Empirical Asylums

The professor in a sociology class I’m taking this quarter acknowledged that scholarly papers tend not to have much impact. It’s a shame really, because scholars are actually studying the problems in our society, and often highlighting the absurdity of current policy.

I’ve previously commented on the Bush Administration’s utter lack of regard for empirical information, but I see the same thing among more ordinary people.

It is almost as if universities were asylums, where empiricists go, do their studies, and publish their results in journals read only by other scholars. And just as if they were insane, sent to mental hospitals, they are ignored by the outside world. Challenges to the elite and to dominant ideology are buried in the stacks of university libraries.

In the back of Stanford University, there is a large area of open space, fenced off and marked “Academic Reserve,” reminiscent of a game reserve. As an academic, driving past those signs, I’ve wondered if I was supposed to go there and live off the land. It might be as effective.

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