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Radical Academic

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Where Are All the Radical Academics?

Radical. When did we forget the meaning of the word?

Merriam Webster’s third entry for the definition of radical:

a :  very different from the usual or traditional :  extreme

b :  favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions

c :  associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change

 

For years, we associated academia and academics with radical – extreme.

Even in our movies, radical academics provoked thought and challenged tradition:

(Dead Poets Society 1989)

Radical academics spoke out against injustice:

(The Great Debater 2007)

Radical academics evoked dialogue:

(Mona Lisa Smile 2003)

Radical academics inspired action:

 (Dead Poets Society 1989)

In turn, these radicals were revered by their students:

(Mona Lisa Smile 2003)

But is this all just glam? Is the reality more like the starting point of all those movies?:

(Dead Poets Society 1989)

Haven’t we become just plain old boring? The depth of blandness is noticeable in Gap’s most recent clothing line, “the tenure track professor,” which features boring conservative clothing as suitable for church as for class:

(Inside Higher Ed)

 

When did we accept that being a professor meant being quiet? What happened that made us timid? Are we truly oppressed by the rise of sites such as ratemyprofessors.com and professorwatchlist.org? On www.ratemyprofessors.com students can report everything about their professors from teaching prowess to hotness (rated in chili peppers no less). Professorwatchlist.org is a site run by Turning Point USA, a right wing conservative political group. On Professorwatchlist, professors are reported for their liberal views in a modern-day McCarthyism list. Read more here: NY Times

Are we as professors now timid? Afraid to be listed on Professorwatchlist? Are we too busy trying to blend in and earn tenure to protest for social justice? We are not called to be bland gap versions of academia of old – we are to use our voices, our minds, our hands to be radical.

If,

And,

I say,

All evil needs to succeed is for smart people to say nothing.

 

What are we afraid of? Our students will carry us through:

(Dead Poets Society 1989)

 

What do you say?

~Laura-Edythe

National Center for Civil & Human Rights, Atlanta Georgia USA

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