While reading David Barthomae’s article, “Inventing the University”, I was impressed how he acknowledged the privilege and divide between students and educators in college settings.
However, I was also struck with an irony that despite him acknowledging the divide and how it is limiting to students, he spoke with a flowery, and complex language and his article took the role of every other dry, academic article we come across in this field. There was something strange about the fact that Bartholmae spoke about making writing and academic papers something accessible to everyone, but did not bother to simplify his language for a wider audience.
As I read, I was baffled at Batholomae’s insistence that he wanted to close the gap between teachers and students while using the language of the educators. If he truly wanted to close that gap, he should be speaking in language that the everyman should be able to understand.
It wasn’t until he spoke of audiences that I understood why he chose such a way to present his point:
He was not trying to reach out to the students. He’s reaching out to the educators who put that divide between students and teachers in the first place. With that simple realization, his article took a new, rather refreshing turn.
What started off as another pretentious, academic article turned into a man speaking and pleading with educators to evolve with the changing times and try something new, and doing it all in their language. It showed Bartholomae had the ability to play the game and work the system from the inside. He could be viewed with the same respect and prestige as his peers, but also speak up for the everyman.
Bartholomae proved he could use his privilege to speak up for those who lacked the same opportunities and education as him, and for that I believe he deserves to be commended for his efforts, even if it was a whole 30 years ago, and we are still encountering the same problems he spoke of. Still, he should be credited for his efforts, and I think his article is one worthy of studying and taking heed of.