Academia Is Infantilizing

My sister went back to school this year. She’s pursuing a graduate degree in business administration. Of course, she already created a multimillion business, so academia bullshit doesn’t impress her.

(Why she needs a degree? Because that’s how we are. We spend our lives getting educated. It’s a family thing, and, in larger terms, a Jewish thing. We can’t pass by a door with a plaque saying “get more education here” for love or money. It has magnetic attraction to us.)

This week my sister has been suspended. The reason is that she didn’t do the obligatory training on sexual harassment. What she didn’t know is that these trainings are extraordinarily infantilizing. You’d be ashamed to offer that kind of thing to a bright 14-year-old, let alone to the evening school adults.

“I can’t believe this!” my sister kept saying. “I’m a grown woman. I have children. I make a good living. I get invited to speak all over the world. And here I am, answering ridiculous questions about how putting your hand on a person’s thigh during kissing is sexual violation. What is this?”

17 thoughts on “Academia Is Infantilizing”

  1. in larger terms, a Jewish thing. We can’t pass by a door with a plaque saying “get more education here” for love or money.

    I recall a joke about a Jewish man who arrives at the gates of heaven. When he asks about meeting other Jews, St. Peter says “They’re all over there.” and points to a door nearby with a sign that says “Lectures on Heaven”.

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  2. These trainings are for sexual harassers and psychopaths, to train them on how to stay out of trouble, I am convinced. How to get away with stuff while looking right.

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  3. The one aspect I rarely see discussed is people who have been harrassed and are forced to take this training. It’s traumatic. I worked for an abusive man for 3 long years. I finally quit. I had to take a year off to recover. He was an evil man. He got to keep his job and retire–though they did make him complete “counseling”. I was a secretary and therefore meaningless. Every year I am required to complete this training at my current place of employment, it brings it all back. I try to close my eyes and click the boxes. I don’t want to explain to anyone how awful it is. But this is real for many women who have survived such abuse.

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  4. I may be getting cynical in my old age but it sounds to me like the university is establishing a baseline of ‘professional’ behaviour that an employer may use to more easily fire someone.

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    1. Sounds about right. It is difficult and costly to fire someone. More in some states than in others. From the company’s perspective, it’s important to have as much documented training and box-checking and documentation as possible, so that when and if you need to fire someone, you have piles of files you can scour for justification. At my last job, this took the form of demoralizing quarterly “self-assessments” where, every three months, you had to basically write an essay about why you should continue to work for the company. That made my resignation easy and guilt-free.

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      1. Yep, followed by occasional unfair dismissal proceedings. That way, a settlement is reached instead of a redundancy, with a portion of that being absorbed by tribunal costs, private lawyers, and HR department counsel. Proceedings will naturally be dragged out for at least a year, to punish the former employee for objecting to being expendable, and to leave a telltale gap in their resume for the next potential employer to see.

        Btw your former employer reminds me of what prisoner of war camp guards did in the Pacific, what with having prisoners write essays explaining why they had done the wrong thing and apologising etc. Good decision to leave 🙂

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        1. Yeah, it was a real shame. When I hired on, they were a startup, there were only a handful of employees, and we were still working on a business model. Every day was new and fun and interesting, and it was a great job. By the time I left, they had over a hundred employees, and were doing exponentially more business… but they were really starting to get into the corporate-procedure BS… the time was right to leave. Of the dozen or so people I trained, the only ones who stayed long-term after I left, were the two I regarded as charming con-artists. All the decent, honest, hard-working ones moved on to other jobs.

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          1. …the point, which I failed to reach there, is that “give-us-a-rope-to-hang-you” corporate strategy seems to self-select for facile liars and the charmingly amoral. I can’t imagine that works out well in the long run, but hey, the company’s still around ten years later, so (shrugs) who knows?

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            1. That makes sense. Too bad you didn’t get shares as part of your salary package early on.

              Regarding how things worked out for the facile liars and charmingly amoral, if they’re anything like public servants, they probably love it. They’re that kind of person, and very good to be far away from imo because they aren’t like you 🙂

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              1. I am eternally grateful I didn’t get share options early on. I watched my sister stay in a job for probably two years after it was high time to move on, because if she could just make it until the company went public, she could cash out and retire. Company got a corporate raider for a CEO, commandeered all the engineers to work on his pet project, bankrupted the business, and the week after they shut it down to let the lawyers sell the desk chairs, he hired on all the engineers for his brand-new business venture. It just happened to use all the exciting things those engineers had been working on at my sister’s company.

                Not worth it.

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              2. Fair enough. Since I was speaking in terms of dreams and fantasy (in which I get to make up the rules 🙂 ) I meant a situation in which everything worked out, rather than the reality.

                Speaking of the reality of that kind of thing, a few years ago I helped a person sell their options back to a backer for a reasonably well known product. As a result, they weren’t chained to the company for years, and walked away very early on with 7 figures at a young age.

                According to the rules of my birth culture, that person was supposed to get me a really good present to say thankyou, but instead, your sister and I have something in common because we both got the same thing.

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  5. The purpose of such training is to provide cover for the institution in case they are accused of not preventing some form of harassment or discrimination. Administrators, or at least the smart ones, know it has little or no effect on behavior or beliefs – just the opposite, the training just annoys people. But the payment to the outside firm can be pointed at if needed as due diligence (latin for CYA). In other words, its a protection racket.

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