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The Role of Public Intellectuals in Cooperative Extension 


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Shouldn't Extension experts, members of an organization that has always prided itself on providing impartial research-based information, share a place at the table with the nation’s leading public intellectuals? We contend that establishing a core group of public intellectuals at both the state and national levels of discourse should be a core strategy in helping us separate our message from others in this enormously competitive information environment. As a moral obligation Extension educators at all levels have a responsibility, not only as scholars but as public servants, to help put highly complicated, even controversial issues, into sharper perspective on behalf of their clients with the goal of improving their lives. “…no scholar, historian or anyone else is — merely by being a scholar — ethically excused from their own circumstances. We are also participants in our own time and place and cannot retreat from it…” Extension educators are now struggling to navigate their way across an increasingly steep, jagged divide between techno-skeptics, who harbor a deep mistrust of technology and its long-term implications, and techies, who, despite some misgivings, generally believe that each technological advance ultimately works to secure a better life for all of us. With this refinement has come a clearer understanding of the environmental costs associated with scientific and techno Who is better equipped to serve the bridging the gap that exists in understanding environmental costs, benefits, and technological process.

There will be an increasing need for public intellectuals from many different disciplines within Extension to explain how this new farming model will be expressed and how it ultimately will affect them. Herein lies an enormous opportunity for Extension — an opportunity for profound organizational transformation. This presentation was conducted at Galaxy 2013. See page 5 for a more detailed explanation

Jim Langcuster and Anne Adrian were the presenters

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The Role of Public Intellectuals in Cooperative Extension 

  1. 1. The Role of Public Intellectuals in Cooperative Extension Jim Langcuster Communications and Marketing Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System @extensionguy Anne Mims Adrian Social Media Strategist Military Families Learning Network-eXtension @aafromaa Galaxy IV September 2013 #extG4
  2. 2. Neil deGrasse Tyson One of the nation’s premier public intellectuals Known for communicating astrophysics concepts in a witty, compelling form and in a way people readily understand
  3. 3. What is a Public Intellectual? Someone who deals with ideas and knowledge within the context of public discourse, usually within mass media.
  4. 4. What is a Public Intellectual? Op-ed pieces, magazine columns, Sunday morning network news interview programs, interviewed on public radio/TV. Social media, an important addition, may be the front door to the mass media presence.
  5. 5. Post Morrill Act Challenges Overwhelming and ever growing amount of information Democratization dialogue Cacophony of voices User generated content, filters, & distribution Media mediating human relationships (Mike Welsch) Individuals are empowered to research and formulate their own opinions
  6. 6. Post Morrill Act Challenges Fewer people know of Cooperative Extension A continued need to make ag production more efficient Public challenges to technological advances in ag is growing A growing need to make sense of trends and conflicts and misapplied research
  7. 7. Mark Bittman food and cooking writer author of Cooking at Home with a Four- Star Chef, former The New York Times Columnist. Charles Blow journalist and visual op-ed columnist for The New York Times. David Brooks political and cultural commentator and author of The Social Animal Erik Brynjolfsson MIT Economics Professor and author of Race Against the Machine and Wired for Innovation. Gail Collins journalist, op-ed columnist, blogger, and author of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present Maureen Dowd columnist for The New York Times and best-selling author of Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk Examples of Public Intellectuals
  8. 8. Thomas L. Friedman journalist, for The New York Times columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The World Is Flat: Paul Krugman Economics Professor at Princeton University, columnist, and author of End This Depression Now! Andrew McAfee MIT professor, author of Enterprise 2.0 and Race Against the Machine Andrew Sullivan columnist for The Sunday Times of London and a blogger Neil deGrasse Tyson astrophysicist and science communicator Director Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium George F . Will newspaper columnist, journalist, and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner Examples of Public Intellectuals
  9. 9. Characteristics of #CoopExt Public Intellectuals
  10. 10. Aggregators AND Curators Providing insights within deeply enriched contexts
  11. 11. Public Intellectuals Bridge the Gap
  12. 12. Traditional Academics as Public Intellectuals? In The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe, 1987, Jacoby reported that no serious American thinker under the age of 45 was writing for anyone other than academics, or able to. "Intellectuals who write with vigor and clarity may be as scarce as low rents in New York."
  13. 13. Why Extension as Public Intellectuals? Have understanding of current scientific models and science Can bridge the divide between opposing opinions Articulate the elements of scientific models Explain importance of science in context
  14. 14. Traits of Public Intellectuals Scholarly, though not necessarily academic Highly literate Articulate with finesse Passionate Opinionated
  15. 15. Public Intellectuals Develop and support spokespersons Listen and understand debates Aggregate, curate and make sense Build reputation for providing value Be active in online social spaces Practice disruptive messaging
  16. 16. A Cadre of Public Intellectuals Social media Op-ed writers Effective and compelling speakers Develop disruptive messaging Supported (Extension administration and Communication Units) as spokespersons
  17. 17. Moral Obligation as Public Servants “…no scholar, historian or anyone else is — merely by being a scholar — ethically excused from their own circumstances. We are also participants in our own time and place and cannot retreat from it…” Tony Judt
  18. 18. Photo Credits
  19. 19. The Role of Public Intellectuals in Cooperative Extension by Jim Langcuster and Anne Mims Adrian, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. When using photos from this presentation, please note and adhere to their CC license.