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.
My cousin went into teaching in his 40s after getting out of the Marine Corps. He taught in private schools in Pennsylvania, so I don’t know if he had to get a degree in education or not, but he was an extremely successful junior high teacher for years, and then became a principal.
Excellent discipline in his classrooms/schools!
I just spoke with the step-father of a 23 year-old “girl” who graduated with a BA in Visual Arts. She owes $1,300 a month in student loan repayments.
Her current job is a Healthcare Worker because no Visual Arts job pays $15 an hour. She whines that she should not be wiping bums, she should be “traveling and painting.”
Where does one begin with the nonsense that fills these heads?
It’s hard for me to imagine the number of students graduating with Liberal Arts degrees now. I don’t know what the majority will do with them because they sure can’t make a living with them. They’d be much better off finding a trade they like or at least interested in and go to a trade school, at least it’s something concrete they could do in the future.
If I were Czar (and I mean real Czar, not some wimpy Obama Czar), one of the first things I would do is raze every College of Education throughout the land, and send the faculty looking for real jobs.
The results speak for themselves would be my justification.
On the other hand I’m now a teacher and have a slightly-better-than-high-school education.
The message of this article is about academia in general, but uses the example of academic historians in particular. And the message is that the academic historians evade inconvenient facts about the prospects of their customers, history students. What else are they avoiding telling us?
Historians say that they shouldn't try to discuss any event less than 20 years in the past, because the dust hasn't settled yet and they cannot reliably avoid the passions of the moment. And yet historians tend to agree with the statement that journalism is "the first draft of history."
IMHO, however, it is clear that journalism systematically focuses on the negative ("if it bleeds, it leads") and the superficial ("Man bites Dog not Dog Bites Man," "there's nothing more worthless than yesterday's newspaper"). Which means that journalism is the draft of a history which is unserious.
That’s a great point and absolutely true.
You might say that by giving journalists 20 years to entrench their slant on an event only enables historians to agree with their reporting of it.
At least now with the Internet that likely could change due to the many varied views on events?
I would also desire "truth in advertising": have the IRS collect statistics on gross income one year and 5 years after graduation, aggregate it by school and by major, and have median gross income stats available on a federal website. Then prospective students can make an intelligent decision as to whether they really want to incur $100K of debt for a degree which gets you a $25K job, or which has 25% of its holders unemployed after a year.
Lastly, I would want colleges to underwrite their own student loans. Let them take the financial hit if they graduate students who can't get a job.
They can at Michigan. And, when they threatened to strike, their demands were acceded to. Other graduate students never had the opportunity to apply for the job.
You have a skill!
Sowell is one of my intellectual heros
Why oh why could our first black president not have been a sensible academic like Dr. Sowell?
“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”
Ironically, this is a favorite topic of Sowell and Walt Williams IIRC.
“Education college” is a joke. “Education”, per se, should never be more than a minor at college, with a few classes perhaps about psychology, presentations, and organization, etc.
My mother was a history major in college with a minor in math. She started teaching elementary and took some “Edu” classes as she worked to be “certified”. This was in the old days, just before the Liberal Storm really hit. Eventually she ended up with a Masters in Special Ed and was “master” of our local school for emotionally disturbed teenagers - and got to teach history, math AND English at high-school level. All this without the nonsense of “Education College”.
I’m an engineer by training and trade (before becoming a mom). I’m very good at math and physics, and not bad at showing people things (I tutored a bit along with my mother) but I’d probably have to go through at least 2 years of “schooling” before they’d deign let me try to teach a 6-year-old.
“If I were Czar (and I mean real Czar, not some wimpy Obama Czar), one of the first things I would do is raze every College of Education throughout the land, and send the faculty looking for real jobs.”
That would be an unspeakably cruel thing to do those poor academented persons. Who would hire one of those things?
They have fattened themselves for decades at the public trough, thus making themselves useful for the demanding task I am about to suggest.
Export them to the Turd World, where starvation does stalk the streets, and cannibalism lurks in the shadows.
The locals will find ways to ‘integrate them into the local population”.
All I ask in return for this solution is the sole contract for indigestion nostrums to be sold in the areas where the edumacators were shipped.
After all, fair is fair.
Well..there is still a chance, and a prayer, that this will happen.
If you’re talking about graduate students (I am one), we do actually get health and retirement benefits, and some departments/universities have graduate unions. However, since we’re technically part-time employees, formal sick leave and vacation days are off the table, though in practice many of us have summers off teaching.
Too true. I knew/know a gal who has a history degree, and is now the payroll manager for the Seattle Mariners! When I met her, she was hired into the ACCOUNTING department of UnionBay Sportswear! Fat lot of good that degree did. But I remember my boss being impressed with it, because it was a DEGREE.
Thanks for setting it straight.