tenured by the streets
A few years ago, I was at an academic conference in Atlanta, catching up with some acquaintances from grad school, and we were exchanging stories that could be summed up as, "how academics are a bizarre bunch of folks." And I can't remember who made this observation but one of us noted: you have to be, just at least a little dysfunctional (read: nutty) to become an academic since what kind of rational person gives up 5-10 years of their life to study an arcane topic that, almost by design, no one knows a thing about (and probably doesn't care to). Meanwhile, you're skating by on what slim fellowship and teaching money you can grift and surrounded by other people just like you, many of whom have never spent an adult day outside of the academy. To be in the midst of that has to make you just a little off-axis too, if not straight up on TILT.
Keep all this in mind while you read the comments for this story from
Personally, I'm ambivalent on the actual article since the application of Biggie's song to the tenure process is likely to divide the hip-hop-friendly as either inspired or insipid. That said, some of it did make me laugh, such as:
- Number six: That goddamn credit, dead it/You think a crackhead payin’ you back, shit, forget it. For “crackhead,” think “student with a late paper.” For “credit,” think “extension.”
However, whatever your feelings about the actual article, it's the comments by other folks - presumably also academics - that's really the more fascinating reading and makes you realize how severely detached from quotidian reality many people in my profession (self included) can be, not to mention completely bereft of a sense of humor. To wit:
- •No time for profanity
I can’t believe Inside Higher Ed would subject the unsuspecting public to this outrageous profane diatribe with no warning or disclaimer! Disgusting! The decent thing to do would have been to put a disclaimer so that the reader could be warned that what follows is “profane and has absolutely no educational value.
•I really find this posting troubling! What is the point! At a time when “racial profiling” is at an all-time-high, this kind of sharing simply reinforces stereotypes.
Might I suggest sharing the comments of several successful, African American academics from both private and public higher education institutions who have navigated the tenure and promotion process.
This posting is neither helpful nor tasteful.
•It would have been better without the vulgarity. “Fuck” and “Shit” were not necessary to get the point across, but try telling that to your students. And I don’t believe the use of vulgarity is a generational divide, it is an educational/professional divide.
•What’s the point of legitimizing gansta culture by pretending it has “wisdom” for academics? I think people make themselves ridiculous when they listen to this stuff, much less pretend it has anything of value to say to anyone.
•What’s fun about this piece? It strikes me as ugly and negative, and much of the advice is just plain wrong.
My students are diverse (mostly Hispanic and Asian) and do not follow hip hop. They wouldn’t respond to this stuff.
There is a larger question about whether you need to pander to youth culture in order to present a fun class. I think you don’t and that you can make yourself look ridiculous by doing so.
I realize this is parody (of what I’m not really sure), but hip hop itself glorifies violence, misogyny, perpetuates negative stereotypes and is profoundly anti-intellectual. Why would anyone think it would enhance the classroom? The age issue is a red herring.
My students come to class in order to learn, often at considerable personal sacrifice. It insults their aspirations to present them with this crap.
Just so we're clear, it wasn't all like this...in fact, Ford's piece inspired other commenters to quote their own favorite hip-hop types, including Suge Knight, Ol Dirty Bastard, Cormega and...Deltron 3030.
(Credit: Daddy in a Strange Land)
In terms of my other profession, I saw this over at Jeff's blog: a useful breakdown of how to write a newspaper culture article in ten easy steps. I have to say: this is pretty good in terms of how it distills the basics of how most articles get written. Of course, just because you get the structure down doesn't mean you've mastered the prose but it's not a bad way for a beginning writer to get a sense of basic narrative flow.