[MUSIC PLAYING] PETER KATZENSTEIN: Because learning is fun-- that's a very simple answer. What they study is not as important as that they study. International relations is part of the world in which you will lead your lives and you can't afford not to know about the life which you will lead. And at Cornell, the student body is so diverse, even if you don't study, you meet a lot of the world right here.
In many ways which are not always easy to articulate, the most important one is it takes time away from research. If you only research, you get lost in the maze. If you have to prepare a class, you get reset. You think about the class. And if you can't explain it to your students, you can't write it down on paper. So teaching is enormously important for figuring out things in a way that is accessible to others.
To make students self-reflective and critical is the most important thing. Liberal arts is about finding your voice and using your head and that, in some ways, it is all about trying to figure out where a student fits into the world and where that student finds a voice to influence that world.
It looks very different for very different people. But basically, it doesn't happen in Ithaca. Now, it's true that some people do library research the way you might do when you write a book about a novel. They run data tapes and they go to Google and do statistical analyzes and they don't need to travel. But typically, people will be in the world. They might go just to sort of look around, get a feel for a place, and then come back and run their data tapes or they might go and immerse themselves.
So there are three or four transmission belts between the academics and the elite doing the deciding and having the power. But the elite is only one part of the world. Think about the other part of the world, the people who are just people, who just live their lives. They in fact are informing the research by what they do. You've got the Arab Spring. Academics will notice and they'll say, we didn't see it coming. Neither did the elites in power. Why is that?
And so it's a two-way street in which the world, the majority and the elite and the academics and the university, interact with one another. But they don't interact directly. For that, there are too many steps in between and there are many intervening, the journalists and the media and the pundits and the think tanks. They're all producing knowledge of a certain kind and they're all compressing information.
And these are things which academics are not particularly good at. Scholarship is about scholarship. It's not about compressing information or making it palatable. A lot of other people do that.
It's one of the vagaries of life. Life always is made up of little things amounting to big things. I needed a job. I was finishing a dissertation. It was a dissertation which was very specialized and some people were interested in it. A lot of people weren't. And there was an opening here and people saying, that's a dissertation for this kind of job. Let's see whether he comes.
And then I was married at the time. I said, well, but I will need a second job. They said, we don't have a second job. I said, I understand. What about next year? And we're not sure about next year. I said, OK, we're coming but if there's no second job, I don't think we'll stay.
And so then within a couple of years, there was a second job for my wife, Professor Katzenstein. And once we had two jobs, we were pretty happy here. Good university, good students, beautiful countryside, great library-- why change jobs?
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Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies, offers a look into his world of teaching and research in international relations.