July 3, 2008

The New York Times comes to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and finds that the radical professors are on their way out.

The radicals are old Boomers nearing retirement and being replaced by a younger generation:
[A] Wisconsin professor, Erik Olin Wright, a 61-year-old sociologist and a Marxist theorist, described it this way: “There has been some shift away from grand frameworks to more focused empirical questions.”

As for his own approach, Mr. Wright said, “in the late ’60s and ’70s, the Marxist impulse was central for those interested in social justice.” Now it resides at the margins.

“I was part of a new wave of hires,” Sara Goldrick-Rab said, peering over the top of her laptop at her favorite off-campus work site, the Espresso Royale cafe. She came to the University of Wisconsin in 2004....
Hey, weird! I'm sitting here reading this on my laptop at the Espresso Royale café.
“My generation is not so ideologically driven,” she said....

“Senior people evaluate us for tenure and the standards they use and what we think is important are different,” she said. They want to question values and norms; “we are more driven by data.”...

As for partisan politics, when she wrote an article in May for Pajamasmedia.com about welfare reform cutting off poor people’s access to higher education, some friends and co-workers were surprised by its appearance on that conservative blog. She said she didn’t know; she had not paid attention to its political bent.
Oh, New York Times? Pajamasmedia.com is not a blog.
When Ms. Goldrick-Rab speaks of added pressures on her generation, she talks about being pregnant or taking care of her 17-month-old while trying to earn tenure. The lack of paid leave for mothers is high on her list of complaints about university life.
If you have paid leave for mothers (beyond a few weeks to recover from childbirth), you have to have paid leave for fathers or it is unconstitutional sex discrimination. Nevada v. Hibbs.

Anyway, bottom line: It's great that the younger generation is more interested in data and science and less interested in political action and ideology. I welcome their contribution — to the University of Wisconsin and to the world.

27 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Kinda like the media where the old libs are leaving the newspapers and finding jobs at think tanks/ NGO's. But they will forever lament how the Big One got away.

Yes, they went into journalism to emulate Woodward & Bernstein but were never able to bag their own corrupt Republican president. How sad they must be.

Paddy O. said...

Hooray for the young professors at UW-Madison and those that cheer them on!

One of my really good friends is an assistant professor in materials science and engineering there, which doesn't have near the political side of things as other departments, but definitely has a generational difference expressed in what is researched.

Triangle Man said...

By Jove, UW is running out of Marxists! I wonder what level of radicals will be sufficiently low enough for legislators to stop using the U for political target practice?

Eli Blake said...

Professors tend to be on the left end of any given generation though. If you read the whole article you will find where it says that a third of the young professors consider themselves 'liberal' and 60% classify themselves as 'moderate.' If you do the math that still leaves less than 10% as 'conservative,' which is about what it is for older professors.

Also, college grads in general reflect their generation. Younger professors today-- i.e. in their thirties likely came of age during the nineties. In contrast, kids today are much more liberal than the last generation. I not only have anecdotal evidence of that (working in a job where I deal with young people all the time) but also given data:

A prime example of that latter is a Rasmussen poll out last week in Mississippi:

http://rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/mississippi/election_2008_mississippi_presidential_election

It does show McCain up by six (in a state Bush won by nearly 30 points) but the astounding number is that among voters under 30 (not old enough to be college professors yet, by the way) Obama is up 75-22%. That's not in New York, or Massachusetts, or even in Wisconsin, that's among young voters in Mississippi (!)

The reasons are clear too. People under 30 are far more likely to have friends in Iraq than the general population, and also are disproportionately affected by a poor economy than older people who have had a job for awhile and maybe have some money saved up.

Wait until the NEXT generation of college professors.

Original Mike said...

Wait until the NEXT generation of college professors.

Of course we'll all be dead, but ...

P. Rich said...

Is it running out of radical feminists, leftist administrators and "studies" profs? Probably not. Marxists are just one negative sub-sect. No need to overenthuse.

Improvement is a good thing, but there's a long way rightward to go (in most universities, not just UWM) before "middle" will be visible in the remote distance - math, physics, engineering and hard sciences hopefully excepted.

Say, ALthouse. How's the new feminist chancellor working out so far? Started construction on a new bigger better women's center yet?

I never realized you guys had so much ag. Cool. Hopefully that area is relatively straight also.

From Inwood said...

Radical Profs? What Radical Profs.

It's the Pauline Kael syndrome: too many of the radical profs have never met/heard/seen a radical prof!

Do look at the NYT article for this part:

"Jackson Lears, 62, a historian at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said, 'I don’t think that [the purported sea-change]necessarily means a move to the right, but a less overt stance of political engagement.'

"Gerald Graff, president of the Modern Language Association and author of the 1992 book 'Beyond the Culture Wars,' is more skeptical, saying he hasn’t seen evidence of change at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where he teaches English. 'You’d think that the further we get away from the ’60s, where a lot of our political attitudes are nurtured, there would be,' he said, 'but I have to say it doesn’t seem to be happening.'

"Certainly some disciplines, like literary studies, seem more resistant to change. Elsewhere, senior faculty members are more likely to hire young scholars in their own mold, while some baby boomers have adopted the attitudes and styles of their younger peers."

Eli Blake said...

Of course we'll all be dead, but ...

Speak for yourself. People in college today (who are very liberal, as I mentioned) will be college professors within say ten or fifteen years. Of course I realize that you live in America and are subject to our healthcare system so maybe you're right, that you won't live that long.

Maguro said...

Of course I realize that you live in America and are subject to our healthcare system so maybe you're right, that you won't live that long.

I thought that with the coming of socialized Obamacare, immortality would be right around the corner. Barack will fix everything, won't he?

bearbee said...

Anyway, bottom line: It's great that the younger generation is more interested in data and science and less interested in political action and ideology

Amen to that.

The length of cycles is interesting.

Kennedy inspired interest in science and engineering. With the rising challenge of Asian countries, we need to increase our science/engineering pool of talent to retain the competitive edge.

...when she wrote an article in May for Pajamasmedia.com about welfare reform cutting off poor people’s access to higher education...

Are city colleges not a viable option to higher ed? Is this just an example of academic snobbery?

chuck b. said...

I've been out of college for several years now, but the grad students then were sooo much more idealogically driven than the faculty. I am deeply skeptical about this article.

Re: unconstitutional sex discrimination [hijacking] there was an interesting, very short piece in the WSJ yesterday about the impact of menopause on the workplace. In one study, 30% of women reported that menopause adversely affected their performance. The expert suggested making certain changes in the workspace and/or workload to help accommodate menopausal workers. My reaction was to wonder how that would be balanced for non-menopausal workers.

Original Mike said...

Ten or 15 years, Eli? Maybe where you come from 10 years constitutes a generation, but where I'm from we like our wifes a little more mature. ;-)

blake said...

Oh, New York Times? Pajamasmedia.com is not a blog.

They'll never see the competition coming.

Kirby Olson said...

Death is wonderful as it's the only thing that will clear out the tenured goofups of May 68.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Marxist theorist"

Is that like "Nazi theorist"?

Paddy O. said...

I've been out of college for several years now, but the grad students then were sooo much more idealogically driven than the faculty. I am deeply skeptical about this article.

No need for skepticism. Grad students are in the business of being more of what important faculty are looking for. So, if ideology is important they have to prove their ideology. If science/data/etc. is important they have to prove it through research skills. And the fact of things is that different people rise to the top depending on which is emphasized.

William said...

The general evolution of taste is from sweet to sour. The evolution of politics is from liberal to conservative. Why are academics immune from this phenomenon? Does hanging around with young people keep you young at heart, i.e. immature, forever. How is it possible for an intelligent person to still consider Marxism a valid theory or economics or even history? Is their Marxism a form of Col Blimpism--a symptom of their reluctance to adapt to a changed world.

PatCA said...

One of my favorite pamphlets on the university quad announced a Marxist group's

"free speech teach-in, anything goes, come speak your mind, blah, blah, blah.*

*As long as it is from a Marxist perspective."

LOL, those dreaded asterisks, "free speech" indeed!!

m00se said...

I dunno about Madison, but in Ann Arbor, we called the "Cafe Espresso Royale" "Cafe Pretentious".

Madison - somewhat behind the times...

Ann Althouse said...

Espresso Royale in Madison isn't pretentious at all. It's got a completely "indie" style.

blake said...

Espresso Royale in Madison isn't pretentious at all. It's got a completely "indie" style.

Isn't "indie" just a different sort of pretentiousness?

blake said...

(This coming from the guy who sees more foreign films and documentaries than Hollywood pix. So, you know....)

Trumpit said...

I had a sullen and sulky old leftest philosophy professor once, who all the students hated. The topic for most of the semester was: What is the social responsibility of business? Well, I got a B+ on my 10-page essay, which to tell the truth was a lot of clever bullshit. The whole class with the exception of the one person who got an A had to redo the paper. I told you he was a meany. On my second attempt, I got a B! This was embarrassing to say the least, as most of the rest of class's grades were improving. I never did figure out what the social responsibility of a corporation was, so I guess I should have failed the class. I got an A-. He gave extra credit for attendance - a very lefty thing to do.

Kirby Olson said...

Part of the problem is that universities provide an insulation from experience so that when you go in you tend to remain where you started. The other part is that you are surrounded by groupthink -- which solidifies the norm. On top of that many profs have trust funds from a functional parent or grandparent which means that even if fired they still wouldn't have to really think about competition, which is what everybody else has to think about all day long, all the way down to the spiders and centipedes that lefties seem to love.

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab said...

Hi....

So, just to set the record straight..I like ER but I tend to work at Manna or Barriques. And to "Maguro"-- when I say "higher ed" I absolutely include city colleges (you're preaching to the choir on that one). But your post suggests that you believe welfare recipients still have access to them, and on that point you'd be wrong. For more, see my book, Putting Poor People to Work, which is all about access to 2-year colleges in particular.

With regard to the discrimination- what I was talking about was the lack of paid leave for parents, period. But, when it comes to tenure clock stoppag-- it is not right to stop men and women's clocks for the same amount of time per child when women (ok, some women) spend 9 months pregant, another 12 nursing, and that whole time the brain simply isn't working. Having one child took over a total of 21 months for me, dropping my productivity significantly, yet my clock is stopped for the same amount of time as my male colleague whose wife had the baby and stays home with her. How is that in any way leveling the playing field? To top it off, the "option" to stop the clock really isn't one- they make you do it, and then when deciding when to put you up for tenure, if you want to go "on time" (meaning without the extra year) it's considered trying to go up "early." Which of course, is perceived as arrogant and treated harshly.

Anyway, I think the most important generational change in academia is not a shift in politics, but rather the demographic change, with so many more women and minorities on their way in.

Ron said...

ERC in A2 is my favorite coffee house as well...

Kirk Parker said...

Eli Blake,

"People under 30 are far more likely to have friends in Iraq than the general population, "

And... ?


Really, you skipped a step in the reasoning here: what impact should that have, and why?