What Good Is Academia, Anyway?

What Good Is Academia, Anyway?

I live in the small city of Ithaca that is nestled between two colleges. Some would say the college students in Ithaca exist in a separate world from the locals that actually live in Ithaca.

A simple result of what being a college student demands, many fly through their studies without ever really noticing the town. Many never really think how their experience relates to the town as a whole.

In the same vein, the knowledge of academia—its information and goals—exists in a bubble outside of the world it tries to address. 

The goal of a college or bachelors degree is to not only to become employed but also implement critical thinking and problem-solving skills with the education one has received.

Although academia and universities are the birth place of learning about society and searches for new ways to enhance living, academics and academia tend to rely heavily on jargon.

New studies rely heavily on jargon to explain new concepts to an audience that only understands the jargon they use. 

There’s a translation though between the hard language used in academia versus the everyday language we use to discuss it.

Outside of an academic space, simple and common observations are made with everyday language: “Why do girls wear pink and boys wear blue?”,  “Why does this person of color speak English so well?”, or “Why do I work so hard yet cannot advance myself economically?”

 In an academic space, the language complicates itself into the “the spectrum of gender theory”,“the facets of racial bias and prejudice”, and “understanding of socioeconomic and economic theory.”

The complication of these words may sometimes translates as vague, complex, and just simply non-engaging to those who haven’t been exposed to it.

In fact, those who don’t have the financial means to enter an academic space like that couldn’t keep up with the intensity of the jargon certain topics demands.

So who understands academic stuff other than academics?

Why are these critical thinking opportunities limited in a certain way and accepted in this linear way?

A wealth of information in certain topics are literally held within universities’ libraries that are only accessible with permissions of that institution. If you’re not a student or a faculty member, you may be hard-pressed to get access to an in-depth study unless a local public library also has such.

This is changing now, as there are more websites that give academic research to the public.

However, the problem of passing around this knowledge doesn’t lie so much with academia as much as the people who are talking about it. There are plenty of people who understand certain behaviors and patterns of society without this language.

So why is there a mandate to use a complication of language, when these concepts can be communicated without it?  

What winds up happening is a display of echo chambers and class- privileged discussions that signifies only people “like me” can talk about these things. The socioeconomic makeup divides those who have that education and those who don’t. The haves and have-nots. 

However, academia (outside of the people who are in it) pursues to understand some of the world’s most complex concepts of our lives. Race relations, abuse, trauma, economics, and politics.

Academics is why we understand so much of what we understand now, so why is a surplus of knowledge tied and limited to financial wealth?

Who are we trying to reach when we talk about racism, feminism, and politics? Are we talking to each other with similar minds and language?

The answer to this is yes, most of the time.

But how much importance does the theory (or revolutionary reasons) of those conversations actually matter, if they only lie within the spaces of those who can engage it?

Do we want these conversations to engage others? Is it supposed to engage others?

If it is a problem of education, then how do we educate without condescension or re-affirming the exclusionary nature of talking about those subjects?  

Although academia can liberate the mind, it has a tendency to exclude the world it attempts to save.

One response to “What Good Is Academia, Anyway?”

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