Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Johns



When I began my graduate studies back in the mid 1990's I decided early on that I would write my dissertation on John Rawls. I was moved by the elegance, sophistication and persuasion of Rawls's theory of justice. And in my dissertation, and then early publications, I attempted to defend Rawls's theory against various critics- communitarian, egalitarian, left-libertarian, etc.

But over time I became less committed, then somewhat critical, and then very critical, of the Rawlsian project (by which I mean the industry of Rawlsian scholarship rather than Rawls's own specific contribution). This culminated in this book which is a critique of the principled paradigm and ideal theory more generally.

What lead me to change my views? There were many things, and I have expanded on them before (see here, here, here, here, here and here). I won't repeat these various points again here, but those interested in my concerns can check out some of my earlier posts.

What I do want to consider here is this question: if I had to do it all again, would I still chose to do a dissertation on Rawls? Despite the vast amount of respect I have for Rawls as a political philosopher, my answer now would be "No". Instead, I would have liked the opportunity to write a dissertation on the American pragmatist John Dewey (1859-1952).

Unlike Rawls, whose theory has dominated the field of political philosophy for well over 30 years now, Dewey has remained a relatively marginalized figure in the field. But the neglect of Dewey is not a reflection on the quality of his work, rather it is a reflection on how impoverished and insular the field of political philosophy has become.

If I were a betting man I would wager a few dollars that, a 100 years from now, Dewey's influence on the field will actually surpass Rawls's. I admit that few of my colleagues would agree with me about this. And I say this not to belittle Rawls's work (which I greatly admire), but rather to praise Dewey's contribution.

Dewey was a brilliant philosopher who wrote a voluminous amount of work. I am by no means an expert on Dewey's work, but recently I have made an effort to read more of his work and have been struck by the range of his interests and intellect, and have found his work to be some of the most rewarding to read.

OK, since I am talking Dewey up so much I better provide a few details as to why I find him so interesting to read. Dewey's work, like my admiration for Greats in philosophy (like Plato, Aristotle or Mill) resonates with me on many different levels. Dewey resonates with me:

(1) as an educator
(2) as a democratic
(3) as a pragmatist
(4) as a perfectionist
(5) as someone who has a deep respect and appreciation of the importance of science.

While I also appreciate analytic rigour, it is not among the "top 5" things I look for in an inspirational and interesting philosopher. If it was, the list of great political philosophers would be very short indeed, and include no one before Rawls!

So here is an interesting counterfactual worth pondering:

Where would the field of political philosophy be today if the field had spent as much time and energy examining and debating Dewey's work as we have Rawls's?
[Perhaps we should revise that to read "if the field had spent just 25% of the time and energy examining and debating Dewey's work as we have Rawls's" since no one philosopher ought to dominant debates as much as Rawls has!]

My short, speculative answer to this hypothetical question is: The discipline would be more interesting, truly interdisciplinary, more expansive in terms of the issues it tackles, and yield more practical wisdom than it currently does.

Of course this is just my personal speculation so take it for what it is worth. But rather than have decades of debates on the speculative nature of the self, or extending the difference principle globally, or refining luck egalitarianism, a sustained engagement with Dewey would have brought psychology, democracy, education, and pragmatism to the fore of the discipline. And that would, in my opinion, have been a very positive development indeed.

Cheers,
Colin

Friday, June 26, 2009

PNAS Study on How New Experiences Trigger Changes in Brain


The early content of the PNAS has this interesting study of how new experiences trigger changes in the brains of the zebra finch. Here is the abstract:

New experiences can trigger changes in gene expression in the brain. To understand this phenomenon better, we studied zebra finches hearing playbacks of birdsong. Earlier research had shown that initial playbacks of a novel song transiently increase the ZENK (ZIF-268, EGR1, NGFIA, KROX-24) mRNA in the auditory forebrain, but the response selectively habituates after repetition of the stimulus. Here, using DNA microarray analysis, we show that novel song exposure induces rapid changes in thousands of RNAs, with even more RNAs decreasing than increasing. Habituation training leads to the emergence of a different gene expression profile a day later, accompanied by loss of essentially all of the rapid “novel” molecular responses. The novel molecular profile is characterized by increases in genes involved in transcription and RNA processing and decreases in ion channels and putative noncoding RNAs. The “habituated” profile is dominated by changes in genes for mitochondrial proteins. A parallel proteomic analysis [2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) and sequencing by mass spectrometry] also detected changes in mitochondrial proteins, and direct enzyme assay demonstrated changes in both complexes I and IV in the habituated state. Thus a natural experience, in this case hearing the sound of birdsong, can lead to major shifts in energetics and macromolecular metabolism in higher centers in the brain.


And a brief excerpt from the EurekaAlert! notice:

The new experiments uncovered three distinct profiles of gene expression in the brain. One is typical of a bird sitting alone in silence. A second profile appears quickly just after a bird hears a recorded song – but only if the song is new to the bird. A third profile then emerges 24 hours later, after the song has become familiar.

"I can tell you whether the bird has heard a particular song before or not just by looking at the molecular assay," Clayton said.
In the study, each bird was kept in quiet isolation overnight before it heard a recording of a new song. The recording was then repeated every 10 seconds for up to three hours.

"The most important thing in its whole life is the sound of another bird of its species singing," Clayton said.

"And what we found is that 24 hours after the experience its brain is still trying to make sense of what it heard."


Cheers,
Colin

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where the Action Is: On the Site of the "Playful" Life


Lately I have been swamped finishing off a few ongoing projects and preparing a new course for the Fall term. So I haven't posted many substantive posts for a few weeks now. Today I want to just say a few words about a newish interest I am now tackling (which arose out of my perfectionist ethics and interest in love) and plan to start seriously posting about here as I switch gears a bit with my research interests. And that new topic is...- PLAY!

I came across the topic of play via many overlapping personal and professional interests- my experiences as a husband and father, my interests in positive psychology, virtue ethics, evolutionary biology and deliberative democracy.

In particular I am interested in three big questions:

(1) what is play?
(2) why play? and
(3) what constitutes the "playful society"?

My fellow political philosophers might wonder why I have decided to concern myself with play. "Why not chose a topic like socio-economic inequality or multiculturalism?" they might ask. "Besides, how important is "play" anyways?" they might continue. One seldom hears political theorists (at least the theorists of today... the Ancient Greeks knew all too well the value and importance of play) worry about the health of play in a fair and humane society. But I beleive that is a reflection on the poverty of the discipline rather than being a reflection on the importance of play.

What is play? Play encompasses many different activities (physical play, social play, etc.) that help humans develop the emotional and intellectual skills necessary for flourishing. Play ranges from activities like learning to ride a bike to reading novels, dating, blogging and debating politics. I won't offer anything like a comprehensive definition of play here. But there are different kinds of play and the common features of these activities is that they are (a) enjoyable (b) often do not have an obvious immediate function (c) they can be energetically expensive, etc.

To bring home the magnitude of the stakes involved with play, consider what a society would be like that is devoid of play. Stuart Brown makes this point in his excellent new book Play and says:

It's not just an absence of games or sports. Life without play is life without books, without movies, art, music, jokes, dramatic stories. Imagine a world with no flirting, no day dreaming, no comedy, no irony. Such a world would be a pretty grim place to life. p. 6


In fact things would probably been even more dire than this. A world without play would probably come closer to Hobbes's description of life in the state of nature in Leviathan:

In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture on the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by the Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, nasty, brutish and short.


So play is important! Why play? That is also a very important question, one that raises questions about human nature and the ultimate cause of our playful inclinations. I will post something more substantive on this in the future. For now the short answer is that play helps us live more successful and happy lives.

And that takes us to the really vital issue of what kinds of institutions and society help promote different forms of play. I'll post more thoughts about these issues in the weeks and months to come. But for now I highly recommend you watch Stuart Brown's excellent talk on play over at Ted Talks.

Cheers,
Colin

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Main Menu (June 2009)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hoax Paper Incident


"Publish or perish" is a popular mantra one encounters in academia. Well, a recent story about a hoax article that was accepted for publication suggests that this mantra might need to be be re-thought! Naturenews reports about the embarrassing incident where a computer-generated manuscript was accepted for publication in an open access journal. A computer generated paper contains grammatically correct but nonsensical text.

This story brings back memories of the the "Sokal Affair" from the mid-1990's.

This new hoax raises real concerns as it is common practice for open access journals to charge authors for publishing their papers. By introducing the profit motive in this way there are real potential threats to the integrity of the review process.

Cheers,
Colin

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ode to Bentham's "Calculus of Happiness"


In a previous post I noted the brilliance of Bentham. Bentham's "calculus of happiness" posits the following 7 considerations that ought to be assessed when determining which action will maximize happiness:


1. Intensity of the pleasure
2. Duration of the pleasure
3. Its certainty/uncertainty
4. Remoteness [nearness in time]
5. Fecundity [likelihood that it will be followed by sensations of the same kind]
6. Purity [likelihood that it will be followed by opposite sensations]
7. Extent [the number of persons to whom it extends]


While preparing my Bentham lecture for my course this coming year I put together the following video to help my students remember these 7 components of Bentham's calculus:
video

Cheers,
Colin

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happyhour Gene and Alcohol Resistance



The latest issue of Cell has this fascinating study on the role of genes in ethanol resistance. Here is the abstract:

The consequences of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are devastating to individuals and society, yet few treatments are currently available. To identify genes regulating the behavioral effects of ethanol, we conducted a genetic screen in Drosophila and identified a mutant, happyhour (hppy), due to its increased resistance to the sedative effects of ethanol. Hppy protein shows strong homology to mammalian Ste20 family kinases of the GCK-1 subfamily. Genetic and biochemical experiments revealed that the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-signaling pathway regulates ethanol sensitivity in Drosophila and that Hppy functions as an inhibitor of the pathway. Acute pharmacological inhibition of the EGF receptor (EGFR) in adult animals altered acute ethanol sensitivity in both flies and mice and reduced ethanol consumption in a preclinical rat model of alcoholism. Inhibitors of the EGFR or components of its signaling pathway are thus potential pharmacotherapies for AUDs.


Cheers,
Colin

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Human Rights Treaties and Health



Following on from my previous post on idealism meets realism....when it comes to public health, the consequences of different courses of action, in terms of their impact on health and disease, are complex and often difficult to predict.

Things one might be inclined to think are very important to promoting health turn out to be, in the big picture of things, of little importance. And conversely, things that people might think are unimportant turn out to be extremely important.

So in the contemporary situation, just to pick some obvious examples, many people believe that a global effort to control the surface temperature of the planet would yield significant health benefits. The same goes for eliminating all cancers. Climate change and cancer are important issues. But most people vastly over-estimate what the benefits of the "climate ideal" (whatever one takes that to be) and "cancer-free life" would be. And this is to say nothing about the large empirical assumptions concerning how likely it is that either could actually be accomplished.

Conversely, many of the people who champion global action for tackling (human influences on) climate change and cancer will probably not support, indeed some might even oppose, the aspiration to decelerate human ageing. And yet I would conjecture that the latter would yield health and economic benefits that surpass both, combined. Why do I say this? (1) humans have been very successful in adapting to different climates. This is a good thing as the climate has never remained constant. And so adaptation could mitigate many of the worse case scenarios people envision with climate change. (2) cancer largely affects elderly people. Most tumours arise in the last quarter of life, with the incidence increasing exponentially with time (source). Removing cancer as a cause of death would only extend, by a few years, the healthy life of most people as aging populations would soon suffer one of the other afflictions of senescence- like heart disease or stroke. Whereas retarding aging would delay all the afflictions of senescence, yielding health and economic dividends far bigger than what we could hope to reap via eliminating any specific disease of aging.

If there is anything to learn from historical examples of important public health innovations, like the sanitation revolution, it is that we cannot rely on our intuitions in these cases. We should premise public policy on credible empirical evidence and data, not our "gut feelings" about what will do most good in the world.

Many see human rights treatises as an essential step towards creating more healthy polities. Do such treatises actually lead to better health and social outcomes? Well, this study in the latest issue of The Lancet asks this question and examined data for health and social indicators from 170 countries. Their conclusion: there is no consistent association between ratification of human-rights treaties and health or social outcomes. Here is the abstract:

Human-rights treaties indicate a country’s commitment to human rights. Here, we assess whether ratification of human-rights treaties is associated with improved health and social indicators. Data for health (including HIV prevalence, and maternal, infant, and child [<5 years] mortalities) and social indicators (child labour, human development index, sex gap, and corruption index), gathered from 170 countries, showed no consistent associations between ratification of human-rights treaties and health or social outcomes. Established market economy states had consistently improved health compared with less wealthy settings, but this was not associated with treaty ratification. The status of treaty ratification alone is not a good indicator of the realisation of the right to health. We suggest the need for stringent requirements for ratification of treaties, improved accountability mechanisms to monitor compliance of states with treaty obligations, and financial assistance to support the realisation of the right to health.


The paper concludes: "The fact that economic status was the greatest predictor of good health, but was not associated with likelihood of treaty ratification, emphasises the central role of financing in the realisation of the right to
health".

This reinforces a point I think is often neglected- that it is important not just to "feel" we are doing good, but rather "to actually do good!". Figuring out what would actually do most good is an enormously complex challenge. What are the odds that the real challenges of today will be solved by measures that just happen to cohere with our "intuitions" about what would do great good (like ratifying human rights treaties)? I say they are slim to none. And the sooner we realize this the better.

Cheers,
Colin

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Idealism Meets Realism: Tackling Chronic Disease Via Age Retardation


An idealist is one who aspires to bring about a better state-of-affairs than those realized in the status quo.

The idealist looks at the world around them and says: "Things could be better, things should be better. Let's get it done".

Most of us are idealists about some things. The world needs more idealists.

A realist is one who grounds their aspirations in an understanding of the constraints of reality.

The realist looks at the world around them and says: "While we might not always like the ways things are, we should not forget how bad things used to be and how difficult (and sometimes fleeting) positive change can be. Meaningful progress can be made, but it takes time and much more than good intentions."

Most of us are realists about some things. The world needs more realists.

When I reflect on my own beliefs and aspirations I realize how intricate and complex this balance of idealism and realism is. There are some things I am an idealist about, and some things I am a realist about.

When I hear someone championing a cause that perhaps coheres with my idealist sensibilities, but clearly violates my realist sensibilities, I usually categorize their aspirations (after a thorough re-examination of my own realist and idealist sensibilities!) in the "naive utopian" pile of ideas.

Conversely, when I hear someone making a pragmatic argument that is perhaps sympathetic to my realist sensibilities but contravenes my idealist sensibilities, I usually categorize their aspirations (after a thorough re-examination of my own realist and idealist sensibilities!) in the "too conservative and unimaginative" pile of ideas.

The tension between my idealism and my realism helps keep my goals and aspirations in check. I don't espouse ideals that I think are unrealistic (like control of the global surface temperature) nor are my ideals tempered by realist constraints that I genuinely believe are not, in the long run, insurmountable.

Between the extremes of the cockeyed idealist and the short-sighted and unimaginative realist lies the tenuous temperate of the "realistic idealist".

The idealist in me aspires for a world with less disease. Such a world would provide humans with greater opportunities to flourish: more opportunities to love, to play, to spend time with friends and family, to cultivate new interests, etc.

A world with less disease is a world with more health. Many things impede the ideal of a more healthy world- poverty, infectious diseases like HIV and malaria, inactive lifestyles, etc. And so the idealist in me recognises that many, many things must be done to make the world a more healthy world. There is no single, "silver bullet" solution to all the risks of morbidity that humans face in the world today.

The realist in me then thinks: OK, let's take this ideal a bit further by prioritizing among the various things that could be done to improve the health prospects of humanity. To do this we must ask two important questions:

(1) what causes most disease in the world today?

and

(2) what are the most likely, and cost-effective, interventions that would yield the most significant health dividends?

The idealist in me can't help but admit that these realist sensibilities are important considerations. So I agree to incorporate these empirical considerations into my "big picture" grasp of the challenges, and potential solutions, to the world's health problems.

So let's consider the first question: what causes most disease in the world today? Well, if we head over to the World Health Organization we realize that most disease-related deaths are caused by chronic diseases. In the year 2005, 55 million people died, and chronic diseases were responsible for 35 million of these deaths. That number is twice the number of deaths due to infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.

OK, so these real-world facts make it clear that, among the problems facing the health prospects of humanity, chronic disease is a BIG problem. And it is not a problem just for the richest countries (as many naive idealists assume). In fact, most deaths from chronic disease occur in more populous lower-middle income countries, like China and India. WHO estimates that between 2005 and 2015, 220 million people will die from chronic illness, and a 144 million of these deaths will be in these lower middle income countries.

These numbers are sobering. Never before in human history have so many people been ravaged by chronic diseases. And chronic diseases do not kill people quickly, they are long-lasting, leading to years of pain and suffering, disability and often financial hardship for families and rising health care costs.

When the idealist in me sees the data on chronic disease I say: "Things could be better, things should be better".

But how do we best combat chronic disease? While the idealist in me hopes we can make progress with treating chronic diseases, the real ideal would be to prevent them from developing in the first place. But unlike communicable diseases, which can be prevented by things like vaccinations, bed nets and condoms, chronic diseases are more difficult to prevent. There are things people can do, like quit smoking, eat a decent diet and exercise. But is there something else we should also consider?

Perhaps we are overlooking something? Something so obvious that it might have been easy to overlook? hmm... Let's back up and reflect on the fact that, historically, very few people developed, let alone died from, chronic disease. The tsunami of chronic disease that now exists is a novel development in human history. What really caused this tsunami? What explains why the 21st century is the century of chronic disease? Is it something that people now eat that is causing all these chronic diseases? Is it something in the lifestyles we now live? No.

There is one obvious reason why chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the world: because people are living longer. Most chronic diseases are in fact caused by the inborn aging process. A 20 year-old smoker has less risk of developing cancer in the next 10 years than does a 80 year-old who never smoked in his life. And a 20-year old who eats a poor diet and rarely exercises has a greater chance of living another decade than does an 80 year-old who eats a good diet and exercises every day. The impact of smoking and inactivity pale in comparison to the impact a few extra decades of senescence has on a person's health prospects.

Maybe we have been looking in the wrong place in terms of identifying the leading causes of chronic disease. Perhaps, unlike communicable diseases that have proximate causes we can (now) easily identify- like the HIV virus and bacterium Vibrio cholerae- the real culprit to study and mitigate with chronic disease is the ultimate (rather than proximate) cause.

The vast majority of people who die from chronic disease are over the age of 60. Why does the number of years you have lived have such a strong bearing on your risk of chronic disease? The answer to this question requires us to go beyond the findings of epidemiology and the fixation on proximate causes. We need to invoke the findings of biodemography. Biodemography is the scientific study of common age patterns and causes of death observed among humans and other sexually reproducing species and the biological forces that contribute to them (source).

You might wonder why you haven't heard about biodemography before. Well, it's a relatively new new scientific discipline, just a few decades old. You might also wonder why the CDC or WHO don't invoke the ultimate causes of morbidity and mortality in their classifications of human deaths? That's a good (and very important) question. My guess is that it is simply a case of inertia. The conceptual tools and empirical insights that proved useful in helping us combat communicable diseases are still being applied (with some, but limited, success) to chronic diseases. In time this will, hopefully, change [this is my idealist speaking now!]. To change it doctors need to learn about evolutionary biology, we need to fight for science, .... well... I digress....

So what causes most chronic disease in the world today? The short answer is: evolutionary neglect. Reproduction was made a higher biological priority rather than indefinite maintenance. The post-reproductive period of the human lifespan, unlike the pre-reproductive and reproductive periods, is not influenced by natural selection. Hence why our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles, our joints ache, and, eventually, we develop one or more chronic diseases and die.

Now let's turn to the realist question #2: what can be done? The idealist in me would see no point in listening to all the points listed above if there was no possible good news at the end of the day!! So, the short answer: we need to re-programme the human metabolism. But we must aspire to do more than follow the simple advice given by your doctor (e.g. eat sensibly and exercise, which of course everyone should do!). Lifestyle modifications alone will not be sufficient to make serious headway against the diseases of aging.

To achieve the latter we must develop a drug that mimics the effects of calorie restriction (CR). CR (unlike exercise alone) has been shown to extend the lifespan of a variety of organisms, including mice, by retarding aging, thus delaying and preventing the progression of the diseases that would otherwise have killed them sooner.

What would the development of such an "anti-ageing" drug mean for humans? It would mean that by taking a daily pill (call it the "vitality vitamin") one could reduce their risk of all age-related diseases and disorders. It would extend the number of years of health and vigour that people could expect to enjoy. Humans with a re-programmed metabolism might have the health and vitality of today's 50 year-olds even when they celebrate their 80th birthday! And when their health does seriously decline as they approach 110-120 years old, the period of morbidity would be compressed compared to what that period is under the current rate of aging.

Such an intervention is currently being tested in human clinical trials (see here). So the realist in me says "hey, this is not as far fetched as most people might think!). These trials will see if such an intervention is a safe and effective treatment for the diseases of aging. If it is, then the prospect of taking such a pill as a preventative measure, by retarding the rate of aging, is on the table.

Given where the science already is, with more support and a serious push perhaps today's adults could expect to add a decade of healthy life and compress morbidity at the end of life. And for the children of today, its conceivable that just over 3 decades of extra disease-free life could be enjoyed, compared to what the current rate of aging offers.

So what is a "realistic utopia" for the 21st century? In my view, it is a world where our children do not have to suffer the late-life morbidity that our parent's generation suffered. Age retardation would increase the human health span and compress morbidity at the end of life. This would constitute incredible progress towards my ideal of a world with more opportunities for health (though we would still need to tackle poverty and infectious disease). A world of humans with re-programmed metabolisms would mean a world where people can spend more time with loved ones and friends, more time learning about this fascinating world and universe, more time playing, and..... it would also create enormous economic benefits.

Few people in the world today believe that decelerating human aging is (a) possible and (b) an important priority. So the realist in me knows that it will be a difficult battle to fight for the realization of this ideal. But progress is being made towards this ideal as I write these words. Below are a few random links worth visiting to just get a brief glimpse of the fascinating research being done on aging. These kinds of research could lead to applied gerontological interventions that help treat and prevent the chronic disease of aging.

One... Two... Three... Four... Five... Six... Seven... Eight... Nine... Ten... and the list goes on.... [and I can't leave this important one off the list!]

Championing the cause of age retardation reflects my stance as a "realistic idealist". The most plausible and effective way to really tackle chronic disease is to delay their onset via retarding the rate of the inborn aging process. We can already do this for a vareity of organisms, including mammals like mice and monkeys. So let's do it for humans! Let's leave future generations something that will really improve their lives. Let's leave them a re-programmed metabolism that picks up the slack left by evolutionary neglect.

Cheers,
Colin

Science Article on Tenure and University


The latest issue of Science has this interesting article on tenure and the future of the University. This piece is also timely given the economic downturn and the pressures being put on University administrators to look for ways to cut operating costs. Here is a sample:

The fundamental rationale for the tenure system has been to promote the long-term development of new ideas and to challenge students' thinking. Proponents argued more than 60 years ago that tenure is needed to provide faculty the freedom to pursue long-term risky research agendas and to challenge conventional wisdom (1). Those arguments are still being made today (2) and are still valid. However, a 30-year trend toward privatization is creating a pseudo–market environment within public universities that marginalizes the tenure system. A pseudo–market environment is one in which no actual market is possible, but market-like mechanisms (such as benchmarking and rankings based on research dollars, student evaluations, or similar attributes) are used to approximate a market.

... Scientific paradigms shift, and student thinking is stimulated, when dissidents take unpopular positions—unpopular not just with the public, but also with administrators and faculty colleagues. People are much more likely to buck the tide if they know their jobs are secure. Cutting costs by cutting tenure means that a smaller proportion of faculty have the structural conditions needed to challenge conventional thinking.

...But I, and other faculty I have discussed this with, believe that a university is not supposed to be a business; viewing it as one shows not hard-headed realism but a failure to understand what gives the university its strength and potential. Tenure-system faculty are a problem to administrators and trustees precisely because tenure-system faculty have an alternative vision of the university and the power to act on that vision.

... The decision about tenure is also a decision about two visions of a university. A university can be seen as a business with a "product" whose offerings should be driven by student "demand," a business that should rely on contingent faculty combined with highly paid administrators committed to "the bottom line." Alternatively, it can be seen as a center of knowledge where students are educated (not just trained), that should be governed in significant part by tenure-system faculty with a long-term commitment to the institution and to knowledge.


Cheers,
Colin