Like me, Andrew Furman is psyched about the discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he waxes eloquent about the ornithological implications. But he’s most struck by the fact that a group of seven scientists, naturalists and researchers kept the bird’s existence secret for almost a year until they published their news on April 28th. To him, such collegiality and self-selecting isolation from the capitalistic rat race are vanishing from university campuses.
He writes: ” I fear that we are increasingly deaf to such wisdom, as academies of higher learning adhere more and more to corporate models of productivity and accountability, and as knowledge is reduced to a mere commodity. Students, the consumers in the equation, pay for knowledge, and professors are expected to provide it. My hope is that the childlike ebullience of certain oddball professors out and about on our campuses Thursday morning, April 28, might serve as a corrective to that unfortunate view. For at our best, we are all — students and professors alike — ardent seekers of knowledge, knowing all the while that the ivory-billed, though we may glimpse its splendor, will remain forever elusive.”
The ivory-billed woodpecker as a metaphor for the quest for knowledge. Deep! I like it. Next, someone’s going to find a white whale.