Cambridge, MA. I am sure many of you read Mark C. Taylor's "End the University as We Know It" op-ed piece in the New York Times on April 27. It is about the need for radical reform in higher education/academe, including a radical refashioning of what counts as scholarly research. But be sure also to check out the response by David Bell, "Defending Academe," in The New Republic. Bell gets it right, and speaks to the issue I was raising in my more mellow reflection on ESITIS and Salzburg the other day: academic research — including theology, an ever endangered species — takes time, proceeds slowly, and requires the 'luxury' of seemingly arcane research that does not pay off in the short run.
While Taylor is right in suggesting that we need to think of ways of adapting our academic institutions and practices to current needs, there is also a compelling need to continue to provide room for scholars to work in the painstaking and slow fashion that research requires. Modernization and efficiency will not change the basic facts of scholarship. In the humanities, and particularly in theology, it will continue to be hard to produce certifiable payoff in quantitative and short-term units that meet immediate cost-effective standards. Such is the life of the mind. But read Taylor and Bell, and take another look at my piece, and see what you think. Particularly if you are NOT an academic, your reactions will be welcome.