Skip to comments.Academic Hypocrisy (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 02/20/2012 10:25:51 AM PST by jazusamo
It is fascinating to see people accusing others of things that they themselves are doing, especially when their own sins are worse.
Academics love to say that businesses are not paying enough to people who work for them. But where in business are there people who are paid absolutely nothing for strenuous work that involves risks to their health?
In academia, that situation is common. It is called college football. How often have you watched a big-time college football game without seeing someone limping off the field or being carried off the field?
College athletes are not to be paid because this is an "amateur" sport. But football coaches are not only paid, they are often paid higher salaries than the presidents of their own universities. Some make over a million dollars a year.
Academics also like to accuse businesses of consumer fraud. There is indeed fraud in business, as in every other aspect of human life including academia.
When my academic career began, half a century ago, I read up on the academic market and discovered that there was a chronic over-supply of people trained to be historians. There were not nearly enough academic posts available for people who had spent years acquiring Ph.D.s in history, and the few openings that there were for new Ph.D.s paid the kind of salaries you could get for doing work requiring a lot less education.
My own pay as a beginning instructor in economics was not high but it was certainly higher than that for beginning historians.
Now, 50 years later, there is a long feature article in the February 17th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education on the chronic over-supply of historians. Worse yet, leading university history departments are resisting demands that they keep track of what happens to their students after they get their Ph.D.s and inform prospective Ph.D.s of what the market is like.
If any business operated this way, selling customers something that was very costly in time and money, and which the sellers knew in advance was almost certain to disappoint their expectations, academics would be bursting with indignation and demanding full disclosure to the customers, if not criminal prosecutions.
But The Chronicle of Higher Education reports "faculty resistance" to collecting and publishing information on what happens to a university's history Ph.D.s after they leave the ivy-covered walls with high hopes and low prospects.
At a number of big-name universities Northwestern, Brown and the University of North Carolina's flagship campus at Chapel Hill at least one-fourth of their 2010 history Ph.D.s are either unemployed or their fate is unknown.
At Brown University, for example, 38 percent of their 2010 Ph.D.s are in that category, compared to only 25 percent who have tenure-track appointments.
For people not familiar with academia, a tenure-track appointment does not mean that the appointee has tenure, but only that the job is one where a tenure decision will have to be made at some point under the "up or out system." At leading universities, far more are put out than move up.
There are also faculty appointments that are strictly for the time being lecturers, adjunct professors or visiting professors. Half the 2010 Ph.D.s from Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania have these kinds of appointments, which essentially lead nowhere. They are sometimes called "gypsy faculty."
Finally, there are Ph.D.s who are on postdoctoral fellowships, often at the expense of the taxpayers. They are paid to continue on campus, essentially as students, after getting their doctorates. More than one-fourth of the 2010 Ph.D.s from Rutgers, Johns Hopkins and Harvard are in this category.
At least these universities release such statistics. A history professor at Rutgers University who has studied such things says: "If you look at some of the numbers published on department Web sites, they range from dishonest to incompetent."
But apparently many academics are too busy pursuing moral crusades in society at large to look into such things on their own ivy-covered campuses.
Ouch! That one's gonna leave a mark!
In case you decide to pursue higher academic degrees ...
That’s gonna leave a mark. As usual when Sowell takes aim.
Dr. Sowell doesn’t mince words, I love it. :)
Not that I think she’d try for a PhD in history, but thinking about one’s future employment prospects before choosing a field of study is always wise.
We can’t all be successful celebrity economists like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.
Absolutely, and it's tougher with the state of our economy now.
This article, as with all of the authors articles, is 100% correct. There is a group of law school graduates getting ready to sue their alma maters, because there are no jobs for them. The plaintiffs case rests on the premise that they were told that there would be jobs aplenty and they’d all be making tons of money. Well, that isn’t the case. They feel that they were lied to. They, their parents, or the American taxpayer forked over tons of money for that Juris Doctorate.
Another good one by Dr. Sowell. Thanks for the ping jaz.
What about the teaching assistants, research assistants who do the essential jobs of teaching and research, work the instructors were allegedly hired to do? They can’t unionize or protest the dismal salaries, ask for raises, collect vacation or sick time, get health or retirement benefits. It’s all tied to their prospects for academic success.
Not such a surprise. How many liberal members of the house or senate have union shops?
As usual, common sense. The headline suggested something different to me. I saw football, and I thought—finally, someone’s going to talk about the cost of insurance-coverage for NCAA athletes (heck, athletes in general) while the rest of us are apparently going to be restricted in our diets and in our access to medical care. Too bad—I’d still like to see that article.
They can't? They tried to when I was an RA. I remember convincing a friend to vote no when I talked him into doing the math and he realized we were making $19.38/hr.
Unfortunately, it looks like they were eventually successful. COGS
They could employ all of those History PhD’s if states could dismantle their local NEA chapters. The regulations that have middle school and high school teachers instructing classes for which they have barely more knowledge than their students, need to be done away with. My niece and I had this discussion last week. She is a middle school teacher and is currently teaching her 6th graders about Ancient Rome. Yet her degree is in Education and when I quiz her about Roman history, she is clueless.
Myself I have a Masters in American History and I teach as a part-time adjunct at the local community college. Of course I don’t put food on the table with that job, it just helps us keep our heads above water.
Excellent point. It’s absolutely catastrophic that it is so difficult for people highly educated in a subject to become teachers.
>>>Excellent point. Its absolutely catastrophic that it is so difficult for people highly educated in a subject to become teachers.<<<
True. In my former life, I worked as a reporter and an editor at newspapers throughout the Pacific Northwest. (Sad to admit that in public, but it is what it is.) When I was 40 years old, I decided to do what I wanted to do when I was a kid and become a teacher.
Twenty years of getting paid as a professional writer did not qualify me to teach English at an Alaskan public school. I was dumbfounded. I was obligated to go through the entire collegiate track for teachers at the university’s school of education, which meant 18 months of mostly menial and meaningless coursework to obtain permission from the state to teach in a school. Not surprisingly, most of what I learned at the university had no value in a real classroom.
The same holds true for a chemist at BP teaching chemistry in an Alaskan high school, or a biologist for fish and game teaching science to junior high students.
By the way, my English classes tend to be well-liked by parents and students. I used language for my career, and that’s distinctive when you’re surrounded by folks who have an English degree from a college somewhere. I’d also say coming into teaching as a middle-aged man tempered my attitude; I don’t put up with crap and my work challenges students, but I’m a lot more mellow than I was as a young man, too, so students have the benefit of what my Native kids call “the experience of an Elder.”
Hey, I’d dismantle the whole damn system if given a choice and replace it with vouchers and privatization. Uncle Milton is smiling from heaven.
Ah ha! The money quote. Right on Thomas.
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