This showed up in my inbox on Wednesday and resonated with me (at least enough that I wanted to share it with you).
By Bill Tierney
This is a time of year I particularly enjoy. I look back on summer and see that I’ve accomplished less than intended, but the start of school brings optimism. Hopeful parents drop off their sons and daughters, and returning students are newly ambitious. My colleagues look refreshed; we are ready to teach, research, and serve the academy. In all of these activities I find that our interactions with one another enhance our processes and outcomes, not just in teaching and writing, but in academic service.
One curiosity of academe is the amount of voluntary service expected of us. Service never seems to count for promotion, tenure, or prestige, yet many of our best moments involve working together on tasks that matter. (Or that don’t matter. Parking committee, anyone?!) Some of us eschew committee work, others become difficult committee members. But most of us work constructively to enable the assembled groups to think, reflect, pause, and move forward with the issues at hand.
A common criticism of academics is that our decision making is not “nimble”: We are too deliberative when we need speedy resolution. I am certainly in favor of more focused decision making, but the reflective culture of academe has an important contribution to make in a world where political and civic discourse has become corrosive, and tweeting and TV shouting matches dominate. As academics we have the opportunity—the responsibility—to temper the divisive, thoughtless, destructive exchanges of the public arena. Our experience with academic service is not just a source of personal inspiration. It is a model for public service.
I am impressed by the cheerful willingness of many individuals to volunteer their time. More often than not I’ve found, during my first few months as AERA president, that the action or contribution of a colleague has improved my own ideas. My work, research, and writing have benefited. As academics, it seems, we function well by way of service to the Association and to one another.
As fall approaches, I am hopeful because of the people with whom I study and work. How fortunate we are to do what we do, and how fortunate to work together.
Best wishes for a productive fall.
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