Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I weep for the state of modern academics. The University of Michigan Press has five books on mathematics and engineering. It has two hundred and fifty seven books on gender studies. How can you get people interested in science when it is devalued in this way?


  1. It may not represent that dire of an academic situation. Some possibilities:

    1. Causality runs the other direction. People want more books on gender studies than math and engineering. The academy is solid, it's just that people outside the academy have lousy preferences.

    2. Math & Engineering books are better written. There are only a few of them because the ones that exist are so good. They're the Wal-Mart and Target of books, and they squeeze out the competition. Gender studies books are generally of a lower quality, so it's more like a bunch of mom and pop operations.

    3. The field of Math and Engineering has a solid corpus of actual knowledge. How many ways do you need to present proofs and formulas and things that everyone can agree on? Gender studies just has a bunch of unprovable (unsupportable?) ideas floating around. There are different, conflicting theories of gender studies. In math and engineering there's only what has been tested & proven and what has not. The "has not" doesn't make it into the textbooks.

    A better measure of the state of modern academics would be how many people are graduating in math and engineering vs. gender studies.

  2. I certainly hope that you are correct. My experience at the University of Tennessee suggests that what emanates from the university press is largely reflective of what is going on at the faculty level. I tend to favor possibility number 3 in your list. I do know that every time there is a movement afoot to merge the anthropology and sociology departments, the anthropologists rise up in arms against it. I have a terminal degree in anthropology but it might just as well have been an anatomy/geology degree, since I did almost all of my work in comparative anatomy, statistics, osteology, palaeoecology, archeology and systematics.