Reimagining the Public Intellectual in Education: Making Scholarship Matter
reviewed by Darrell Hucks - January 26, 2017
Title: Reimagining the Public Intellectual in Education: Making Scholarship Matter
Author(s): Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin and Cynthia Reyes
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 143312520X, Pages: 167, Year: 2015
Search for book at Amazon.com
For decades now, the notion of speaking solely to those in the ivory tower has been frequently referenced to connote that ones scholarship has become so highfalutin that only other academics could understand. In the historical context of public education, obstacles remain between directly linking academic scholarship with those who are working and learning in our public schools. Many education scholars have come to realize that speaking solely to those in the ivory tower does little to benefit the multiple stakeholders involved in education. It also seems to serve as a mechanism for maintaining the status quo. The question becomes how does one engage in scholarship that speaks to multiple audiences and is actively invested in social justice?
In their new edited volume, Reimagining the Public Intellectual in Education: Making Scholarship Matter, Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin and Cynthia Reyes explore the pivotal role that education scholars should play in informing public policy. In each poignant chapter, the authors of this collection employ narrative accounts of their journeys as scholars in the field of education. This is the foundation for necessary work in addressing issues of equity and injustice. According to the editors,
[t]he focus of the chapters is on lessons learned by public scholars engaging in multiple public arenas from the local to the national and internationalfrom classrooms, school board meetings, blogs, newspaper editorials, media outlets, international programs, cyberspace, Web 2.0, and so on (p. xiii).
The book is divided into three overarching thematic sections and a concluding section regarding implications. In Section One, Making Academic Language Accessible, four chapters explore the nuances of academic language. They also discuss issues of access and resources. Special education scholar Michael F. Giangreco opens with a humorous, yet serious, reflection on his use of satirical cartoons to address challenging issues in his field for students, families, and teachers. He demonstrates that these types of cartoons should be used as tools to inform practices. Next, language and literacy scholar Valerie Kinloch discusses her experiences collaborating with urban youth. For her, their voices are necessary and equally valuable in the realm of public scholarship. In the third chapter, scholar-activists Margarita Machado-Casas, Belinda Bustos Flores, and Enrique Murillo, Jr. challenge notions of the work of public intellectuals by naming themselves Movement Intellectuals. By doing so, they capture the focus that is necessary to bring about change. They see the work of scholars as claiming spaces upholding the value of communal knowledge and social capital to transform public spheres. The final chapter in this section is by education and social services scholar Robert J. Nash. The author passionately discusses his history of using Scholarly Personal Narrative (SPN) to effectively bridge the gaps between academic and nonacademic worlds to promote communication and authentic understanding. This increases the value of scholarship beyond the confines of the academy.
The three chapters in Section Two, Engaging the Public Through Media and Web 2.0, explore the impact of media and technology on the public intellectual. Freelance writer Susan Ohanian uses her experiences as a published author and educator to insightfully grapple with the complexity of public intellectualism in todays climate of corporatized education. She challenges readers to think about why certain educational voices are missing from the publics attention and the reasons why this continues. Next, Sherman Dorn, Director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State Universitys Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, explores blogging as a tool for professors to reach the general public. He suggests that blogs can help educators communicate beyond the academic realm and bridge connections with the broader public. It can also promote necessary public understanding, enlightenment, and interaction. In the third and final chapter in this section, William J. Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, shares the practical components involved for educators who are invested in the well-being of students by using electronic media to speak to policymakers and other parties who exist beyond the walls of academia.
Section Three focuses on Personal Dilemmas through its four chapters. It begins with work by William Ayers, the distinguished professor, education scholar, and social justice activist. The author opens with a sobering reflection on his experiences as an educator and public intellectual. It is both inspiring and frustrating at the same time. The former is true because his focus is on children and the public good. In contrast, the latter is also true because his journey illustrates that situations and access to the public may not always go in the committed individuals favor. Ayers suggests that our mission as public intellectuals is to occupy and disrupt spaces that have been irreproachable, stagnant at times, and in dire need of our analysis. On a related note, JuliAnna Ávila, an assistant professor of English education and digital literacies, embraces her commitment to students who are often underestimated and underserved. She also speaks about her commitments to being a tenure-track faculty member. Ávila openly discusses her successes, challenges, and motivations in a way that many scholars will be able to identify with. Next, Alan and Barri Tinkler, professors of education at the University of Vermont, share their collective insights and experiences regarding their lives as public intellectuals who are committed to supporting the public community and service learning. This commitment permeates their previous work serving as Peace Corp Fellows in Papua, New Guinea. What is notable is their non-missionary stance and responsive approach to the community. Reciprocity situates them within the community they serve and not above it. Finally in this section, Steven Jay Gross, a professor of educational administration, weaves a compelling chapter detailing his balance between being a public intellectual and an academic scholar. He discusses his role as founding figure in the New DEEL (Democratic-Ethical Educational Leadership) movement. New DEEL promotes leadership that is broadly defined and inclusive of students, teachers, families, and communities. They also work alongside traditional administrative leaders. The author then shares a powerful framework for effective leadership in todays schools and universities. Gross closes with his new goals as a public intellectual and academic scholar that will resonate with many.
In the concluding chapter of the book, co-editors Reyes and Gerstl-Pepin delve deeply into the implications of reimagining the public intellectual within the field of education in todays society. They charge educational research scholars to commit to their responsibility on national, international, community, and local levels. They also include how public intellectuals use available media to engage the public with intention. The editors provide a useful synthesis of the contributors work and the overarching themes discussed.
Reimagining the Public Intellectual in Education is a timely and critical read given the current shifts in the educational landscape across the globe. Scholars have a critical role in continuing to affect positive change on multiple levels of society. This is a challenge for new researchers. This book will allow them to learn from a range of academics who share their lives in an effort to make sense of these experiences. This insight provides a blueprint for successfully approaching this crucial work within the academy and beyond.