On Scott Walker and academic work

Published online 30 January 2015.

I don’t know if you all caught this one in Politico:

Scott Walker urges professors to work harderBy Lucy McCalmont

1/29/15 8:15 AM EST

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, defending proposed budget cuts for higher education, took a swipe at university professors who he said could be “teaching more classes and doing more work.”

Please note, here, the implicit presumption in this sort of rhetoric that what matters with university professors is the quantity, and not the quality, of the work they do.  Go ahead, professors — teach a bunch of courses in which you make life easy for your students because they would all rather get good grades than be required to learn a whole lot.  Lecture a lot on topics such as your best research — to a bunch of students who need to know nothing more than the proper composition of a paragraph in standard written English.  And feel free to put out a lot of scholarly publications in which a bunch of “factors” are “operationalized” without any substantive meaning, or in which you’ve piled on pages of abstract jargon in hopes that nobody who grants you tenure will notice that you’re not saying anything.  Put out some more academic writing as real estate; adorn your CVs with great gobs of it if you will.  But be sure to do more work!In real life, moreover, most academic faculty are adjuncts.  NPR puts it at 75%.  If individuals within this majority of academic workers are lucky to find four classes per term, why, they might even make the whopping sum of $20 to $25,000 per year.  Yeah, that’ll pay the rent, medical bills, etc.  Certainly granting said individuals a raise might add something to the quality of their work maybe?

This is not to say that Scott Walker could ever be an authority on the quality of academic work.  But here’s a side thought — perhaps if the social sciences were more useful, maybe the Scott Walkers of the world could somehow be prevented from attaining public office.  Possibly?

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