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May 26, 2012

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Jeffrey Harrison

Al: Great topic. Here is another excerpt from the piece: "Left free: There’s the point. The principles of the faculty lounge at its best include tolerance of disagreement, preference for reason over authority, and avoidance of slogan and emotional appeal. These are the principles that those of us who teach (and, one hopes, all adults) should model for our students, and encourage them to carry with them into the world beyond the groves of academe. The better we do our work, the better our politics will be."

As someone who had no insight into the inside life of academics I was very proud to first become a faculty member teaching economics and then law. I recall walking out of the the very first faculty meeting I attended because the quality of the discussion was so poor. People quibbled about the smallest things and, invariable, the discussion was about them and not the best course to take. Perhaps I have been in the wrong faculty lounges but my experience has been much the same. It is hard to imagine a more anti intellectual setting. Some ideas are taboo. Disagreements are avoiding in order not to upset the social ordering. I could quote a long string of some of the most illogical statements I have heard and many would come from the faculty lounge. I liken the faculty lounge to something closer to theater. People go their to play their part in a giant ongoing social exercise that has very little to do with one's intellect. Carter does describe the ideal but I have not seen it.

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