Can you understand what I am saying?

In the New York Times on the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a stinging criticism of academics.
He notes that when someone utters the phrase “That’s academic” it is a very loaded comment. That retort implies scholars are irrelevant. He quotes Anne-Marie Slaughter who observed that “disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public.” He feels that the PhD programs “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Although I (Clare) found his comments a bit harsh there is something sobering about his analysis. Often I find myself reading a journal article on teacher education (my specialty) that I simply cannot understand. The jargon overwhelms the central points and the writing so turgid it is inaccessible. As academics our many masters (tenure review committees, funding agencies, journal reviewers) expect our work to sound “academic” so we are almost forced to employ an unnatural writing style. There is no easy solution. We may not be able to do anything in the short term but in the long-term I hope that our research can be used to inform general discourse about teacher education and public policy. Writing for different audiences is difficult but hey, we academics are quite smart. Let’s take up the challenge to make our work more accessible to many readers.

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