I think it's used to valorize certain kinds of public activity - oped writing, essays in fancy literary magazines, prestige stuff - and not others. For me, activism, community arts (music, theater, fine arts, etc.), working with local farmers, volunteering, and more, are at least as valuable acts of public engagement as a fancy essay in the New Yorker. When scholars engage the broader public, however you define it, in ways inspired or informed by their expertise, they are being public intellectuals.
Today I'm joining a professor of communication, of social work, and our director of ministry to discuss this at Dominican, where I teach. One day every fall we cancel classes to hold a symposium around the concepts of Caritas et Veritas, the motto of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Program is here.
My panel is:
11:15am F. Public Intellectualism, Scholarship, and EngagementWatch for tweets using the #PublicScholars hashtage today.
John DeCostanza, Jacob Lesniewski, David Perry, CarrieLynn Reinhard
This panel will address public engagement, community-based learning, community-based research, public intellectualism, and public scholarship. Each panelist sees the ability, and indeed the necessity, of engaging with the public outside of the classroom and off the college campus as a primary indicator that they have managed to fulfill their calling as academics and professionals in academic settings.