October 11, 2009

Academic Freedom and "Pointless" Questions

For once, I agree with Leah McLaren. In the UK, the government wants to stop funding "pointless" academic research. Well, define pointless! I'm afraid this new funding philosophy would harm feminists academics more than most, because no, I can't really prove that my research on Muslim Women's veiling practices in London today will have a direct impact on the economy and it sure as hell doesn't come with a business plan.

We academics often can't predict the "usefulness" of our inquiries BEFORE we start them. We don't always know what applications they might produce. This is a good thing. It means you aren't going in with too many biases that might cloud your vision and limit your research. It's important for academics to be able to ask as many questions as possible, regardless of how useful the government and you initially might think they are likely to be, because the MORE questions we ask, the more answers we'll get, and we as humans don't necessarily know what kind of answers we want...

You can read Leah's full article here. For Thanksgiving, I would be grateful for more academic freedom and support from G8 governments, how about you?

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