We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
As Cardinal Newman warned, knowledge really is an end in itself. I fill no gap in the department, because there is no shimmering and comprehensive surface of knowledge in which any gaps might appear. Like everyone else in English, I am an extra, and the offloading of an extra is never reported or experienced as a loss.
I feel the loss, keenly, of my self-image. For 24 years I have been an English professor. Come the spring, what will I be?
My colleagues will barely notice that I am gone, but what they have yet to grasp is that the rest of the university will barely notice when they too are gone, or at least severely reduced in numbers — within the decade, I’d say.
Anyone discarded for irrelevancy (reads and teaches about old dead guys...borderline criminal) still deserves empathy. We all make choices, and sometimes they don't work out. But 61-year old English teachers can't have a bright future in our PC, plugged in, pro-anything not white male-society deserves empathy.
His blog has more interesting discussion, both his reaction to the criticism his article has gotten, and the reader comments to that reaction:
Last spring I taught one of those boutique courses that could have been offered at the University of Minnesota this semester: an honors seminar on Evil in the Postwar American Novel. Among the books I taught was Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I began the discussion by raising the question of Faulkner’s influence upon McCarthy. My students looked at me blankly. “How many of you have read Faulkner?” I asked. No one raised a hand. “How many of you have heard of Faulkner?” Three hands went up. In an upper-division seminar on Philip Roth, pretty much the same thing. Not one student had read Saul Bellow.
In “Academe Quits Me,” I warn that the loss of a common tradition in English study leaves every English professor exposed. No one is indispensable to a university, because no curricular subject, no great author, is indispensable. When he was in college not long ago, a younger friend wrote to me privately yesterday, “you could take Shakespeare’s Treatment of Women, but not Shakespeare.”
From a current dean:
...the decisions are made in budget meetings and you can bet that if you work in an institution that has expensive pre-professional and professional programs, or in institutions that carry significant debt, the Humanities and Social Sciences are probably going to get leftovers.
...programs that generate high tuition and fees, programs that also enjoy high demand, are favored.
another commenter in response to the dean:
You seem to be describe a market-based model for education in which students are customers, universities provide what the customers want and keep an eye on the bottom line. This does not seem to provide for what a student needs to become an educated human being in society.
I saw this earlier and thought about posting a comment, relating why I did not get an advanced English degree. The compelling reason was what he points out - a glut of Phds; not enough job positions and no guarantee of tenure anywhere, no matter how good you were. And that was in 1990!!
My adviser was warning everybody that it was a risky decision. He had more advice, which was enough all by itself: if you were a white male, you better be gay, or have some really fabulous radical hook, otherwise your job prospects were even worse.
In other words, how good a teacher you might be didn't matter so much as your "identity" and political posture. I thought "here are people who hold themselves out as educated, refined, wise and of course, Liberal, and ultimately they're going to judge your fitness by gauge of your skin color and who you don't want to screw".
I think this all broke my adviser's heart. He had been teaching for thirty years and was an inspirational teacher - loved his subject, loved teaching it to students, and loved his students. I don't think it was where he had imagined his profession would end up.
And now, in Universities everywhere, it's Humanities professors who champion, and enforce, speech codes and like coercion.
In any case, I didn't I didn't post anything because it doesn't matter: the Humanities is ruined; nobody much wants to hear what they have to say, and the Humanities professors did it to themselves. Him included. They took custody of subjects that could be edifying for everybody and allowed them to become a political weapon for a few. Fie.