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We've got another question with a background in humanities which was closed almost immediately. Another such is discussed here. The reason in both cases was that it's too subjective, rather argumentative and no objective answer could be provided. It seems to me this might be a pattern we need to be careful about. It seems to me that both questions and discussions around them implicitly assume that the question cannot be objectively answered. That however rules out any scientific discourse based on softer criteria. I argue that such questions should not be closed so quickly, there indeed might be good answers to them rooted in research in humanities, history, sociology, etc.

Considering the discussion here, my feeling is that due to the current composition of academia.SE audience which is skewed towards people from exact scientific disciplines, we might be too dismissive about questions from humanities. This way, we won't succeed to attract people from those areas. We should rather find a way to embrace such softer questions.

  • I am lost. Would you care to explain what is the question on main site having anything to do with humanity? – scaaahu Jan 25 '13 at 9:45
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    @scaahu: I reacted to this part of the question "For example, what are the shortcomings of British or Canadian or Australian higher education system?". I will edit the question. – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 9:49
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    @scaahu: and also regardless of the question's content, its title was (and still is) a reasonable question. – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 9:58
  • I saw the new version of the question on main site. I am still lost. I don't intend to leave any comment there. Please explain here. – scaaahu Jan 25 '13 at 10:07
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As somebody with a strong liberal arts background, I can sympathize that most of the questions here do come from people with a science background—but that makes sense, given the host of the board!

However, the question you cite at the top of the page is way too broad for the Q&A format Stack Exchange promotes. "Why is X the way it is now?" questions are usually poor fits for formats like SE sites.

As a moderator, however, I will keep an eye out for questions that are being given too short a leash. I prefer to keep things community-moderated (since I am a volunteer, not an elected mod), but will step in if things are getting out of hand.

  • Re: the question format: is the new version still too broad? If so, can we come up with a way to treat/reformat this kind of questions so that they would be acceptable? Me being from "harder" sciences background, I honestly do not know how to reformulate these questions (which I personally like and consider useful) so that they become more acceptable? – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 10:20
  • @walkmanyi The first sub-question is okay to me - scholarly resources. The second one is too broad - there can be too many reasons to fit into our Q&A format - What are the main differences. – scaaahu Jan 25 '13 at 10:50
  • @scaahu: I see. Do you have then any insights into my question about how to reformulate such questions in the comment to aeismail above? – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 10:53
  • @walkmanyi The question academia.stackexchange.com/q/7455/546 is like saying assuming X is true, do you know any references? – scaaahu Jan 25 '13 at 12:10
  • @scaahu: right. Could the graph posted by Leon Palafox in answer to this question be an indication to plausibility of that claim? – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 12:17
  • @walkmanyi Yes. Given those info, now we can ask why it is happening that way as a follow up. Still, it cannot be too broad to fit, imho. – scaaahu Jan 25 '13 at 12:29
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    The question is better. The second part could be treated in much the same way as the first: Are their comparative studies of the educational systems in the US and other English-speaking countries? – aeismail Jan 25 '13 at 13:37
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I am a little confused about why the linked question leads to this question, but in general I think we are closing some of these broad questions too quickly. It seems the decision is that the answer will be subjective and long. I think for many of these types of questions someone with the expertise could write a really good reasonable length answer. We don't have very many unanswered question, so leaving some of these open wouldn't be a big problem and we could see if eventually we get people with the required expertise.

  • Re: the link. Perhaps this can be attributed to my inexperience with the mechanics of this Q&A site, I am simply not sure where to discuss/dispute closing/reopening of questions. I didn't want to spoil the question's discussion so I referred to a (albeit on a more general level) continuation here. – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 12:30
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    @walkmanyi I think you did the right thing bring this to meta (although you could have brought it to chat also). I am just not sure that I see that question as being a "humanities" question. Rereading the link question I guess I can see the humanities aspect. – StrongBad Jan 25 '13 at 12:39
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I'm not sure to see the connection with humanities. The form of questions and answers does not depend on the underlying academic field, but on common language. Whether you're a philosopher or a physicist, the objectivity of a question is identical. You can bring facts from social sciences, humanities, history, or anything else, as long as they are facts. Whenever it starts with "I believe that ..., but I don't have anything to support it", that's not objective.

That however rules out any scientific discourse based on softer criteria. I argue that such questions should not be closed so quickly, there indeed might be good answers to them rooted in research in humanities, history, sociology, etc.

They can have root in research in such fields, and if there are corresponding publications, they become facts. If there is question where the answer can be: "yes, look at the paper published by X in Y", then regardless of the underlying field, that's an objective answer.

  • re question form: well, look through the questions at this site. A very significant portion follows the pattern "... what should I do?" The answers are then not based on factual evidence, but on ethical considerations of those who reply. How does that play with the strive for objectivity? I mean, we should also face the observation, that by nature of this site, we provide much "softer" answers than e.g., cstheory. In the light of that, perhaps we should soften also our requirements on questions. – walkmanyi Jan 25 '13 at 20:51

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