Scholarship or activism?

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) faced a choice in organizing the AERA 2009 conference: focus on scholarship and education, or dilute its mission by pushing a liberal-left agenda.

Obviously, AERA chose the second option:

From an email sent out to all AERA members, but not publicly available online:

In October, we announced a number of steps that the Association was taking after wide consultation, including with the AERA Queer Studies SIG, to address the fact that, in 2008, Mr. Douglas Manchester, the primary owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, made a large individual contribution promoting passage of Proposition 8 in California. The steps taken by AERA include:

The Association purchased additional space at the Convention Center and shifted all high profile and social justice-related sessions as well as all official AERA Annual Meeting functions to the Convention Center or other hotels. The Association had planned to hold 850 sessions at the Hyatt and has reduced this number to 350 sessions.
The Association continues to include The Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel among the hotels offering rooms to attendees. As is AERA practice, individual registrants are choosing in which hotels to make reservations until AERA blocks are filled.
As part of the 2009 Annual Meeting Program, AERA has added two Presidential symposia relevant to GLBT issues.
We took these actions mindful that, while Mr. Manchester is the owner of the Hotel, his views and actions do not reflect those of the Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and that the Hyatt Hotel operates the Manchester Grand Hyatt independent of Mr. Manchester. The Hyatt General Manager has appreciated our concerns and our actions to make clear the Association’s commitment to equal access, equal treatment, and non-discrimination as a matter of business policy and practice regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or religious preferences. The Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel itself has a well documented history of inclusiveness on GLBT issues.

It bothers me a lot that education, which is so important, suffers from such loud presence by left-wing political organizers. The scientific study of education is hobbles by its association with this crowd.

9 thoughts on “Scholarship or activism?”

  1. I personally am especially sensitive to GLBT issues. I however, think that any organization that raises sexual orientation above their core advocacy and mission has “jumped the shark”. When that core mission is the education of the next generation of scholars I am especially disturbed. Maybe that is why as an educator I refuse to join most education organizations. I believe providing quality education more than talking about it.

  2. Is this the part you’re referring to as putting GLBT issues above scholarship?

    “As part of the 2009 Annual Meeting Program, AERA has added two Presidential symposia relevant to GLBT issues.”

    Because, honestly, I’m not seeing anything else to suggest that scholastic issues are suffering here; even this sentence fails to mention what, if anything, of a scholastic nature was sacrificed to make room for these symposia or what these issues actually are.

  3. Michael,

    The first part of the quotation notes the steps taken after a “wide consultation” “to address the fact” that the hotelier made a political contribution offensive to the political biases of the organization.

    This resulted in changes to the organizational program.

    If this is effortleses, I of course would request that AERA similarly accommodate my political biases. But of course this is not effortless: professional organizations have to sacrifice time and resources that could be devoted to other activities to kow-tow to the biases they chose to worship. In this case, AERA chooses to kow-tow to certain left-wing political activists.

    Selil,

    Well said!

  4. This is a pet peeve of mine. I’m sick to death of educational associations and unions investing scarce meeting time and budgetary resorces for shouting about the death penalty, or animal rights or global warming or foreign policy or…or…or…. anything except education.

    Let’s be honest, it’s always cadre of far-left, full-time activists, usually Marxists of some kind, with nothing else going on in their lives, who hijack organizations devoted to mainstream concerns because their political agendas lack any real popular support or organizational size, given the tiny memberships of their extremist splinter parties and advocacy groups.

    Unlike Selil, I have joined orgs and seen the nonsense up close and personal at the national level. A few of these folks are not simply politically extreme, they are also f-ing nuts and are only two clicks on the blood pressure meter from going postal.

  5. Dan: What would happen if, after researching the sacrifices made by the organization on behalf of gay rights, you and like-minded members demanded the same (or at least proportional) sacrifices on behalf of your own point of view? Or founded an educational organization that biases in your own direction? Or proposed an amendment to the 1st organization’s charter banning involvement in politics and social debates beyond those directly effecting education and educational research?

    Zen: Always? The NRA comes to mind as a group that was high-jacked by the far right. And what little I’ve heard about Baptist theology (personal relationships with God) suggests that the Southern Baptists were high-jacked as well (telling everyone how to marry and who to have sex with isn’t exactly personal).

  6. Michael,

    Dan: What would happen if, after researching the sacrifices made by the organization on behalf of gay rights, you and like-minded members demanded the same (or at least proportional) sacrifices on behalf of your own point of view?

    Considering the general political attitudes of the professariate, I don’t see that happening!

    Or founded an educational organization that biases in your own direction?

    I would prefer the American Education Research Association focus on education research, not pushing an ideological agenda.

    Or proposed an amendment to the 1st organization’s charter banning involvement in politics and social debates beyond those directly effecting education and educational research?

    That would be good, though we need a general purge of Marxists from the organization first [1]…

    Zen: Always? The NRA comes to mind as a group that was high-jacked by the far right. And what little I’ve heard about Baptist theology (personal relationships with God) suggests that the Southern Baptists were high-jacked as well (telling everyone how to marry and who to have sex with isn’t exactly personal).

    I’m not one to defend the intellectual foundations of Protestantism in general (noting, with happiness, that serious thinkers tend to go Vatican — Blair [2], Gingrich [3], and so on), but in most Christian theology, influencing government is a deep form of charity. This is true whether the aim is providing for a level of frugal comfort [4], exterminating the Jews [5], or whatever the political direction of that branch of the faith.

    zenpundit,

    Well said!

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/01/28/the-quantitative-revolution.html
    [2] http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=15&entry_id=22950
    [3] http://www.americanpapist.com/2009/03/newt-gingrich-is-converting-to.html#links
    [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rerum_Novarum
    [5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Jews_and_Their_Lies

  7. Michael

    You wrote:

    “Zen: Always? The NRA comes to mind as a group that was high-jacked by the far right. And what little I’ve heard about Baptist theology (personal relationships with God) suggests that the Southern Baptists were high-jacked as well (telling everyone how to marry and who to have sex with isn’t exactly personal).”

    This seems to be a remarkably poor analogy with what we are discussing.

    The NRA has become more militant about their defense of the 2nd amendment rights of their members – i.e. more extreme about their core mission. Presumably, the same dynamic is in play with Southern Baptists become more fundamentalist ( not sure, I’m not up on Baptist theology). The NRA might be counterproductive in their tactics at times but they are not betraying their dues paying members with bait-and-switch.

    If The NRA was hijacked by, say, pro-Life activists who began using meetings to talk about abortion, or business lobbyists who wanted tax cuts or anti-Gay activists or some other irrelevant, non-core, issue then it would be the same thing as what is happening in educational associations.

  8. “The NRA has become more militant about their defense of the 2nd amendment rights of their members – i.e. more extreme about their core mission. Presumably, the same dynamic is in play with Southern Baptists become more fundamentalist ( not sure, I’m not up on Baptist theology). The NRA might be counterproductive in their tactics at times but they are not betraying their dues paying members with bait-and-switch.”

    Yes and no; one thing that has to be considered is disagreement on what the mission of a given organization actually is. In the case of the NRA, you have members who see its mission as gun safety promotion and training, putting them in conflict with those members who see it as defense of 2nd Amendment rights. In the case mentioned at top, you have people like Dan who want to stick with educational research butting heads with people who want to add political advocacy to the mix or who somehow see some measure of GLBT advocacy as correlating with the educational research mission. As for the Southern Baptists, that makes three of us who aren’t real familiar with their theology, but they would hardly be the only religious institution with internal disagreements on what that theology would be.

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