Publish or Pay: It Has a Price

Have you been to a book store of late? Man there is a lot of junk being written by academics and journalists. In higher education, faculty member are asked to publish a great deal for tenure and promotion; however, what about the junk that is being written for the sake of publishing? According to the article below, faculty members are pushing too much bad literature that does not correlate well with the interest of students. Again, as one of my former professors recently stated to me about a book I used to have on my required reading list: “I hear students complain about having to read ______ while in high school; it is not that they hated the book; the book had too many pages.” All papers and books published go through the process of peer review;  if it is deemed of value, it will be published. The questions is: Who outside of a bunch of stiff experts believe it is of value? Honestly, most literature in a particular field is written for students and other experts in that field of interest. Works deemed as “generalist” receive far less attention and respect. So the problem of course is this: According to the article below, students do not want to read a lot of the stuff being published.

I must admit, I belong to roughly three different historical organizations. Each society has its own journal. I do my best to read as many books as I can. But as we all know, there are only so many hours in a day. Students ask me how I know so much about so many books in my field. My response: When a new journal arrives on my desk, I turn to the section titled review of books. This is the best way to keep up with recent conversations and scholarship, as well as knowing what to add to your library.

Scholarly output rises; undergraduates are disengaged. “This is the real calamity of the research mandate — 10,000 harried professors forced to labor on disregarded print, and 100,000 unwitting students missing out on rigorous face-to-face learning,” Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, writes in a new paper on relieving research expectations in the humanities. Read the rest here…

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7 thoughts on “Publish or Pay: It Has a Price

  1. Thanks for writing this. I agree that the pressure to publish has flooded the academic market with unnecessary papers and books, but I also feel that the mandate to publish has created a opening for often-overlooked subjects to be studied. I know that in the English lit field, scholars are constantly expanding their scope to find different and interesting things to study and I can only imagine that historians do the same thing.

    That being said, I completely agree that there are plenty of unnecessary books published every year at the expense of good teaching.

  2. Pingback: The Price of Publish or Perish « the anxiety of influence

  3. I do agree; my concern is one of purpose; I favor teachers at all levels being scholars to some extent. However, asking people to spend their life recycling their dissertation of MA thesis kills me. How many books on Lincoln’s struggle with slavery exist? Analyzing the thought processes of Hurston or Wright 12 ways using the same documents in order to keep a job is not productive. The process of tenure and promotion should depend on this, but schools need to rethink the degree at which a person must write in order to do so. But, you are correct in that without this process, new fields and courses would not appear: The 1970s saw the birth of African-American Studies and Queer and Gender Studies due to new types of research and a change in culture.

  4. I’m not entirely sure that it should. I’ve thought about teaching at the college level, but if I teach, I want to teach, I don’t want to be stretched way too thin worrying about my scientific research, grading papers writing tests and teach classes all at once for not enough pay. If I ever teach at the college level, which is growing more and more unlikely, I will do it at a school that does not require its professors to be researchers and have multiple papers published in addition to their teaching duties. There’s some importance to knowing what is going on in your field, but not at the expense of your students, particularly your undergrad students who probably aren’t learning anything any different than my father learned when he was in undergrad 35 years ago.

  5. Professors and other academics tend to be very knowledgeable about specific topics, and thus, feel that they should write books. Unfortunately, many of them realize that the books they tend to write, while educational, are EXTREMELY boring.

    A tip to textbook publishing companies and High School teachers: If you want students to actually read, then make the books interesting and understandable.

    Of course, their are some exceptions – Dr. West’s work comes to mind. Fascinating yet very well-written.

  6. My beef with Bauerlein stems from his book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), for what I would assume are obvious reasons. As someone under 30 I find the subject of this text somewhat offensive, reductive, and ignorant. I’ve not read the book, but have read a few published academic reviews and I cannot begin to imagine that it makes any valid points. Bauerlein comes across as an old academic curmudgeon who is annoyed because contemporary research may be a bit easier. He’s what I don’t want to become.

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