Read Jonathan Rees at More or Less Bunk today. He takes on the un-killable myth of what academic freedom and tenure do for academia:
Certainly, academic freedom is not a justification for saying anything you want and tenure is not a magic ticket that lets you be an a$$hole for the next thirty years. How many professors think it is? The authors of this piece seem to think it’s a lot.
. . . . . .
“Hate them!,” our new Tea Party Overlords say. “They live on our tax dollars [and] get summers off!” Of course, this sentiment has been out there for a long time, but seems somehow more important in the Scott Walker era than it ever did before. Ed at Gin and Tacos (whose political writing is so good that it makes me want to give up ever writing about conventional politics again due to my comparative inadequacy) covered the reasoning for this well a few days ago:
First they convinced the blue collars to scapegoat the Welfare Queens. Then the suburbanites scapegoated the blue collars and their cushy union factory jobs (hence NAFTA). Then the suburbanites started to cannibalize themselves: first the greedy retirees with their sweet benefits were redefined as Leeches, and now it’s the teachers and public sector workforce. While Americans in general have failed to notice how this game of “Find a new scapegoat every 3 years until there’s no one left with benefits or a salary over $10/hr ” has progressed methodically for several decades, the cops appear to have no illusions about what is happening. They are waking up to reality: “They’re going to come for us next.”
I confess that the arguments against tenure and unions kind of crack me up these days, in a gallows-humor fashion. It’s like the writers of these anti-professor and anti-union screeds haven’t noticed that 1) tenure-track positions, and 2) union jobs are hard to come by these days, and represent only a small minority of jobs out there. Higher education has effectively marginalized tenure all by itself, by adjunctifying the profession from within. Someone much smarter and more devious than the rest of us figured out that contraception against institutions that protect workers’ rights is more effective and less controversial than infanticide.
Also, if you haven’t yet succumed to despair, go read Gene Lyons.