Community, Unity, Identity, Multiplicity, and Diversity: Are They Compatible?

Sally McMillan, Douglas J. Simpson
2009 Journal of Thought  
Journal of Thought, Spring-Summer 2009 Delivered in Philadelphia during the United States' 2008 presidential campaign, the then presidential nominee, Barack Obama's history-making Race and Unity Speech 1 encapsulated a social and spiritual paradox that is, ironically, sometimes forgotten within academic arenas. Referring to his own family's diverse origins and experiences, he noted the reality that "this nation is more than the sum of its parts-that out of many, we are truly one." The idea that
more » ... unity coexists with and emerges from a multiplicity of perspectives is not new within academia, but it is intensely radical, in that it asks us to swim against the seemingly instinctive-albeit reactionary-tides of professional territorialism. Similar to Deweyan ideas of growth, President Obama's speech implied that effective problem solving is a dynamic process. Continued growth requires openness to change; securing individual freedom necessitates risk taking on behalf of others. To lose sight of these paradoxical realities is to gradually become myopic. Within higher education this can mean that courses and research, which were once valued for their potential to aid our communities, are eventually reduced to professional currency hoarded for purposes of territorial safeguarding. Colleagues are objectified as we conveniently embrace an artificial separation of the professional and the personal in order to "send messages" to our academic communities or to remake work environments within our own images. A "world" or two might be gained by a narrow commitment to the promotion of self and territory, but at what cost? Academic freedom, which is the cornerstone of meaningful research and education, cannot
doi:10.2307/jthought.44.1-2.3 fatcat:7wj5u5ch3fb3bncnlvhram7cxa