Posts Tagged ‘David Banks’

Tenured and tenure-track faculty aren’t the only ones suffering from academic false consciousness; graduate students have it, too. David Banks notes that as colleges and universities eliminate paid positions (I received an e-mail recently noting that the support person taking over in my department will be responsible for covering three academic departments and three additional areas of the school – that isn’t even an entire paid day per week for each!) graduate students are increasingly asked to do things that support staff did in the past, “until they are credentialed enough to maintain a destructive status quo.” He concludes:

What I’m trying to highlight, and I think the list I opened with does this on its own, is the downright bizarre way the American academy has arranged its labor to the detriment of all. The well-to-do are positioned to succeed in graduate school, but only because they have the time to learn a dazzling array of skills that at one point were the jobs of middle class support staff or the service component of tenure-track faculty. This doesn’t even include the intangible and difficult to define cultural distinction necessary to make it seem as though you belong in the academy to begin with. Or, as Kendzior puts it, “ Higher education today is less about the accumulation of knowledge than the demonstration of status – a status conferred by pre-existing wealth and connections. It is not about the degree, but the pedigree.”

The role of the graduate student needs a serious overhaul, if not for the sake of the graduate students themselves (which, honestly, are doing far better than most in the world) than for the people who would have filled the hundreds of different jobs that grad students  are informally pressured into taking on. Or do it because grad school needs to be seen as and treated like a job in and of itself, not a wobbly stepping stone towards some quickly disappearing professional career. Maybe we could start by removing “student” altogether in favor of “training faculty” or “Professor’s Assistant.” From there we can start deciding whether it makes sense to describe earning a Ph.D as a process of credentialing or just another job with a very peculiar and uncertain form of promotion. Perhaps that would give prospective grad students a better understanding of what they’re getting themselves into.

I guess that if the academy collapses we can all just enroll in Georgia Tech’s cheap new computer-science-degree-by-MOOC!

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David Banks at The Society Pages has a nice summary of everything that is wrong with Comedy Central’s Tosh.0. The idea of somebody skewering the internet’s viral hits sounds great to me, but I would like to see somebody do it in a way that is not, as Banks writes, “Racist, Classist, Homophobic, Sexist, and Just Plain Gross.” Of course, Tosh.0 is among the highest-rated shows on Comedy Central. Maybe Bud Light Platinum should focus its marketing budget there.

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