The science of solutions

The most recent St. JamesâÄô Street article, âÄúWhat good are academics?âÄù raises a very important question about the goals of academics who study societal downfalls; namely, the question, âÄúHave academics lost touch with the reason they are studying these things?âÄù Now, the reason why academics study the downfalls of past and present societies should be quite obvious: In documenting past societal downfalls, people today or in the future might learn about the previous downfalls of society and take action to prevent these downfalls from reoccurring. While I believe most academics studying such areas do have this goal in mind, I feel (and I think the St. James Street authors would agree) that the methods through which academics go about studying societal downfalls has lost touch with the preventative purpose of studying such downfalls. Other students and I ought to challenge the professors and reigning academics here at the University of Minnesota to refocus the social sciences as primarily a âÄúscience of solutionsâÄù rather than the currently reigning âÄúscience of problemsâÄù prevalent throughout the social sciences. This thought actually came to me just last week when a guest presenter in one of my political science classes gave a lecture on the current economic crisis. Her arguments were clear and persuasive, but she did not offer any solutions for how to prevent such a catastrophe from happening in the future. So, I asked the question, âÄúWhat should governments and those of us living today do to prevent a similar worldwide economic disaster from happening in the future?âÄù I expected her to give a handful of really thought-out, practical ideas. But my question was initially ignored, and then I was told that my question would be addressed in future classes due to class time running out to delve into my question. But this never happened. I found myself flabbergasted as to how this professor could know so much about the current economic crisis but not equally cover in her lecture the action people can take to lessen its current effects. Knowing how the economic crisis came about inevitably makes people angry at the short-sightedness of governmental leaders, which is a thrill to some people, but the only real improvement in our world will come as a result of action from committed world citizens to prevent this from happening again. It seems ridiculous for professors to walk students through problem after problem society has had in the past or present without thoroughly discussing how to improve things in the future. If we want to prevent societal downfalls from recurring, we need to walk through solutions with as much academic rigor (if not more) as societal problems. I would challenge any academic to give me some semblance of an academic answer for this ignorance of the future, as âÄî thus far in my college experience âÄî I have never heard one. Thankfully, though, there are efforts here at the University working to fill the solutions gap left by the social sciences. Both the leadership and social justice minors have solutions as their primary focus while also focusing on problems, as well. The two minors focus on the future from two different angles. The core concept of the leadership minor starts with the students learning about themselves and their places in the world, and then moving outward to how the individual students can best leverage their skills and talents to work for a better world. On the other hand, the social justice minor starts with a focus on society and then working its way to how the individual student can best work to manifest a more socially just society. As a student in both minors, both the self-to-society focus and the society-to-self focus fill the âÄúsolutions gapâÄù from my social science experiences. However, doing two minors in addition to a social science major should not have to be the norm to satisfy students wanting to learn how they can make the world a better place; it ought to be integral to any social science major degree requirements. Therefore, I challenge social science departments here at the University to become primarily âÄúsciences of solutionsâÄù rather than âÄúsciences of problemsâÄù and call on other students to raise this challenge to their departments and faculty as well. Until both problems and the solutions to problems are regularly mentioned in the same breath in classrooms across the University, I will not be satisfied âÄî and neither should you. Jon Delperdang University student