Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Don't Have a Real Job (but that doesn't mean I don't work)

I am now firmly planted in the world of academia. Of course, I have been for some time since I was basically a student from 1995-2007. But now that I make my living as a member of the academy and am a card-carrying Ph.D., my status as an academic seems rather more secure. I don't "have to go study"; I "have to go to work" and by "work" I mean my office at UVA (or perhaps a local coffee shop) where I do academic-type stuff for hours on end.

My sense is that the broader public has a difficult time understanding the academic life, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. Teaching they can perhaps get a grip on, provided that teaching is understood as the time one actually spends in class teaching. But the rest of it is somewhat baffling. The notion that teaching involves much much more than the hours spent in the classroom often escapes people. And forget about research, especially when you are a philosopher. The idea that doing original philosophical work is part of what I do (and am supposed to be doing) totally escapes them.

Michale Berube over at Crooked Timber has a couple of posts that address some of these issues and I commend to you. The first is Berube's reaction to a column criticizing the workload of university professors. I think academics are on shaky ground when they try to talk about how hard they work. Such claims just ring hollow to those whose jobs require much more physical exertion, personal risk, or 80 hour weeks. Nevertheless, I think there is important value in what we do--a value that means that we do not have to apologize for what we do or feel badly that we enjoy our work--and I think Berube's take is spot-on.

The second post (which is actually from back in May '07) is a more personal narrative of his experience trying to get some work done on a trip to visit his in-laws. Suffice it to say that I can relate. Enjoy.

8 comments:

Foolish Sage said...

When we don't have time or money any longer for the artists and scholars (those whose productivity cannot be measured in widgets-per-hour), our culture will be truly dead.

AJK said...

I agree. Plus, my sister, brother-in-law, and I will all be out of jobs.

Foolish Sage said...

...and that would just add to the welfare burden on taxpayers. So your useless employment is actually doing us all a big favor!

AJK said...

I'm just here to serve.

Tisha said...

Unfortunately, I'm not sure my parents will ever "get" your work. Good thing there are so many coffee shops in Columbus!

NonVoxPop said...

Tisha- ajk is lucky that YOU get his "work." :^)

AJK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJK said...

NVP-

We are all lucky that our wives "get" our work.