Political correctness is hot once again. Donald Trump is beating the drum against political correctness in his speeches and I suddenly feel like I was back in college.
I was a freshman at Yale university in 1990 when Donald Kagan delivered an “infamous” public speech against political correctness and in favor of Western civilization during the freshman assembly. The speech was a bit of a bombshell in the 1990s culture wars and created a firestorm of controversy on campus.
Marc Bousquet rants eloquently about the crisis of the humanities and the academy. What I really like in this recent post, When “Bad” is Right, is the righteous indignation he builds up about professionalism and the generally absurd connection management literature has implanted in our heads between profession and success. In this vein, “professionalism” is today more of an ideology than a lifeway. As an ideology useful to one’s employers, for instance, professionalism as devotion to one’s clients, the public good, and the culture of one’s field is clearly a vector for the super-exploitation of all kinds of other workers, from retail sales to schoolteachers.
If you read anything related to academic culture and universities then you are bound to encounter the complaints about the adjuntification of academic labor. More and more universities are relying on adjuncts to teach classes. Most people explain this as a need to save costs. Others may get more conspiratorial.
The prevailing opinion among a lot of people seems to be that going to graduate school, especially in the humanities Ph.
I went to the University of MN today to see Mary Poovey speak in the last lecture of the IMPACTS series. Her book, A History of the Modern Fact, was one of the standout readings in my science, technology, and society class last spring.
Her topic tonight was “Reflections of a Worried Feminist, 30 years on.” She outlined the impact of feminist theory and activism on literary studies since the late 1970s and questioned how much benefit it has really had on the disciplines, especially the humanities.
I didn’t make it to the final day of Rethinking the University. But here are some concluding notes from day 2. I hope to have more to say about this topic during the upcoming days.
Panel - Surplus Value And The University In Crisis Morgan Adamson - “Student debt and the finacialization of academic life”
Since the early 1970s students have been at the center of experiments in financial life.
The conference continues on from yesterday. I got here late today, in the middle of the second morning session.
Roundtable - inside/outside: the university and the public intellectual I arrived in time to hear Naomi Scheman make some interesting comments about objectivity as the creation of trust in expertise. But before my thoughts could rush through Galison, Daston, and Giddens her comments were over and it was time for Q&A.
The after lunch panels and discussions.
Roundtable 3 - Valuing the Liberal Arts Jigna Desai kicked things off with “no time for fancy titles” about her experience in Asian and Women’s studies. She made a few good points about knowledge production as a form of social change, the “driven to discover” U of Mn branding campaign that subscribes to the positivist goal of more creating more facts, and the fact that marketing campaigns always have pictures of diversity.
I rode into Minneapolis today on Metro Transit to attend the first day of a conference entitled “Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, and Value.” The conference is a graduate student production that grew out of the AFSCME strike at the University of Minnesota last fall. The strike prompted a lot of questions about the various labor groups that make up the modern university: faculty, students, technicians, clerical workers, etc. so in the best academic tradition the grad students decided to host a conference on the topic and this is what they came up with.
Last weekend I was in need of some silly summer movie fun. Coincidentally, I was thinking about academia and the institutions of higher education. On a lark I went to see Accepted. I read the plot synopsis - rejected high school student creates his own ‘fake’ college to convince his parents that he is really going to amount to something - and thought it’d be a mild summer diversion. To my surprise it was a revolutionary reaction to current academia.
Two months ago, as the winter semester wound to its close, I read an intriguing note on miscommunication and measurement in grad school by William Tozier. He wrote
The point being: We often seem to forget how important issues of pragmatics and culture are in the pedagogic cycle. Instructors know the damned answer. The older the student is, the more confidence the instructor should have that the student also knows the damned answer.