Twofish's Blog

December 3, 2007

Where did we go wrong?

Filed under: academia — twofish @ 6:41 am

A discussion about the sorry state of academic activism….

I do think that Ph.D. programs should prepare students with the expectation that they will not be full time academics, and despite my dislike over some aspects of my education, by and large, I think my education was very good at doing that, and in talking about the world of adjuncts, we need to have that discussion.  This is part of a larger social discussion about what we need to do to prepare students in general for an uncertain world, since adjuncts make up only one part of the “new proletariat.”  If we can’t figure out how to get decent wages to English Ph.D.’s then we are totally cooked when it comes to high school dropouts.

I’m fascinated by the development of late 19th century history.  In most developed nations, the social revolution that Marx predicted did not come to pass, but that only happened because people with power got scared and passed a series of social reforms that prevented revolution.  One thing that I find interesting is that people in the business elites really do have a social conscience because they know better than anyone, that if they don’t make people wealthy, that the poor are going to take their wealth.  I don’t seem people in academia doing this in any way that is effective.  I think the main problem is that people in academia are in their own little world that is disconnected with the lives of most people.

I’m curious that academics at least on the Chronicle of Higher Education forums don’t seem to take a wider more active role at social activism.  It’s interesting to go back to the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when it seemed that American intellectuals did self-consciously realize the power that they had, and it is sad to see that this no longer seems to be the case.  Who are the Charles W. Eliot’s and William Barton Rogers of our time?

My guess is that people with tenure don’t see a reason to change the system in any fundamental way, and are frightened of any change that will reduce their status and job security.  People without tenure are so busy just trying to survive that they can’t do anything,


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