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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thinking, and What to Do About It

One of my publishers is considering a new edition of one of my books, and sent out requests for recommendations from folks who've used it as a textbook. One of the responses went like this:

"(King) is getting more crotchety in his old age, but he makes you (the teacher) and the students think. I don’t always, or even 50% agree with him, but he always stimulates debate in my classes."


"(I tell people): 'You need to read Tom King’s stuff. You laugh, you cry, you cringe, you yell at the book, but it always makes you think.'"

I appreciate those comments; I naturally like to think that my writings stimulate thinking. But I can't help but be a bit frustrated, too. "Hey, Reviewer," I think, "if you don't agree with half of what I write, and if you find yourself yelling at my books, why in the world don't you write something about the subject yourself? A book, a journal article, something on my (or someone else's) blog? Why don't we have a dialogue? That's how we both -- all -- can learn."

I expect the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other bastions of the lightly-considered status quo to ignore my existence, and my expectations have never been disappointed.  But I do wonder about academics, who theoretically engage in scholarly discourse and encourage students to do the same. If you don't like or agree with what you read, sheesh, there are things to do about that. Question it!  Challenge it!  Argue about it!  Isn't that what scholars are supposed to do?
Only the most stultified of bureaucrats simply ignores what doesn't comport with what he thinks (or has been taught to think) and waits for it to be forgotten. But -- maybe I'm missing the real point.  Maybe life in a stultified bureaucracy is the kind of career for which you think you ought to prepare your students.


Anonymous said...

Tom - It is easier for a person to say I only agree with half of what you say, and the other half is "very stimulating." What is harder is to tell you why they don't agree with you on the other half and engage in an intelligent conversation - from which something good may arise. I happen to agree with your recent "blatter in Bejing" with regard to the amount of time wasted in arguing about the interpretation (significance) of properties being formally nominated to the National Register. However, if you were to seriously consider why this situation exists I think you might find this "waste of time" is deliberate - but not for the reasons you may think.

Anonymous said...

Tom, is it true that you have become crotchety? Hope things are well with you sir. C Dalu


Thomas F King said...

Who, me? Not a chance.