It’s not surprising that he doesn’t understand that part. But that’s exactly where the public really doesn’t understand. Somewhere between the 4583rd mention of how great it must be to have summer off, or how nice it must be to be able to sit and have coffee Tuesday morning because you aren’t scheduled to teach, you start to get aggravated. This is why academics are sometimes churlish about their work. It is easy to get the impression from general society that their impression of you is that you’re a lazy bastard. “What a great life” they say, and then I think, ‘yeah that’s what I worked for all those years. And it’s still a lot of work. But you’re right, no, I wouldn’t want your job.’ Of course you just smile and bite your tongue.
So predictably, this whole thing started out a couple years ago with me defending tenure to this friend.
It’s senseless. Says he.
Well, it protects speech. Say I.
I wish I could do nothing and not get fired.
It’s hardly nothing, after 6 or 8 years of grad school, a few years on term contracts, and seven years of work, IF you get tenure at your first school, you’re 15 years into your career and damn near 40 years old. And you still get fired if the money runs out, or you sleep with an undergrad. You just can’t get fired for being a Republican.
They should just have renewable one year or five year contracts.
That would be great too, except the good schools are still holding onto tenure. At least the community colleges agree with you.
And so on.
Well this weekend the talk was about gas taxes (a discussion left unfinished and as such, with distinctly the wrong impression), and business.
And this is where the other thing about being an academic strikes me. The right has accused us of having the leftie thought police around, and it’s true that academia is liberal. Sociology has a reputation for being one of the more leftie disciplines within even this environment. But, and this is what bothers me, there is no reason sociology should be liberal, and it shouldn’t be a problem even if it is. The discipline has been used non-liberally in the past, and is just as useful for fascists as for commies. Further, despite the leftie flavor of the liberal arts, the astute observer will note that the fundamental core of the liberal arts is the best of western civilization. Believing in, being committed to, and passing on the best of our western culture, is not necessarily a liberal thing. In fact, some conservative colleges have arisen with exactly this purpose.
So here I am, a white male from the
Let’s look at this. First I don’t really care whether colleges are run for profit or not. The money has to come from somewhere, and the way trustees (and the general public) treat colleges seems to be as some athletic club with a school attached as a fundraiser. (Why did Notre Dame get rid of Willingham? Who gets the highest salary? What is the biggest budget sink in a small college?). But focusing on only the tech side, and treating the liberal arts like some little feel good project is fundamentally missing the point. The monks in
But perhaps that is a point lost on business oriented tech guys.
He starts later: “While capitalism isn’t perfect…” Everybody knows sociology profs are all Marxists. It’s very fashionable to be a Marxist in sociology circles. My friend knows this. But, while I criticize the negatives of capitalism fiercely, the market system is the best we have. Nothing else seems to be so good at distributing stuff efficiently to an industrial-sized civilization. Some of the worst abuses seem to come from too great a centralization in industry. Economists will argue that this increases fluidity and efficiency, but I see it at the cost of local business and communities. I can’t help but think that the ideal focus for politicians is to rebuild the grassroots economies of their areas. Find a way to make the unemployed into those who have a stake in the system. Find a way to make the laid off into craftsmen and owners. When you look at places where illegal economies thrive, they seem to be places where the grassroots economies have been devastated. Inner cities, deindustrialized cities, rural areas. These are places where the economies are “thin,” if you will. And what happens but the locals start manufacturing methamphetamine, distributing all sorts of drugs, marijuana agriculture, resource re-extraction (theft and burglary). So I’m all for local business development. I’m all for more corner groceries, more
Here’s why this is funny. He comes to the conversation with the idea that I’m an unrepentant Marxist with no understanding of budgeting or politics. I come to the conversation being one of the most pro-business, pro-markets, pro-grassroots-entrepreneur sociologists on the earth. He talks about making universities rational and profit driven, and I think it would be great if our department was funded per capita. Hell I dare ‘em!. But it ends stale, with no real common ground. And the final end is when he leaves visibly frustrated, when someone else (not me) suggested that we need at least a buck a gallon gas tax. His family had to leave, so the conversation was cut short. No discussion of petroleum supply constraints. No discussion of demand competition from
Instead, the small entrepreneur who drives 900 miles twice a week left thinking only of how a gas tax would hurt the middle class. He was also almost undoubtedly thinking that the two academics in the crowd were out of touch and only too happy to impose their crazy leftie ideas on the rational populace.
And crude topped 65 a barrel today.