NRL News

If you had only one minute…..

by | Feb 22, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Abortion_If-They-SayreI was about to close up shop for the week when I ran across an article at Inside Higher Education headlined “Snapshot Dissertation.” I had an intuition what the subject matter might be about and sure enough that’s what it was. In two paragraphs, or fewer, I’ll show you why it speaks to us, and make a request.

In a nutshell Duke University has what reporter Colleen Flaherty describes as an initiative to “forge connections between academics and other community members.” It’s called Scholars and Publics and the hope (my summary here) is to find a common language by which the scholarly community and the rest of us can “talk.” It’s starting in the sciences, but the intent is to spread across all disciplines.

One component is for graduate students to be able to encapsulate their dissertations in a 30-60-second video. This is not a variation (I don’t think) of the idea that if you can’t explain something orally, you don’t really understand it. Instead the objective is to “teach [students] to imagine explaining what they’re learning to their parents or grandparents,” according to Huntington Willard, director of Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, in an e-mail interview with Flaherty.

The application to us is obvious, is it not? We can explain the case for life at an academic level only other professors of philosophers can grasp. Or we can make our argument in language that is pure emotion. Or we can use pro-life “jargon” whose meaning is self-evident (to us) but leaves those outside the “community” scratching  their heads. Or we can give them a succinct presentation that our neighbors will understand and ponder.

I am NOT asking for one or two minute videos. That is too time-consuming and would eliminate too many people (including me) in a hurry.

What I am asking is for our readers to write down the equivalent of what could be said out loud in a one or two minutes. What would you say to someone who is not hostile or belligerent (that’s a whole other topic) but simply has never engaged the abortion issue directly?

Many of you may have already done—had conversations with the “mushy middle—but most may not have. But what would you say? What do you think you could offer in such a limited timespan that might get the person thinking about the core issues?

I could offer categories, but that would defeat the whole purpose. I’d like to read what YOU would say—or have said—that could gently pry open a mind that is, if not closed shut, stuck.

Send your thoughts to me at

(Flaherty’s story can be read at

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