Re: More on "Third Culture"

Michael Thomas Carson (mcarson@HAWAII.EDU)
Thu, 7 Sep 1995 15:35:43 -1000

On Thu, 7 Sep 1995, John H. Stevens, Jr. wrote:

> Academics are expected to write dense, jargon-filled articles and books
> that demonstrate their brilliance and/or specialization. These articles
> and books are more often than not published in either low-circulation
> journals or by university publishers who don't have a fraction of
> HarperCollins clout or marketing power. Adminstrations at universities
> base their tenure criteria on how much a candidate writes, and how obscure
> (for lack of a better term) their subject and analysis is, not on
> pertinence or comprehensibility. One teacher of mine was warned that if he
> didn't stop writing for some semi-popular spiritual and political journals,
> he might not get tenure!
> But inevitably, this all comes back to the identity debate, I think.
> First, most people expect academics to talk like dusty-robed thaumaturges,
> to forget that they have three pens in their shirt pocket and to gaze
> beyond their left ear and pontificate on grand questions. Oh, and elbow
> patches (or, for female academics, flats). Second, the above mentioned
> administrations, both university and departmental, set up criteria and
> expectations for hiring, merit, and tenure based more on a professor's
> theoretical constructs and uniqueness than whether or not they write
> clearly, have relevant ideas, or even if they can teach. Third, within
> departments, disciplines, and communities of scholars there are certain
> expectations, customs, and practices that further assist in the propogation
> of both territoriality and rarification.

John -

Yes, that's a good insight. I might add that scholars have a tendency to
avoid making references to things written in popular magazines or
published by a non-academic press. This is rather limiting to the range
of what written ideas and data a researcher can include in a study.

Personally, I think it's great that academics are able to write for the
general public, termed the popular audience. It shows that the writercan
express thoughts clearly and is able to teach the subject well to anyone,
even if the reader/student has no background in the discipline.

- Mike Carson