Two years ago, a small group of academics who live and teach in the Avon Hills—a tract of hills, woods, lakes, marshes, and oak savanna in eastern Stearns county, roughly contiguous with Keillor’s Lake Wobegon—began meeting once a month to talk about what it might mean to be a public intellectual in our time. We call ourselves the Avon Hills Salon.
We found ourselves agreeing with the cultural critic Henry Giroux, who wrote: “All too often, academics produce work that is either too abstract for a generally informed public, or they separate their scholarship from the myriad of issues and contemporary problems that shape everyday life in the United States and abroad.”
Other scholars share Giroux’s view. Two decades ago, in “The Scholarship of Engagement,” Ernest Boyer lamented the seeming detachment of higher education from the wider public and called for academics to be a “more vigorous partner in the search for answers to our most pressing social, civic, economic, and moral problems.” And more recently, in a 2014 article published by the American Association of University Professors, Nicholas Behm, Sherry Rankins-Robertson, and Duane Roen ask “What would be the combined effect if every faculty member in the United States devoted even a small amount of time and energy to informing the general public about what faculty do?”
Thoughts from the Avon Hills is our attempt to answer to this question, to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. Our blog creates a venue in which we bring our scholarship into the world. Our goal is to talk with you, our readers, and with each other about some of the most pressing issues we face. The six of us have expertise in diverse areas—economics, political science, international affairs, religion, theology, technology, and the environment.
We’ve chosen a blog because, well, 140 characters is too short and academic papers too long—and too academic.
The Avon Hills are remarkably rural and unspoiled. But technology brings the world to us. Now we use it to bring our thinking back to the world. New posts will be biweekly. Together, from our small corner in the world, we want to shed some light on US and global issues that impact us all.
Welcome to Thoughts from the Avon Hills.