February 25, 2011
Taking it to the streets
Academic scholarship, at least in part, should be about making the world better-- that is the purpose of the analysis we provide and the reforms we propose. Yet, scholarship often seems like an inefficient way of doing that, and too often our words never make it to an audience who has the power to make changes or utilize the tools we provide. We are talking to ourselves.
I do believe in scholarship in the most traditional sense; it is through dialogue with others in my field that my ideas are refined. Yet, I also feel the need to convey those ideas to others outside the academy, and it takes different techniques to do that. I am still learning those techniques.
On Wednesday of this week, I will be lobbying the office of Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois on the death penalty abolition bill passed by the legislature and now under his consideration. I am not a lobbyists; however, I would be a fool to pass on this opportunity to speak to those who have the power to enact a reform I support. The skill set I need is very different than what scholarship requires, of course, and I am hoping to be successful in shifting gears on the fly.
Then, later, I will be giving a sermon and re-creating the trial of Christ under Virginia death penalty rules in an Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia (details here). The point is to go to the heart of a death-penalty point and put in juxtaposition the Christianized political culture there and the unjust execution at the heart of that faith.
All of this may be in vain, of course, and no more effective at creating change than writing another article. Still, I believe it to be worthwhile.
Do we have a duty to take it to the streets?
-- Mark Osler