David Scobey, Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment

ForeseeableFutures #11

Position Papers from Imagining America

We are pleased to announce the publication of our most recent Foreseeable Future, the IA series featuring keynotes from our national conferences. This year’s text, Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment, by longtime IA-er and national leader in public scholarship David Scobey, provides a seeable present: the state of higher education a decade into the 21st century and sorely in need of change. Evoking a paradigm shift on the scale of Copernicus’s discovery that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe, Scobey adjures, “there is widespread agreement that higher education faces a sea-change in its intellectual, institutional, technological, and economic organization.”

Focusing on the ramifications of this shift for public scholarship, Scobey commends civically-engaged pedagogies as energizing responses to stultified academic practices. However, he takes engaged scholars and artists to task for not fully understanding out-of-date assumptions about undergraduate education, given that increasing numbers of students must simultaneously work, may have families, and for various other reasons may not have “the time, space, and money for intensive, unpaid community-based learning.”

Scobey’s remarks come at a moment of change for IA as well, as we complete our first five-year term at Syracuse University. We are in our own Copernican revolution, decentering IA from the national office as the source of all research, convenings, and projects to increasingly collaborative teams trans-locally. A new director will guide IA’s second five-year term, which will continue to be hosted at SU.