Group Think in Academia. I love the opener:
“Generally speaking, we can observe that the scientists in any particular institutional and political setting move as a flock, reserving their controversies and particular originalities for matters that do not call into question the fundamental system of biases they share.”
—Gunnar Myrdal, Objectivity in Social Research
h/t Merlin on the RBG
This reminds me of the story about the senior professor who opened their job talk with mention of Mills’s concern with personal troubles and public issues in order to “situate” their research.
In related news, a new white paper “demonstrates” that as faculty research productivity rises, student engagement drops (see Bauerlein in the list). [Note that he is the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Penguin, 2008). One is tempted to compare the argument suggested in this title to one by Dr. Conley, see endcaps at Borders near you.] He cites, according to Inside Higher Ed, the “2008 National Survey of Student Engagement figures showing that 38 percent of first-year students “never” discuss ideas from readings with their instructors outside of class, while 39 percent do “sometimes.”” [As it happens, just two weeks ago I was sitting in a room with the fine analysts at NSSE who will be working with “us” on the SNAAP project.] NOW, in no way should anyone mistake students refusing to come to my office hours (only FOUR this semester, out of c. 100 students total) with my inability to balance my teaching and research obligations. In fact, I am hugely offended by the suggestion that their apathy/scheduling/disinterest/work obligations/family obligations, etc. would be my fault in some way, yet this is clearly the suggestion. The article also notes that while scholarly production in literary studies (and wtf is that? English? Communications?) has “outpaced growth of the professoriate by a factor of three” something called “scholarly consumption” has risen just 1% in the decade between 1986 and 1996. This consumption measure appears to be the rate of purchases of monographs in literature by research libraries. So now I’m responsible for cut backs in library budgets and/or the quality of those books, to begin with. And now we reach the “disturbing conclusion:”
Bauerlein writes of “a disturbing possibility” — that “literature professors feel no urge or need to monitor publications in the discipline in order to keep up with research in the area. … If they overlook much of it, they don’t suffer. Meanwhile, throngs of scholarly compositions appear each year only to sit in distribution warehouses unread and unnoticed. The fields and subfields proceed without them, and the grand vision of a community of experts advancing knowledge, broadening understanding, and closing holes in the historical record fades to black.”
“The fifth and sixth and seventh book on Moby Dick matter,” Bauerlein said via telephone. “The 105th and the 106th, the 107th, they just get lost, even if they’re brilliant. How can you really take them into account when you’ve already got 105 out there? Things just start to blur.”
Huh. Again, I feel like one scholar’s personal life is being mapped into research findings. Just because Bauerlein assumes later publications “get lost” doesn’t make it so. For example, although this idiotic piece of argument is reminiscent of earlier calls to arms against the professiorate, nevertheless, I read it over morning coffee.
If you thought this was dumb already, just wait until you hear the recommendations:
1. Hire faculty based on teaching expertise, “as opposed to” research expertise.
2. Consider only 100 pages of writing in tenure decisions.
3. Shift funding priority from research to teaching endeavors.
4. Convene an MLA committee to look into this problem.
Surely, the results of Bauerlein’s “study” is the surest evidence that we need more rigor and better qualified scholars, and not the reverse.
In closing, Bauerlein tells us what you should be doing, at work:
“We should really say that for the vast, vast majority of language and literature professors, your job is primarily an educational one, a teaching one, and that your main job is to reach the entire undergraduate population and acquaint them with the literary and language inheritance.”
I wonder if this is just an exclusive hit on the Humanities, or if he also thinks scientists should stop with that silly cancer research and prioritize teaching alleles to undergrads.