The Ivory Tower of Academia


My inner critic has been loud of late. “This presentation isn’t good enough, you should have done more readings, you are going to submit that?” It’s easy to let my mind run away with itself. Only coming back to myself as I run screaming through the woods of my mind.

I intellectually understand that my work is not meant to be the same as others. That different does not equate with worse. That just because I don’t use ‘praxis’ doesn’t mean I don’t do it. There are so many things I love about academia. I love learning. I love sharing what I have learned. I love writing. I don’t love the comparison that can sometimes accompany it. I don’t love the way academia can obscure and complicate ideas. I don’t love the exclusion.

When I first entered university several years ago, I had dreams of enlightenment and learning for the sake of learning. This is sadly, not what the university system produces. The system is focussed on producing regregetators not thinkers. I am lucky to be a program that values critical thinking but balancing that with the overwhelming pressure to be ‘academic’ is, well, overwhelming.

So what can be done about this? I can continue to try to write in plain language and to try to make what I am learning accessible. I understand that language matters. That academic jargon can fit in with academic work which is sometimes useful but I want to move beyond this. I love what I have been learning about research, about ways to enhance and challenge what we understand as knowledge. But if I cannot share this with a non academic audience, then what’s the point? I don’t want to be involved in creating knowledge which can’t be accessed. Despite what some academics might think plain language is not dumbing down your work. Plain language doesn’t make your research soft. It adds value. If academia is to survive and encourage people to learn for the sake of learning, not just a well paying job, then we need to ditch the jargon and overly complicated phrases.

It seems so lonely in the academic ivory tower. I feel like an outsider. I want to invite others in. There is safety in numbers.