Thursday, October 27, 2016
Cruelty & Kindness in Academia
I don’t think the academic life promotes kindness. I hope I am wrong. Certainly, there are kind people, but there are also very cold and unpleasant people. In any case, at Vitae, Kelly Baker considers the problem of a lack of kindness—even cruelty in academia. Here are some excerpts:
In that climate, your own career success is of the utmost importance. Unkindness becomes a buffer between you and all the other people seeking those elusive tenure-track jobs, grants, promotions, book contracts, prestigious journal articles, named chairs, editorships, and so on. Your career begins to matter more than collaboration and pleasantries exchanged in the hall. Maybe academia is up to its ears in assholes because that is an acceptable route to the career you trained for.
[H]ow we view kindness comes from how we understand humanity. If we understand our fellow human beings to be fundamentally good, compassionate, and altruistic, kindness matters because how we treat other people matters. If, on the other hand, we believe that humans are terrible, deceptive, scheming, and self-interested, we are more inclined to treat other people unkindly. Kindness appears as sentimental and unnecessary. And yet, we still find pleasure in being kind, and we recognize and dwell on those moments when others are unkind to us.
Being kind makes us vulnerable to other people because we don’t know how they will act or react. It makes us care. Caring opens us up to hurt, but it also makes cooperation and collaboration possible.
We don’t have to go along with a system that rewards cruelty and diminishes care. In fact, kindness has the subversive potential to make change. And many academics already know that and practice it.
You can read more here.