The Public Intellectual.

The Public Intellectual.

Reflecting on Kathleen Fitzgerald’s work, I find myself struck by her views on how the barrier to access academic material in an increasingly digital world isn’t reliant on one factor-it’s reliant on a multitude. Her writings explore how, why, and what happens when the academic knowledge interacts with the public as well. But to focus on one thing, I would say I am especially drawn to the section on “Public Intellectuals” were she argues about writing for a broader audience.

There is section where she talks about how there’s a perception that the public should not have access because they would not understand or care. There is so much to deconstruct in an idea like that including the attitude towards the nature of considering the public.

We say the “public” with such contempt as if we are not learning public intellectuals ourselves.

In fact, who are we to generalize the public?

I argue that we must consider them with a sense of dignity that we forget to have sometimes. We have to trust them. We say that the average person would not understand such knowledge but is it not our duty to make them understand? To make them care? No one lives inside a vacuum, everyone is being pulled and persuaded. Should we just abandoned those who cannot understand or look down on them for not having the same level of comprehension? No.

We have to open our doors, knock down barriers, and learn how to communicate with a broader audience. It doesn’t call for the complete eradication of academic language but it is a statement to understand that we are the public and we are human. We should check our privilege in being able to comprehend academic language and seek ways to connect with our audience, especially on a digital platform.

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