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April 27, 2009, 12:00 PM ET

More Drivel From 'The New York Times'

Crossposted from howtheuniversityworks.com

Today the Grey Lady lent the op-ed page to yet another Columbia prof with the same old faux “analysis” of graduate education.

Why golly, the problem with the university is that there aren’t enough teaching positions out there to employ all of our excess doctorates Mark C. Taylor says: “Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist).” Because there are just too many folks with Ph.D.‘s out there, “there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.”

Um, nope. Wrong. The New York Times loves this bad theory and has been pushing it for decades, but the reality is clear.

In fact, there are plenty of teaching positions to absorb all of the “excess doctorates” out there. At least 70 percent of the faculty are nontenurable. In many fields, most of the faculty don’t hold a Ph.D. and aren’t studying for one. By changing their hiring patterns over the course of a few years New York or California — either one — alone could absorb most of the “excess” doctorates in many fields.

The problem isn’t an oversupply of qualified labor. It’s a restructuring of “demand” so that work that used to be done by people with doctorates is being done by persons with a master’s or a B.A., or even by undergraduates. During the whole period of time that The New York Times has been pimping junk analysis of graduate education (that there’s an “oversupply” of doctorates), the percentage of faculty with doctorates has been dropping, not rising.

The piece is hilariously out of touch — noting the rise of adjunct labor, the Columbia philosopher of religion and author of 20 books wrings his hands that per-course pay is “as low as” $5,000 dollars a class.

BWAAA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Reality? Annual income for many adjuncts is about $5,000 dollars a year. On pay that can be lower than a grand per class.

They’re on food stamps.

But sure, you’re right. The problem is that we need to end tenure. When we end tenure, the market will insure that these folks are paid fairly, that persons with Ph.D.‘s will be able to work for those wages.

Oh, crap, wait. As anyone actually paying attention has observed, we’ve ALREADY ended tenure. With the overwhelming majority of faculty off the tenure track, and most of teaching work being done by them, by students, and professional staff, tenured appointments are basically the privilege of a) a retiring generation b) grant-getters and c) the candidate pool for administration.

How’s that working out? Well, gee, we’re graduating a very poor percentage of students. Various literacies are kinda low. We don’t have a racially diverse faculty, and women, especially women with children, are far more likely to have the low-paying low-status faculty jobs.

Nice! Let’s get more of that!

It’s not just his inadequate grasp of the facts. Taylor’s whole analysis is wrong. His idea is that higher education is too Fordist. (“Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning,” he intones.)

But higher education isn’t too Fordist — it’s actually the brilliant, innovative post-Fordist employer par excellence. Every other employer wants to employ its people on the model of the campus — to get people who work for love, as perpetual students, eagerly discounting their labor in hopes of a future reward that someone else will provide.

I dunno if we should end the university as The New York Times or Mark C. Taylor claims to know it.

But we really oughta end the university as the rest of us know it — as not merely exploitative, but as a creatively super-exploitative employer.

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