In today’s The Nation, Pornpimol Kanchanalak has an interesting set of reflections on student politics, Thai politics and academic politics.

She takes aim at what she perceives as a few personal agendas…and clearly doesn’t appreciate the analytical interventions of those she mocks as Western “scholars” (her inverted commas). I guess she just happens to disagree with them. Disagreements are natural and human. And such disagreements are at the heart of academic and democratic life. Somewhere along the way those who hang around in Ivory Towers tend to learn that lesson. Social scientists, like the ones who have tried to explain the royal role in Thai politics or who have signed a letter calling for reform of the lese majeste law, spend their lives explaining society and doing their best to make arguments that make sense. Even when it is incomplete, the evidence is their best guide.

It seems that most journalists, and others who write for newspapers, are motivated by a very similar understanding of their role. Disagreements are part of what makes good newspapers fun to read. It’s also what makes the best of them really important; an awesome contribution to humanity. I happen to disgaree with Pornpimol but that doesn’t mean I need to belittle her by calling her a “journalist”. Disagreements are a huge part of democracy, and a major part of academic life. And that’s one of the things that is so exciting about both.