Friday, March 14, 2008

What's with the All the Hating, David P?

In an otherwise inoffensive Chronicle article ("Get Another Life"), David Perlmutter makes the following two derogatory references to the Middle Ages:
  • The university is the site of a perfect storm of 21st-century expectations and medieval bureaucracy, and the promotion-and-tenure process is the clashing point.
  • The tenure track may feel like the medieval torture of having each limb pulled in a different direction by whipped horses.
Without any genuine outrage, I nonetheless ask: What's the deal? Yes, everyone knows about drawing and/or quartering; no need to be all elliptical and toss the "medieval" in there. (According to Wikipedia, by the way, the horse-related torture is actually French quartering, and occurred as late as the 18th century. Medieval, I ask?)

More baffling, however, is this "medieval bureaucracy" of which DP speaks. Okay, this might be legitimately outside of my field, but I had no idea that the Middle Ages were particularly known for their byzantine bureaucratic processes. When we think of awful bureaucracy, what usually comes to mind? That's right--Kafka! Not even close to the M.A., my friends.

I sometimes wonder whether periodism is really as legitimately charged an issue as I often make it out to be (if only in my thoughts), but I can't help rolling my eyes--even with a well-maintained sense of humor--at this kind of thing.

Oh well. It's a losing battle.


Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

The bureaucratization of universities is a modern phenomenon. It isn't even an early modern phenomenon, really growing up in the 1800s.

In this situation, the word "medieval" can be defined as "something I don't much like because of my own prejudices, but I'm too ignorant to know the origins of my own prejudices, and too lazy figure them out." Not exactly a wonderful ethic for an academic to display.

heu mihi said...

Unfortunately, I think you're right. At least I cite Wikipedia, which is the true hallmark of intellectual rigor and honesty.