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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

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Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

What Constitutes Academic Labor

Posted by Smurov, Guest Author, on 09/24/07 at 01:47 PM

This short essay by Mark Bauerlein requires a comment box, if only to highlight this aside:

Do not believe academics when they talk about summer research work. Outside the scientists, most of them are idle or labor on books and articles that they don’t have to write and that less than 50 people will read.

Let me break that down for you:

Most academics don’t work during the summer. 

Professors can be divided into two groups: 1) the idle and 2) those who work.  The latter, however, labor on books and articles related to their specialization, so only specialists will read them.  Therefore, the effort expended on them doesn’t count as work. 

Most academics don’t work during the summer.

Sounds fine to me. 


Comments

"books and articles that they don’t have to write”

I dunno, I feel pretty compelled to write them.

By on 09/24/07 at 02:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Stop exaggerating, Johnston.  They’re only “necessary” inasmuch as you “need” them to get a job, keep a job, and acquire tenure.  Other than that, they’re utterly useless.

By Scott Eric Kaufman on 09/24/07 at 02:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Oh, lord. How about this:

Professor Kilmer worries that a student who “is resistant to feminist theories and ideas” may sit in her class as a “plant,” someone to incriminate her and send her upstairs for punishment. That’s how she interprets uncongenial students, and it’s an astounding conversion. In her class, any student who contests feminist notions falls under a cloud of suspicion. The ordinary run of skeptics, obstructionists, gadflies, wiseacres, and sulkers that show up in almost every undergraduate classroom is recast as an ideological cadre. If a student in a marketing class were to dispute the morality of the whole endeavor, no doubt liberal professors would salute him as a noble dissenter. But when he criticizes feminism, he violates a trust. He doesn’t just pose intellectual disagreement. He transgresses classroom protocol.

How about a class in Biology into which religious radicals had encouraged creationists and crypto-creationists (ID’ers) to register? What if at every step in the semester, the plants--and that’s what they are*--challenged the professor, preventing the other students from learning what it was they had registered to learn?

* Seriously. There’s a difference between a crank who just registers and a crank that’s been encouraged to register by some organization to which he (or, less likely, she) belongs. I see why Bauerlein is effacing the difference, but I don’t think that’s particularly honest of him.

By Karl Steel on 09/24/07 at 03:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I wonder why he added “Outside the scientists”?  I remember when a local article went into this same trope, which has been around for a long time, and after that one of the astrophysics grad students wrote on the departmental blackboard “Make $$ Big Bucks $$—with a part-time job!”

By on 09/24/07 at 03:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

And, as far as a I know, few scientific ariticles get Bauerlein’s 50 readers.

By Bill Benzon on 09/24/07 at 04:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Karl, you’re making Bauerlein’s point for him when you equate the status of feminist politics in a feminism class with the status of evolution in a biology class.

By Anatoly Vorobey on 09/24/07 at 08:12 PM | Permanent link to this comment

My research during the summer is vital and necessary.  That of my colleagues is not.  That seems to be the implication.

By on 09/24/07 at 10:42 PM | Permanent link to this comment

They’re only “necessary” inasmuch as you “need” them to get a job, keep a job, and acquire tenure.

Johnston was talking about the necessity that artists feel, not about your d-mned hypothetical necessity.

By ben wolfson on 09/25/07 at 12:05 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Somehow Dire Straits’s “Money for Nothing” started playing in my head while I was reading this post.  Just FYI.

By The Constructivist on 09/25/07 at 12:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Since my contract will expire on 30th November (the day before the Australian summer commences) and be recommenced in late February, I will bloody well be working over summer.

By on 09/25/07 at 06:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Karl, you’re making Bauerlein’s point for him when you equate the status of feminist politics in a feminism class with the status of evolution in a biology class.

How so? If it’s a class in feminism (note that I didn’t say “feminist politics"), I presume it’s a class in which fundamental notions of feminism (presuming there are such things, and these things being whatever the instructor says/suggests they are...perhaps that’s the nub of the problem) are the ground for class discussion and the syllabus. And evolution’s the ground for a class in biology: so far as I know, can’t understand biology without understanding evolution. If I were teaching that feminism class, I’d expect the disagreement to be within models of feminism, not disagreement that rejected feminism altogether. Now, that complete disagreement could be fine, although it would prove pedagogically difficult. If, however, a student had been encouraged by some group to register for my (hypothetical) class to dispute the core principles, then I would feel that some aspect of the pedagogic contract had been violated; I would certainly expect the effect on the other students in the class, and their ability to learn (about) the subject, to be negative.

By Karl Steel on 09/25/07 at 07:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Karl,

There is an error in your idea of the biology class. Biology is a hard science, and as such deals with the status quo and theories on how the status quo was achieved. Evolution is, despite its status as The Hot Topic, a miniscule part of biology. Rather, there are models on the workings of Life to explore, the composition of carbon in various lifeforms, etc. A closer comparision to what you’re thinking of would be a class based on evolution or Darwinian theory. “Biology class” would take a general view, exploring all possibilities. “Darwinian theory” would connect those possibilities to Darwinian theory alone, and all conclusions would need to stem from that Darwinian theory, as the student would be caught up within the framework of that theory.

As for the pedagogue idea, casting questioners into a negative light is, I feel, quite contrary to the idea of education, which is an exhaustive study of certain, or many, subjects. In order to logically build on a subject, it is natural that the premises first be examined, and it’s only natural for a student to question those premises to test their validity. It might be preferable that such sparrings take place in private, away from the lecture hall, but this is a violation of convention and etiquette, not a matter of intellectual dishonesty. The other students of the class will still be educated on the subject, if only because they have seen the basis for the entire study tested.

By on 09/25/07 at 01:34 PM | Permanent link to this comment

“Haul on the Bauerlein,” we sang the melody,
like all tough sailors do when they are far away at sea.

By John Emerson on 09/25/07 at 05:45 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I’ll confess, I didn’t read the Bauerlein article before I posted, so a lot of what I said is admittedly redundant. I’m not “rediscovering America,” though—I stand by the idea that a challenging of premises in class does not cast a negative pall for the students, but rather presents the professor an opportunity to show why a theoretical framework is being taught, how it is salient, and and whether it holds water under scrutiny. Strict theoretical tunnel vision promotes specialists, and while specialists are very important, it’s also important for them to understand where they stand from a general point of view.

On rereading comments, I realize now that most of the concern here is dealing with students that are prompted by idealogically contradictory groups to register for class, but the idea that there is a large enough amount of students willing to do this smacks of paranoia.

By on 09/25/07 at 06:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t know, Jake ---- we had Students for Academic Freedom come by the history dept at my school and interview all the TAs in their office hours for their stance on abortion. And then try to start shit for the TAs who refused to answer on the grounds that that was not the topic they were teaching. So this is out there. And I would hate to have students in any of my classes using the classroom as a base for political organizing rather than learning about the topic.

By Sisyphus on 09/25/07 at 09:31 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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