Post Academic

Politics and academia

"Fictional flag of the fictional Communist Democratic Party of America" by Oren new dag (Public Domain)

Talk about stating the obvious: Politico, the blog I haven’t been able to stop reading since the 2008 election in spite of myself, posted a story the other day about how “College Professors Go Big for Democrats”, which hardly qualifies as news.  As a liberal myself (duh!), I’m happy to say that employees of the UC system I’m a part of donated over $400,000 to the Dems–although the Boxer folks still want more and more, as my inbox can attest to.  Anyway, that’s 86% of all political donations made by UC  types.  Then there’s the case of Princeton, where the employees gave $100,000 to the Dems and apparently $0 to the GOP.

Again, none of what Politico reports should be any surprise, except, perhaps, for the overwhelming margins.  This might explain why I don’t have any conservative friends (as far as I know), and why my wife and I are suspicious of nice strangers whose politics we don’t know, since we’ve met a few undercover libertarians.  Heck, I can barely stand a lot of academics who share my worldview more or less, either because I don’t think they care enough about race-related issues or because they try to act holier-than-thou than me–unapologetic Ralph Nader 2000 boosters, I’m looking at you.

But I was wondering the other day about when it was I became a liberal and how it happened.  Did my prolonged exposure to academia turn me into a lefty?  Or was I already a latent liberal who found the right venue to bring my politics out of me?

At the risk of alienating and offending folks, we’re delving into politics and academics below the fold…


Time-to-degree, real and reimagined (with poll)

Yesterday, we covered the New York Times covering the take-your-pick-of-crises in academia.  The most stunning thing the NYT reported was that the average time-to-Ph.D. in the humanities was calculated at 9.3 years!  That figure strikes me as a little too high as an average, but, whatever the actual number, the point is well-taken that getting your Ph.D. takes way too long, whether it’s the nature of things or that there’s a certain kind of less-time-constrained personality better suited to academia.

So one of the solutions to the problems facing Ph.D. students, whether it’s with the day-to-day experience of getting by or longer-term issues of an ever-declining academic job market, that’s being floated is shortening the time-to-degree.  One of the most prominent proponents of this idea is Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard Prof Louis Menand, who outlines in his book The Marketplace of Ideas some reasons for rethinking the Ph.D. and shortening the time-to-degree, as well as a structural argument on how the long apprenticeship has broader impacts on the humanities.  (Much of what I discuss is reprinted in this Harvard Magazine excerpt.)

Continued, below the jump..