In response to “Academic language limits accessibility”

By in Opinions
Big words wouldnt exist if we didnt need to use them.

When discussing the merits of academia, we should be wary of dispelling the foundations of our current knowledge — doing away with difficult academic language would only limit future learners.

An article published in the Sheaf in January argued that, often, learning how to read and write in a more academic manner is inaccessible to people, and therefore, should be disregarded in future post-secondary learning. But, wouldn’t removing these so-called language barriers also limit people from achieving greater knowledge?

I was initially intrigued by the article, as I’ve been struggling to understand some difficult philosophy and English texts, and I hoped it would provide some suggestions or study tips to enhance my vocabulary and allow me to fully engage with the material. Instead, the author complained about the difficulty of university texts without any consideration of our responsibility as students to at least try to comprehend the material.

The purpose of academic writing is to present complex, higher-level topics — which require higher-level language to be discussed — in a way that is free from the presenter’s own biases, making the material more objective.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that, to a certain extent, academic language should be more comprehensible. However, that should come down to requiring clearer explanations on the parts of some writers, not lowering the standard of language across the board.

When push comes to shove, I would much rather challenge myself to read higher-level texts at an academic level than diminish my vocabulary and read more-biased papers written in slang or vulgarism.

Learning to read academic papers opens up an entire world of knowledge — which in turn, makes us more successful students. How can we strive for excellence, when instead of rising to the high standards of academia, we expect the university to lower itself to our own poor standards? Excellence is among the University of Saskatchewan’s core values, but mediocrity is not.

The harsh reality is that the subjects we discuss at university — such as nuclear physics, child psychology, ethical relativism and more — cannot be discussed in any other way. Academic texts are written by professionals and experts in these fields, who are subject to very high academic standards.

More importantly, the intended audience of these papers is other educated individuals, not everyday people at the bus station. It has little to do with exclusivity or being in a higher social class and has more to do with the higher level of understanding we expect to achieve in university. Academic writing is simply supposed to reflect the particular knowledge of the author, and thus, challenge student audiences to seek an understanding of the material.

So, the next time an academic article seems too difficult to read, crack open a dictionary and rise to academia’s standards — don’t try to lower the university to yours.

Wyatt Bernier

Photo: Gabbie Torres