Accessibility Tools (CTRL+U)
Hide the tools

After hiding the tool, if you would like to re-enable it, just press CTRL+U to open this window. Or, move your cursor near the tool to display it.

Did you know intellectuals are lousy at talking about their work?  

Posted by:
March 3, 2015

Dr. Amy Young, professor of communication, explains at this year’s TEDxTacoma

What comes to mind when you think of the word “intellectual”? If you type “intellectuals are” into Google, the top three responses are “stupid,” “useless,” and “annoying.” Dr. Amy Young, professor of communication, argues that the fault lies with the intellectuals themselves at the TEDxTacoma event on Saturday, March 21 at 3pm.

“I would argue, we seem irrelevant because we are lousy at talking about what it is we do, what it is we study, and why it matters,” Young says.

Young researched this phenomenon in part of her new book, Prophets, Gurus & Pundits: Rhetorical Styles & Public Engagement (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) where she describes the following.

Until the early part of the 20th century experts, or “public intellectuals,” could translate expertise for audiences outside of their field. They wrote for magazines and newspapers, gave public lectures, and were known as thought leaders in their communities. Toward the middle part of the last century came the intellectual “witch hunts.” These drove the majority of intellectuals into the academy, seeking the protective cover of tenure against the frothing-at-the-mouth commie hunters. And there they stayed.

To get, and stay, in the ivory tower, academics have to publish works, which requires speaking a language even other specialists don’t always understand. Young notes that the real problem might be fear.

“It is so much safer, in many ways, to preach to your own choir, to write in equivocations, to not take stands,” Young says. “In many ways, this talk is one of the ways I am trying to move outside the comfort of the classroom, to move beyond the limits of the ivory tower, and to engage audiences who are savvy and astute, but may not be experts in my field. I am trying to prove Google wrong.”

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) phenomenon comes to the South Sound with TEDxTacoma, where live speakers and interdisciplinary presentations inspire deep discussion and new connections in our community. This year’s theme is “Did you know…” Tickets are $39 and $79, which includes a post-show reception.

About Amy Young

Dr. Anna Marjorie “Amy” Young is originally from Bellevue, Washington where she graduated from Bellevue High School.  She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, earning a B.A. in Communication Studies. Upon graduation, she worked for IBM as a Client Representative, managing executive relationships and consulting on technology and business decisions with clients in the public sector in Tennessee.