Thursday, April 8, 2010

Professors: These are worth your tuition?

This was forwarded to me by David Koller. It was a comment on an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Comment 10. By supertatie - April 08, 2010

After 19 years in higher ed, it has been my observation that academics - aspiring and actual - generally have an inflated sense of their own intellectual importance, BUT (and this is significant, in my view) a disproportionately negative sense of the importance of any and every other profession and career choice.

Thus they (like "Charlotte") wax rhapsodic about the ivory tower, and couch in thinly veiled disdain their views of having to do something - anything - else. Which tells you plenty about what they think of everyone else who DOES choose those jobs. ("Well, someone must do them, I suppose," they sniff, waving pale uncalloused hands loftily as they dismiss lawyers, accountants, car dealers, and chefs).

There are so many things wrong with this viewpoint that it's hard to know where to start, but here are just a few observations:

1. If academe is so wonderful, then why do so many academicians spend most of their careers (if the Chronicle is any indication) complaining about teaching loads, grading papers, diffident students, "helicopter" parents, foul-tempered colleagues, juggling parenting and one of the most flexible work schedules in the world, publication requirements, the tenure process, biased peer reviewers, narrow-minded journal editors, knuckle-dragging administrators, and budget cuts? This strikes me as comparable to becoming a garbage collector and then complaining constantly about the smell.

2. If - as has been the pedagogy meme for some time now - humans are or at least ought to be 'lifelong learners,' then why is it not also true that one can be a leader, a teacher, and a visionary in the capacity of something other than a professor? Great litigators shape the law and provide redress for the injured. Brilliant engineers invent things and devise solutions that improve the lives of millions of people. Physicians, nurses and others in the health care professions save lives, and treat illness and injury. Midwives deliver babies. Hospice care workers help people make the transition from life to death (and, one hopes, beyond), chefs feed us, pastors comfort us, contractors build our homes ... the list goes on and on. Every career choice brings with it the opportunity to make a difference, to be a role model, and to influence and impact people. And, I would argue, even more, perhaps than cranking out perfunctorily reams of papers with citations to others' works most of which (let's be honest) have not been read, published in journals that (more honesty here), few other than a handful of peers will ever read.

Here is my advice to those "vane-ly" seeking academic posts: GO DO SOMETHING ELSE. MAKE something. BUILD something. SELL something. Start a business. Provide a good, or a service that other people are willing to pay for. Heck, write a book, if you think you have something to say.

Academia tends to remove those who work there from the reality that at least some of the worth of what they do is or should be measured by others' willingness to PAY for it. They can disregard that necessity that drives most others outside of academe, because the dirty job of coming up with the funds to keep going is handled by advancement, development, or (in the case of public universities), lobbyists and the legislature. True, there are grants to apply for, but persuading a research review committee is a far different thing than persuading the average Joe or Jane on the street to part with their hard-earned cash for what you're selling.

I think that the best thing for a lot of these Ph.Ds without job offers would be to stop whining, go out into the "real world" and get some of the satisfaction that comes from doing something that isn't purely theoretical."

The writer omitted the fact that because the faculty is overwhelmingly leftist and hubristic in their rectitude, they believe all wisdom resides left of center. So, in exchange for students' fortune of money and time, instead of a full-dimensioned education, they spew a truncated, arcana-larded brainwashing.


Niels Teunis said...

The university is a place that requires faculty to be professionally selfish. That is just the nature of the institution. It is always about my work, my career, my this and that.

Something else though. Right wing people who complain about left wing people, but fail to bring arguments are dangerous. Win an argument for once, based on reasoning instead of shouting. "Hell no you can't" is not an argument. Reminding people that Reagan exploded the budget deficit is a fact. Can we keep to the facts, instead of demagogy?

Marty Nemko said...

The literature is replete with data to support the contention that the faculty is overwhelmingly leftist and shoves it, without true balance, down the throats of its unsuspecting students. A few examples:

Marty Nemko said...

Another example:

Joanne said...

More people going for Ph.D's should read this article. I will bookmark it and if I come across any wide-eyed, budding intellectuals considering a Ph.D I will most certainly show them this article.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the forums at the Chronicle of Higher Ed for years for the entertainment value. There is some jaw dropping stuff there, including the frequent use of the word "hu" instead of he or she. Provides great insight into the world of academia.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this website "What PhD Really Stands For" -

* Patiently hoping for a Degree
* Piled higher and Deeper
* Professorship? hah! Dream on!
* Please hire. Desperate.