The Corner


Scholarship or Activism?

Quite a few educators these days think of their jobs as platforms for their political activism. They’ve been hired to teach a subject, but that gives them the opportunity to shape young minds so they’ll support “good” political causes and view the world’s problems the same way they do. The Left has been at this for more than a century.

In today’s Martin Center article, Indiana University sociology professor Fabio Rojas pushes back against this idea. His ideal: scholarship first, activism second.

Rojas rejects the “scholars should be activists” concept for several reasons:

First, the “activist-scholar” model invites bias. If one believes that their political preferences must be reflected in research, we may begin to ignore evidence that our views may be erroneous. Second, we undermine the credibility of the academic enterprise when we erase the distinction between activist and scholar. When someone reads an article by a professor, they should believe that the professor is making the best argument given available methods and data, not the arguments that support their preferred side in a political debate.

Good points. More and more, Americans look askance at everything associated with “higher education” because it has been so poisoned by “progressive” politics.

But Rojas doesn’t think that there should be anything like a Wall of Separation between academia and activism. Professors often have good contributions to make to society. Of course they should be free to participate in whatever issues interest them — but never to let that shoulder aside their obligations as educators.

About a decade ago, Stanley Fish wrote a book entitled “Save the World on Your Own Time,” making the case for teaching your subject, not teaching equality or peace or justice or any other lofty goal. I think that Fish and Rojas are in agreement.

“Academia,” Rojas concludes, should be “a meeting of the minds, not a political battlefield.” Agreed — but what do we do about those who insist on using the classroom as a personal soapbox?

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Most Popular


The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel

It never fails. Whenever a Republican president makes a controversial or contentious move to support Israel -- such as moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, or yesterday’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights -- you’ll see various “explainers” and other stories that purport ... Read More
White House

Mueller Report Delivered to Attorney General

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday evening delivered a report to attorney general William Barr detailing his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Barr will now be tasked with deciding what information from the report ... Read More