Reality checks

Do academics live in the real world? I, personally, think every academic should have a go at a non-academic job or two before disappearing into ‘the academy’, and seeing what a privileged position it has been, yet to see if it’s going to stay so:

Academics have long been criticised for being out of touch with the real world. Matthew Reisz finds that many make great efforts to dispel ivory tower attitudes, but others believe such habits will never disappear

There have always been people born with ambiguous genitalia. In the past, they were often put on display in freak shows and undoubtedly faced a terrible life of exploitation. Nowadays, they are more likely to be exploited intellectually. The “intersex” are interesting and disturbing precisely because they challenge traditional notions of two, rigidly separate, sexes. This can lead them to be co-opted and even celebrated, particularly by academics, in bigger debates about gender.

The danger is that academics can become so immersed in theory and outlying examples that they become incapable of appreciating the way that non-academics approach these issues. In extreme cases, there are scholars who sound surprised that most people tend to be interested in, and certainly to notice, whether their children are boys or girls.

Gender is, of course, notoriously an area that people theorise about in ways that have little to do with how they choose their sexual partners, organise their domestic lives or bring up their children.

So just how far do academics believe and live by what they say? To what extent do they really “live in the real world”?

Read full story in Times Higher Education.