Re: A Jumbly Old Post

1

I've mentioned that I went to elementary school in a small town in downstate Illinois.

What? Not to my recollection. Intriguing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:03 AM
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Down with the gente, eh? Seems to be a trend around here -- Marcus even visited me in my natural habitat. I have to admit that I find AWB and B more sympathetic as sex-crazed rednecks than as entrepreneurs of academic sexual politics.

I'm the only one here with contacts among rustic Sarin terrorists and power-company saboteurs, though, or people who pull their own teeth to save money. No one can be downer with the honky gente (northern version) than I am.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:23 AM
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I've mentioned that I went to elementary school in a small town in downstate Illinois.

This would be a better line if uttered by w-lfs-n. Although odd that you say went to school there and not the simpler: "lived." Did you go to some élite elementary school? Shouldn't that have been in Switzerland?


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:27 AM
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Huh. For some reason I was convinced you went to Liz Phair and John Hughes' alma mater, N\ew T\rier.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:34 AM
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Down with the gente, eh? Seems to be a trend around here

Academics especially (and the upwardly-mobile middle class generally) are always prone to overemphasizing their proletarian or rural origins.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:35 AM
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Ahhhh, elementary school. Fucking hangover.

Who googles elementary school classmates, though? Weird.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:35 AM
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Who googles elementary school classmates, though? Weird.

Well, when your elementary school classmate was as cute and charming as J/na L/vy, then of course you want to find out what happened. Pediatrician; good for her!

I just want to add that I'm very happily married, and that "stalker" is a nasty slur.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 11:56 AM
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God, I don't think I could remember the names of anyone I went to elementary school with. Of course, I attended four different elementary schools in four different states, so that may account for some of my rootlessness.

Though, now that I think of it I googled a girl I remembered from one school recently and thought I founder has a social worker in Maine.


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:05 PM
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'founder has' s/b 'found her as'


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:09 PM
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Academics especially (and the upwardly-mobile middle class generally) are always prone to overemphasizing their proletarian or rural origins.

Huh, I wouldn't have thought of this. Though definitely true for me. But the majority of academics are still probably not from proletarian or rural origins, so maybe the ones who are feel the need to speak up more. I know in my case that info is often met with surprise.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:24 PM
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the majority of academics are still probably not from proletarian or rural origins, so maybe the ones who are feel the need to speak up more

No, it's the other way around: the ones from reasonably comfortably or at least average backgrounds want to find a way to feel like they are Horatio Alger, so they emphasize how they were the first in their family to go to college, or get a PhD or be awarded a major fellowship from an Ivy League university (excluding Penn), or whatever it takes.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:28 PM
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At the same time, on the way up I think that academics have to assimilate themselves to specific upper-middle-class forms of life. There was a long thing in Inside Higher Education awhile back about how up-and-coming English faculty have to know what kind of wine to bring to a gathering, etc., at great length.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:32 PM
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12--
probably.
but how different is that from other lines of work? lawyers have to learn how to play golf. most job environments have social and class norms that carry rewards for conformity and punishments for non-conformity.

thing to remember with academics, though: no way is it "upper-middle-class" any longer. it's middle class, at best; think reasonably successful linoleum-tile installer. unless you're in a large metro area, in which case you are lower-middle.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:41 PM
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12 is teh true. One of the reasons those of us from lower-middle-class backgrounds, esp the Midwest or South, talk about it so much is that we're trying to put up a temporary hex against "Those disgusting clueless low-class vermin from hideous places like KANSAS" talk. And it's everywhere. A couple of years ago, there was a pedagogy course at my PhD program called, "Can [Theorist X] Even Work in Kansas?"

If you don't know how trust funds work, where to hang out in Rome, what the best wines are, which NYC restaurants are worth recommending, and so forth, there's a little down-the-nose staring at you. By God, I've worked hard to be able to enter in to certain of these conversations, and it's helped to know a lot about food and wine.

But yes, I do sometimes discuss my background, especially with my professors. It's not boasting or showing off; it's about outing myself as someone who will not take kindly to hostile conversation about stupid poor people or redneck jokes or whatever. Rich people get to talk about their childhoods, where they went to school and spent their summers; why is it "bragging" when not-rich people do it?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:48 PM
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I think maybe it's just unusually hoity-toity around here. (Even for grad school.) There are definitely more my-childhood-summers-in-France kind of people. And lots of non-Americans, which changes the currency of Other Places.

But Jesus. Anyone who is talking about being the first one in their family to get a PhD is already in another level.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:49 PM
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"If you don't know how trust funds work, where to hang out in Rome, what the best wines are, which NYC restaurants are worth recommending, and so forth, there's a little down-the-nose staring at you."

gotta say, awb, not my experience. makes me think you hang out with a higher class of academics than me.

(i mean, not only can i myself not answer any of those four questions, i don't think i have ever been shunned for not knowing. that i'm aware of. but then again, it would be hard for me to separate out the manifold reasons for my shunning, so maybe i just haven't noticed that the down-the-nose staring is correlated with those factors).


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:53 PM
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Yeah, AWB, I'm from a pretty professional family background, but I moved from the carolinas to a big 10 phd program, and I was pretty disgusted by the condecension to the south. Michigan has armed white supremacist camps in the UP and shortwave nazi broadcasts 45 miles from Ann Arbor (not to mention Ted Nugent's hunting camp and radio show), and people in Ann Arbor think they can claim the high ground by dumping on southern racists? It's incredibly common and stupid, and I'm sure it's 10x worse in NYC.

Guilty as charged as an upper middle class wine and food snob, too.


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:55 PM
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oh, wait--are you in nyc, awb?
that might explain a lot.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:57 PM
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There was a recent book called Doormen (I think) about the culture of people who live in buildings with doormen in NYC. The author was an academic who had moved to NYC and was trying to figure out why all his colleagues were so fucking snobby. He eventually traced part of it to the fact that their doormen would say, "PROFESSOR X! What a pleasure! Giving any lectures this week?" etc.

That is, profs in NYC have such high cultural capital, even compared to their financial capital, that they get invited to a lot of fancy parties, and there are tons of events for them to go to. I only got snobbed-at a few times in my six years in Cleveland, but in NYC, I honestly would not have the relationship I have with one of my advisors if I didn't know a damn lot about upper-tier food and restaurants in the city.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 12:58 PM
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19--
okay, now it's coming into focus a bit more.

look: do you really think that your impressions would be any different if you traded "nyc academic" for "nyc doctor", "nyc lawyer", "nyc accountant", "nyc journalist", or anything else?

i mean, the only thing that i find striking is that nyc doormen are behind the curve on realizing how far academic prestige has fallen in the rest of the world.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:02 PM
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They're slightly different cultures, I think, but professor is really the most culturally prestigious. Whenever there's a lecture that's open to the public by a professor, not even a famous one, there are hordes of people who will come in from the community to listen. It is pretty weird. I used to do donor relations with an extremely wealthy lawyer from an old NY family who dealt in ra/re bo/oks and ma/ps. He had every marker he needed of cultural capital---travel plans, a Park Ave penthouse, expensive clothes, two maids, etc.---but he lived for moments when people accidentally called him "professor." He'd dine at restaurants around the university specifically because waiters would assume he was a professor and it gave him a thrill.

NYC is fucked up, yes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:09 PM
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well then i'm going to have to buy me a tweed jacket and get a bus ticket to nyc.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:16 PM
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My father was an MD, but a small-town MD, and when I went to Reed (an eccentric elite college), while I didn't feel personally inferior and people didn't treat me that way, I didn't have the cultural-capital smarts to play the social game there.

I saw the same thing when my son was in HS. He was as smart, good-looking, and athletic as almost anyone there, but the elite was the people with nice houses, summer cabins, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:18 PM
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22: Srsly. Though, it's weird, because I try to downplay what I do when meeting strangers. Like at the Co/op, people eventually ask what everyone does, and they're all, like, architects and filmmakers and stuff. Then I say I'm a teacher, and they ask me where, and I say I adjunct at Working-Class Public College X, and everyone spends the rest of the shift asking me about my wonderful life. I'm like, really? I make like $15K/year, if I'm lucky. It's not bad, but can't we ask Mr. Filmmaker about his star-studded soirées?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:23 PM
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Coming from a middle-class public school background which is unremarkable everywhere else, I find that my colleagues are just sometimes from other planets. Food & wine are big. You should know enough not to dress up at the opera. People don't have undergraduate loans.

I once had a bizarre discussion with a senior professor and an incoming student about whether the incoming student should attend a university that was offering her no funding. The professor wasn't concerned, because no funding wasn't a sign of disinterest by the school. I mentioned that, of course, a Ph.D. is a bad investment with loans and the prof and I looked at each other like we were from different planets.

And then there's the senior faculty who either don't care, or never cared, or are a bizarre mixture of having a wine collection and wearing Reeboks.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:24 PM
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a bizarre mixture of having a wine collection and wearing Reeboks.

This detail cracks me up. Fits my advisor perfectly.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:27 PM
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You should know enough not to dress up at the opera.

Jesus fuck, B is right. She really IS down with the gente. people who don't dress up really are snobs.

B., please ignore 20% of the shit I've flung your way recently.

I have always found tenured faculty to be complacent and vain, regardless of their own class background and regardless of their politics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:28 PM
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I wonder how much of the professor-idolatry AWB's talking about stems from the fact that academia was traditionally (and in many fields until fairly recently) dominated by the social and economic elite; thus, the professor is not accorded such respect because of anything inherent to the job of professor, but because of the assumption that professors come from wealth and social prominence.

While there's nothing like that sort of attitude out here in the sticks, I do remember that when my dad was in grad school he would talk about how a lot of his professors were from wealthy backgrounds and that was very obvious in social situations like department parties. This was in history.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:28 PM
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In linguistics, by contrast, I never noticed anything like this. All the professors seemed to come from ordinary middle-class backgrounds.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:30 PM
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Lawyering is funny, because someone in my position is high income but not wealthy, but the guys I work for are wealthy. I've been in a couple of conversations lately -- one where a partner was trying to illustrate a conceptual point by thinking of something that he, personally, could buy if he wanted it but wouldn't think it reasonable to buy on a whim, and he really got stuck thinking of something he couldn't buy on a whim (he eventually settled on "A Bentley"); another one where the partner and a client were talking about various hundred-foot yachts with which they were familiar, and the attractive features of each. I end up kind of shutting up in those conversations, because overpaid as I am, I can't imagine what to say other than "Come the Revolution, blood will flow in streets like borscht!"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:42 PM
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people who don't dress up really are snobs.

Dsquared's position on the issue wasn't a tipoff?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:43 PM
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To follow up on 29, I suspect that the dynamics on this issue vary a lot by discipline. History, philosophy and literature seem to be dominated by the wealthy talking about wine and travel to Europe, while social sciences and (I think) hard sciences are more dominated by middle-class strivers overemphasizing their poor or rural origins.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:52 PM
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I'm pretty sure that Blume (10) is correct about the class origins of PhDs, and that what AWB is describing is no mere figment of AWB's imagination.

According to Michael T. Nettles (co-author, with Catherine M. Millett) of Three Magic Letters: Getting to Ph.D. (study of 9,000 doctoral students from 21 doctorate-granting schools):

The humanities students were distinctive in the fact that they were the highest socioeconomic class of doctoral students. Doctoral students in general are of higher socioeconomic class than the general population. But humanities students had the parents who were more likely to be postbaccalaureate-trained professionals. They also came from higher-income families.

(The above from an interview in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, April 7, 2006).

It's worth noting, I think, that only about 1 percent of the American adult population have a doctoral degree. It would be surprising if that one percent included significant numbers from a working-class or lower-middle class background. To put it another way, if there were a significant working-class/lower-middle-class representation amongst doctoral-holders, I would expect that overall figure to be significantly higher than one percent of the total adult population.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 1:54 PM
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while social sciences and (I think) hard sciences are more dominated by middle-class strivers overemphasizing their poor or rural origins.

Social sciences more than hard sciences. Hard sciences people tend to be more likely to be from an actual poor or rural origin, but social scientists seem to be the sort going on about how down with the gente they are, how much they understand the common man, but you know, probably no college loans.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:08 PM
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Yeah, I was wondering about that. I don't know much about the hard sciences.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:10 PM
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"The rich are different than you or me."

"Yeah, they have more degrees."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:16 PM
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The social science/hard science thing seems like it can be partly explained by funding structures. Nobody takes out loans to get a physics PhD. There's still the opportunity cost to consider, but you don't really come out of a hard science PhD in the red the way you can in humanities. Thus, there will be a bias based on the financial ability (or social expectation of fallback positions) of the incoming students.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:27 PM
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but you know, probably no college loans.

Really? I mean, aren't public schools up over $20k, and semi-elite privates approaching $40? I have trouble believing that 1% of Americans could actually afford to do that without loans (esp. since, just as a financial consideration, college loans are a cheap form of money, just as wealthy people will still have mortgages). I know I'm conflating how that 1% works over time, but it's not as if PhDs are drawn primarily from the ranks of those whose parents have an extra $40k lying around every year. Doesn't $200k annual income already get you into the wealthiest 10%? Or is it 1% (I honestly can't recall, but I'm pretty sure that ~$200k is a cutoff of some sort)?

Or do you just mean that the parents are paying the loans, not this kids? Which is what my folks did, so I shouldn't be so sceptical. Altho the deal was that we were on our own for graduate work. But it's not hard to imagine wealthier families picking that up as well.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:30 PM
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I was never very socially involved in my department, but among grad students conversations were more likely to be about either our field of study, politics, or movies/tv/celebrities than anything else. I never knew most people's backgrounds.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:31 PM
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JRoth--I think they're talking about grad school loans, the kind that professional school graduates have all the time.

No hard scientist should ever be paying to go to grad school. It should be funded, and obviously s/he'll teach some, but time for protected research is really important too.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:32 PM
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I think Cala's talking about undergrad loans, actually, and I'm a little skeptical about what she's saying for the same reasons JRoth gives.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:39 PM
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In the mid-90s, you could certainly afford in-state tuition at some public universities on less than $200,000/year.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:45 PM
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There were actually a lot of students at Teo U. who paid full tuition, but I always thought that was unusual and due to the idiosyncratic structure and location of the school.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:49 PM
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41: Huh. I may be outing myself as a member of the privileged upper classes, but I don't have any undergrad loans, and my folks aren't terribly well off. There's a couple of factors there -- even the fifteen years since I graduated, college has gone way up compared to inflation generally, and I don't think someone in a position comparable to my parents could do the same thing now. But they had two incomes, one reasonably middleclass, and one fairly impressively professional (big firm architect), and a conservative lifestyle, and they spent six years living on Mom's income and sending Dad's in its entirety off to my sister's and my schools.

It was tight: I think it worked primarily because those six years were good ones for Dad's firm, and he got very nice bonuses (there was a very funny evening when I was a sophmore, and my sister and I were both home from college, and Dad came home soused from the dinner at which bonuses were announced repeating in "You can go to school, girls" in a very silly mock-Irish accent.)

But that was about having a run of high income years, not being particularly wealthy, if you see the distinction. I think there's enough of the population out there richer than I grew up to populate a whole bunch of graduate departments.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:50 PM
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Liz, I would say that you have wonderful parents, despite their cruelty to water buffalo.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:52 PM
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In the mid-90s, you could certainly afford in-state tuition at some public universities on less than $200,000/year.

It has skyrocketed since the mid-90s. I mean, what you say is true, strictly-speaking, but only just. Tuitions have close to doubled across the board in the last 10-15 years.

I see now that LB has already said this, although in response to something else.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:54 PM
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It really seems that the tension between using schools to help people hand their status down to their children, and using schools to recruit necessary talent, is being resolved in favor of the former (after a 50-70 year period of talent recruitment).

Increasingly, talent-recruitment is done in Asia.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:55 PM
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I do. They really are great. It's a shame they drive each other insane -- the barely supressed hostility makes holidays a bit tricky -- but as parents they were and are spectacular.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 2:55 PM
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Who is more insufferable: people who brag on their unexpected class origins, or people who brag about not bragging on their unexpected class origins?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:21 PM
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I am downwardly mobile, motherfuckers. Top that!

B., note that I have retracted 20% of the shit I've flung your way. Someone (Cala?) brought evidence that you were right about opera dress.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:24 PM
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My family's been downwardly mobile for hundreds of years, Emerson.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:25 PM
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50: I did indeed note it. I *told* you I was right about it at the time, and for the same reason, but noooo.

I find AWB and B more sympathetic as sex-crazed rednecks than as entrepreneurs of academic sexual politics.

Tentative hypothesis: the women who make the biggest stink about sexual politics might actually have real reasons for doing so. Quit believing the Rush Limbaugh bullshit about cultural feminazi elites, already.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:30 PM
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I attained downward mobility on my own, Sifu, without depending on my family.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:33 PM
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Emerson dragged himself down by his own bootstraps, he did.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:34 PM
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Yes, well, I don't go for any of that pulling yourself down by your bootsraps nonsense.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:34 PM
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I was pwned the old fashioned way!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:34 PM
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If you were really down with the gente, John, you'd know never, ever to take shit back, especially not when you find out someone's less snooty than you thought. Shit, the real proletariat just piles it on all the deeper.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:36 PM
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I have a cunning plan, B. Or may I call you "Cabrona".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:41 PM
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Where is "down with the gente" from? I've never heard it except on Unfogged.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:42 PM
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Remember, for all their flaws (tackiness, toothlessness, drunkenness, obesity) the Wobegon gente are actually ridiculously nice. They had a benefit dinner here to buy the town drunk a new liver.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:42 PM
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As a kid, Emerson was driven to and from school by a chauffeur. Today he walks uphill both ways, in the snow.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:42 PM
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He was a mean drunk, too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:43 PM
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Have you enjoyed the liver?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:43 PM
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liver s/b livery


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:44 PM
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59: I got it from a girlfriend of mine, who used it the same way we do, i.e., ironically. Gente means "people" in Spanish.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:47 PM
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OT boast: My eight year old just ran to the corner store for me to get baking powder. First time. Handled the process with aplomb, including asking Atef to find the baking powder for her. I, of course, was panic-stricken, but covered well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:50 PM
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66: I am so envious!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:51 PM
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66: Yay!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:53 PM
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My eight year old just ran to the corner store for me to get baking powder.

I've been wanting to train mine to run to the liquor store, but as preschoolers, they inevitably get carded.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:54 PM
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69: One of my earliest household chores: "Mix Daddy a Rusty Nail."

But I really am ridiculously pleased. She's all useful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:59 PM
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70.1 totally rules. Can I meet your dad?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 4:59 PM
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As a kid, Emerson was driven to and from school by a chauffeur. Today he walks uphill both ways, in the snow.

I've lived in this city all my life. I grew up on the Upper East Side, and when I was ten years old I was rich, I was an aristocrat, riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now I'm thirty-six and all I think about is money.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:00 PM
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Unlikely. He doesn't even know I blog. (Kind of a shame -- he'd fit right in around here except, sadly, for the lewdness. My people are straitlaced.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:02 PM
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52: I figured some things out on my own based on events in my life and people I knew, B, without Rush's help. I really think that the so-called left's sexual-politics / identity-politics turn was a disaster.

On many issues I will support the social left, but I think that they've badly skewed political priorities. I also think that about people who define themselves via identity politics. I don't hate them but they just seem to be on the wrong track.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:40 PM
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74: Identity politics is so 80s, Emerson. We're past that now. It's the right that's hung up on convincing everyone that identity politics = the left.

Anyway I was kind of joking. But in seriousness, where in the world did *I* come across as being little Miss Identity Politics??


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:46 PM
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One of my problems is that most of the things that piss me off are supposedly obsolete and non-existent, though they don't seem so to me.

You seem to be going to tremendous lengths to develop a sex-friendly polyamorous feminist marriage, which strikes me as an overwhelming task.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:51 PM
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Professors are probably disproportionately among those without undergraduate loans for two reasons that are not directly related to having wealth growing up:

- they're likely to have had genius grades in high school and therefore "merit" scholarships to college (this is my situation and that of most of my friends from P/tt who went to grad school)
- if you don't have undergraduate loans you have fewer qualms about delaying your professional career still further by going to grad school.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:52 PM
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76: You're telling me. But I don't see how that's an identity politics thing; surely, if anything, it's the opposite. Sort of. (Here's where Ogged or Ben will come in and yell at me for not being clear about what I mean.)

Okay, seriously, what are the things that piss you off and how are they supposedly obsolete and non-existent?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 5:54 PM
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Analytic philosophy, identity politics, neoclassical economics, and Straussian political philosophy. I've seen denials that all of these things exist, in all cases directed at people attacking them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:02 PM
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Identity politics exist, sure. I'm just sayig they're not the darling of "the left" the way you think they are, at least not of the theoretical academicish left.

The others I know nothing about.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:06 PM
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77.1. There are so many schools where there's no such thing as a merit scholarship that I don't know how much of a factor this is.
77.2. I thought undergrad loans go into interest free deferment during grad school? The subsidized ones, anyway.

Neoclassical economics definitely exist (though I bet I could piss Emerson off almost as much defending economists as I can defending journalists, as I am married to one & all.)

I went to public school in a good-but-not-great-district, had college loans, etc. But I can't claim to be down with the gente based on that, because during high school the gente thought I was a giant, giant nerd. This has got to be common among academic types, no?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:35 PM
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That argument would probably be like the other one: I'd say things about the profession, and you defend the exceptional individuals in it. Apples and oranges.

I do find that dissidents within any profession will almost always defend the profession itself against outsiders. Questions of class, status, belonging, and group solidarity come into play.

There's something very problematic about a profession within which Milton Friedman is a dominant figure. The whole Chicago school is mostly creeps. I was just reading about Friedman, Hayek, and Pinochet, and it was pretty distressing even though I knew some of that already.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:46 PM
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B, I probably can't articulate this properly, but...I think I mostly agree with Emerson.

In terms of feminism, for example, an emphasis on alternative lifestyle statements that can only ever (or, if not ever, then at least within the forseeable future) be uttered by the well-heeled and the well-cushioned, at the expense of support for bread-and-butter economic issues that actually help women, but which admittedly risk lending at least tacit support to habits and forms that might be construed as more than vestigially "patriarchal." Most American women, for example, including, most notably, the 80 percent who are or will be mothers, still understand themselves as existing within dense networks of reciprocal and sometimes uneven and unequal webs of duty and obligation...and American feminism's fetish for "autonomy" (which is only open to the very few in terms of an actual experiment in living) very seriously does not speak to them and even actively turns them against a movement that seems not only to not speak for them but even to actively dishonour the work they do in their everyday lives...

Why is there no paid maternity leave plan in the US? In Canada, you get 12 months at 60 percent regular pay (in some Euro countries, probably something much more generous). In the US, you get what? 6 weeks unpaid leave? If mainstream American feminism wanted to, it could put this issue on the front-burner and achieve victory within 10 years. It's a winning issue with both women and men alike. But American feminism is too concerned with the equality/sameness part of the equality/difference dilemma to risk an actual victory that would actually improve the lives of women, men, and children...though admittedly at the expense of upholding certain vestigially patriarchal definitions...

The thing is, all of that Judith Butler stuff about how even to say gender not sex is always already to lend support to insidious notions of difference...well, it just doesn't mean much to those who don't follow such debates, who don't have the luxury to embroil themselves in the arcana of such latter-day versions of scholasticism, I almost want to say, and more importantly, it doesn't actually help most people to improve the lives they are actually leading.

Eh. I know I haven't explained this properly.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:48 PM
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"The whole Chicago school is mostly creeps"

No argument from me here.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:52 PM
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(I don't actually know most economists by their work, so I'm probably less stubborn than with journalism. Presumably "but my husband's friend in grad school are really nice" isn't very convincing).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:57 PM
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but j.e., you're aware that chicago-school reigns only in chicago,right? have you seen the distinction of economists into 'fresh-water' and 'salt-water'? fresh-water means pretty much just chicago (=great lake), whereas salt-water means the people on both coasts. not for nothing does brad delong, hahvahd class of whatever, now teach in berkeley.

i'm not saying the economists you hate don't exist. but they probably don't dominate discussion as much as they did a few decades ago.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:58 PM
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just at the University of Chicago, not the whole city!


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 6:59 PM
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A lot of DeLong's readers are really tired of the mildness of his criticisms of politically-opportunist and right-wing economists. Loyalty to the profession.

DeLong and Krugman are good guys now, but they're centrists and I don't trust them. They're both half-admitting that free trade didn't work out right, and that shock therapy in the ex-USSR had an enormous downside, but they're unwilling to accept or assign responsibility or blame.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:02 PM
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86 is wrong. Minnesota is the other school that gave "freshwater" its name. MIT, despite being on the coasts, has gone freshwater.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:12 PM
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uh, no, i believe minnesota is known as a 'frozen-water' school.

oh alright: i stand corrected.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:14 PM
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Actually, I think it's pretty clear what DeLong's deal is. He criticizes his friends mildly, and his not-friends harshly. He's clearly not friends with Lucas, based on his comments this week. The meanest thing I ever remember him saying ("this editorial failed the Turing test, and could not have been written by a thinking human being") was about a fellow economist, Prescott. Summers and Schliefer are his friends, so he doesn't criticize them very hard. Lucas and Prescott are if anything more significant figures than Summers and Schliefer (they are both Nobel Laureates, for example).


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:15 PM
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MIT, despite being on the coasts, has gone freshwater.

Actually dirty water.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:16 PM
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Sorry, I just live to say "number is wrong." It's not much of a life, but it is a life. So I tell myself.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:18 PM
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Academics especially (and the upwardly-mobile middle class generally) are always prone to overemphasizing their proletarian or rural origins.

Let me demonstrate the truth of this assertion by flashing my own salt-of-the-earth credentials:

1. In my high school, the first day of deer season was a school holiday.

2. Hank Williams, Jr. was played at high school dances

3. More members of my HS class joined the Marine Corps than went to college (and that's not counting the other branches of the armed services)

I went through the no doubt typical process of alternately fleeing and embracing this part of my identity throughout my young adulthood. The resolution of this tension came, ironically, from moving overseas. There I was just an American (further differentiation being largely meaningless), and my own perspective on the host society was mostly unburdened by any detailed knowledge of local class markers.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 7:33 PM
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IA, I get what you're saying about feminism, and I agree. And I'm not really arguing re. the academy that it's perfect and without flaw; far from it. I'm arguing with the notion that it's so flawed that a system in which we got rid of it altogether and replaced it with a romanticized idea of the amateur intellectual would somehow actually be better.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 8:53 PM
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Wow, KR and I went to the same high school.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:01 PM
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Kind of a shame -- he'd fit right in around here except, sadly, for the lewdness. My people are straitlaced

Several people, not as old as I am, have told me when I thought they'd like it here that they just can't stand it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:32 PM
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Fucking boomers, man.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09-23-07 10:42 PM
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95: And I'm not really arguing re. the academy that it's perfect and without flaw; far from it. I'm arguing with the notion that it's so flawed that a system in which we got rid of it altogether and replaced it with a romanticized idea of the amateur intellectual would somehow actually be better.

B, you misrepresented what I said twice and smeared what I said once. Not bad for someone who hates political arguments.

I didn't propose to get rid of feminism, or the university either. I've said that the university has major problems, and many people have agreed. I've specifically proposed an alternative model for humanities scholarship.

And please tell me where I romanticized the alternative. Since the alternative is something I've been trying to put into practice, I was even able to enumerate several of the drawbacks of the method.

What I did propose was distinguishing humanities scholarship as a job, career, and source of income from scholarship as an intrinsically rewarding activity, and proposing that people should think of doing the second without the first. (I also made some snarky remarks elsewhere about academic politics of sex and gender, but that's not the same as abolishing feminism.)

I wouldn't even want to abolish analytic philosophy, neoclassical economics, or Straussian political theory, though I think that their domination of their disciplines has been very harmful. Those are my real targets.

You really seem to want to make yourself into the poster girl for individualist elite liberalism. You want to be able to have a nice job so you can buy nice shit, and you want to be an egalitarian liberating your students from their lowly status. It can't that work that way. There's no educational budgeting level which would allow you to bring more than a few percent of your (humanities) students into the buying-nice-shit middle class with you. Even tech graduates often end up high and dry, though nowhere near as often as humanities graduates.

Supporting research and disseminating knowledge are good things in themselves, and individuals can raise their individuals status by working hard and shrewdly at school, but the humanities are NOT a way for people to do that and get into the middle class. I finally graduated with and English BA from one of those tier-three-of-three last-chance schools, and plenty of people I knew got humanities degrees which left them economically exactly where they had been before. College graduates go out into the existing labor market, and there's no real demand for English BAs. I knew people who sacrificed for years, and their families sacrificed for years, in order to get worthless diplomas.

To sum up: making education widely available is an intrinsically good thing, AND individuals who play their education cards right can raise their class status, AND a more-educated population is usually better off than a less-educated population . BUT education is not a way to achieve social equality. Whatever the general level of education, people are sorted, according to their educational level, into the class structure and occupational structure that exists.

What this means is that a tier-two or tier-three BA or BS isn't worth much economically. Whatever jobs there are go to the tier-ones. (How do I know this? Because I've got a tier-three BA in English).

My big point is that this problem especially affects the humanities. What I proposed was an alternative organization of the humanities taking these factors into account. The downside is that by and large humanities will be a money loser for people, and will not help them buy nice shit. For most people the humanities will just be an alternative kind of nice shit to buy, and not a cash cow.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 4:53 AM
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"education is not a way to achieve social equality"

yeah, i think that's right, exceptions always admitted. maybe stardom in higher ed can provide a route up for half a percent per generation, at tops, but not for the vast majority. (and even the half percent figure is probably more reflective of the post-war g.i. bill phenomenon than anything since).

reducing social inequality is more about unionization, reining in the robber-barons, and making the worst-off incrementally better off. higher ed plays a pretty marginal role in most of those.

it would be nice to think it could have some role instead in exposing people to new ideas, new knowledge, and new ways of thinking, i.e. education, but maybe that's a pipe dream too.

(gente points: i have worked in both teamsters and uaw jobs. ergo i'm one of the people. top that,hank williams high.)


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 5:15 AM
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Hey, some of my honky homies are militia terrorists and Luddite saboteurs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09-24-07 6:14 AM
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99 seems like a healthy start on an interesting book.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:16 AM
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