Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The curse of deep skepticism

My problem is that I don’t believe in most of the things I am supposed to hold dear as an academic. Few of the usual assumptions about what is worth teaching and researching make sense to me. Values like the importance of striving for the truth (what’s that?), and of preserving academic “standards” seem, to me, misguided, meaningless, or at best, over-rated. I can’t get worked up about plagiarism like most of my colleagues – why should using the exact phrase used by someone else be such a sin, and if your first language isn’t English, isn’t this the obvious thing to do? I have never been able to join groups with common, comfortable assumptions about what is worthwhile, and to get on in academia that is what you need to do. I pay lukewarm lip service to some of it – like the conventional methods of statistics as an approach to research, like papers published in top journals being a gold standard for research, like the value of a first class degree, and so on – but I can never actually believe in much of it. 

This blog is an attempt at therapy for my condition. It is intended to articulate some of my skeptical thoughts, to help me understand what I really think. Obviously, I am not expecting many readers, but if you are reading this then I am pleased, and would appreciate your comments, even, perhaps especially, critical ones. (Incidentally, many of the details, like the project on leadership and the third age, are fictional, but the spirit of my comments is deeply felt.)

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