I haven’t seen much of The Chronicle of Higher Education since I worked in Phil Lee’s office, and later for Frank Sooy at UCSF. I always liked taking a break and reading the Chancellor’s CHE before I passed it on to him. Tonight, surfing through the Invisible Adjunct’s blog space, and on to Kevin Walzer, I ran across the Chronicle again. It was like a visit with an old friend, until I ran into the subscription authentication logon page. Well, we were never really THAT close, CHE and me.
The “Scholars Who Blog” article was a fairly frothy poof piece, but at least Glenn Reynolds got his propers. I was more deeply interested in reading about the ongoing overproduction of PhD.s in the Humanities.
Colleges and universities occupy an awkward if interesting economic slot. Their largest customer base is the population willing to pay them fees for educational services. But oddly, academic management perceives those same people, when certified, to be their products. So they cater to the demand for courses (which they bundle) and ultimately, when a customer has filled his/her market basket to overflowing and the bundle is complete, the customer him/herself is “productized” and fed into an anthropomorphic job market which is either hungry for a particular product (say PhDs in low temperature bio-crystallographic engineering, a post modern profession much esteemed among the rogues of wanton gene splicery) or glutted on the product (take your average English PhD… NO! You take him!).
If the English PhD has had the foresight to write a thesis on some Edwardian humorist, say – Thomas Love Peacock, then with perseverance he may rise through the tenured ranks and eventually make a living wage as an academic administrator, say Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for a backwater state college system. If however, the person, lacking perspicacity and wit, turned her mind to an interesting area like “From Symbol to Semiotics: the Definitive Arc of Post Modernism from the 1920s to the 1970s as expressed in the art of Luis Bunuel (film from the Andalusian Dog through the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)”… in this case there would be no hope for academic advancement or placement since so many of those already on the tenure track have such a vested interest in the continued propagation of post modernism that they necessarily fail to perceive that their interest is more properly historical than exigetic, that post modernism itself has come and gone although a few charming old scholars carry the message like Emerson eating pie in his Pullman coach on his way across America to meet John Muir in the high Sierras.