Opinion Graphic fall 2020

There is a considerable chance of a significant amount of precipitation in the relative future, but whether the aforementioned precipitation becomes solidified due to temperature variance — a possibility which could cause hazardous infrastructure conditions and potentially stall commercial activities — remains to be seen.

In other words: It might snow tomorrow. Roads and stores could close.

The realm of academia, as open-minded and inclusive as it often claims to be, separates itself from the rest of the world in many ways. Those who dedicate themselves to seeking knowledge often seem to struggle communicating it to the general public. Academic language is loaded with unnecessary phrases and extra-long words that add no substance to sentences.

Flowery, excessive language is usually used for one of two reasons: to match the world’s expectation of what academics should sound like, or to boost the writer’s ego. On subjects ranging from history to biology to communication, there are journal articles full of valuable research that many would find interesting and useful. However, when muddied by pretentious writing, it is difficult not to fall asleep while reading them, much less engage with the information.

There seems to be an expectation that the more educated you become, the more complicated your communication must be. If you are not setting yourself apart from the rest of the world as more intelligent, what is the point of collecting all those degrees? Even those who use confusing academic language without the intention of boosting their egos are probably doing so because that is what society has decided academia should be.

Writing clearly, without fluff, is not a sign of low intelligence. It is a sign of confidence and empathy. People who are secure in their level of expertise, who know how bright they are, do not pad their language to seem smart. And experts who want others to care about their work should not write in a way that makes it inaccessible, confusing or boring to the average person.

And language is not the only barrier to academic knowledge for the general public. Scholarly publications are often blocked by paywalls that don’t allow access unless people pay or use an institutional login. While some journals are available at public libraries, not giving people easy access to them from home discourages curiosity and dampens the eagerness to learn.

Access to such journals with an institutional login comes at an even higher price than buying them individually: tuition. College is incredibly expensive, and students are paying for access to knowledge from scholarly sources that should be available to everyone. By separating people seeking a formal education from those who are not, we are reinforcing the idea that paying for an education makes certain people superior and therefore worthy of knowledge that others cannot have.

In an ideal world, simple, clear language would not be seen as unsophisticated. Academics would write succinctly. Curiosity would be encouraged rather than stifled. And knowledge would be free to everyone. After all, the increased collection of a broad range of information from a variety of fields, drawn from a global network of perspectives and filtered into that which can be utilized in both everyday and isolated activities, contributes to a deepened understanding of individual ability and influence, particularly in the context of a globalized society. Or, in other words, knowledge is power.

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