Monday, August 1, 2016

Why Social Science Risks Irrelevance

The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 24, 2016

Why do we do social-science research? Is it to advance our careers or to elevate human knowledge? If we are really committed to the latter, are we on the right track?

As a working-class kid, I was stunned when I realized that some people had the privilege of getting to think all day long. I’ve never let go of that sense of awe, but to riff off of Spider-Man, with great privilege comes great responsibility.

I believe in the professorial mandate, the deep commitment we must have to giving back knowledge because we get the privilege of being able to spend our days thinking. But that isn’t just a matter of toiling in our worlds and then throwing knowledge out of the ivory tower. It’s not just about making material open and hoping people will come. It’s about actively engaging the very people that we seek to understand, contributing to the communities we spend time analyzing. To treat them respectfully and to understand our moral and ethical responsibility to them.

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