The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 25th, 2014
How should academics respond to the death of Michael Brown and the
non-indictment of his killer? If you teach critical race theory,
criminology, modern American history, African-American studies, or any
number of other subjects explicitly linked to Brown’s death, then I
suspect you already have a plan. But what about the rest of us?
One of my beliefs about public engagement
is that the process of becoming an academic, as both a scholar and a
teacher, creates habits of mind that we can bring to bear on topics far
outside our subjects. Academe teaches us to be narrow, to state “that’s
not my field” when questioned. That caution, while understandable, has
contributed to the sense of isolation of academe from public discourse.
In moments like the reaction to Brown’s death, we need more engagement,
not less, and each of us has something to offer.