The Civic University, the Engaged Scholar: Implications for Scholarly Work

The Civic University, the Engaged Scholar: Implications for Scholarly Work

Al Lauzon
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7409-7.ch006
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This chapter begins by arguing that universities and scholars have come under criticism for failing to address problems identified as relevant by their stakeholders—the general public—and there is a need to reclaim the civic mission of the university. This need arises as a result of our current inability to deal with “wicked problems.” The development of the modern university is then traced, arguing that while originally it was rooted in the “university as ivory tower” and then evolved into the “university as marketplace partner,” neither is adequate to meet contemporary needs. The university that is emerging—the “university as civic partner”—is described and its implications for scholarship explored. A case study is then presented as a means of illustrating the implicit ideas of this form of emerging scholarship and by reflecting on the case and its implication for how we understand scholarship. The challenges we face in transforming scholarship are then identified and discussed.
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Bridger and Alter (2006) have argued that universities are facing unprecedented scrutiny and criticism. As they state, faculty are faulted “for conducting research that is disconnected from real world problems, and worrying more about personal advancement than service to community (p. 163).” Others have argued that the university has become part of the marketplace and that they differ from others in the market in name only (Bok, 2003). As Bridger and Alter continue, “criticisms are rooted in the perception that universities are out of touch and out of date, and that they are not addressing important societal issues (p. 163).” Castle (20014) argues we need to reclaim the civic university. But as he noted, to reclaim something means that it has changed in some fundamental way and we need to draw it back to what it once was. And while one might not disagree with Castle, there is a need to reclaim the civic university, and it must be viewed from an evolutionary perspective; the emerging university imagined will be very different than in the past, even if both visions of the university have a civic mission. And while the civic university of the past was in search of the “truth”, the one universal knowledge, the new civic university must recognize that there are multiple valid truths, more than one valid reality (Sinnott and Johnson, 1996). Dealing with multiple truths and realities, as Lauzon (1998) has noted, requires a more complex structure of consciousness. This is deserving of more discussion in order to establish the larger context for this chapter.

The historians Luckacs (2002) and Hobsbawm (1994) have argued that starting in the 1980s there began a fundamental transformation in the organization and structure of human societies with networks replacing the modern hierarchy. Many of these changes are captured by Castells (1996) in his book The Rise of the Network Society.Hawken (2007) writes that there is a proliferation of diverse networks today working on the behalf of others related to issues of social justice. As he further posits, networks consists of webs of relationship that link individual actions to “larger grids of knowledge and movement (p. 144)” and at the heart of these networks is not technology but relationships. Capra (1996) has suggested that sustainable human communities must take the form of networks. He further argues that networks, as a basic pattern of life, are nonlinear with multiple pathways for feedback making this form of organization both resilient but unpredictable. Harvey (1990) has argued that the human journey is characterized by the ongoing compression of time and space meaning that the rates of change we experience escalate. Networks are ideal forms of social organization as they can reconfigure themselves more quickly than hierarchical structures, and this means they are more resilient and better able to negotiate escalating rates of change. Networks are emerging as the dominant form of social organization replacing the modern hierarchy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Participatory Action Research: A collaborative learning process who change practices as a result of their collaborative learning.

Tame Problems: Stable problems in which there is an agreement on the problem and a solution which will resolve the problem.

Evolution of Consciousness: The way in which humans interface, interact and come to know the world changes and moves toward more inclusive ways of being in and knowing the world.

Structure of Consciousness: The way in which an individual or group of people make sense of the world as a result of operating at a specified stage of cognitive development and operating out of a particular logic. For example, modernity operates out of formal operations and rational logic while a participatory worldview operates out of postformal operations and a dialectical logic.

Transformation: Any change in which there is a radical rearrangement of the relationships among the components of the system (i.e. the change from a hierarchical social system to a network social system). Wicked Problems: A problem in which there is no agreement and any attempt to solve the problem changes the problem.

Participatory Video: A means of establishing a collective vision and communicating that vision to others through the production of a video.

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