Gentleman Scholars & The Rise of the Higher Ed Aristocracy
by Rick Perlstein
Here’s a personal observation with a political thrust: if I were single, I don’t think I could handle dating a graduate student in the humanities or the social sciences. Or someone with a PhD but not a tenure-track job. Or perhaps even a junior professor working for tenure. When I close my eyes and think of friends who’re sweating their way up that greasy pole to find steady work as a professional scholar, the images I come up with are of people at wits’ end, often hardly capable of healthy relationships at all.
I think of one, a recently minted history doctorate, for whom a two-year postdoctoral fellowship fortuitously dropped from the sky—but whom before that happened I regularly had to almost literally talk down from the ledge, so frazzled was she by the thought of piecing together more years with a $15,000 income; or maybe (she didn’t have any teaching lined up for this fall when the postdoc came through) no income at all.
I think of another, a gifted and committed teacher, the single mother of a disabled son, whose employer, a downtown commuter college, began cutting her course load the more experienced she got—the
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