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Posts Tagged ‘institutions’

Institutions and Openness

January 21st, 2010 jonmott Comments

There has been lots of great discussion at ELI 2010 about openness–what it means, why it’s a value we should embrace, and what it means for institutions.

As I’ve contemplated all of this, I was reminded of Whitman poem:

“I Hear It Was Charged Against Me”
by Walt Whitman

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy
institutions;
But really I am neither for nor against institutions;
(What indeed have I in common with them?–Or what with the
destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every city of These
States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel, little or large,
that dents the water,
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

I aspire to belong “the institution of the dear love of comrades.” That is why I embrace openness. But being open does not mean being anti-institutional. I affiliate with formal institutions that embrace Whitman’s ideal, institutions made up of outward-reaching “comrades” trying to make the world a better place. I teach, attend professional meetings, make presentations, write articles, blog, engage with colleagues via social media, all in the context of my association with my formal institution of higher education.

We can embrace openness *and* remain ardent supporters of our institutions. Indeed, institutions of higher learning have been the primary source of intellectual and cultural openness throughout history.

I embrace openness. I embrace my institution. There’s no contradiction in that.