Friday, April 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: Social Science Faculty must be more involved


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MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION these days is about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and their importance to the academic and economic prospects of a nation.While we cannot criticise the promotion of these disciplines and their contribution to job creation, innovation and economic competitiveness, the same reasons can be used to support the cause of the social sciences.

So as the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Cave Hill celebrates its 40th anniversary, there is good reason to look at its relevance, which many critics will question. This faculty gained public recognition primarily because of a few of its outspoken economists and political scientists. They often went against politically correct public opinion, but in so doing stirred public debate.

Today, much of that is missing from Cave Hill and this faculty. The discussions seem now to be confined largely to the academic corridors or to channels of consultancy. One of the weaknesses is the apparent avoidance of the popular media, with many of the social scientists seemingly believing that the use of such means may disqualify them as being “serious academics”.

This lack of communication outside of their professional realm may be to their own detriment. Yesteryear examples such as Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Dr Neville Duncan, Dr Frank Alleyne and the late Wendell McClean show the benefit of such interaction.

From the perspective of outsiders, the Social Sciences Faculty has operated within closed boundaries, focusing primarily on highly technical matters generally of interest to small peer groups. This approach is of no benefit to the public.

Today’s world necessitates that there be an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research. The social scientist must work more closely with those in medicine, law and environmental studies to ensure the public gets the best results – whether a more efficient health service, an enhanced justice system or the widespread application of alternative energy.

Barbadians are therefore looking to today’s social scientists to help them understand those issues which impact them and to show them ways of improving their lives. It is also imperative that the faculty at Cave Hill prepare its graduates to be resilient and exhibit critical thinking skills if they are to make a meaningful contribution in a complex and ever-changing world.

Without compromising its standards, the Faculty of Social Science should look at the inputs possible from those outside its hallowed halls as well. We have seen the impressive output of quality publications from a growing number of Barbadians, some of whom lack impressive academic credentials. But their contributions are rather impressive.

So while it is good that those at Cave Hill can marvel at the accomplishments of the past four decades, the spotlight must be on what must be achieved in the next decade. As the faculty looks to the future it needs to ask the tough questions about whether it has kept abreast of the changes or has been stagnant. The social sciences must make their relevance manifest.


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