Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Seth Blumenthal, contributing editor and lecturer at Boston University. Today, he explores what academics — especially those of us writing about timely topics like alcohol and drugs — should consider when thinking about their audience(s). Public or academic? How do we reach readers? How can we make our work matter? Read on and find out how Dr. Blumenthal considers these questions when analyzing his newest book project.
As I have written on this blog about my brush with marijuana politics, the suburban contest over legalization has exposed fascinating generational and cultural differences within these communities. What accounts for this wide range of opinions about this issue? I propose to look at the role of public school education in shaping the many mythologies surrounding cannabis. Considering this project’s scope, three audiences—academic, policy and education experts or students, and the wider audience interested in marijuana history– emerge as the target readership for my proposed project, Just Say No: A History of Drug Education in American Public Schools. Recently, historians have reconsidered the wider appeal of their scholarship and sparked a robust conversation about reaching a broader audience. To be sure, the specific approaches each of these audiences require are not always compatible, but the topic of drug education provides a unique opportunity to reconcile the differences.