The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Reminder to Self: Get Out More

In the December 23, 1869 edition of The Nation, Francis Parkman wrote:

The New England man of letters… was apt to be a recluse, ignorant of the world, bleached by a close room and an iron stove, never breathing the outer air when he could help it, and resembling a medieval monk in his scorn of the body, or rather his utter disregard of it. The products of his mind were as pallid as the hue of his face, and, like their parent, void of blood, bone, sinew, muscle, and marrow. That he should be provincial was, for a long time, inevitable, but that he was emasculate was clearly his own fault. As his scholarship was not fruitful of any very valuable results, as it did not make itself felt in the living world that ranged around it, as, in short, it showed no vital force, it began at length to be regarded as a superfluous excrescence. (558-559)

The same, unfortunately, could be said of too many of us who are involved in scholarship today. Teaching aside, little of what we do or say has observable impact on the world outside our universities. Yes, there are technological and scientific breakthroughs that clearly do, but these are rare—and are far removed from the efforts of most of us.

Instead of broadening our reach, we narrow our disciplines, jealously arguing about who should or shouldn’t be allowed to teach what course, splintering into smaller and smaller specialties where we end of speaking to each other in jargons protecting us from outside interference. Our books are roaring successes if a thousand copies are sold; our articles are hidden behind paywalls so high that they make sure no one but fellow specialists will ever see them.

The solution? We need to get out more. A bit of sun can remove the pallor, maybe even getting more people to pay attention to us.

This isn’t simple whimsy. The move to “reform” American public schools feeds, in part, on a misunderstanding of just what goes on in schools. That “reform” movement is beginning to turn its eyes toward higher education. The best way of making sure that we faculty members maintain at least a little control of the reform agenda is for us to make ourselves and what we do (both in the classroom and in our scholarship) known to the general public in a way that the public can appreciate.

We need to join the discussions in today’s public sphere, adding our expertise to the greater conversation rather than continuing to simply talk to each other.

Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves imprisoned in the very universities that we thought would protect us.

About Aaron Barlow

English faculty, New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and Faculty Editor, "Academe."

One comment on “Reminder to Self: Get Out More

  1. Pingback: Accuracy in Academia? | Academe Blog

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don't impersonate a real person.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on July 19, 2012 by in faculty and tagged , .
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,304 other followers

%d bloggers like this: