The long game against an anti-science, anti-education government


Like you, I’m exhausted from the political assault on science and education in the United States. But please, stay with me for this little bit, at least when you can find the energy.

A year ago, some folks thought that I was a bit extreme when pondering the difficulties that scholars were going to face in Trumpian times. I don’t think I was that far off, and I don’t have to escort you through the news to describe the crises facing scientific research and higher education.

On many fronts, universities are under attack — clearly that’s the case with the new tax plan. White supremacists allied with our executive branch have been exploiting our passion for academic discourse to legitimize their intolerance. Every week some federal agency implements a policy that intentionally flies in the face of facts established with science. I get it, we’re all tired.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon (as they say).

It’s really easy to get outrage fatigue. How can we effectively resist against the nefarious aims of the current administration, while not running out of energy or concern? I’m not an expert, but here are a few thoughts:

I think we should keep doing the four things that I identified before inauguration, which are things that are part of our basic job description anyway:

  • Keep up research
  • Teach critical thinking
  • Advocate publicly for evidence-based decision making
  • Build diverse and inclusive academic communities

I realize I can’t call my senator every single day. And I can’t write a new op-ed piece to attempt to counteract every nefarious deed. This is not sustainable. Each of us needs to identify some level of engagement — above zero — ¬†that can be a part of our regular work.

We’ve been at this for almost a year, and this is a slow-moving crisis that will keep going on for much longer. It might not look like it, but we truly have made an impact. There are many forms of leadership that we can show outside what happens in our federal government — what happens in our own communities is crucial. (For example, while the federal government doesn’t support the Paris agreement, many entities within the US have pledged support.)

I don’t have any major wisdom to share here. I just want to encourage everybody to take care of themselves, to not give up, and to keep on keepin’ on: doing science, teaching independent thinking, and with using your voice to protect the things that need protection.

I am fortunate to not have to spend this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in the presence of relatives who harbor retrograde views, but I realize a lot of you aren’t so lucky. I just want to express some solidarity with you, and remind you that we have a lot of collective strength and it’s okay to take care of yourself.

3 thoughts on “The long game against an anti-science, anti-education government

  1. Very nice. I think there’s more of practical value here than you acknowledge. To your pre-inauguration to-do list I’d add a couple of high-impact practices in particular – study abroad, and community engagement. They explicitly counter the insularity and distrust that got us here. Connecting such practices more often to science – as I’ve seen you do – could take us far.

  2. Agree with Ken, very valuable. Only thing I’d add is some ‘projective reflection’ ‘What would this look like for you? What steps might you take? What are the risks and barriers and how might you overcome them? Who can you work with on this?’ …to help turn your outline into action.
    And by the way, here in Queensland I’m off to hand out how to vote cards for the greens this weekend. We’re up against Malcolm ‘Climate Change was invented by NASA’ Roberts. Feeling your pain.

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