Monday, November 30, 2009

Irish Academics and Public Debate

I had meant to blog over the weekend about a report in the Irish Times about a conference organized by the Royal Irish Academy but was beaten to the punch by President Prondzynski's excellent blog. The Times report painted a gloomy picture about intellectual life in Ireland. Although some of the claims by those quoted in the report seemed exaggerated, I had little evidence to measure their accuracy.

It is a big relief to read President Prondzynski's views: "A quick glance at the opinion pages of Irish newspapers tells you very quickly that they are disproportionately given over to the analysis and recommendations of Irish academics, usually from Ireland but occasionally from the Irish academic diaspora. These contributions cover all shades of academic opinion, but probably with a majority coming from the particular perspectives that were prominent at this symposium. Academics make regular appearances before Oireachtas committees. They are frequently talking to camera during news and current affairs programmes on television. They chair or sit on lots of public committees. Actually, I know of no country where academic opinions are as prominently visible as in Ireland. For heaven’s sake, even I have a newspaper column. Not to mention blogs."

He is absolutely right in pointing out that "academic opinions should be heard in relation to matters on which they are expert. It does not necessarily mean that their recommendations must always be followed, but they should get some space. And they do. In spades."

Read more at his incisive blog.