Universities are charged with the task of conserving and distributing what we know. This also makes them premier sites of knowledge production, or knowledge creation, for a learning environment will not merely overcome the ignorance of the students with the knowledge of the teachers. It is both a place where individuals in the culture learn what the culture already knows and where the culture acquires knowledge it previously lacked. Among the many beliefs that circulate in society, scholars decide which ones should be passed along to coming generations and which ones should be discarded. They also keep a lookout out for novel ideas, evaluate them, and incorporate them into the curriculum as needed. Scholarship, in other words, is the business of organising what is known in such a way that a new discovery can be recognised for what it is. If universities were not such sites of cultural learning, i.e., places where the culture’s mind itself changes, they would be merely ideological institutions, machines for the distribution of doctrine. But the body of knowledge is a living thing. It is not kept running like a machine, but growing like a tree.
Monday, June 01, 2015