Increasing the numbers of scholars is the key

By Lamont Flowers

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s interview with Dr. Houston Baker, “Literary Scholar Indicts Some Black Thinkers for Shallow Works,” was very informative in that it enables all of us to think more critically about our work and what is the real impact of our scholarship. The interview also encourages researchers and scholars who focus on the African American experience to consider some of the pressing challenges facing scholarship about African American history and life as well as the role of academic freedom.

More importantly, I believe that the interview uncovers probably a more critical issue that may potentially impact the production of scholarship on African Americans the underrepresentation of scholars writing about and conducting research on issues related to understanding and improving the quality of life for African Americans. In essence, the interview points clearly to the importance of encouraging scholars, who are able and willing, to mentor the next generation of scholars and problem solvers. Producing and mentoring new scholars will ensure that there will be a variety of people, with different cultural lenses and scholarly approaches, to examine the African American experience in education, housing, politics, economics, criminal justice, music, media, philosophy, etc.

 

I contend that an increase in the number of scholars who study issues related to African American issues and race relations may also improve the number and utility of approaches for enhancing the well-being of the Black community in America. Moreover, this next generation of scholars may also lead to the type of diversity in thinking that may provide the best defense against the myriad of theoretical, evidence-based, scholarly, and practical topics, issues, and concerns that decrease opportunities and defers the dreams of many African Americans.

Dr. Lamont A. Flowers is the Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership and Executive Director of Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education at Clemson University.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

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One response to “Increasing the numbers of scholars is the key

  1. Dr. Flowers comment on the interview of Dr. Houston Baker that appeared in the on-line site DIVERSE ISSUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION (http://www.diverseeducation.com/) is an important insight to a complex problem. Dr. Baker goes after highly visibly “public intellectuals” like Gates, West and Dyson name calling their various contributions to knowledge, mainly about African Americans, but Baker himself offers nothing to correct what he says is their collective weak scholarship.
    When I read the Baker interview I am reminded about the same “black critique” – often nasty, hurled against the 1978 work of William J. Wilson (Declining Significance of Race) by Black scholars.
    25 + years later some of the same critics are asking Wilson for autographs.
    The production of knowledge is difficult. It takes time, hard work and the ability to think outside of the standard, the prevailing paradigms. Scholars and intellectuals have to be trained to do this.
    So when “after -the -fact” critics like Baker come along and attacks those who have done something, in terms of putting out there the work being critiqued, one wonders what have the critics themselves done?
    If I remember correctly this is the same Baker who threw barbs at the Duke Lacrosse story early on and when new evidence was presented, altering the initial stories, he disappeared.
    When Dr. Flowers calls for producing and mentoring new scholars who take on the African American experience from a variety of perspectives he is absolutely correct. We need these new voices as the work to be done is immense. Name calling will not solve the many problems facing the “African American Community.”

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