The “open letter,” written ostensibly to a specific audience but published for all to read, has a long and worthy heritage.
On blogs, unfortunately, open letters tend to take the form of complaining that the intended audience has–inexplicably!–failed to consider the point of view of the author. Written in tones ranging from rueful disappointment to outright rage, they are, usually, more interesting as exercises in catharsis than as persuasion or advice. (Search for “open letter apple” or “open letter microsoft” or, somewhat recursively, “open letter google.”)
It’s actually hard not to disagree with Merlin Mann’s open letter from the universe, denouncing open letters:
Nevertheless, at ProfHacker we have a great series of “open letters,” which might be useful to people here at the start of the new academic year. Our open letters are different in two ways: first, they don’t complain about their intended audiences, but simply look to pass on “things we wish we’d known”; second, and far more important, they are “open” like a wiki is open: they represent the views of many contributors, not just the one person who happened to write the post. That way, their contents are hopefully more useful to a wider range of readers.
Here, then, is the series:
- “An Open Letter to New Graduate Students”
- “An Open Letter to Part-Time Graduate Students”
- “An Open Letter to 2010-2011′s First-Time Tenure-Track Professors”
- “An Open Letter to 2010-2011′s Newly Tenured Professors”
- “An Open Letter to 2010-2011′s New Department Chairs”
(Some of these have dates, but like A Tribe Called Quest said, “don’t say the year, so this is for eternity.”)
This fall, look for open letters to (and from) faculty on contingent appointments, new administrators (or those considering a move to administration), and more. If there’s a topic you’d like to see an open letter about, let us know in comments!
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