Challenging the Assault on Teachers, Students, and Public Education – Second edition
7. Public Intellectuals, the Politics of Clarity, and the Crisis of Language
It is nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.
The presupposition that academics no longer function as critical public intellectuals willing to connect their knowledge and expertise to larger public issues is now pervasive. Many factors have contributed to this alleged withdrawal from speaking to public issues: the demands of academic professionalism; the suppression of dissent within and outside of the academy; and an overburdened workload that curtails the time required for public engagement.1 What is indisputable is that the voices of progressive academics have become increasingly irrelevant, if not altogether silent, when it comes to assuming the role of engaged intellectuals interested in sharing their ideas, research, and policy recommendations with a broader public. This makes the situation all the easier for neoliberal and conservative critics such as Stanley Fish to insist that academics don’t belong in politics—that they must remain neutral, apolitical, and professional—and, conversely, that politics has no place in the classroom or in the pursuit of research that speaks to broader public concerns. Sadly, it seems the most pronounced voices now criticizing academics as public intellectuals come from the general public (which may or may not agree with right-wing portrayals of the university as a hotbed of leftist totalitarianism). ← 99 | 100 → The public appears increasingly united in its dismissal of “Ivory Tower” elites who are viewed as speaking and writing in a discourse that is as arcane...
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