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Academic print books are dying. What’s the future?

Donald Barclay, University of California, Merced

The print-format scholarly book, a bulwark of academia’s publish-or-perish culture, is an endangered species. The market that has sustained it over the years is collapsing.

Sales of scholarly books in print format have hit record lows. Per-copy prices are at record highs. In purely economic terms, the current situation is unsustainable.

So, what does the future look like? Will academia’s traditional devotion to print and legendary resistance to change kill off long-form scholarship? Or will academia allow itself to move from print-format scholarly books to an open-access digital model that could save, and very likely rejuvenate, long-form scholarship?

Sales down. Prices up

First, let’s look at some of the sales trends. Take the book-centric academic field of history as an example.

In 1980, a scholarly publisher could expect to sell 2,000 copies of any given history book. By 1990, that number had plummeted to 500 copies. And by 2005, sales of a little over 200 copies worldwide had become the norm.

From my own field – library and information studies – the numbers are no less bleak. The editor of a major academic publishing house confided to me this summer that, circa 1995, he could expect to sell 1,000 copies of even a ho-hum library studies book during its first year of publication. In 2015, an outstanding book in the field is considered doing well if it manages to sell 200 copies in its first year.

In a classic response to a downward spiral, publishers ended up raising prices of scholarly books. In 1980, in the field of history,the average price for a hard cover history book was US$22.78; by 2010, that price had almost quadrupled to $82.65.

Similar increases were seen in every other academic field. The average price of a hardcover book on the subject of religion went from $17.61 in 1980 to $80.88 in 2010. For education, the price climbed from $17.01 in 1980 to $177.59 in 2010.

Libraries losing buying power

Neither an anomaly or a bump in the road, this total market collapse is the result of a long-term trend from which the print-format scholarly book cannot recover.

A root cause for this market collapse is the loss of buying power among academic libraries, traditionally the biggest customer for printed scholarly books.

Libraries have been hit by a double economic whammy of beyond-inflationary increases in the cost of journal subscriptions and an ongoing drop in governmental support for higher education in the past few decades.

As a result, academic libraries have been forced to choose between maintaining their paid subscriptions to journals, the favored information resource of the STEM fields, and scholarly books, the workhorse of the humanities and interpretive social sciences.

Here are some numbers that tell the story of where academic libraries have chosen to put their money:

In the mid-1980s, the ratio of spending on journal subscriptions compared to scholarly books was roughly 50-50. By 2011, that ratio had shifted to 75-25 in favor of subscriptions to academic journals.

The fact that only about half of the scholarly books in academic libraries are ever borrowed has further discouraged librarian investment in the scholarly book.

Changing nature of market

In any case, in a perfect ivory tower world, the economics of the print-format scholarly book would not be a consideration. After all, university presses were created for the specific purpose of publishing scholarship that, while rich in intellectual value, has little or no economic value.

However, in a higher-education environment in which the subsidies once enjoyed by university presses have shrunk or entirely vanished, editors are left with little choice but to consider sales potential before accepting a manuscript for publication.

Consequently, academic rigor aside, the market value of a scholarly book on a perennially popular historical figure like, say, Theodore Roosevelt or a current hot-button social issue such as racism is simply going to be more attractive to a scholarly publisher than a book on Spain’s Golden Age (Siglo de Oro) or land-ownership patterns in Hungary’s 12th-century Árpád Dynasty, whose sales prospects might be dismal.

Even so, in many academic fields the publication of scholarly books still remains the standard by which emerging scholars are credentialed. Is it acceptable that a PhD student in one of those fields might feel forced to choose a dissertation topic based on how a publisher views its sales potential as a book rather than on its contribution to the field?

Why not consider open access?

Bleak as it may seem, the good news is that this need not mean the end of long-form scholarship.

Facing a dismal market, a number of leading scholarly publishers are taking steps to change the economic model of the scholarly book. This change involves moving from a foundation in print to a foundation in digital, and from a focus on sales to libraries to a focus on open access.

What about going digital?
PRORob DiCaterino, CC BY

In a notable example, the University of California Press announced the publication this October of the first five titles as part of its Luminos initiative. <a href=”http://www.luminosoa.orgLuminos titles are fully peer-reviewed, professionally edited scholarly books initially published as open-access e-books with a print-on-demand option for those who prefer physical books.

Hardly a one-off venture, similar open-access models for publishing scholarly books are being implemented by such presses as The Ohio State University Press, Penn State Romance Studies, Amherst College Press, ANU (Australian National University) Press, De Gruyter Open, and others.

Open-access initiatives such as these are positioning themselves to disrupt the scholarly book market by shifting to a model in which the cost of publication is recouped by upfront underwriting rather than via sales of copies.

Besides rescuing the scholarly book from oblivion, open-access digital books offer many advantages over their print forebearers: The number of potential readers dwarfs what is possible for a run of a few hundred printed copies. Open-access scholarly books can be used, wholly or in part, as course texts at no costs to students.

Additionally, digital formatting loosens constraints on the number of pages and illustrations. Scholars are free to employ tools of digital-age scholarship ranging from timeline-enhanced maps to data visualizations to embedded video. Open-access books can be read in regions of the world where few people can afford First World price tags.

Academic distrust

However, open-access scholarly books can still fail if those senior faculty who make decisions about hiring, promotion, and tenure refuse to embrace it.

In my experience, many among the senior faculty harbor a lingering distrust of digital publication. Some faculty consider any underwriting of publication costs by the author and/or the author’s institution as nothing more than vanity press publication, where authors have to pay to get published.

For faculty who take this view, such new models of open-access publication are considered to be academic sins in the rank of plagiarism and “diploma mill” degrees.

In my view, there is no reason why scholarly books published under legitimate open-access models cannot undergo rigorous peer-review and editing processes. Quality peer review and editing are not, after all, functions of paper and ink.

Additionally, with very few exceptions, the cost of publishing a scholarly book has always been subsidized to one extent or another. Circa 1980, publication costs for a printed scholarly book were very likely underwritten by a university press’s campus subsidy.

Arguing that publishing a book under the auspices of a subsidized scholarly press occupies some higher moral ground than publishing under one of the emerging models of subsidized open-access publishing is entirely specious.

If, in the end, the forces of academic conservatism kill the open-access scholarly book by refusing to hire or reward emerging scholars who publish in this way, an unintended consequence will be the death of the scholarly book.

Will the academy stand by and allow the market to determine who succeeds and who fails as an academic? Or, will it move toward open-access publication that offers a viable alternative to a market in collapse?

The Conversation

Donald Barclay, Deputy University Librarian, University of California, Merced

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


The dark side of creativity

Creativity is almost always viewed as an asset to individuals and organizations. But it can also lead to negative behaviors. Kraigsta/Wikimedia Commons

Lynne Vincent, Vanderbilt University

Creativity – the generation of novel and useful ideas, products, or solutions – is seen as a valuable trait for people and organizations to possess.

Organizations harness it to develop innovative products, services, or processes, all of which promote profitability, long-term sustainability, and a competitive advantage. For the individual, research has shown that creativity is often associated with humor and altruism, more positive moods, and personal resiliency. Sharon Kim, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, Jack Goncalo, a professor at Cornell University, and I found that under certain conditions, creativity can help individuals rationalize and cope with the negative effects of social rejection.

Yet creativity isn’t always embraced – in fact, certain ideas can initially be viewed as so implausible that they are outright rejected. In the history of the Post-it note, several accidents and failures serendipitously came together to create an immensely successful product that revolutionized and redefined 3M.

In 1968 Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, was working on developing a strong and durable adhesive for building aircraft. At one point, he created a very weak adhesive. While it lacked the necessary strength, it had the remarkable qualities of leaving no residue and being reusable.

Nonetheless, 3M deemed the product useless, put it aside, and forgot about it.

Years later, Art Fry, a chemical engineer at 3M and church choir member, was frustrated about losing his place in his hymnal. Fry, who’d been aware of Silver’s invention, had an idea: he coated some paper with Silver’s failed adhesive, marked the hymnal pages with the pieces of paper, and then removed the paper after the church service without damaging the pages.

Seeing potential value in the product, Fry reintroduced it to his superiors. They panned the idea, and ordered that he cease working on the project.

Nonetheless, Fry defied those orders and continued with the project. He built a machine to produce the Post-it notes, distributing the prototypes to 3M’s secretaries, who loved them. Fry ignored his managers’ requests, used company property without permission, and bypassed the established protocols of the company – all to pursue his idea.

Tinkeringbell/Wikimedia Commons

Art Fry is credited with inventing the wildly successful Post-it note. However in order to create the product, he defied his bosses’ orders – and perhaps felt entitled to.

3M eventually saw the product’s value and manufactured it. Post-it notes became wildly successful and profitable: Fry had taken what was considered a useless product and applied it in a unique and useful way. But the story of the Post-it note demonstrates both the positive and the dark sides of creativity. On the one hand, a creative idea resulted in value and profit; on the other, an individual was willing to be intentionally dishonest in order to execute his idea.

It is this dark side of creativity – particularly the relationship between creativity and dishonesty – that has piqued the interest of researchers.

For example, Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard University, and Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, found that creative thinking allows individuals to justify their dishonesty (e.g. “I am not stealing this; I am just borrowing it”). It’s a slippery slope: as soon as a person can justify a behavior, he or she is more likely to engage in that behavior.

My research demonstrates that a dark side of creativity can surface in people who aren’t objectively creative, but simply think that they are. For example, people who view themselves as creative can develop a sense of entitlement – the belief that they’re more deserving than others. They view their ideas as unique, novel, and important, and, as a result, think they are entitled to either act in a certain way, or be rewarded for their efforts. For example, they may view stealing as a justified means of claiming something that they feel they deserve.

Returning to the story of the Post-it note, Art Fry may have believed that his product was so valuable and important that he was entitled to break the rules and be dishonest in order produce it.

The irony is that these negative behaviors may spur more creativity. Francesca Gino and Scott Wiltermuth, a professor at USC, found that being dishonest can actually promote creativity. In this study, participants who cheated on a math and logic task by looking at the answers performed better on a subsequent creativity task than participants who did not cheat. When someone is dishonest, it often requires he or she to break a set of rules; yet this rule-breaking may promote creativity because it allows people to flout convention and expectations. Again, in the story of the Post-it note, despite Art Fry’s disobedience and dishonesty, he ended up creating a wildly successful product.

Additionally, Emily Zitek, a professor at Cornell University, and I found that temporary feelings of entitlement can also promote creativity.

It’s like a self-fulfilling loop: while individuals who self-identify as creative may feel more entitled, it’s possible that this entitlement will cause them to take creative risks that they otherwise may have shied away from.

The Conversation

Lynne Vincent, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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God and the Ancient Egyptians

English: A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of ...

A Grave mask of pharaoh Amenemope of the 21 st Dynasty of Egypt. (Cairo Museum).(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Most knowledgeable people acknowledge that one of the biggie Biblical tales details God’s relationship with Pharaoh and the firstborn in Ancient Egypt. Does this relationship put God in a favorable or an unfavorable light? What follows arises out of a debate I had with an Accidental Metaphysician which I’ve edited for, hopefully, sake of clarity. It should come as little surprise that I argue that God is not shown in a favorable light in this Biblical tall tale. In fact if Egypt were to conduct its version of the Nuremberg Trials, God would now be dead in the dock.

Regarding God & Egypt

Power corrupts; absolute (omnipotent) power corrupts absolutely. Judging from the Old Testament, not even God is immune from being absolutely corrupt when wielding His absolute power! Just ask the Egyptians!

God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. God only had an issue with one and only one Egyptian – an unnamed Pharaoh.

Okay, God had an issue or a dispute with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh. It was the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh who refused to “let my people go”. So what does the God of justice do, punish the whole lot of the Egyptian people (and the innocent animals) with the icing on the cake being the smiting all the first-born who were 100% innocent of any possible wrongdoing. God had an issue with the Pharaoh and ONLY the Pharaoh; not with the Egyptian populace. So God behaved unjustly with the Egyptians. This is what is known in the trade as logic.

By the by, the unnamed Pharaoh was more likely as not a first-born too, so how come he didn’t get snuffed out?

To repeat the bleeding obvious, God did NOT have an issue with the Egyptian population in general. He didn’t send Moses to talk to the Egyptian people. He was directed to talk to this mysterious unnamed Pharaoh.

Now, regarding God versus Pharaoh and the first born: If you have a beef with me you don’t go around punching out the lights of my friends, neighbors, work colleagues, etc. You go toe-to-toe with me and only with me. The same principle applies with God’s beef with Pharaoh. God doesn’t go punching out of the lights of the first born.

Now let’s revisit the issue of God killing the Egyptian first-born as related in Exodus. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God had an up close and personal beef with the local Egyptians who happened to have been first-born through no fault of course of their own. You’re totally innocent of where you happen to be born in your family’s hierarchy. So God’s killing the first-born was just an easy means to an end, or, as well all know, the ends justify the means. Wasn’t that the reasoning behind Germany in World War Two? Germany had a “problem” and so Germany invoked a “solution” – an extermination policy of the innocent.

English: Depiction of Joseph reading to the Ph...

Depiction of Joseph reading to the Pharaoh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about the Livestock?

And God certainly didn’t have any issue with the animals who equally got shafted! It was also the first-born of all of the Egyptian livestock that was done away with by God. Why? What’s the point? What was God’s ‘beef’ with the livestock? It makes God a laughing ‘stock’ IMHO. I’m laughing at God. Actually animal cruelty is no laughing matter and God should be absolutely ashamed of Himself. What an idiot! It’s all nonsense if you’re not one of the true believers.

God the Omniscient?

That little incident also puts the BIG LIE to God’s all-knowing abilities since He had to have His people (the Hebrew people) mark their homes with blood so God would pass over them when He did His smiting. An all-knowing God would know which house housed who. So God’s omniscient abilities are nonsense in that a really all-knowing deity would know who was and who wasn’t devout and obedient without the need for blood markings. It’s all such a load of rubbish.

Speaking of being all-knowing, If God is all-knowing, then God knows in advance when and where the next major and deadly earthquake, tsunami, bushfire, hurricane, etc. is going to be. God however will give no warning to the innocent nor interfere with the event happening. So, any claim about God’s mercy or morality is a load of pure bovine fertilizer.

God the Omnipotent?

Besides, if God is so all-omnipotent, He could have just floated up His Chosen People* and wafted them gently across the wilderness to the Promised Land. Nobody need have suffered, no blood need have been shed, and no one need gotten snuffed out. But we know how much God loves to cause suffering and death and destruction since He’s done an awful lot of it.

God the Omniscient and the Omnipotent

A truly all-knowing and all-powerful God wouldn’t kill the innocent. Being all-knowing, He’d know who was naughty and who was nice way before-the-fact. Being all-powerful, He could, should and would (?) act accordingly. This is also what is known in the trade as logic! Alas, He didn’t! My conclusion is that God is not omniscient nor omnipotent, or else God just doesn’t plain give a stuff.

Defending the Indefensible

But of course those true believers, like the Accidental Metaphysician; those who advocate that God can do no wrong, gross over this entire episode. IMHO they are trying to defend the indefensible. God killed people without any justification and the case of the first-born isn’t the first cab off the rank. Not all of the flood victims were wicked. Ditto Sodom & Gomorrah. Even if some of the first-born, or those drowned in the flood or who were present when Sodom and Gomorrah got nuked were wicked, God still committed at best mass murder, at worst genocide. God’s punishment did NOT fit the crime. God Himself has committed crimes against humanity. God can no more morally kill His creations than human parents can morally kill their creations (i.e. – children). God is Evil with a capital “E”. But we don’t want actual morality to get in the way of good Biblical tall tales now, do we?

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem

Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Observations on Historical Reality

But in reality the above story is nonsense because there is not one single shred of independent historical or archaeological evidence that the events in Exodus ever happened, especially the events in Egypt. It’s a nice story, but it is absolute make-believe.

The proof of that pudding: isn’t just amazing though that there are no Ancient Egyptian records that any of this ever happened. There’s no records of any person called Moses. There’s no record of any Hebrew slaves.

Why wasn’t the Pharaoh (of the Exodus) named? If you are writing an historical novel, you don’t name actual living persons AND have them do things they didn’t do. That’s a good way to get into trouble. You either invent a fictitious name (King Jones; Pharaoh Jones; President Jones) or not name them at all. The very fact that the Pharaoh’s name goes unrecorded is in itself a pretty good indication that this is all pure fiction, but leaving that aside.

Assuming the Exodus was true as described, from just one ancient historical document other than the Bible an associated texts, can true believers show that Moses was a real historical figure. I’m betting they can’t do it.

As to the notion of wandering around the wilderness for 40 years, well that’s a joke. I mean if you walk one mile a day, heading in a constant direction (say the rising Sun), you’ll exit any wilderness region anywhere in the world in way, way less than 40 years.

However, assuming the Exodus was true as described, the Maximally Greatest Being (i.e. – God) so beloved by the Accidental Metaphysician should be crawling on His hands and knees into Cairo to beg the Egyptian populace for their forgiveness for the crimes against humanity that God committed. His Maximally Greatest Being is maximally great all-right, great at being the greatest mass murderer that’s ever been recorded in human history. He makes Hitler look saintly in comparison. I’m sure true believers don’t worship Hitler, so why they give a stuff about their SOB of a Maximally Greatest Being is quite beyond me.


Now either this Biblical tale is tall, in which case no one should believe a word of it, or else it is a true historical story in which case no one should worship this ancient day version of Hitler and Stalin (and dozens of equivalents) all rolled into one nasty and unsavory ball of wax.

No matter how you slice and dice things, if God exists as described in the Old Testament then God has adopted a double standard when it comes to murder (He can; we can’t) and I personally cannot abide entities that have a philosophy that is central to their worldview along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do”. In any event, since we’re all God’s ‘children’, God should set a good example for us just like we expect parents to set a good example for their brats, oops, sorry, their ‘little darlings’. Further, since it is morally wrong to murder your children after they get dumped or thrust unceremoniously into this great wide world, by analogy it should be morally wrong for God to murder His ‘children’. And isn’t one of the main selling points for religion receiving moral instruction?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, with ‘friends’ like God, who needs enemies!

*That’s another strike against the concept of a Maximally Greatest Being. He discriminates. He is just the “God of Israel”. Others can go take a long walk off of a short pier for all God cares. God is NOT a god for all of humanity otherwise we’d all be His Chosen People.

About the Author

John Prytz – Science librarian; retired. 

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Saving the Earth with unsavory science?

English: Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Michael Clark, PhD

The other day I saw a documentary on TV about the sociobiologist and environmental spokesperson, E. O. Wilson. So intrigued by this video, I dug into our public library to try to find it. Regrettably, it wasn’t there, but I did find another DVD about E. O. Wilson called Lord of the Ants.

Now don’t get me wrong, I care about the environment just as much as the next person. And Wilson seems like a congenial fellow fighting for a good cause—namely, saving the Earth from mankind’s destructive activities.  But oh, my God. While watching this otherwise enjoyable DVD, there were a few scenes I just couldn’t believe.

Here’s the first one.

Animation created from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Animation – 1 – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

In this sequence, Wilson demonstrates how fire ants vigorously defend their turf. He disturbs their nest to purposely irritate them. Worker ants suddenly emerge, mad as hell. Wilson puts his hand on top of the angry ants, and in about a second, it’s covered. He’s now getting stung by the ants, which he can only tolerate for a moment or two.

Okay, all very interesting. But what surprises me is how Wilson, with a casual smile, hurriedly wipes the ants off his hands. I’m no expert but I think that if I wiped a carpet of ants off my hand in a second or two, I’d mangle them pretty badly. Not necessarily kill but most likely mutilate the poor devils before they fell to the ground.

Now, some might think that ants don’t really matter. After all, they’re just tiny insects, right? Well, this film argues that our bitsy neighbors do, in fact, matter. They’re very much like us, Wilson tells us. And cutting edge photography and computer graphics magnify the micro environment to drive the point home. So if ants matter, why does Wilson mutilate them with a smile?

Animation created from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Animation – 2 – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

By now you might think I’m a fanatical bleeding heart, dead against experimental scientists. Well, before coming to that conclusion, let’s take a look at the next sequence.

Animations 2 and 3 show Wilson holding a defenseless, living ant in something that looks like a pair of metal pliers. Wilson wants to demonstrate that ants communicate through chemicals. So he’s going to literally force a chemical out of this ant’s abdomen to show that other ants will follow a chemical trail to food, even when the first ant, itself, did not leave the trail.

Animation created from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Animation – 3 – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

A few moments later it gets pretty sad. The test ant is showing less signs of life as Wilson prods it with some kind of science probe. Eventually, after poking away at it, and apparently damaging the abdomen, the desired chemical oozes out of the squashed insect.

Wilson spreads the chemical out on the ground and sure enough, the other ants follow its trail to the food.  Again, all very interesting. But was it really worth this disquieting scene? Remember, Wilson says that ants are quite like us.

Still not convinced this is bad news? Maybe animation 4 will convince you.

Animation - 4 - from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Animation – 4 – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Just prior to this clip, Wilson calls up a fumigator in the Florida Keys to ask an unusual favor. Wilson wants to fumigate an entire small island of insects! What? A naturalist and leading environmental spokesperson plans to exterminate gazillions of tiny lives?

Yes, he does. And all in the name of science.

Apparently we can learn about how larger species might recover from mankind’s globally destructive activity if we utterly destroy smaller species on an dwarf island.

So what did Wilson find? Well, a population did return after he conducted the utterly toxic experiment, but the diversity of species differed from the original mix. Basically, Wilson and his crew annihilated countless small creatures for this valuable info (sic).

Animation - 5 - from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Animation – 5 – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Anyone with enough elementary science and logic will recognize that Wilson’s interpretation of the experimental results reveals an unjustified leap from a tiny to a huge frame of reference.

Last but not least, Lord of the Ants includes the usual photo op with some big shots—big shots who often consume oodles of energy jetting around the globe, releasing their self-congratulatory hot air about how the rest of us should consume less. Sequence 5 shows Bill Clinton raising a glass to Wilson at a TED talk. And here’s a link to an overhead view of the Clinton’s estate:
I’m sure those digs really save on energy consumption!

Image - this isn't animated because the subjects are dead - from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

Image – not animated because the subjects are dead – from Lord of the Ants, 2008 Windfall Films. (Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale).

So what I can say about this film?

Honestly, Wilson reminds me of some environmentalists I’ve encountered who don’t always practice what they preach. They can be very nice, honorable people. And I don’t dispute that sometimes cruel methods might bring about a greater good. But other times, I wonder if the ethical cost of some natural science research and teaching methods measures up to the actual benefit.

About the Author

I’m the administrator of and I usually like to post other folks’ articles. But every once in a while I have my own say. Read more here:

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Hindus ask Utah school apology for reprimanding student on Hindu dreadlocks

Rajan Zed pic3

Rajan Zed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to

Hindus are critical of Lincoln Academy of Pleasant Grove (Utah) for reportedly reprimanding a student and removing her from class for wearing dreadlocks, which she links to her spiritual journey in Hindu beliefs.

Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that school should offer a public apology to the student and her family who had to unnecessarily go through this harassment, which appeared to be a case of religious infringement.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Utah State Office of Education, which oversees this school, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brad C. Smith to institute an enquiry into this incident.

Rajan Zed indicated that the harassment of eighth-grader Caycee Cunningham should be immediately stopped and her religious/spiritual rights be restored.

Zed stressed that following minority religious beliefs by students should not be “distraction” for any school.  Hinduism was oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it deserved the same respect as any other religion.

Rajan Zed explained that many Hindu ascetics sported dreadlocks as a part of religious practice, a sign of renunciation and disregarding vanity.  Lord Shiva, who along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, formed the great triad of Hindu deities, was depicted as wearing matted hair. Rig-Veda, the oldest existing scripture of mankind, talked about “mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair”.

Lincoln Academy, launched in 2005 whose tagline is “inspiring children to excel”, serves students in kindergarten through ninth grade.

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Melding Theological Beliefs – An Honorable Approach towards Religious Strife

By Smith Baker

The education of various faiths in different schools and educational institutions is often carried out in a segregated environment which ensures that children and individuals of the same faith and religious background are grouped together. While the given educative scenario may seem to be feasible and highly productive from the teacher’s perspective, too often it is argued that this form of pedagogy does not result in peacemakers who are able to accept other faiths and grow as adults who have high tolerance for conflicting beliefs.

Educators around the world have therefore proposed a new pedagogical strategy for theology schools suggesting that instead of urging students to steep further into their own beliefs and faiths they should be introduced to a classroom setting that supports a multi-faith culture. Of course religion is one of the most ignored aspects in the American academia but given the immense need to nurture tolerant and peacemaking adults, this practical approach toward theology provides a unique and exciting way to handle the challenges being faced at a socio-political level.

Termed as an unorthodox approach, melding the education of different faiths and religions is an excellent way to preach peace and tolerance to our future generation. We live in an era that is dominated by a plethora of religious misunderstanding and theological strife. If schools and colleges were to adopt this approach, we will be providing the various religious communities across the globe to exist in harmony with each other. In addition, there is also a need to place meticulous focus on curriculum and course development and refinement in order to establish new certification programmes that introduce students to topics such as religious conflict resolution and theological ethics. Such programmes however cannot be run by a single faith and therefore will require a collaborative effort, housing the leaders from multiple sects under one roof.

Despite the numerous benefits of this proposed teaching methodology, the view has not been able to avoid considerable criticism and acrimony from various sects across the globe. A number of leaders in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic community have objected to the approach given the concerns that this educative stance may threaten to dilute their beliefs and the foundations of their faith. Many more have called for a critical review of the curriculum and suggest that the same will hamper adequate education in various institutes.

It is however worth mentioning that this approach towards religion and theology stems from the desire to learn. Melding together the studies and beliefs of different faiths is an excellent way to connect individuals across the globe at larger levels. The effectiveness of the approach however lies in how efficiently and how conscientiously it is executed.

About the Author

Smith Baker – I am Smith Baker, a person who possesses the ability to maintain corporate blog updates. Professionally, I have amassed a considerable…

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