More often than I would like to admit – as someone who is in their final year of university – I find myself reading sentences over two or three times before I’m able to understand the meaning.
In my experience, this difficulty is not a result of complex ideas but rather the overcomplicated way in which our textbooks explain otherwise simple concepts.
The more we are exposed to this kind of language the easier it becomes to understand, and as university educated people we are able to break down these sentences and eventually make sense of important theories. But what about everyone else?
In journalism we learn to write for the greater public keeping our language as simple as possible so that everyone is able to understand the news.
As it turns out, our society sees the value in having all people – whether they went to University or not – understand and be aware of what is going on in their communities.
What I don’t understand is why at the same time our society does not see the value in having all people from all different backgrounds and experiences understand the concepts that we learn in a university classroom.
It seems to me that the only plausible reason for using such complicated terms is to exclude a certain demographic from the conversation.
Is it truly that we think the masses would be unable to comprehend these ideas or are we benefiting from a lack of knowledge other than a select few?
It is possible that scholars like being seen as a higher class of people and purposefully write in a way that only other “educated” people of their same class will be able to understand.
In many ways, this is how the educated gain power over the rest of the world. Politicians, public relations representatives and lawyers are all examples od professions that depend on fancy language to persuade and often times manipulate.
This type of exclusion has been going on for centuries resulting in the same groups remaining in power. Historically, it was agreed upon and understood that the purpose of this language difference was to create a distinct barrier between classes. A breach in this barrier was seen as dangerous to those in power.
An example of this is seen in the life of 16th century philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli was once a very powerful political figure in Florence until he was taken over by Lorenzo de Medici. It was then, in the year 1532 that Machiavelli wrote his famous book, The Prince, and dedicated it to Medici.
The book was 26 chapters explaining how to acquire and maintain power. While some historians believe Machiavelli wrote this to regain his political power others believe this was done in spite of Medici.
You see, The Prince was written in simple language so that even the common folk could understand, making its very existence dangerous to those in power. For this, Machiavelli was tortured and imprisoned but eventually let go.