I’ve been thinking about bullying a lot since I just became a member of the Southern Law Poverty Center to support their campaign to end bullying in schools.
One of the things that people do to rationalize bullying is that it’s for the victim’s “own good.” If only that person would get off the couch and lose weight, stop having autism (or learn to “cope with peers” as a person who has autism), or “stop being gay”, they would “fit in and people would stop bullying.”
By now, most people who aren’t idiots recognize this rationale as unproductive victim-blaming. However, even those who reject bullying based on the consequences for the victim tend to forget that bullying entails terrible consequences for the bully.
The universe of bullying is large; most of us have some unpleasant story in our lives that, if we tell the truth, would indicate when we ourselves have been a bully, or at least played lancer to the bully’s matador. Most people flow in and out of the victim and bully status at different times of their lives.
bell hooks describes how she learned resilience from bullies. Bullies, however, slide around in a shitty world of unearned power trips taken at the expense of somebody less powerful than you. IOW, while hooks is not valorizing the bully, she’s helping us see that bullies never learn to box their own weight; in the worst case, they indulge their taste for sociopathy. Victims learn how to fight power–even though the experience is unnecessary, horrendous, and deeply traumatic.
You think about the biggest bullies in your school. Perhaps some went on to be one of those Lifetime-Movie local power couples. Mine didn’t. Most of mine remained pathetic losers.
Drop what you are to go read Russell Blackford’s meditation on the university:
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Ecklund on Singer:
What this shows me is that neither the scientist nor Ecklund properly understands what universities are all about. An important component of the role of universities is the creation of a space where what seem like commonsense ideas – handed down through socialisation and tradition – can be held up to the light and challenged. One thing that we want from academics, especially in fields such as philosophy, is the capacity and courage to attack popular ideas, including popular ideas of morality. This kind of intellectual critique, which may involve the development of unpopular critiques of how ordinary people think, is one way that we make progress as a society.
Accommodationist thinkers in the style of Ecklund or, say, Chris Mooney, want to reverse this. The idea is to market a product, such as science, by showing how it is safe for people to consume without it challenging their existing worldviews (which may be based on religion or traditional morality). People with various existing worldviews are taken as demographics, and the idea is to market science to them.
But science and scholarship are dangerous – not necessarily in the sense of creating physical risks, but in the sense that they can lead to ideas that undermine received wisdom. Universities are places where dangerous ideas, in this sense, are created, refined, and tested in debate. To suggest otherwise, and adopt the marketing strategy favoured by accommodationists, is profoundly ignorant and anti-intellectual.
Ferule and Fescue has a nice meditation up on the nature of scholarly work, and some reflections on how, even if you are writing by yourself, you are being helped out in many significant ways by reviewers and senior mentors.
I have a colleague who is fond of trying to convince us that if coauthored worked should be counted by dividing the number of authors. So if you write with three people, you get 1/3 of journal article.
Of course, he writes by himself.
My report on autism and urban life for the NIH has fifteen co-authors: some from our community partner, some from Keck, an individual from engineering, some folks from Children’s Hospital, and a boatload of my students. It was a large grant, and it had a lot of hands and brains at work on it.
So if I write published articles with just my name on it, would that be an indicator that I am a singular genius working bravely on my very own?
Or would it make me a jerk who takes credit for other people’s work? (Answer:the latter.)