I have been reading some discussions of the tenure system in modern American academia, particularly this post at Critical Mass, which contains this quote —
We can’t reasonably ask them [prospective professors] to complete five to eight years as doctoral students and post-docs and not provide some stability once they’ve finished. We also can’t make them directly subject to forces as volatile as student enrollments, endowment fluctuation, and annual budgeting.
Why not, I wondered. Sure as heck anyone in my field has to spend years to get properly trained and is then subjected to things just as volatile (just ask any of the geeks on the street in California who were also on the street after the Dot Com Bust of 2000). It seems to me that the problem is more about why would anyone need that much training to be a professor? Surely a better solution would be to reduce the time investment required. But of course, the reason there’s such a requirement is because it’s about culling, not training, which tells you just how desirable those positions are.
I was lead, though, on to a larger related thought, twigged by one of the othe comments. Isn’t it interesting that despite the despite of the humanities for the sciences and engineering, the former has been remade in the image of the latter? All the research, papers, publishing, etc., the jargon and putatively rigor? All copied, quite inappropriately and uncomphrehendingly, from the technoids, in the process destroying what value was there.