Here is my opening thought: What’s stopping us from rethinking and reshaping academia?
I’ll tell you one thing that’s stopping us: the belief that “nothing can be done” to fix the system. As long as we all stand by and accept this, surely nothing will change. That’s one easy way to keep the status quo going: Don’t hold out hope for alternatives.
Silence is another big part of the problem. Silence, in some cases, because of a certain fear of retribution (loss of funding, or a job, or tenure, or [INSERT YOUR FEAR HERE]).
It’s almost like we really don’t believe any of that stuff we read and quote and talk about all the time. You know, all the stuff about power and hegemony and social change and so on.
Ya, that stuff.
We anthropologists like to talk a lot about agency and power and other neato ideas, but for some reason when it comes to the internal political issues we face in academia, all of that goes away. Everything becomes “too complex,” too entrenched, or simply impossible to even think about changing. What’s with all the fatalism?
Yes, of course I understand the fact that there are certain “structural problems,” and that some issues exist at higher levels. And I understand that certain things are out of our control. But, beyond all of the structural determinism, what CAN we do to start dealing with the serious issues that plague the academy? Anyone? What things ARE in our control? What can we change?
One thing is for sure: silence leads us nowhere.
Speaking of no longer remaining silent, please read this post over at Analog/Digital by Fran Barone. Just read it. Here’s my favorite quote:
It is almost laughable that I and many others are even vying for positions in this profession. And yet at the close of this blog post I will be applying for two more academic jobs, one research and one teaching. Glutton for punishment? No. The fact is that I love the work that I do when I’m able to do it; I believe in the value and worthwhile impact of my research and the quality of my teaching; and I think a strong academic sphere is essential to the wellbeing of society. Making change from within the system is not nearly as difficult as it is from out here. And it is really not that hard to be respectful, engaged, open and honest. I can’t understand why so many people struggle with it. I’m tired of not saying anything about it for fear of retribution or never getting a job and you should be, too. Maybe I won’t get a job in the future because of this post, but then it probably wouldn’t have been the right environment for me, anyway.
Go read what she has to say. Then, as Fran says at the end of her post: SAY SOMETHING.
UPDATE 11/26/12: A few related links:
See Erin Taylor’s post “Producing academic scholarship: If universities are failing, where else do we go?” over at the OAC.
And check out Jeff Nall’s Truthout.org piece “Working for Change in Higher Education: The Abysmal State of Adjunct Teacher Pay.”
UPDATE 11/28/12: Check out Paul Stoller’s article on Huffington Post: “Changing Culture in Higher Education.”