UDC’s New Cable TV Series “The Scholars”
by Elena Burger
The Scholars, a new installment in the UDC Cable series is a fascinating program featuring discussions with academics at the top of their respective fields. Hosted by poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller, the 30-minute talks are a great way to acquaint yourself with new ideas, and maybe even debunk some persistently held old ones.
A recent interview featuring John Cavanagh, the director at the Institute for Policy Studies think tank, does exactly that. Cavanagh refutes the idea that think tanks are impartial, and says that "many think tanks come with a point of view." To back up this idea, Cavanagh cites groups like the American Enterprise Institute, which grew into the largest think tank largely because of corporate donations from groups like Ford Motor Company and Shell.
Could the world of academia help mitigate this political miscegenation? Cavanagh has his doubts. While university professors do have an impetus to publish in journals, the emphasis is on academic, rather than think tank-propagated publications. Cavanagh hopes to see an academic world where "public scholarship is rewarded as much as university scholarship." The world of academia should not be insulated--it should help prompt social change.
But even the current political climate allows us to to reconcile scholars and activists. According to Cavanagh, the best think tank employee is a mixture of both. "Activists without good ideas are just spinning wheels, researchers without activists don't have a mouthpiece," says Cavanagh.
The Scholars isn't just a forum for intellectuals to rub shoulders. Last week's episode with Sonja Woods a graduate student from Howard University who specializes in southern Africa, closed her interview with an optimistic proposal for how to keep a new generation of children interested in African history. "Whether they're African proverbs or stories, it can be fables, it can be music...it can't be shoving books into someone's face---it has to be something they can grasp."
Even though the content of the Scholars is well past the introductory level of Aesop's fables, they serve the same purpose--- to spark thought and curiosity. Whether you're a child, or a senior member of a research Institute, it's never too late to go back to school or sneak in a bit of extra learning. UDC's The Scholars makes that possible.