John Seals is a software engineer who almost accidentally created a program that advanced bone marrow cancer treatment by decades. He’s also a car and motorcycle authority, and a regular writer for AutoTrader.com.
Kit Kiefer has been the editor-in-chief of numerous sports publications, and has run multi-million dollar consultancy firms. He’s published books on sports, rock ’n’ roll, and more. He’s currently the corporate communications manager at Delta Dental.
Barry Rageth is a vice-president at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, ultimately responsible for every mortgage WF writes in the western half of the U.S. He oversees thousands of employees at facilities that stretch from Minneapolis to Las Vegas.
These three men have several things in common. They’re all men, for starters. They’re all at least five-feet-11 inches tall. They all like pizza.
And here’s another thing they have in common: Outside of a strict academic setting, they’ve never had to cite a source in ALA or MLA format.
Which is why I find Day One of any class and reading the syllabus absolutely fascinating. There are certain things you learn, right there on Day One, having read nothing but the syllabus. And one of those things is whether or not you’re in a class taught by an academic…who wants you to be an academic.
Sometimes the snake eats its own tail. And sometimes, all academics know is academia. Don’t get me wrong: There are a number of instructors here at the mighty CSUN with a wealth of experience and knowledge that they can and do share. But there is also a minority who are college professors qualified to be college professors…and not much else. They know academia. Period. They teach academia. Period. And they want you to be an academic, largely because that’s all they know.
Trust me: You could be stamping out bumpers on an assembly line, curing cancer, or dancing in the Bolshoi Ballet and chances are, your rigorous devotion to ALA style will serve no practical purpose. At the end of the day, unless you become an academic, there may very well be no less marketable or practical skill than citing sources.
No, I’m not advocating for shutting down the library—that would be pretty damn stupid. And yes, I understand that the march of accumulated knowledge is just that—accumulated. Truth-telling and passing along of knowledge are necessary to building greater knowledge. I’d only suggest that there are better ways to do this that promote true understanding than quoting reports.
Okay, here’s your flip side: Lou Bank is a literary agent, runs a distributorship for mezcal and spices (really!), and is vice-president at the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation, a literacy charity for at-risk youth. He has cited sources in academic format, both in grant writing and in essays he’s written on child abuse.
So maybe there’s another side. I’m willing to be turned around on this. Just do me a favor, huh? Tell me about it. Show me an example that works in the real world, that changes people’s lives for the better. No need to write me a dissertation on it.
I’ve unloaded produce trucks at 3 a.m. I’m glad I don’t have to do that any longer. I currently run a charity that saves people’s lives—or at least that’s what some of those people have told me. Much like the Seals, Kiefers and Rageths of the world, I’ve been able to do these things without picking and parsing scholarly journals.
Look, at the end of the day, bench presses aren’t the most practical thing on the planet, either. Unless a refrigerator falls on you while you’re lying on your back, the very specific set of muscles you use and the specific motion you make is not a great matter of practical concern. But there is some other benefit, right? Core strength? Overall fitness? I “get it” there. I see the benefit. I’m not so sure I get it when it comes to academia for academia’s sake.
—McLauchlin, James J. (1968-present, USA). Performance. Not a life of quiet desperation. At least not yet.