There's another article on tenure at the New York Times; it's Christopher Shea's review of those books attacking tenure that we've all seen in the news. After repeating the false assertions, he defends university professors. To Hacker's and Dreifus's airy (or should I say "windy"?) assertions that professors barely work anyway and could write books on the weekends, Shea writes:
But it seems doubtful that, say, “Battle Cry of Freedom,” the acclaimed Civil War history by Princeton’s James McPherson, could have been written on the weekends, or without the advance spadework of countless obscure monographs. If it is false that research invariably leads to better teaching, it is equally false to say that it never does.Shea then makes the accurate point that public institutions are being gutted while some wealthy institutions have fared much better. I saw a connection here to what Robert Reich asserts in his Op-Ed piece:
Where have all the economic gains gone? Mostly to the top. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty examined tax returns from 1913 to 2008. They discovered an interesting pattern. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation’s total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income.Anyway. Let me climb down from this soapbox and make a point. We need to get better at explaining that the "few hours a week" we spend in class is actually the culmination of a lot of work--the payoff period. Think about it:
- Do we say that wheat farmers only work a couple of weeks in August and make the big bucks for their year doing two weeks' worth of work? Of course not. There's a lot that goes into farming, including planting, harrowing, spraying, etc., but if you look only at the payoff period of harvest, that's what you'd say.
- Does a clergyperson work only for the hour on his/her holy day that he/she delivers a sermon, leads prayers, or whatever?
- Does a salesman work only when he/she makes a big sale? That's the payoff period, so we should only count those hours when we figure what the salesman's annual wage works out to, right? All the sales that didn't pan out, all the prep work--they don't count as work, if you use the calculus that academic critics use.
- Does a manager only do real work when he/she presents at a major meeting? The rest of the work (staff meetings, writing reports, managing people, etc.) doesn't count, because it's not the "payoff period."
- Does a surgeon only get paid for the time he/she is actually in surgery operating on patients?