Sometimes I wonder if the most educated people in the world are also the most hidden from view. The people I'm thinking of spend little time promoting themselves to the public and most of their time reading. And reading, and reading--deeply, broadly, and with an open mind.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Unlike your typical academic, what they read is unconstrained by specialization and publication pressures. Nor is it filtered through the prism of a prevailing Theory to which they must show allegiance, or the prism of a personal thesis that has become their professional badge of identity (and/or the centerpiece of a tenure application).
Their motivation for reading isn't to conduct a literature review within their specialization, or to mine for further evidence for their latest hypotheses or against those of their competitors. What motivates them, instead, is pure curiosity.
The people I'm thinking may be "failed academics"--nth year graduate students or unemployed PhD-holders--or they may be people who opted against an academic career precisely because the narrow focus and commitment to prevailing theories didn't appeal to them. They may have trust funds, but most have day jobs; they tend not to have children or other commitments that would take time away from their precious hours for reading.
I suspect there are a lot of people out there who fit this description--full of knowledge and wisdom. Some of them would be happy to share it with the rest of us--though many of us may resent the intrusion by lay people into what we've claimed as our certified, professional areas of expertise.
Most of this quiet, agenda-free, wide-ranging intelligence goes unnoticed--except, perhaps, here and there in the blogosphere. Wouldn't it be nice, somehow, to give it a broader platform?