Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ask Someone Who Knows: News from the ASA Convention (A Reflection)

From Ash:

Sitting here at my desk in L.A., munching on the last of the pastry I bought in Montreal, I'm struggling to put what I learned during the ASA conference into some sort of context - tie it together some sort of manageable theme. It's a challenge. But in some ways, my feelings about the conference seem to be a microcosm for the entire Social Studies project that Po and I have undertaken - beginning with my getting to help Po with his wonderful book, Why Do I Love These People? to the Factbook, which lead to our blog and the Time pieces. So, we'll get to the studies and the papers in good time, but for now, a small big picture.

During the conference, I was fortunate enough to speak to a dozen or so of the nation's leading scholars on family issues, but there were about 5,000 attendees, so who knows who I missed out on meeting.

I heard, I'm guessing, in the neighborhood of 100 different presentations in about 25-30 sessions - but there were over 550 sessions being offered, so I barely scratched the surface.

And it wasn't that I wasn't interested in those others. It was a coin-flip and heart-ache that made me opt for a presentation on the changing time of American families over a survey of scholarship relating to the health and welfare of children. And how could I have missed the paper on why white men can't dance, or the paper on why British soccer-fans have turned hooliganism into its own sport? I mean, seriously, who doesn't want to know the answers to those questions?

I'm so thankful that we're on this exploration of social issues. I swear, every time we start chasing down a new topic, I learn enough that my entire worldview changes. I know I can't think of raising a child the same way now, than I would have before we'd done all the reading on childhood educational attainment. I can't say that my tastes in men have changed because of what I've read about marital stability - but I understand the dynamics of relationships a bit better - and perhaps that will pay off some day. Once I heard that professor just off-handedly make the observation about how we see poor time management, not as the inability to preserve a too-scare resource, but as a personal failure - if I don't think of being late in a different light, that would be a personal failing.

And as much as we have learned, I'm constantly dumbfounded with how much I'm not even aware of. (I mean, did it even occur to you that your inability to keep a dance beat might actually have implications about society as a whole?)

At the same time, I'm also ever increasingly aware of just how much of what we hear regularly, is really based on misinformation and misunderstandings. Honestly, it horrifies me. By the first day of the convention alone, I had already lost count on how many times, I heard a sociologist interrupt his presentation to make a comment about how "the media" had gotten something wrong, again, or expressing his frustration on how the right information just wasn't getting out there. Staring down at the press credential dangling from my neck, I wanted to yell, "Hey! The media's here, in the back of the room!"

I guess I just wanted to say how thankful I am to have both the opportunity and the motivation to be on this journey. Much more to come.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, every book I read or subject I study makes me more aware of how much there is to know. I find it also makes me less precious about my point of view. How can I be anxious about being challenged on a viewpoint that is constantly changing?

8:11 AM  

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