Last week, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times set off an online debate amongst academics in his article about what he perceives to be the disconnect between academic writing and reality. The backlash was heavy and immediate among e-literate academics (ironically, the very group of people Kristof was asking to be more engaged in the public domain). There was a LOT of great writing responding to his piece, so here are some of my favorites:
Public Engagement on Inside Higher Ed
Dear Nicholas Kristof: We are right here! on The Washington Post
Why is Academic Writing so Academic? on the New Yorker
Look Who Nick Kristof's Saving Now on Corey Robin's blog
So who wins in this debate? Well, Kristof got tons of clicks and buzz about his article, which in today's journalism realm is considered a win (regardless of whether the buzz was positive or negative), and academics got to a chance to shine some light on a topic that is worthy of conversation and promote the "public" work they are doing. Maybe some academics will be inspired to be more oriented towards discussing their work on mainstream outlets rather than only academic journals or conferences, and more universities will start to consider such outreach when making hiring or tenure decisions rather than focusing on more traditional and possibly outdated measures. In any case, this issue is far from resolved, and reflects the changes that "old school" careers, such as that of the lifelong academic, have to face in this digital and social age.