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On the sidebar of this page, just now I saw 3 of the 6 "hot topics" were about "appropriateness" or "offensiveness" (image attached).

A search in this site for questions containing "methodologies" returned 539 results. "Appropriate" returned 2,397 results. "New research" was behind "appropritate" by 3 questions.

Have education and academics taken second place to something that tends to repress and stifle the free exchange of learning and ideas? If so, how to restore free exchange?

If not, what is the explanation for this apparent unbalance in discussions among academics?

education-vs-values

EDIT A commenter pointed out that the screen shot was of "related questions" not of "hot network questions". My bad - this would explain the high number of articles about "offensive" and "appropriate" in the image, since the question I was looking at contained this vocabulary.

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    Which sidebar? I see only two on my account: "related questions" and "hot network questions". Given that I see only academia.se questions in your screenshot, I assume you are speaking about the first. But, of course, those include only topics related to what you are browsing at the moment, so it is normal that you see there only appropriateness-related questions if you are viewing an appropriateness-relating one. This is by design. – Federico Poloni Jul 14 '16 at 9:51
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    There's no point in trying to achieve education when the environment is hostile or nonconductive to learning. You think your offhand remark is nothing, but it could literally be the one event that convinces a person they should give up on that subject. "Free exchange" is only possible when everybody can be involved. – Nij Jul 14 '16 at 10:36
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    There are far better places to ask method questions than here, and most must be so specific to be off topic here. But for all the places to ask method questions, most of those are not valid for soft/social questions related to politeness and appropriateness, ethics, etc. Don't try to draw sweeping societal conclusions from such limited observations. – BrianH Jul 14 '16 at 18:22
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    Nij, didn't education ever occur before "offensiveness" or "appropriateness" were considered to this degree? – Deborah Jul 15 '16 at 9:50
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    Federico, it was the "hot network questions". It was my first visit to the site - I had not searched for any topics at that point. – Deborah Jul 15 '16 at 9:50
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    The one question that apparently brought you to the site was at the time in the HNQ list. Once you are on the page of this question you get shown a list of related questions, related to the one you have open. This is true for every question, you could just try it with a couple of posts an see the list change. The list you show is not the HNQ list but the one of questions related to that one post. That said, I do think you raise a valid point. – quid Jul 15 '16 at 13:23
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    @Deborah but your screen-shot isn't of the "hot network questions" list, it's of the "related" list. If you're talking about the "hot network questions" list, you should include a screenshot of the "hot network questions" list. – LindaJeanne Jul 15 '16 at 17:36
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    LindaJeanne my bad. You're right. Well, that would explain the prevalence of the type of question! – Deborah Jul 17 '16 at 4:31
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    @Deborah "didn't education ever occur before "offensiveness" or "appropriateness" were considered to this degree?" Only for some people. – Fomite Jul 22 '16 at 3:52
  • Great questions Deborah. The fact is, many people that frequent this site think of themselves as the "Appropriate Police". Yet, even as they engage in this self-appointed task, they engage in offensiveness. I'm not sure what the actual cause is, but one cause might be an unfortunate combination of hypersensitivity and age-related senses of entitlement. – Inquisitive Jul 30 '16 at 13:18
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This site does not show what is a priority among academics because "the content of your research" is off-topic here.

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Note that a lot of the questions containing the word "appropriate" have nothing to do with things that could "repress and stifle the free exchange of learning and ideas".

For example,

Also, you wrote

A search in this site for questions containing "methodologies" returned 539 results. "Appropriate" returned 2,397 results. "New research" was behind "appropritate" by 3 questions.

But on my search, "appropriate" returned only 597 questions. I suspect you were searching across all posts (including answers), not only questions.

Regarding the sidebar, as pointed out in a comment:

Which sidebar? I see only two on my account: "related questions" and "hot network questions". Given that I see only academia.se questions in your screenshot, I assume you are speaking about the first. But, of course, those include only topics related to what you are browsing at the moment, so it is normal that you see there only appropriateness-related questions if you are viewing an appropriateness-relating one. This is by design

In other words, the "evidence" you supply in support of your claim that there is an unbalanced focus on "appropriateness" and "offensiveness" is based on a flawed methodology.

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People tend to focus on the wrong, the crime, more than the average, the normal.


That's the normal psychology, not anything wrong.


But sometimes, it does make trouble.

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This site has a small number of academics (actual, future, deserters to industry, failed, ...) who, whatever their reasons might be, care about maintaining the site and providing advice and discussion of matters academic. As with all things online, a disproportionate number of often transitory users will be social media savvy tumbler kiddies (or their mental equivalent) who spend their lives looking for new reasons to lament how their specialness is suppressed by insensitive conservative establishment. In my opinion, that - plus the possible counting error pointed out by ff524 - should account for a lot of your question.

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    Your rant against tumblr whatever seems a bit off topic and aggressive, IMO. I don't know how you manage to dismiss the fact that searches for "appropriate" include things like "appropriate number of citations" as "possible error counting." – user18072 Jul 17 '16 at 21:44
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    @djechlin: I manage to do that by saying "a lot," and I'm surprised, frankly, that my answer has a - current - net upvote. – gnometorule Jul 18 '16 at 16:49
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Questions about appropriateness or offensiveness fit in with Parkinson's law of triviality. Everyone can have an opinion on what's appropriate or offensive, even if they're not otherwise interested in academia.

It probably "helps" that one of them is about sexuality (the dress one), and one of them is about a hot political topic in the US.

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