on meeting the world sans salves

Some of the best tools that we have for intellectually meeting the world (disciplined writing and analysis) are the very worst for engaging it ethically or morally or for requiring ourselves to step outside our own comfort zones and the narrow frames from within which any person sees anything. I see this as a key reason for why academia is so good at talking about diversity and so bad at actually nurturing it.

Take, for example, the humanities and social sciences and our primary ways of gauging performance and knowledge. Too fast a leap to proper analytical writing leaches content of heart, and applies salve before the necessary wounds (involved in grappling with the real world and not simply a safe mental version of it) have even been made. This makes of any salve a potential deadly substance, for when salve precedes cleansing of the wound, it rots cells.

Rotting cells, of course, have great value: they feed the next generation, which will share some characteristics with the deaths from which they grow, but when the dead/dying are presently running the world, that’s a bit of a problem. We simply must find better ways to break ourselves open before we seek the salve, and we must help students to do this as well before asking them to perform in the languages and structures so hallowed in our disciplines. Our sacred cows are helping to strangle our world right now.

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