Thursday, December 8, 2016

We Only Have Education to Guide Us: A Pledge

The glaciers of Glacier National Park, which once numbered more than a hundred, will be gone by 2030 or so.

The recent election has seen the loss of many things, which in terms of science and scientific understanding is truly tragic. The nation didn't vote for it, but representatives of ignorance and unrestrained capitalism managed to eke out an electoral college victory, and now a parade of political appointments are making a mockery of our commitment to clean air, clean water, and responsible stewardship of the land. Decisions about the future of our nation are now in the hands of people who are guided not by science, but by the profit motives of corporations. First and foremost is the abject denial by those who are about to take office in the reality of global warming and climate change.
Corals of the Great Barrier Reef are dying off at an appalling rate because of abnormally warm seas.

In so many ways I despair. But there is always hope, and I will not back off my commitment to the teaching of science and logic in my career.  Those now in power fear an educated electorate, because they used fear and ignorance to gain the power they will now yield. This must not continue.
Intense drought, a predicted aspect of global warming, has killed more than 100 million trees in California, including on the floor of iconic Yosemite Valley

I've been looking for the appropriate words to employ at this moment, and I found them in the Anti-authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct of Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto. They appear below, only slightly edited (because I'm not an administrator). These statements have always been a part of my educational and academic philosophy, but it's good to have a reminder of what we stand for. Consider this a pledge between me and my students, and with society at large.

1. I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.

2. I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.

3. I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
4. I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
5. I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
6. As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
7. I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.

8. I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
9. I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.
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