There is no doubt that we are one of the most educated generations, with over 800,000 people getting a degree in 2018/2019 (UK) alone. That’s an insane number. We are heading into a time whereby if you don’t have a degree and aren’t in over £27,750 debt, you may just be the ‘odd one out’. We have access to a wealth of information made possible through the global use of the internet that no other generation has had.
I’m the first person to get a degree in my family, similar to that of many of my friends. I come home, full of the knowledge of readings, papers, extracts, books, films… all the jazz. I’m confident in myself that I worked hard and that I’m full of useful knowledge that’s brilliant and the world is great blah blah blah. However, I was asked to read one of my friends' essays which was focused on climate change and I had to google every third word. I’m not playing games, every third word. I panicked and doubted my hard work. The worst thing was, even after I spent all afternoon googling words, I had no idea what the essay was about… I sat and decoded the maze of an essay that was sent to me, only to walk away not a drop wiser.
Have you ever gone into a bank to be showered with large words that you didn’t understand? It’s called ‘playing a word game’ and that’s what I’m talking about today. We often see it in politics too!
The premise behind academic articles is that they are supposed to be easily understood by everyone; some of which of course abide by this. But as I read through my readings and my feminist literature (extracurricular), I realised that the readings were so much more than social exclusionary, they were equations. I’d walk away feeling stupid. I felt excluded from this group of people who are talking about such smart things; a group I felt I could never be a part of. Each word in these readings denoted 5 different and yet similar meanings, only for me to sit and ponder as to which one fits the bill since the next 6 words didn’t make sense either. My inner monologue was screaming, inferiority complexes were flying, I began drowning in doubt as to what I just spent all my money on.
Throughout university, I would spruce up my essays by adding in a 10 letter word that was grammatically sexy and I believed would up my marks; which of course it did. But I’d end up writing pieces that I knew nothing about. I’ve been conscious of this for the past few months, exceptionally aware that whilst the education system is priding itself on the inclusion of education, literature is heading towards being socially exclusionary through cryptic language.
We can all write amazing pieces, but how are we supposed to bring about change and make people understand, question and act if our message is riddled with words that nobody understands. I’ve primarily found this whilst looking at my extracurricular readings. There is no prize for writing an amazing piece that creates no change other than confusion. That isn’t saying write everything simply or don’t use that big word you’ve just learnt, but it is saying that in the world of academia, we need to be more inclusionary of those who do not have access to world class education.
I sat with someone recently who disagreed with me, strongly. She felt it was her right to be able to write in the “educated manner in which she became accustomed to”. Fairplay, I’m not denying your right to write in whatever way you like. But when I see great pieces of writing that are socially and economically exclusionary but have an amazing message, I wonder who is that message for…
It can be argued that it’s classist to write in a way that only a small sector of the population can understand. If we want to make change, whether it be political, social, economical or ecological, we must create a message that is understandable and inclusive.