The Problematic Academic

Inaccessibility in academia – particularly regarding the topics of inclusion and bias towards appropriate language – thrives malignantly throughout the disciplines, having little discretion in regards to subject, age,, or background of the individuals involved. Even in philosophy, a subject that deals primarily with how we know and communicate what we know, we find a hierarchy of privilege of “those who get it” and “those who do not.”

It is a contest of creating artificial hurdles, in which the “proper academic” – those individuals who know and can recall the proper names for philosophies and the philosophers who promote them, those individuals that do not need assistance comprehending dense language – can saunder and leap through like well-groomed show ponies. It is less of a display of knowledge and capacity than it is an acceptable form of competition among philosopher kings. Those who couldn’t succeed in other, non-academic competitions can place their capabilities on display while not contributing much of substance. Communication, and the spread of knowledge that is fostered through proper communication, is considered secondary.

The cognitive dissonance displayed by these academics can go as far as alienating those who identify similarly to themselves from the discourse. This is on its face a way to dissuade “laziness” – a loaded and often misunderstood phenomenon. Laziness’ definition is changed from “the lack of a desire to engage with the concepts involved in a work” to “the inability of an individual to examine the work in the way that the author intended.” The concept of death of the author is disregarded but not in a way that promotes the contents of the material, but in a way that places the author as a figure to be respected because of the difficulty of accessing their work.

The most egregious example in my personal experience was in one instance of an academic who decided to make his work purposefully inaccessible for those who have difficulty examining large bodies of written text by writing the entirety of a book without paragraph breaks. This academic, although bordering on legally blind himself, believed that accessibility of his work was less important than forcing the audience to engage with his work in a way that he deemed appropriate. He believed that those examining his work should be unable to easily break the work down into parts by discernable paragraphs, but should have to engage with the entire text. Those who could not do that would be forced to try harder, or simply be unable to engage with critique at all.

On its face, the ideology behind that artistic license is not entirely problematic. It dissuades those who do not truly want to engage with the work. Writing in that manner is less of a decided attempt at dissuading “laziness,” but an entire salt of the earth of the behavior that is believed to express laziness. However, its application – by alienating people who cannot examine a work without assistance – is egotistical. It privileges the author’s ability to understand his own concepts in the way that he is capable of understanding them above that of the audience. It privileges the author’s interpretation and the author’s words above the concepts he is trying to communicate. Although there may be some pride in limiting dissemination of your ideas to only those you believe to be the most intelligent and educated, pride does not follow the author after his death. Any benefit your ideas may have had on an educational benefit may be lost then, and is already lost in every reader that cannot understand what you are trying to communicate via the method you use to communicate.

This masturbatory philosophy of education does little to better the landscape in which the author’s works exist. The answer to whether or not a tree falling in an empty forest makes a sound is simply that it does not matter – we wouldn’t know either way if it did, and very few consider the history of the trees who have already fallen when they happen upon them on their path.


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