Here is a nice sentence (of many I could have taken) from a reading I need to do in my methodologies course – from Max van Manen’s Meaning and Method: (Hermeneutic) Phenomenology is a Method, from Phenomenology of Practice :

“Hermeneutic phenomenology is a method of abstemious reflection on the basic structures of the lived experience of human existence.” (p.26)

Or this one:

“Especially in the works of contemporary phenomenologists, reflexive reflections on the eidetic, inceptual, and enigmatic nuances of our experiences go far beyond the pure prose of traditional argumentative and concept-driven qualitative discourses.” (p.29)

Why do academics and philosophers write this way? Considering the 4R’s in our coursework, how does language limit the “reader?” There are only a few people in my social circle of educators who would have any sense of the meaning of phenomenology from these sentences, and dare I say not one of them would be able to understand or explain it in a descriptive and accessible way. I sense I would need an entire degree in linguistics to properly and fully understand this statement from an English language perspective, not to mention significantly more coursework in Research Methodologies to unpack the meaning of the words from a perspective of “researcher” (but I will attempt to do it in one week!)

NOTE: I won’t spend a lot of time on it…but I did notice that “hermeneutics” was used in the (Alan) Sokal Affair that basically called out purposely obscure writing.

What purpose does it serve to write like this? Yes, I understand that language is needed for specifics; that as a topic both narrows and deepens its focus, more detailed and nuanced language is needed to give a clear picture.  But have Van Manen and educational research scientists accepted that few regular people would have interest in, or ability to, read their work?  I can only think that the research and investigations being done in any pedagogical field would be better served with a wider reading audience.

And it can be better written for all. We read summaries of a variety of research in magazines, books, websites. There is a whole thriving educational industry dedicated to collating and simplifying research – its core ideas boiled down by edustars online and in the various books put out for mass consumption by publishers like Elevate Edu.

So, if it is possible to write in a way that does not obfuscate, to me, there are only two possible conclusions as I sit and read Van Manen’s words:

  1. Researchers purposely write inaccessibly to support this other level of industry – the dissection, explanation and dissemination of these ideas through less academic sources.
  2. Researchers do not care to speak to anyone beyond a small circle of people that share their brilliance.

I need a break.  This dictionary is heavy.



PHOTO: “fuck, what was it again… ?” by aMbiAncE mOushKiLa is licensed under CC BY 2.0