NY Times Magazine

Paul S. Brookes. brookes at uab.edu
Tue Jun 6 16:10:38 EST 2000

I wish I had a dollar for the number of times I've heard the "if I wasn't 
in academia I could be earning twice as much for doing the same thing" 
argument.   Face it, the bottom line is that if you really want to earn 
twice as much - go and do it!   There are few jobs in which the 
"responsibility factor" is as low an in academia.  i.e. an experiment 
doesn't work - it's not the end of the world, millions of dollars are not 
hanging on your every decision.   Sure, we can all be envious of our 
friends in banking, biotech, finance, e-businesses, whatever,  but everyone 
I know in such a job is worth every penny of their salary.  And they're all 
going to drop dead of heart attacks a lot sooner than most academics (who 
seem to have an amazing propensity to live forever and not retire, as has 
been discussed elsewhere in this forum).

 From an educational point of view, we have to be prepared for the 
realization that people are going to get degrees and higher qualifications 
not because that's what they want to do, but because its a way of getting 
them up the job ladder faster.  How many law graduates end up actually 
being lawyers?  How many arts graduates actually end up being artists?  How 
many history graduates become historians?  How many language students 
become interpreters?  Any higher education program is bound to have its 
fair share (80%) of students who go on to do something else.   As someone 
who decided to "stick with it", I for one am grateful to these people - if 
they all were biochemists my job would be a lot tougher than it is now!

WRT to the race stat's, a quick question - you said that black women earn 
66% of what Anglo men do.  What is the comparison with black men - i.e. do 
black women earn the same fraction of pay relative to men, as in the anglo 
community, or is it worse still?  This would be quite a revealing stat'

WRT to popular culture being afraid of science - are they any more afraid 
of us than they are of politicians, lawyers, bankers, multi-national 
corporations, or indeed anything that seems to have more knowledge than 
they do?  People are basically scared that they don't know as much as other 
people, and anyone who reinforces this is in for some abuse.    Not all 
images of scientists are bad though - and I think anyone who subscribes to 
this theory has been watching a little too much star trek ;-)

Dr. Paul S. Brookes.            (brookes at uab.edu)
UAB Department of Pathology,   G004 Volker Hall
1670 University Blvd., Birmingham AL 35294 USA
Tel (001) 205 934 1915     Fax (001) 205 934 1775

The quality of e-mails can go down as well as up
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