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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Social Sciences


Liar, liar, pants on fire: alternative facts

Oxford lists several definitions of belief, but here is a paraphrase of their meanings: something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion; a religious conviction; trust, faith, or confidence in something or someone. How do truths believed by individuals or groups compare with scientific truths? On the face of it, scientific observations and experiments are backed by physical evidence, repeated in many settings, by many independent observers around the world.

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Aleppo: the key to conflict resolution in the Syrian civil war?

Finally, just a couple months ahead of the sixth year’s end in the conflict, an agreement has been reached in Astana, Kazakhstan on 24 January 2016 by the participation of the major domestic and international state and nonstate actors, who had stake in the conflict. Why is Aleppo significant? Why are there external states supporting various rebel groups? And, why did the conflict in Syria take so long to resolve?

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To understand the evolution of the economy, track its DNA

How much would we understand about human evolution if we had never discovered genetics or DNA? How would we track the development of the human species without taking into account the universal code of life? Yes, we could study ancient trash heaps to estimate people’s average caloric intake over time. Or we might seek clues in burial mounds regarding population growth rates and changes in our physical characteristics over time.

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Reproductive rights and equality under challenge in the US

If the Trump administration and the current Congress have their way, however, state restrictions on abortion are likely to flourish and may ultimately prevail. Far less likely, however, is careful ethical consideration of what these changes may mean. Even now, many US women find abortion beyond their reach either economically or geographically. These women and their children face what may be life-limiting challenges.

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Celebrating International Women Day: women in the changing world of peacekeeping

Celebrated for the first time by the UN on 8 March, 1977, the International Women’s Day serves as a way to mark women’s contributions all around the globe. One area where women’s contributions are particularly worthy of celebration is in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Since the deployment of the first peacekeeping mission in 1948 to 1989, the end of the Cold War, only twenty women served in peacekeeping missions.

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Accounting, Donald Trump style

Firms and individuals depend on honest accountants. Managers make decisions on the basis of information they provide. Investors decide whether to buy, sell, or hold on the basis of their pronouncements. And the advice of an accountant can make the difference between collecting a fat refund and going to prison for tax fraud. Honest accounting is as important for countries as it is for firms and individuals.

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The right way to amend the Johnson Amendment

President Trump, reiterating the position he took during the presidential campaign, has reaffirmed his pledge to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.”The Johnson Amendment is the portion of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code which prohibits tax-exempt institutions from participating in political campaigns.

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Reality check: the dangers of confirmation bias

“Confirmation bias” is the most common—and easily the most irritating—obstacle to productive conversation, and not just between experts and laypeople. The term refers to the tendency to look for information that only confirms what we believe, to accept facts that only strengthen our preferred explanations, and to dismiss data that challenge what we already accept as truth.

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What happens after the Women’s March? Gender and immigrant/refugee rights

On the morning of President Trump’s inauguration, women stood back to back, with their hair braided to each other, on the Paso del Norte Bridge, which connects El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. As activist Xochitl R. Nicholson explained, the gesture of braiding, one often performed by women, symbolized women’s solidarity in the face of anti-immigrant discrimination.

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The culture of nastiness and the paradox of civility

Headlines are by their very nature designed to catch the eye, but Teddy Wayne’s ‘The Culture of Nastiness’ (New York Times, 18 February 2017) certainly caught my attention. Why? Because increasing survey evidence and datasets have identified growing social concerns about declining levels of civility. Politics, it would seem, has become raw, rude, direct, divisive… and don’t just think Trump…

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2017 Oscars represent a shift, but Hollywood is still disproportionately white

In 2017, the winners of two of the four Oscars given to actors were African Americans. This represents a remarkable turn in the history of the Oscars. It is not, however, a historical accident. Instead, it is due to social media campaigns and activism. In 2015, an activist named April Reign started the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in response to the overwhelmingly white Oscar nominees that year.

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Do you need to “unplug” from social media? [quiz]

“Unplugging” from social media does not necessarily equate to quitting. As The Happiness Effect author Donna Freitas found out, the decision to temporarily quit social media is a common among university students. Some students quit because they feel “too obsessed” or “addicted,” while others cite online drama as their reason to take a break.

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Holistic Engagement by Loretta Plyes

Transformative social work education: the time is now

In the first week of March, hundreds of social work educators from across the US will come together in New Orleans to discuss the future of social work education at the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors (BPD) conference. It is clear that the stakes for social work education are higher now than ever before. For my students who are working in field placements, there is a growing sense of dissonance.

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On language and defiance: a Q & A with Ilan Stavans

“The Trump Administration has taken down from the White House official website all references to Spanish. This to me is another symptom of its anti-globalist views.” We caught up with Ilan Stavans, Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies, to discuss his recent New York Times editorial, the use of the Spanish language in the United States, and why Spanish isn’t a foreign language in the US.

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It’s time to talk about power, part II

In the first installment, Miller challenged the popular trope that ‘checks and balances’ in American politics serves to limit power, protect liberty, or promote the balance between the interests of political minorities and majorities. The stark example of Donald J. Trump’s election, despite his loss of the majority vote and limited support within his own party, highlight just how out of touch this trope is.

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