Sunday, February 16, 2014

Whither the Public Intellectual?

Taking a break from our regularly-scheduled programming to bring you a pair of interesting pieces about the future of the public intellectual in America.  Nick Kristoff takes the academy to task for wallowing in its own irrelevance, while Jill Lepore politely suggests that both academic presses and the wild west of the blogosphere share the blame.  Along with academic reticence.  Lepore and Kristoff clearly have a mutual admiration society going, and why not?  Their work is always interesting, accessible, and makes you think.  Isn't that rather the point?  I might privilege lack of time over reticence as the individual issue that keeps women in particular out of the fray, except that I know Lepore has plenty of family obligations, and holds a senior academic position at the World's Greatest University, and produces great prose in various media on all kinds of subject all the time, so for her, I-don't-have-time-for-this is clearly not an option.

Do yourself a favor and don't read the comments following - they are in the best (read: worst) tradition of the internets, self-important jabs made safely from the anonymity of one's device, glowing the darkness of an isolated cave.


  1. The Jill Lepore piece is characteristically good (how DOES she do it, anyway?); the Kristof piece is characteristically inane (in my opinion). This is a good response: "He only reads the New Yorker, and complains that everyone doesn't write for the New Yorker."

  2. Fair enough! And I think Kristof did jump the shark with the Dylan Farrow piece. I operate from a weird position - working with a lot of not-in-the-real-world academics (and some who are, and who are very lovely and engaged people) but in continuing ed, which is careering toward only providing "practical" education, ie. degrees in management or IT. One wonders if more PIs who operate in the very mainstream might help bridge that gap.