Answering questions nobody’s asking on pages nobody’s reading

This is from Thomas Sowell:

“Too much of what is called ‘education’ is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”

Higher education is today almost entirely vocational education, however unsuited to almost any vocation the products of that education system are. What is an even greater scandal is that the vast wasteland of the education system is supposedly dedicated to original research and furthering knowledge. Unfortunately, the last place you are likely to find any of this is in one of our modern universities, which are dedicated to conformity and killing dead anything resembling original thought. At the link to the quote by Sowell, there was another article even more to the point: Why Professors Are Writing Crap That Nobody Reads. All of this is bizarrely true.

Professors usually spend about 3-6 months (sometimes longer) researching and writing a 25-page article to submit an article to an academic journal. And most experience a twinge of excitement when, months later, they open a letter informing them that their article has been accepted for publication, and will therefore be read by…

… an average of ten people.

Yes, you read that correctly. The numbers reported by recent studies are pretty bleak:

– 82 percent of articles published in the humanities are not even cited once.

– Of those articles that are cited, only 20 percent have actually been read.

– Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors.

The final para is exactly right:

Most Western academics today are using their intellectual capital to answer questions that nobody’s asking on pages that nobody’s reading.

I spent a quarter of a century writing submissions to governments and government bureaucracies and on not a single occasion did I find anything written by an academic worth citing and quoting. Almost none of it is designed to answer questions anyone is interested in knowing the answer to, only in having a string of publications that will allow you to keep your job. This is almost certainly less true or even untrue in the natural sciences, but in the social sciences and “humanities” it is absolutely the case in virtually every instance.

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