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18 February 2014 @ 10:07 am
I am here to help you, Mr. Kristof  
Nicholas Kristof's editorial from the weekend New York Times puzzles me: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-professors-we-need-you.html?_r=1. He begins by praising academics as "SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world," but then proceeds to ignore many of us who are out there offering help, offering advice, offering assistance. Of course, immediately after praising we smart thinkers, he dismisses us thusly: "to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant." Once my head stopped swiveling, I went on to read the rest of the column. Here is what I can conclude: academics engaged in schools of education are so irrelevant that they do not even merit inclusion in this railing against academics. Take this paragraph for example, "A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience." Apparently Mr. Kristof is unfamiliar with the culture of our colleges of education (or at last my own). The faculty with whom I have worked for almost 25 years do not produce arcane and unintelligible work. We write articles, columns, blogs, posts, tweets, and books that are accessible, that add to the knowledge in the field, that respect their audiences.

What Mr. Kristof is saying (though you must read between the lines) is that the left-leaning academics (he cites Sociology as an example) are nothing more than echo chambers while the fields that have sufficient representation from the right (he cites Economics) are doing much better at somehow tearing down the ivy-covered walls that separate academics from the REAL world, the place where the MAKERS are, the place where common sense resides. But even more importantly, by omitting any mention of educators here, Kristof adds to the voices who would dismiss us as unimportant in this or any other discussion.

So, Mr. Kristof, let me introduce myself to you. I am an academic. I do use social media. I do write accessible pieces about my field. I do offer assistance to others in my field. I also accept help from them as I do not know everything nor will I ever know everything. I do lean left (precariously so) but some of my best friends and colleagues lean in the opposite direction, so there is some semblance of balance. I am not cloistered. I am out in the field as often as I can. I know there is a pedagogical and practical side and that I must address both in order to make the most impact. I do not submit gibberish to my professional journals. Nor do my professional journals publish gibberish. Perhaps you need to educate yourself about my field since it might just be the cure for all the ills you perceive in other areas of academe?

I am a teacher.
 
 
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