In my previous post I talked about how I go about choosing what to write a trade book on. In some cases I have chosen to write on a topic that involves a well-worked field in biblical studies or early Christianity, that has not, however, been introduced to a wider reading public. I’ve always found it highly unfortunate that scholars as a rule are not interested in communicating with non-scholars. I should be clear about one thing, though: some scholars – or rather, most scholars – simply don’t *know* how to communicate with non-scholars about whatever it is they’re doing. And to a large extent, it’s not actually their fault.
Many (most?) scholars don’t know how to communicate with others is that they were never trained to do that. In fact – this will come as a surprise to many people – back when I was in graduate school, in the 1980s, people being trained to become university teachers almost *NEVER* had any instruction on how to teach. My program was typical of most. My courses were *entirely* on academic topics – in my case, topics related to the interpretation of the New Testament and early Christianity. But the same applied to virtually all other fields I knew about: English, history, philosophy, classics – not to mention the social sciences and sciences. I never had a single course in my PhD program that had *anything* to do with teaching to, say, undergraduates.
The PhD degree was a research degree. Students were trained to be scholars. They were taught how to do ground-breaking research. They were taught how to speak the language of scholarship to other scholars. They were taught how to write academic book reviews, and academic articles, and academic books; they were taught how to deliver academic papers to academic audiences; they were taught the jargon, the lingo, the typical catch-phrases, the insider language of the field.
The one thing they were never taught was how to communicate the findings of scholarship to the non-scholar.
That seems very strange indeed, looking back on it….
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