Post Academic

Academia as TV (with poll)

Posted in Absurdities,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on April 2, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

I just came upon this article from a few years ago by Marc Bousquet titled, “Like ‘The Wire’?  You’re Living It”, which compares the operations of university administration to the bureaucratic cynicism of municipal government, law enforcement, education, and media depicted in The Wire.  (h/t to my friend Sam’s Facebook wall for the link)  Pretty much any structural argument you want to make about any institution could be analogized to The Wire and its rich account of the interconnectedness of many seemingly disconnected social spheres, so Bousquet stands on solid ground.  He makes a scathing indictment of academic administration and the culture it perpetuates via the comparison:

“There’s plenty to say about this in relation to campus administration — the way that managerial control of institutional mission has shifted toward vocational training over education, as Stanley Aronowitz has long observed, and toward direct corporate influence over research and curriculum, as Jennifer Washburn has made abundantly clear.”

And his conclusion is ever more scathing:

“Only a very unusual person can do what the sleaziest small contractor does — pick up day labor, pay them less than the minimum wage to rebuild a suburban kitchen, collect fifty grand, and then dump the workers back on the street corner.

The task of academic quality management is to find those rare people and make them deans, provosts, and presidents.”

I’ll buy Bousquet’s argument that The Wire is an extended analogy for academia, as long as Post Academic gets to be Omar, the shotgun wielding Robin Hood of the ‘hood.

It’s a total non-sequitur, but reading the post reminded me of those drunken party conversations about how we could turn grad school into a TV show, though The Wire was never an obvious pick (and none of us had HBO).  Maybe it’s just a wish fulfillment of being a screenwriter, but we would even start casting these things. Setting aside the obvious soap opera analogies, what we would be the most compelling dramatic or reality TV reinterpretation of academia?

Check out the nominees below the fold…