Up the Academy: An Academic’s Response to The Czar
|The Ivory Tower’s a nice place to visit, come by, have a spot of tea.|
Dr. J. loved The Czar’s thoughtful analysis of Big Skool. He is right in that the tides are slowly turning as the Baby Boomers who have been in charge of our institutions of higher learning are approaching retirement age, and will inevitably be replaced by Generation X leadership. Indeed, Dr. J. is beginning to see these changes occur in Ivory Towers near him.
He agrees with the Czar’s statement that, “…there is no evident shortage of left wing liberal goofs to take the [sic] (my goodness did that [sic] feel good) place…”
Dr. J., who is firmly ensconced in a luxurious Corinthian Leather™ chair in a posh faculty lounge as he writes this would like to say that these changes will take longer than The Czar will anticipate.
The Baby Boomers as a generation are in denial about their mortality, and probably took a big hit in their retirement portfolios to boot. Because of medical advances their biological age is probably a decade younger than their forefathers. They’re still working has hard as ever, and not slipping gently into the night to allow the next generation to take the baton, so to speak. Dr. J. suspects that some of this is ego driven as they’ve grabbed the brass ring and want to hang on to it as long as they can. He sees NIH and NSF funded investigators continuing to renew grants, applying for new grants and running labs their labs well into their sixties without missing a beat. Rather than mentoring young faculty towards independence, more and more there is a symbiotic relationship between the tenured senior faculty member and the non-tenure track faculty member who is actually designing and doing the experiments and drafting the grants revolving around his project, receiving input from his mentor. The grants, as they are coming from renown Professor X will score better and get funded than if they were coming from post-doctoral fellow or research assistant professor Y, even though it’s the same blasted material. Professor X is happy because his lab continues to chug along. research assistant professor Y is happy because he has chosen security over freedom, and the NIH, NSF and taxpayers are happy because the research funding is resulting in publications and scientific progress.
|In the muggle world, she ain’t retiring unless its feet first.|
There are exceptions. Indeed, one of the department chairs at NAITMC is tapping Gen. X division chiefs and vice-chairs, and consequently mentoring them in their roles. In other words, this self-actualized department chair is actually training their potential successor. But as Dr. J. has said, this is the exception rather than the rule in the academy.
The Czar is also right in that there is no shortage of liberal Gen. Xers in the academy either. The big difference is that Gen. X liberals, at least the ones that Dr. J. associates with, are far more respectful of differing opinions than their Baby Boomer seniors or Millennial juniors. The Boomers get pissed when Dr. J. dissents with their pontificating and the Millennials look confused (but are at least impressionable) when he teaches about healthcare economics on rounds. The Gen. Xers, well, they’ll either concede the point, or just respectfully disagree and buy the next round. Furthermore as a consequence of being raised during the Cold War, there are a greater sample of moderates and conservatives in the generation, and thus in the academy.
While Dr. J. agrees in principle with The Czar that the academy will not always have a progressive strangle hold, he also believes it will be later rather than sooner, as they just won’t be ‘aging out’ as fast as their predecessors.