Something that I find interesting is that three of the far right flag bearers of the cause Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are college dropouts. Which in of itself may not mean anything. But each exhibit wannabe scholar aptitude. Beck plays at being a historian especially a revisionist historian on his show all the time. Pontificating about historians who do not tell it like it is although he has never done the rigors of academia to know. Limbaugh with his tongue in cheek Limbaugh Institute and his children’s history books to make sure our children learn the right history continues the wannabe scholar theme. Hannity blasting away at elitist academics to the point he seems to have a chip on his shoulder about not having a degree. A small part of our society live in an anti-intellectualism world.
I agree scholarship and intelligence is not talking a language no one understands unless they are in your field. In fact I have a belief that if you cannot explain your discipline or subject you probably do not have a full handle on the subject matter. Or the information is so useless who cares. Now someone will immediately say what about brain surgery or physics. I say Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. In the historical ruminations I talk of Savannah native Kirk Varnedoe who was one of the great art history scholars. His lectures had standing room only. He was able to communicate to scholar and lay person alike. Yes some people have better knack for communication than others but I find it easier to explain something I know thoroughly.
I know art reasonably well. I have made it a habit to go to any art museum in any city I visit. Early on I made it a habit to read extensively about artists I like. I am also a docent with the Telfair Academy and I have many enlightening conversations with my wife who has a PHD in Art History. But I have heard many art lectures that because of the non-words and complex words used you at first think you do not get it but upon looking past the gobbledygook you realized they were not saying anything particularly difficult to understand.
I also understand one of the ways people make their profession important is by using special language only fellow scholars could know. It is called job security. You need us because no one else could understand what I am talking about.
I also understand another reason arcane language is used is to impress people. He\she is smart I know because I could not understand a word they said. It makes your colleagues heart strangely warm when you know you are an insider in the club of knowledge. All of this has been with us from the beginning of time. There is special knowledge and I am one of the chosen few who grasps it.
I once was asked by a small man in a bowtie if I was an academic. His meaning was are you worth my time. Now usually I have a smart ass answer to that question. Aw shucks no I just know stuff that is worth knowing. But since he was my wife’s colleague I said simply no. He looked at me sadly and turned around and said nothing else to me the rest of the night.
Scholarship is important not always necessarily the scholar. I have great respect for those who teach. Hell I have a M.Div. myself. But the Limbaughs, Becks, and Hannitys of the world have something in common with some scholars they have forgotten humility. The more I know the less I know I know. So listening to all no matter where they come or what their title is important. But in the end the one who has been disciplined and enamored enough with their subject to spend years in its study will garner my attention more than others. I have an intuition after listening to the Three that they did not have the humility to open their ideas to the critique of others and so they dropped out. May we always have the courage to be critiqued and then the wisdom to learn from that critique.