"The Interdependence of the Peoples and Nations of the Earth": Beyond the Political-Correctness Debates

Article excerpt

As we wend our ways through the twenty-first century, the global imperatives of terrorism, climate change, and civil strife will impel the academy well beyond the demands of the 1960s' calls for relevance and the 1990s' political-correctness debates. In the past, interest in the ivory tower's commitment to and engagement with the broader nonacademic community has elicited debate, change, and critique, but now the exigencies of the day will increasingly inform our teaching and scholarship, as I believe it ought.

A few emerging trends can be seen clearly as we continue our journey through this new century.

* An ethical and social-justice imperative with increasing interest in environmental studies (for example, environmental literatures and ecocriticism), indigenous studies (such as American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Canadian First Nations literatures), politically oriented literatures, ethically oriented literatures, and service learning;

* The globalization (and regionalization) of knowledge production and teaching (for example, a continued broadening of the literary canon with a concomitant reassessment of the British/American division of literature);

* More inter-/trans-/cross-disciplinary scholarship, curricular courses, and programs;

* Courses, programs, conferences, and scholarship more interconnected with their respective larger communities (both academic and non-academic);

* A renewed valuation and emphasis on the importance of interpersonal contact;

* The return of the sacred in education as the academy struggles to engage and embrace Islam, Christianity, Native American and First Nations sacred traditions, and the other religious traditions of the world;

* And a more explicit awareness and commitment to the ways in which our scholarship and teaching will be of benefit to the world (globally, regionally, and locally). …