The brutal reality

Some brutal honesty from a doctoral candidate in the humanities. The veil obscuring the heights of the academic tower has been ripped asunder and only mice with very small computers are revealed. And those very small computers are all powered by declining numbers of doctoral candidates, post docs, and adjuncts desperately racing each other on the grand, departmental wheel in the quest for a tenure track position.

Without following this further I think there needs to be a better way to support the humanities. This knowledge is important and getting more important as we automate productive processes a and struggle to teach creativity and innovation. Ironically creativity and innovation are the product of philosophers and creative thinkers who handed these creations off to the new guys in the natural sciences.

What we have now is some of our best thinkers and creative process developers locked in battle to achieve the heights of obscurity. Why is that?

Could it be that the only way to make a living in things that do not have large dollar signs as an outcome has been limited to the university. Without going into the history of this (ok, my area of worthlessness) is to summarize this as another long term failure in capitalist societies. The original domain of knowledge for its own sake was the landed gentry and those that were supported by that gentry. We have limited that to what can be justified by traditional standards of liberal arts education and little else. And it doesn’t work.

The tradition of western higher education is now successful only for a limited number of premier research universities that can provide enough room at the trough for the non profitable to survive. The great range of higher education in the US particularly is now community colleges that provide introductory craft training in an uneasy relationship with the remaining unions and industrial standards organizations. These maintain “degree track” disciplines to feed the struggling state and private universities. This is a desperate and losing effort to justify the aging population of tenured humanities and social science faculty. Ironically these positions are only reluctantly filled when the tenured resident moves on, now usually, to a much smaller campus measuring six by three. Most classes and some entire liberal arts departments are staffed entirely by adjuncts. The original gig economy.

The even larger irony is that the hard sciences, data analytics, and process design are the in demand areas that require the skills and training of the philosophy and intellectual history with the creativity now being wasted on achieving ever more irrelevant and confounding “publications”.

It certainly looks to me as if we are in the final days of the current systems and should be getting very serious about utilizing critical creativity in ways besides the befuddlement of small academic committees.

Written by

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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