Arrogance and Hierarchy in the Academy

The Dilemma of Non-Arrogance

Page last updated May 13, 1998.
Back to Dear Habermas Table of Contents
Jeanne with comments
and submissions to the discussion.

Works in Progress represent our backstage, so some terms or references may not be clear. Most of us who are working on the team are familiar with the sources cited. They are often in our offices. But if we mention a name or a work on which you would like qualifications, please ask. One of the nicest experiences we've had so far is when Oliver Seeley asked for further information on Rashi because Jeanne had mentioned him in a workshop. Some basic information on Rashi is now on the site. E-mail us. We'll try to answer your questions. Jeanne

Notes from Jeanne:

The following are notes that we need to pull together the several separate pieces we are all working on. I believe the arrogance and hierarchical bullying piece will be central to most of what we are doing because it relates to the good faith hearing of all validity claims. Hierarchical bullying denies the good faith hearing of those lower in the hierarchy, except by the gracious good will of the one with higher authority. The need for gracious willingness wipes out the granting of good faith hearing to every citizen, and places the legitimacy in question.

Need to reference Duncan Kennedy's complaint about the hierarchy of law school. (In Kairys' Politics of Law.)

Then need to deal with the dilemma of how I shall get respect if I do not command such arrogance by bullying those below me. Reference situational leadership (Pat, you should have this piece.), reference x and y theories of management, and their updates. Consider information control and how it is used by the administration as set against all below, by faculty as used against those lower than they are in the hierarchy. Consider student use of arrogance and hierarchy - it will have to be there because of anticipatory socialization. Do and can students use information control in the other direction in the hierarchy? Is the hierarchy the only source of respect? (Richard, you should have this piece.) Are we in fact chickens in a pecking order? Or has our measurement of relationships within the institutional setting been so impoverished that we set about to put ourselves into the pecking order behaviorists told us we would follow? Need for some reflexive criticism here.

Moot Court offers us extensive data over thirteen years on what happens if we attempt not to use information control, and refuse to acknowledge hierarchy. Arrogance over status happens anyway in our records. How have we handled it? Have we successfully changed course? To what extent is this goal reflected in our recent changes to the model?

If I am a puffed up bullfrog, then they respect me because the fact that I win at least a goodly percent of the time backs my claim to be smarter, more competent, and successful. Since students are not privy to most transactions in the faculty/administrative hierarchy, they have partial data, and the case is stacked against them in grading, so that the teacher can more easily win. Limited and partial access to data lends a patina of success to the professorial hierarchy claims. (Recall that Duncan Kennedy used the term "patina of consent" in his article in Kairys. I'm still enamored of that concept.) What are the real measures that might indicate success if the measurement were triangulated? Here we turn to Drucker and others - "I wouldn't hire a man who had never made mistakes". Measure of manager - how department runs when manager gone - whole literature on how we bring out creativity.

I also think that the issues Prof. Posavac brought up about efforts to attain forgiveness through reconciliation will tie in here. If there are, in fact, those whose identity is built on self-protection, then the destruction of the hierarchy of bullying may threaten identity and may have unexpected effects on the creative solutions good faith discourse might otherwise produce. Pennebaker's book should arrive shortly. But don't forget that we need to consider this piece. I suspect it is going to mean that we need reflexive criticism and one awful lot of good faith to decide what precisely good faith means and how it will come wrapped in real discourse. Absolute candor may not be appropriate. So we'll need to be sure how we use the term good faith and how that affects discourse.

Added on April 6, 1998

Speaking of arrogance, just saw this image of the academy clutching the ivy of an old academic building (don't know why - we don't have any).

The Academy Fall

The arrogant academy clung to the wall
The whole darned academy had a great fall
Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum
What were ya thinkin' of, Monl.

Calhoun talks about our laughing as relativists, as though nothing matters anyway, as we approach the intellectual abyss (around p.100, I think). Could this have triggered the image of the academy, auto-poietic, non-learning, non-caring, clinging to the precarious tendrils of the very old, very traditional ivy? And cracking, like the NOW. Habermas and Skolimowsky are looking for some grand scheme we should have been thinking of that might have made us come in from the vine. If we're gonna climb, we'd better at least get a toe hold in the bricks. Of course our campus doesn't have those either.

Cable and the Networks Face the Arrogance of Accountability

In the N Y Times, in the Living Arts Section on May 4, 1998, James Sterngold discusses the battle between Cable and the Networks in "Cloud Over the Emmys as Cable Surges Ahead." (At p. B1). Since 1988 the cables have been permitted to compete in the Emmy awards. The Networds are now screaming that this is unfair. Seems there's lots of this screaming about unfairness lately, as access to competitions is increased, and the competitions get fiercer and fiercer. Some networks have even spoken of "dropping out" of the Emmys, of refusing to air them. Sounds a little like the complaint of the law schools at being graded.

Competition does spur achievement. And our tendency is to say, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." But this is one of the tensions of which Habermas speaks - the tension between the competitive achievement of the individual or the individual network or cable channel, versus the progress and growth of the community as a whole. Both sides do get mentioned in this article. Meryl Marshall, the president of the Emmy's academy, says "If they believe in their own creativity . . . they will compete." Yes, but winning, individual winning has become the thing. We need to find the other fish. We need to find community again.

Cable is at least partially supported by subscribers. Success for a cable program does not require the huge numbers of audience members required for networks, which depend on advertisement for support. The measures of success are different, and now they are being compared with accusations hurled that we are comparing apples and oranges.

"'The cable industry has done a wonderful job of selling itself with what I believe are very misleading figures,' said Peter Roth, the president of Fox Entertainment. 'The six networks are seen by almost double the number of viewers of the total cable universe. I find it absolutely confounding that people are not delving into the truth of that.'" So this is why we study statistics? What would you recommend for measurement?


Students Working: Energy Problem at the Discourse Table

In the New York Times, Nationa Reporter, on Wednesday, May 13, Jo Thomas writes of student jobs: "Experts Take a 2nd Look At Virtue of Student Jobs." Thomas notes that "four million students around the country . . . work one or more jobs while going to high school, a practice that appears to be particularly American." American High School seniors were surveyed. 61% work "an average of 3.1 hours daily, as against only 28 % of seniors abroad, who worked a daily average of just 1.2 hours."

What does this mean in terms of discourse? Thomas tells of high school students who are surviving on 5 hours of sleep a night. Even with adolescent energy, they are tired. One student tells of occasionally falling asleep in class, not because he is bored; he is tired. Educators need to re-examine the role of work with respect to high school students. What about with respect to college students? Education has long been said to be "a teen's No. 1 job." But do we want to force our young people to heold down 2 or 3 jobs, or an extensive job, that drains energy from learning? And if not, how do we balance the effect of ever decreasing funds to help support education?

If students are scraping the bottom of the energy barrel just to manage classes, how likely are they to bring validity claims to the discourse table? Are they just too busy "getting by?" Does this heighten the differences between the research institutes and the more traditional four-year colleges in urban and rural areas, where work may be a requisite part of the game?

We used to describe non-traditional students as "first in family" college graduates. Perhaps we need to look at that definition again. Perhaps it should include a closer examination of the jobs students have, of the importance of those jobs to access into the corporate system (and in some cases, they are important), and the relative priorities that students are forced and choose to give such activities. If we fail to consider this phenomenon, are we in fact inviting the students to discourse in good faith? To what extent does good faith require that we re-examine our assumptions about the social system in which we operate? Notice how close these questions bring us to questions of reflexivity? How are we measuring the success of education? Are we including access to discourse, and coming in good faith to that discourse, as one of the goals of education? And, if not, why not?

Check out the N.Y. Times article. Check out its references to:

Jeanne with comments and contributions to the discussion.