratic Party has relied on Silicon Valley for support, but paradoxically many of the interventions that will come out of Silicon Valley will put blue-collar people out of work,” she said. She added that many public institutions actually benefit the middle class “a lot more than the poor.” In addition, she said, progressives don’t want to see that “some public things are not functioning well. Some regulations have gone haywire.”

And, though many Berkeleyans feared that five years of repeat visits to Louisiana would cause Hochschild to go native, exactly the opposite has happened: Hochschild moves right into Berkeley mode when she returns from her field work. “Berkeley is my home,” she says. “It has allowed me to exhale, to take more chances, be more creative.” And so, Hochschild now tells anyone who will listen that Berkeley needs to go back to its activist heyday to respond to the Trump phenomenon. “We need to move on from despair and recover in the spirit of the ’60s,” she said at the Hillside Club.

Hochschild said that in these troubled times progressives need to engage in “some peaceful and massive demonstrations. I think we do need to fight. I want to see a lot of ’60s activism out there.” Progressives need to fight — and file massive lawsuits — against any policies of a Trump administration that would hurt the environment, or civil rights, or women’s rights, or other progressive values and principles, she said. “We need a large vision, and we need to set up a loyal opposition.”

At the same time, she said, progressives should engage with individual Trump supporters and try to find areas where we are in agreement. “We need to stand up, assert our values, and have conversations. We need to reach out to Trump supporters who a mere eight years ago voted for Barack Obama. They aren’t so far away, and we can’t just hurl epithets at each other.”

Hochschild, in fact, is still in conversation with her ‘friends’ in Louisiana. In fact, she is about to embark on another trip to the Bayou, this time with her son David Hochschild, one of five members of the California Energy Commission. David has a background in solar energy and works to promote renewable energy for the state of California. Hochschild’s radical plan is to put David together with Mike Schaff, an ardent Tea Party member and Trump supporter, who is also a major character in Strangers.

Schaff’s house and community were basically destroyed when a 37-acre sinkhole opened up and swallowed up much of the neighborhood. Those houses that still stand, including Schaff’s, are filled with dangerous levels of methane gas. This oil industry disaster could have been prevented, she says, with better regulation by both state and federal agencies, yet Schaff is vehemently opposed to regulation. (Read Hochschild’s essay on Schaff.)

“I thought it would be good to get Mike together with my son,” Hochschild says. “You couldn’t find two more different people. But my idea is to get them in Mike’s boat and see whether people with such different political philosophies can find common ground on the environment.” Hochschild plans to be a silent witness in that boat, recording the conversation.

Hochschild refers those who are interested in embarking on a Left-Right dialogue of their own to a new website called LivingRoomConversations.org. This site was founded by Joan Blades, a co-founder of MoveOn.org, who also appeared with Hochschild at the Hillside Club. Living Room Conversations provides a format for people from opposite sides of a variety of issues to seek common ground. The group will be launching another site called MisMatch.org in the near future, so people with different views from different geographic areas can begin online conversations, also to seek common ground.   “I think we will be bigger and better” for having these conversations, Hochschild said.

Even though Hochschild is technically retired, she is already thinking about her next project. “I’m thinking of going where global warming is really hurting people, but where there is a culture that promotes the idea that global warming is a myth,” she said. “I would like to meet these people and see what they think.”

 

By            :               Daphne White

Date         :               January 11, 2017

Source     :               Berkeleyside

(http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/01/11/arlie-hochschild-looking-answers-berkeley-bayou/)

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Why Universities Must Choose One Telos: Truth or Social Justice

 

Aristotle often evaluated a thing with respect to its “telos” – its purpose, end, or goal. The telos of a knife is to cut. The telos of a physician is health or healing. What is the telos of university?

The most obvious answer is “truth” –- the word appears on so many university crests. But increasingly, many of America’s top universities are embracing social justice as their telos, or as a second and equal telos. But can any institution or profession have two teloses (or teloi)? What happens if they conflict?

As a social psychologist who studies morality, I have watched these two teloses come into conflict increasingly often during my 30 years in the academy. The conflicts seemed manageable in the 1990s. But the intensity of conflict has grown since then, at the same time as the political diversity of the professoriate was plummeting, and at the same time as American cross-partisan hostility was rising. I believe the conflict reached its boiling point in the fall of 2015 when student protesters at 80 universities demanded that their universities make much greater and more explicit commitments to social justice, often including mandatory courses and training for everyone in social justice perspectives and content.

Now that many university presidents have agreed to implement many of the demands, I believe that the conflict between truth and social justice is likely to become unmanageable.  Universities will have to choose, and be explicit about their choice, so that potential students and faculty recruits can make an informed choice. Universities that try to honor both will face increasing incoherence and internal conflict.

[Please note: I am not saying that an individual student cannot pursue both goals. In the talk below I urge students to embrace truth as the only way that they can pursue activism that will effectively enhance social justice. But an institution such as a university must have one and only one highest and inviolable good. I am also not denying that many students encounter indignities, insults, and systemic obstacles because of their race, gender, or sexual identity. They do, and I favor some sort of norm setting or preparation for diversity for incoming students and faculty. But as I have argued elsewhere, many of the most common demands the protesters have made are likely to backfire and make experiences of marginalization more frequent and painful, not less. Why? Because they are not based on evidence of effectiveness; the demands are not constrained by an absolute commitment to truth.]

As I watched events unfold on campus over the past year, I began formulating an account of what has been happening, told from the perspective of moral and social psychology. I was invited to give several talks on campus this fall, and I took those invitations as opportunities to tell the story to current college students, at Wellesley, at SUNY New Paltz, and at Duke. By the time of the Duke talk I think I got the story worked out well enough to send it out into the world, in the hope that it will be shown on many college campuses.  It’s long (66 minutes). But it is as short as I can make it. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and I had to present each one in order.

Here is a link to download the powerpoint slides i showed in the talk. Teachers and professors may borrow freely from them.

OUTLINE OF THE TALK

Introduction:

I begin with two quotations:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” –Karl Marx, 1845

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion…” –John Stuart Mill, 1859

Marx is the patron saint of what I’ll call “Social Justice U,” which is oriented around changing the world in part by overthrowing power structures and privilege. It sees political diversity as an obstacle to action. Mill is the patron saint of what I’ll call “Truth U,” which sees truth as a process in which flawed individuals challenge each other’s biased and incomplete reasoning. In the process, all become smarter. Truth U dies when it becomes intellectually uniform or politically orthodox.

Telos

Each profession or field has a telos. Fields interact constructively when members of one field use their skills to help members of another field achieve their telos. Example: Amazon, Google, and Apple are businesses that I love because they help me achieve my telos (finding truth) as a scholar. But fields can also interact destructively when they inject their telos into other fields. Example: Business infects medicine when doctors become businesspeople who view patients as opportunities for profit. I will argue that social justice sometimes injects its telos of achieving racial equality (and other kinds) into other professions, and when it does, those professionals betray their telos.

Motivated Reasoning

A consistent finding about human reasoning: If we WANT to believe X, we ask ourselves: “Can-I-Believe-It?” But when we DON’T want to believe a proposition, we ask: “Must-I-Believe-It?” This holds for scholars too, with these results:

Scholarship undertaken to support a political agenda almost always “succeeds.”

A scholar rarely believes she was biased

Motivated scholarship often propagates pleasing falsehoods that cannot be removed from circulation, even after they are debunked.

Damage is contained if we can count on “institutionalized disconfirmation” – the certainty that other scholars, who do not share our motives, will do us the favor of trying to disconfirm our claims.

But we can’t count on “institutionalized disconfirmation” anymore because there are hardly any more conservatives or libertarians in the humanities and social sciences (with the exception of economics, which has merely a 3-to-1 left-right ratio). This is why Heterodox Academy was founded—to call for the kind of diversity that would most improve the quality of scholarship (at least, if you embrace Mill rather than Marx).

Sacredness

Humanity evolved for tribal conflict. Along the way we evolved a neat trick: Our ability to forge a team by circling around sacred objects & principles. In the academy we traditionally circled around truth (at least in the 20thcentury, and not perfectly).  But in the 21st century we increasingly circle around a few victim groups. We want to protect them and help them and wipe out prejudice against them. We want to change the world with our scholarship. This is an admirable goal, but this new secular form of “worship” of victims has intersected with other sociological trends to give rise to a “culture of victimhood” on many campuses, particularly those that are the most egalitarian and politically uniform. Victimhood culture breeds “moral dependency” in the very students it is trying to help – students learn to appeal to 3rd parties (administrators) to resolve their conflicts rather than learning to handle conflicts on their own.

Anti-Fragility

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Nietzsche was right, and Nasim Taleb’s book “Antifragile” explains why. Kids need thousands of hours of unsupervised play and thousands of conflicts and challenges that they resolve without adult help, in order to become independently functioning adults. But because of changes in American childrearing that began in the 1980s, and especially because of the helicopter parenting that took off in the 1990s for middle class and wealthy kids, they no longer get those experiences.

Instead they are enmeshed in a “safety culture” that begins when they are young and that is now carried all the way through college. Books and words and visiting speakers are seen as “dangerous” and even as forms of “violence.” Trigger warnings and safe spaces are necessary to protect fragile young people from danger and violence. But such a culture is incompatible with political diversity, since many conservative ideas and speakers are labeled as threatening and banned from campus and the curriculum. Students who question the dominant political ethos are worn down by hostile reactions in the classroom. This is one of the core reasons why universities must choose one telos. Any institution that embraces safety culture cannot have the kind of viewpoint diversity that Mill advocated as essential in the search for truth.

Blasphemy

At Truth U, there is no such thing as blasphemy. Bad ideas get refuted, not punished. But at SJU, there are many blasphemy laws – there are ideas, theories, facts, and authors that one cannot use. This makes it difficult to do good social science about politically valenced topics. Social science is hard enough as it is, with big complicated problems resulting from many interacting causal forces. But at SJU, many of the most powerful tools are simply banned.

Correlation

All social scientists know that correlation does not imply causation. But what if there is a correlation between a demographic category (e.g., race or gender) and a real world outcome (e.g., employment in tech companies, or on the faculty of STEM departments)? At SJU, they teach you to infer causality: systemic racism or sexism. I show an example in which this teaching leads to demonstrably erroneous conclusions. At Truth U, in contrast, they teach you that “disparate outcomes do not imply disparate treatment.” (Disparate outcomes are an invitation to look closely for disparate treatment, which is sometimes the cause of the disparity).

Justice

There seem to be two major kinds of justice that activists are seeking: finding and eradicating disparate treatment(which is always a good thing to do, and which never conflicts with truth), and finding and eradicating disparate outcomes, without regard for disparate inputs or third variables. It is this latter part which causes all of the problems, all of the conflicts with truth. I work through an example of how the attempt to eliminate outcome disparities can force people to disregard both truth and justice.

Schism

Given the arguments made in sections 1-7, I think it is clear that no university can have Truth and Social Justice as dual teloses. Each university must pick one. I show that Brown University has staked out the leadership position for SJU, and the University of Chicago has staked out the leadership position for Truth U. (This has been confirmed by their rankings in the new Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges.)

I close by urging students on every campus in America to raise the question among themselves: which way do we want our university to go? I offer a specific tool to raise the question: the Heterodox University Initiative. If students on every campus would propose these three specific resolutions to their student government, perhaps as the basis of a campus-wide referendum, then students could make their choice known to the faculty and administration. The students would send a clear signal as to whether they want more or less viewpoint diversity on campus. At very least, a campus-wide discussion of Marx versus Mill would be a constructive conversation to have.

 

By:           Jonathan Haidt

Date:        October 21, 2016

Source:    Heterodox Academy

http://heterodoxacademy.org/2016/10/21/one-telos-truth-or-social-justice/

 

 

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