Things You Probably Don’t Know About Academia

  • When some scholars have disagreements with others, they don’t simply debate or publish differing opinions, they campaign to silence those with whom they disagree.  They do it by back channel contacts with Journal publishers and book publishers and to organizers of academic conferences.
  • Some academics whose names appear on books put their names on them, but their grad students do all the work whilst the high profile scholar gets all the credit.  It’s plagiarism, but they don’t mind.
  • Minorities and women have a better chance of getting an academic position than white males.  It’s reverse discrimination, but they don’t mind.  The gay asian woman can write her own ticket.
  • Papers at academic conferences are generally accepted only if they represent only very minor adjustments of the status quo.
  • Too many academics stand in front of their classroom and their lecture hall and read line by line off of a paper in front of them, scarcely looking up, and dutifully unconcerned about whether or not what they say makes sense, or means anything at all.
  • Too many academics take themselves far too seriously.
  • Too many academics take their work far too seriously.
  • Much academic work is done only to impress peers and rarely has any concern for either educating students or reaching out to the wider public with findings that actually matter.

Given all these facts, and they are facts, it is little surprise that the general public has little interest in the work, or the continuing employment, of academics.  They are also the reason why someone like Scott Walker can literally gut higher education in his State and have broad support among every class except academics.

The public has funded academic enterprises for a very long time and for the most part they have almost nothing to show for it (because academics in their thousands prefer to address only one another and not the man on the street). To justify their ‘ivory tower’ focus academics love to pretend that the public is so stupid that everything has to be dumbed down and that’s just beneath their royal station.

Rubbish.  The general public is hungry for the truth.  Stop appearing on Discovery and giving them pablum and instead go out into the highways and byways and offer courses on interesting topics in Churches and community centers and watch support for the academic enterprise skyrocket.

Or not.  It really doesn’t matter to me.  It should matter to you though.  That is, if you want your academic pursuits to continue.

13 thoughts on “Things You Probably Don’t Know About Academia

  1. Table 3.1 here might be of interest ( In 2014, there were 2679 men teaching at ATS schools and only 840 women. 2734 of these faculty identify as white, leaving only 785 ethnic minorities. The fact is those numbers have barely budged in the last five years. The job market is brutal for everyone. So also is robust doctoral education. But the challenges are especially great for women and minorities who face a massive uphill climb and whose numbers remain infinitesimal in the academy. Those are the actual facts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • stats proving that in the present environment women and minorities are being eagerly pursued. ask any search committee, off the record, and insist on honesty.


    • not for lack of trying. the fact is, isn’t it, that most people pursuing biblical studies degrees are, by and large, white guys. it’s only by dint of personal choice that more women, minorities, and others aren’t represented in larger numbers in the ‘pool’ of candidates. but even in the big pond the new hires represent the lesser numbered inhabitants.


      • It is precisely for lack of trying, not just at the stage where institutions hire but much earlier. There are not fewer women and minorities in these fields simply because we choose to do other things. There are actual obstacles placed on our way to these fields. The stories my colleagues have shared with me are profound and consistent. I would exhort you to spend some time getting to know the very few women and minorities there are in these fields and listen to their stories.

        But to go back to the original point, the facts are that women and minorities are dramatically underrepresented in ATS schools as one example. Can you provide a fact that demonstrates your case above? Are there any statistics you can point to that backs up the claim that women and minorities are better off in our guild?

        This is frustrating, I have to admit.

        I hear this line about women and minorities in the guild too often. It questions the bona fides of those of us who worked incredibly hard to get where we are; it suggests that we were hired not so much because we were qualified but because we met a quota or we make an institution feel good about itself. Moreover, it only feeds resentment among those white men struggling to find work in an unjust academic market. We should not be tearing each other down with anecdotal evidence but pointing the finger towards an unjust system that drags us all down.

        Liked by 1 person

        • do you really thing that affirmative action has had no impact on hiring practices? i wouldn’t for a moment dismiss the skills of those who work very, very hard to acquire their terminal degree. but i also know, from many conversations over 30+ years that there are forces at work which are simply ignored, for whatever reason, which disadvantage some and advantage others. i’ve watched it happen over and over again. it’s an issue that needs to be honestly faced, discussed, and dealt with.

          it is just as unfair to hire someone for what they AREN’T as it is to hire them for what they ARE.

          do you not think that higher ed could, and should, do better and act more fairly?


          • That’s the thing. When you say, “there are forces at work,” I agree with you. And yes those forces do “disadvantage some and advantage others.” But your diagnosis above gets it exactly backwards. Have things changed somewhat? Certainly. A generation previous to me, I would have had a much harder time making it to where I am today. But there is still a long way to go. The advantages still remain as they have for a long time. So, yes, higher ed could and should do better. It seems, however, that we disagree about the direction that change should go.

            And I have to say that I find it striking that your arguments remain on the level of anecdote not real numbers.


            • that’s because most people on search committees are happy enough to chat with you over coffee at sbl or at a regional conference but not so as to be on record for fear of the inevitable backlash that would absolutely descend on them if they actually said ‘reverse discrimination is at work in the selection of applicants’.

              can you imagine the hell fire that would rain down on anyone who actually admitted that publicly and not privately?

              so yes, it is striking. striking that academics are afraid to speak the truth out loud. striking. and sad.


              • I don’t know. It strikes me as highly inappropriate for search committee members to share private information like that. Moreover, as someone who has sat on several committees, it strikes me as unwise to take the word of one member of the committee about what happened in the deliberations of a committee.


                • And again, this is still anecdote. Can you show some numbers that demonstrate that women and minorities are doing so well on the job market?


                  • i could name names if i wanted to betray confidential discussions. you are free to do with the information whatever you like. ignore it, dismiss it, whatever.


                • what strikes you as odd isnt at all surprising. it would be odd if people did feel free to discuss with you such issues


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