Archive for July 14, 2011

Vocationalism, Academic Freedom and Tenure – NYTimes.com

Fascinating argument!  If I follow it, the book is arguing (and Fish is disagreeing that this is a good thing) that Universities are becoming increasingly focused on real-world, vocational issues.  Academic freedom was invented to allow professors to follow their curiosity, apart from any real-world concerns.  Tenure was invented to protect academic freedom.  If Universities are just about vocational issues, then hire people who know real-world issues to teach them, and dump tenure — it’s a lot cheaper.

Wouldn’t it make more sense, Riley asks, to hire broadly educated persons who made no pretense of “advancing knowledge” to teach most of the courses? “Wouldn’t someone who has spent more time on that broad education and less time trying to find some miniscule niche on which to write a dissertation be the better teacher for most of those classes?”

In other words, let’s get rid of the research professors for whom academic freedom and tenure make some sense, at least historically, and have a teaching corps that understands itself to be performing a specific task (the imparting of basic skills to undergraduates) and can be held to account directly when their superiors determine that their performance is inadequate. In short, we need more instructors who don’t merit tenure, and once we have them Riley’s conclusion is inevitable: “There is no reason why tenure shouldn’t be abolished at the vast majority of the four thousand degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States.” There is no reason because every reason usually given in support of tenure and academic freedom has been shown to undermine itself in the course of this quite clever argument.

via Vocationalism, Academic Freedom and Tenure – NYTimes.com.

July 14, 2011 at 8:39 am 5 comments


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