Apparently at least one denizen of the Ivory Tower thinks he’s been cloistered too long.
“Teaching aside, little of what we do or say has observable impact on the world outside our universities,” Aaron Barlow writes on the Academe blog. “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.”
Barlow goes on to make some points that academic outsiders have made. Yes, that includes 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,” he notes.” 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.”
Barlow makes it clear that self-preservation undergirds this appraisal. “The move to ‘reform’ American public schools feeds, in part, on a misunderstanding of just what goes on in schools,” he avers. “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.” Barlow has taught at the New York City College of Technology (CUNY).
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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