Blogs > Liberty and Power > Distraction Studies

May 19, 2005 5:50 pm

Distraction Studies

Readers of this blog will recall my suggestion last year to institute a new field of study:"distraction studies," the purpose of which is to examine the myriad ways university administrators bamboozle their faculties.

The purpose of"distraction" is to prevent serious inquiry by causing professors to scurry and run in pointless meandering through a forest of political shibboleths:"diversity,""multiculturalism," etc. Meanwhile, administrators wheel and deal, and all the time feather their nests, while the wild-eyed faculty face off against each other along familiar battle lines.

Consider creating such a program on your campus. Distraction is ripe for study. After all, we are so good at being bamboozled, it really should be a field in which one can receive an advanced degree.

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Jonathan Dresner - 5/20/2005

Like most "studies" departments, it would be an interdisciplinary melange of business, sociology, anthropology and political science.... synergy would have to be invoked.

Grant Gould - 5/20/2005

Much as I hate to puncture the academic bubble that an advanced degree ought to be aimed at preparing someone to be in academe, many people take university degrees in hopes of working outside of the ivory tower. For that reason, a more general degree would be more useful. I propose a Department of Bureaumantic Studies.

While faculty infighting tenure catfights usually diminish even further in relevance at the university gates, university bureaucracies more generally are the model on which all the world's greatest bureaucracies are based. That makes a university the ideal training ground for the practical skills in navigating and subverting bureaucracies that any high-achiever needs in this day and age. I can certainly say that, but for my MIT education, I would never have succeeded in getting American Express to correctly handle a change-of-address, nor stood a chance of successfully paying cash for last-minute airline tickets or of wheedling computer passwords out of corporate IT at my last job.

Everyone, no matter his or her walk of life, interacts with bureaucracy. Anyone who wants to make a difference to anything mut generally repurpose, subvert, avoid, or defeat a bureaucracy to do so. Political distraction is only one of a wide variety of techniques employed on both sides of this paper arms-race.

So widen your ambit! There is a whole field of study -- one that your university is likely already teaching, albeit informally -- open here. Indeed, your place of work likely already includes bureaumancy in its graduation requirements (how much paperwork must a student file to graduate, after all, and how often do the admins ever get it right the first time?). Formalize it, and start the political infighting for tenure slots. May the most elaborately justified budget win!

Jonathan Dresner - 5/19/2005

This would be participant observation, then?

Here's the problem: we do need to study distraction, because we need to reduce its effects.... it's POLITICAL! AAAHH! Run to the Right!!!!