So, I’m sitting here drinking a Heineken and snacking on Swedish Fish, and I got to thinking: are the (often) petty squabbles in academe worth including in a robust research instruction program? Academics quite often lie, cheat, steal, fight, and generally behave like a mob of soccer hooligans…if all the hooligans were Steve Urkel. But, seriously, there seems to be a strange disconnect between the portrayal of the scholarly world in research instruction (with its much vaunted peer-reviewed journals, expert credentials, and dismissal of ‘popular’ sources) and the real world of plagiarism, petty squabbles, and irreconcilable philosophical foundations.
Case in point: I taught a history session today for an advanced group of students studying various issues relating to the reign of Elizabeth I. Without blinking, I gave equal coverage to JSTOR and Project Muse (just to name a few resources). But…these databases are far from equal. The journals collected in JSTOR represent a broad cross-section of academic angles. Project Muse tends towards the more continental/critical theory/etc. titles. Are these students going to walk away with one article based in primary source material, covering the various logistical decisions that lead to the English victory over the Spanish Armada and another article speculating as to the way in which the bi-univocal correspondences of Elizabeth I with Prince Philip are signifiers of a particular ethno-feminist hermeneutic? I mean, you can find one article that takes (at face value) the existence of an objective, mind-independent history that transcends and supersedes human opinion. On the other hand, you can find an article that considers “fact” a useless relic of Enlightenment hegemony, and would rather “re-contextualize” the historical record in terms of an interplay between the subjectivity of genders/races/cultures. Am I doing something wrong by not letting students know that academics are not a unified front? Shouldn’t responsible research instruction inform students that academic articles are loaded with a history of philosophical disagreement?
I guess one could say that librarians should be neutral and leave certain aspects of instruction to the “teaching faculty”. But, I think librarians are uniquely situated to discuss academe at a meta-level. I’m-a go to bed now, but I’ll see if I can continue this train of thought later.