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. Or ever really thinking 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 more education you receive  is to increase your awareness of a subject. As the awareness of that subject increases, it engages your mind in variety of avenues, thus enabling the implementation of that to the world  around you. 

In short, we need academics. Their minds is what answers the “whys” of the world around us. This is why we know what gravity is, what atoms are, and how our psychological minds work.

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

Before the commonly understood term “atom”, scientists used language circumventing the experiments of electromagnetic field and radioactivity. They then invented the term “elementary particles” to describe the structure of electrons, protons, and neutrons.

This process begins with the complications of language to the simplification of language. In other words, the more you understand something, the less words you need.

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?” “Why do I work so hard yet cannot advance myself economically?”

 In an academics pace, 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.”

I’m personally a little bias. I someone who’s always loved school—not someone who always got good grades—but always loved learning. The study of people and society has given words to things, I otherwise, would not be able to explain.

Academics and academia tend to rely heavily on the jargon they use to explain new concepts to an audience that only understands the jargon they use. 

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

In other words, who understands academic stuff other than academics?

But consciousness of the world around us tends to fall into a certain level of education, money, and jargon. I’m lucky to have had—even at the public school level—the financial surplus to be able to gain access to political and social theory, let alone knowing it exists.

My frustration lies with how the wealth of information in certain topics are literally held in specific spaces. More closely, the development of those conversations are held within certain spaces with a certain kind of language.

However, the problem 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 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?

My personal desire is for everyone to have access to that knowledge. That knowledge shouldn’t be tiered to financial access or socially tiered by language usage.

This often makes me the objective of talking about the politics that concerns us the most. Who are we talking to when we talk about racism, feminism, cis-gendered, and capitalist politics? Are we talking to each other? And the answer to this is yes, most of the time.

But how much importance does the theory of those conversations or even the practice of that theory 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?

Do the conversations we have about the world around us even have to matter on that scale?

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?  

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