- Editorial Statement
As I write this note in the high summer of 2011, I am proofreading the second issue of SAAP proceedings to appear in this journal, edited by your Vice-President (and my colleague and friend) Ken Stikkers. The issue is thrilling. I do not exaggerate. By the time any of you reads this note, you'll know what I mean. With the publication of the issue in your hands now, my service to our profession as a journal editor comes to a close. While The Pluralist has been the official journal of SAAP for only a short time, the journal itself has a much longer history. I will not trouble our present readers recounting that story, but I do think there are some lessons to be taken from it, which I will offer, for whatever they are worth.
Academic publishing is changing very rapidly. Very soon the physical print journal, produced at great cost and sent around the world by surface mail, will all but cease to exist. The exchange of intellectual labor by this medium grew steadily for five hundred years, and the journal in your hands can fairly be said to have benefitted from the very height of that publishing frenzy. When this journal began, in 1985, the proliferation of academic journals dedicated to every conceivable nook and cranny of human thought and research was at its apex. The strategy of gaining prominence for one's college or university by having a faculty that publishes had, by then, reached and then overreached the point of diminishing returns. The recent decline of print journals is not the result only of the rise of new electronic media; it is also partly to do with the fact that where all must publish, whether or not they have anything worthwhile to say, few are likely to be saying much of value. To say that we academics have been distracted from the more serious calling of teaching would be an understatement. That we have arrogated to ourselves status and influence on the weight of our little scribblings, instead [End Page 1] of touting the happiness and moral fortitude of our former students, is a testament to our shallowness and myopia. It was all a moral holiday, I fear.
I hope that the new forms of electronic academic dialogue will tend to free us from the prison of the printed page and call us back to our primary mission, our real contribution to the world, as teachers and mentors to our students and as conversation partners within a shared organic community of learning. We even came to call our publishing efforts our "work," in distinction from teaching, as in: "with all these students I can't do my work." Colleagues, what is contained in these pages is not your work. The living, breathing kid in the back row is your work. These pages contain the results of your leisure, your "scholarship" in the true sense. Before the Great Distraction (those deplorable academic games of the twentieth century), before everyone had to publish five articles (or more) to gain or keep a secure teaching position, I believe that members of the same department and of the same college or university shared a rather richer conversational life. The pressure to publish, to have one's "work" certified, or more bluntly, to have one's ticket punched by an external authority peddling prestige (and laying out enough money to pay for the publishing itself) was the "economy" (in Bataille's ominous sense) of twentieth century intellectual life. It drove us into our hovels and out of the common rooms. William James warned us about this, but we exceeded every kind of folly he could have imagined. I am glad it is coming to an end.
Then again, one always makes an exception for one's own efforts, doesn't one? The small group of people who founded this little journal, and those who kept it alive, had a different vision. We sought to keep a truly humane voice, as we understood it, in the conversation. Our model was Ralph Tyler Flewelling's journal The Personalist, a journal in which...