The Ivory Tower's Blue-Collar Misfits

The first three years went off without a hitch. I had come up from pretty much nothing to having three letters after my name, finishing my Ph.D. at 26. I landed my first, and what would turn out to be my only, job at a religiously-affiliated university in a large Midwestern city. The money was good and my departmental colleagues were exceptional: they were dedicated to teaching; they were accepting and open to all views, from free market to Marxist; and they never put on airs that the professoriate made us somehow better. I immediately felt I belonged in academia and that my low income, blue-collar background was irrelevant, both to them and to me. That changed when my experience expanded from this small group of economists to the academy-at-large. Alas, not everyone was so down to earth.    My first clue that pedigree matters, maybe more so than performance, was when I was tapped as an untenured 30-year-old to be the sole associate dean in a college of thousands of...(Read Full Article)

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