About a year ago I became disenchanted with the American Psychological Association over its stance on psychologists' involvement in torture. At the encouragement of a few people whose opinions and experience I respect, I decided to give APA a second chance. How long I am a member remains to be seen, but I was persuaded that in the current atmosphere if people who object to the policy leave, the organization is less likely to change. Instead, I decided to look for a way to improve things in the organization.
I recognize that there is still a very real danger that psychological work may be - and probably is - being misused, as this story from Inside Higher Ed describes. I also agree with the people who protested APA policy at the 2008 Convention. While I respect those who have renounced their membership in APA, I see less opportunity to facilitate change if I am outside the organization than if I am inside it.
So, I decided to go to Boston to attend the 2008 convention. It was a good conference in many ways. I will post a few thoughts about it during the coming few days.
What did I find in my efforts to help improve APA? Two things. One tangible way that you and I can affect the organization is to vote for Steven Reisner for APA president. I have no delusions that Reisner will win the election, but I do hope that he attracts enough votes that he causes more people in the association to reconsider their position. Even if he were elected president, I question whether one person's energy is enough to change bureaucratic inertia.... But still, if a significant portion of the votes went to him, I think that the bureaucracy would take note.
Another way I found came to me in the form of an invitation to serve as program chair for Division 36. At a minimum, it is a tangible way to help APA be the best it can be, and to help advance scholarship on the psychology of religion. So, if you have an interest in developing a symposium or other presentation for the 2009 convention in Toronto, get in touch with me. I would especially love to see proposals - whether symposia, papers, or posters - that dealt with the question of religion and war, nationalism, terrorism, or other aspects relevant to our troubled times. Of course, all proposals will go through the normal vetting process, but proposals that deal with these issues seem particularly timely. Proposals will be due at the beginning of December; the APA webpage will soon have more details, which I will pass along here.