111/365 All We Need Do is Listen to Public Scholarship

In a recent conversation with Scott Nine of IDEA (Institute for Democratic Education in America), I mentioned the need for more public scholarship.

While the work at Creative Commons is certainly a way forward for public scholarhip, and open academic journals such as though mentioned in Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence fit a certain bill, neither is what I meant.

There is a scholarship in the public – a knowing of a community. What I meant, and what hasn’t left my brain since the conversation, was the scholarship that resides within the public. Because of who Scott and I are, the conversation centered around education and the scholarship within neighborhood about the kind of school needed by the community.

Not signified by any diploma or formal academic recognition, the public affected by schools closing and schools opening are scholars of their communities. They know the people of the neighborhood. They know the history of the neighborhood. They know.

While initiatives like Story Corps and others who endeavor to capture the stories of the people in these communities and communicate them to a larger audience, this isn’t quite the same idea as public scholarship. Perhaps it is, but it is not the full potential of such scholarship. The corpus of knowledge within a given public sphere could should be leveraged to inform the policies of civic policy long before the public comment period. These public scholars are useful consultants.

Perhaps their is a feeling that this scholarship is not in the language of academics. It is unlikely to appear in any journal or pass the scholarly review process (unless it is a true peer-review process).

This misalignment with what we have been taught to respect as the scholarship worth heeding draws the impluse to suggest what is necessary is helping these scholars to tell their stories or to take those stories and re-tell them in a way we find more familiar.

This too speaks to a hierachical construct. Something would be lost in translation. What is necessary, instead, is listening to the scholarship, finding it, and paying it the attention we would pay the latest study from Pew or MacArthur.

In many ways, it is the work David Loitz and the rest of the team at Imagining Learning are doing as they lead listening session across the country asking students how education can be fixed.

Our communities are full of public scholars and their bodies of work. Perhaps we should enroll in whatever courses they’re teaching.


Here’s a sample of Imagining Learning’s work:

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