Must-Read: Dan Nexon's strictures on how American universities' hiring systems are broken are very important:
I've used some of them in my classes. They're that good.
There's also an important lesson here. A untimely death wasn't the only thing that robbed an emerging area of study of someone who should have been—in the homo academicus sense—a leader in the field. Scott never accumulated traditional academic capital. He never published a major University Press book. He was one of an army of brilliant PhDs diverted into the contingent-labor pool.
As he scraped by, and eventually shifted into writing for places like Salon and Raw Story, Scott was unusual in one very important respect. His scholarly writings and ideas—in the form of blog posts—reached a wide audience and influenced other academics.
But I can't help think that Scott was robbed (indeed, by his lack of stable and quality health insurance, at the least), and scholarship robbed, by this trajectory. Scott had the particular flair and skill to leave his mark as a public intellectual. But he deserved to be both that public intellectual and the producer of respected academic books and articles, and to have the position to match. Not only did he deserve it... the stream of academic knowledge needed it.
But the professoriate, our cost-cutting administrators (at least when it comes to things other than shiny dorms and athletic facilities), and our legislators let Scott down. And, by extension, human knowledge.
Scott was unique—as we all are. And, as I noted above, he was unusually gifted at public communication. Moreover, he came along during a brief moment when the blogosphere was a great—and intellectually vibrant—leveler for those who had access and time.
Most academic contingent labor is not so lucky. If we honor Scott's memory, we need to set our sights on changing the system that wronged him, and wrongs so many others.
Anita Johnson Benoit: "I couldn't agree more! And thank you for mentioning this...
...He told me once that he was "forced out" because had he stayed any longer he would receive a sizable pay raise and basically become permanent staff. How do you do that to GIFT such as SEK that you have at your school?
Scott Eric Kaufman: Visual Rhetoric Compendium