“Gratuitous Mischief:” Tenured Faculty


I came across an article in The Symptom (over at lacan.com) entitled “Towards a Theory of the Tenured Class,” and there were some passages that just made me giggle out loud (I’m not sure because it rings true or because it’s just plain silly-I’m going with a combination of both!). For one:

To professors with a taste not just for jargon incomprehensible to common people but also for otherwise unacceptable contradictions, tenure offers authoritarian leverage in mind-fucking.

And this one:

Predisposed to pontificate, if not to bluster and bluff, they develop a resistance to doing first-hand research as beneath them, something strictly for the lower academic classes, much as those who become bosses become incapable of doing menial work. Indeed, especially if trained in philosophy, literature, and sociology, rather than history or economics, tenured profs are in my observation prone to making stuff up, often outrageously. When George Orwell once quipped that only intellectuals with a taste for peculiar ideas could be so stupid it was obvious that he didn’t know tenured profs, some of whom can be yet stupider at no cost to themselves, who are, in effect, a licensed jerks. The inspiration for this critique was a sociologist who seems to take particular glee in demonstrating how sociologically dumb an academic sociologist can be. A Victim of Tenure I rank him to be. Outrageous Stupidity becomes for the tenured the analogue of Conspicuous Consumption-an inexpensive privilege that Thorstein Veblen attributed to the “leisure class.”

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Disciplinary Tribalism or Slice and Dice?


A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a historian suggests that on the whole thinkers like Hegel, Freud and Marx are no longer being taught, and if they are being taught it is only outside of each thinkers discipline.  So the broad claim is that Hegel, for the most part, is not taught in philosophy departments, Freud is barely spoken of in psychology departments and Marx won’t be found in any course offerings through the economics department. The author of the article, Russell Jacoby, suggests

The divorce between informed opinion and academic wisdom could not be more pointed. If educated individuals were asked to name leading historical thinkers in psychology, philosophy, and economics, surely Freud, Hegel, and Marx would figure high on the list. Yet they have vanished from their home disciplines. How can this be?  A single proposition can hardly explain the fate of several thinkers across several fields. However, general trends can inform separate disciplines. For starters, the ruthlessly anti- or nonhistorical orientation that informs contemporary academe encourages shelving past geniuses. Continue reading

Friday: Strategies of Complete Avoidance


It’s Friday and I’m avoiding grading some essays.  So here’s some required reading for you. First, a great newish group blog with Nick from Accursed Share, Taylor from Fractal Ontology and Naught Thought called Speculative Heresy that has served only to distract me this morning, but in the best way possible:

Speculative Heresy: (in their own words)

A website devoted to the exploration and discussion of the speculative heresies surrounding non-philosophy, speculative realism and transcendental materialism. Along with original commentary on the issues of speculative realism, we also aim to provide a central place from which to keep track of the evolving English speculative realist community. This includes conferences, articles, books, programs, and CFPs, along with any other notable events. If you have a relevant event which you would like to be featured on this blog, or want to reach us for any other reason, feel free to email us at: speculativeheresy [at] gmail.com.

As I’m neither much of a transcdental materialist or a speculative realist, I’ve been reading the posts on Laruelle with some interest because I have this suspicion that his Non-Philosophy verges either on nonsense or brilliance, but my reaction is always the same: “like, ok dude, take another bong hit.”  Speaking of bong hits, Carl over at Dead Voles has an interesting post called “What’s Left of Philosophy?”  and Kelty’s linked post on Savage Minds is worth checking out as well, if only for the ongoing cabaret of disciplinary boundaries the comments following the post continually reinact.  Continue reading

College for All? Failure for Many?


Someone sent me this recent article from The Atlantic Monthly. It’s quite interesting and a good deal of the issues that come up should be interesting to anyone that teaches college. The question that grabbed me was on the author of the article, Professor X, broaches towards the end: Is college really for everyone? Is it actually doing as much good as we think by making a college education a necessity? One could point out to Professor X that er…according to my unscientific knee jerk poll about half (or less than half) of the American population actually holds a college degree. Regardless, Professor X tells us about his or her students, a good many of them can’t string together a coherent sentence and are subsequently perplexed (shocked) by the craptastic grades they are doled out. After all, they have gone back to school to “do themselves and their kids right” (as some of my students have said to me) and equally important, satisfy the demands of the broader culture. Anyway, here’s an excerpt, but the whole article is worth a look:

Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.

America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.