I feature John Hawks's weblog on the Subversive Archaeologist's blogroll. Usually I can look to it for more grist. But this morning I came across a recent entry that pointed me to an article in the Boston Globe, 'The Ronin Institute for wayward academics.'
I almost dropped my [authorized, logo imprinted] official SA regalia coffee mug. For there, in front of me, was, if not the answer to my dreams, at least a possibility of the road forward. The article discusses the fate of too many PhDs, not just the ones who're cold-shouldered by the establishment. New ones. Ones that have been teaching part time for years, if not forever. I know some of them. Hi, Jonathan. Hi, Kathy. Those who've never held an academic position but who wish they could do research, just the same.
Dr. Jon Wilkinson, a theoretical evolutionary biologist in Montclair, NJ, has launched the Ronin Institute to foster a new paradigm of the academy. His hope is to provide an institutional affiliation for those of us without one, and a new academic niche, that of the 'fractional scholar.' This is the proverbial ray of hope for the likes of me, because without that coveted institutional affiliation there's little to no chance that research funds would ever come their way, much less the wherewithal to attend meetings and hang out with the grown-ups.
Wilkinson needs support of all kinds for this endeavour, and is busily looking for patrons and funding. But the real engine of his enterprise, it seems to me, will be the calibre of the scholars chosen and their ability to prove that the old structure could do with a re-jig--that it's not just tenured university professors who have the requisite expertise and time to do research. Those of us with full-time day jobs would, I'd bet give small bits of their anatomy for the chance to work evenings and weekends on something they love, rather than watching American Idol or weeding the garden [or drinking inexpensive California chardonnay while sitting around complaining about the work everybody else is doing]. So, I say 'Pave the garden over and throw the TV away!' 'Let's raise Jon Wilkinson on our shoulders, and run around in circles in a pre-emptive victory lap!'
Where do I sign up? Here's where: ronininstitute.org
And, yes, the institute's name is taken from Japanese history.
The term originated in the Nara and Heian periods, when it referred to a serf who had fled or deserted his master's land. It then came to be used for a samurai who had lost his master. (Hence, the term "wave man" illustrating one who is socially adrift.) -Wikipedia [of course!]
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