The Academic Who Works 100 Hours a Week


It is Cambridge University classicist Mary Beard.  Here is a taste of an article about her workload at The Guardian:

Must be a tiring life. It evidently is. On Saturday night, she asked other academics to share how many hours a week they work, adding: “My current estimate is over 100. I am a mug. But what is the norm in real life?”

“Over 100” hours of work each week? Is she serious? She insists she is, yes.

Isn’t that quite close to the limit of what’s physically possible? Probably.

Or slightly above the limit of what’s believable, perhaps? Well, some of the many, many replies certainly took that view. There are only 168 hours in a week, after all. If Beard sleeps a bare minimum of six hours a night, and works through every single weekend, that leaves about three and a half hours a day for everything that isn’t work.

All washing, dressing, eating, Twitter, socialising, going to the toilet, tidying, watching TV, shopping, exercise and hobbies, in three and a half hours, while chronically underslept? I guess so. “I have calculated carefully for the last few weeks,” Beard says. “Start work at 6, basically work through till about 11, with dinner break (no lunch).” Altogether, she reckons she works 14-15 hours every single day.

Read the entire piece here.

Liberal Arts on the Farm


The teachers who attend the Gilder-Lehrman Princeton seminar on colonial America read The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  One teacher took the assignment very seriously.

Back in 2003 I coined the phrase “rural Enlightenment” in an article in The Journal of American History.  Five years later, I defined this phrase more fully in The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (now available at Amazon at 68% off with free shipping). In this article and book I tried to show that “rural Enlightenment” was not an oxymoron in eighteenth-century America.  I traced Fithian’s attempt to pursue an intellectual life amid the rural confines of his southern New Jersey home.  Fithian managed to combine the pursuit of an educated life in the midst of harvesting grain, making apple cider, and building sluices along the Cohansey River.

Over at The Pietist Schoolman, Samford University history professor Anthony Minnema reflects on the relationship between Christian colleges, the liberal arts, and farm work.  He asks: “If perhaps we’ve too long looked at the liberal arts as coffee shops and quads, what about the farm?”  Here is a taste of his post:

Work colleges and programs come in many shapes and sizes, but all offer discounted or even no tuition in exchange for a commitment of 10-15 hours of work per week. The exchange of work for tuition would go a long way to address the perception of elitism. The need to create work opportunities for these students also led these colleges to create majors in agricultural science and sustainability before these programs became popular, which undermines the accusation that LACs are impractical and divorced from the working world. The more successful work colleges, such as Berea College and College of the Ozarks, emphasize their working environment as a recruitment tool and describe themselves as a place to learn and work. A quick perusal of statistics indicates that work colleges enjoy near-parity of men and women (45-55), likely because the rhetoric of a work program and the majors that sustain it have historically been more appealing to men. More speculatively, I suspect that the work-program creates a sense of ownership for students and alumni that most LACs’ advancement offices would envy, since it changes the narrative of the ask from “Please continue giving to the college on top of your debt” to “How much was this education worth to you?” The donor base of the Christian liberal arts college (to say nothing of the corporate world), which tends more toward conservative values, might donate gladly to an institution that requires some or all of its students to work.

How might a work program interact with the liberal arts and Christian mission of a college? The relationship to both is surprisingly close. All colleges within the Work College Consortium describe themselves as “liberal arts colleges” and many retain a Great Books program. (Indeed, students might be more apt to discuss virtue ethics if they’ve just come in from a morning of work.) All but one of the work colleges I found possess a Christian history or tradition and still use the language of Christian service in their mission statements. Several couch their sustainability efforts in terms of stewardship. Thus, the work program might help Christian LACs make good on their claims to be places that foster faith, learning, and service.

So how to create the Christian liberal arts work college from scratch? What I would like to see exists as a two-year program in California at Deep Springs College. It’s a very small program (20-30 students) that boasts an impressive track record for its graduates according to a 2017 Economist article. It emphasizes rigorous liberal arts with a work college component, and until recently was open only to men, but lacks the faith component.

Read the entire piece here.  Interesting.

My First Seven Jobs



This seems to be a thing on social media, so here goes:

  1.  Pileman (Picked up the pile of scrap materials on a construction site and put them in a dumpster)
  2. Day Camp Counselor
  3. Pre-Title Specialist: (Entered townhouses and condos before closing to caulk bathrooms and kitchens, install door knobs, touch-up paint, hang closet sliding doors, etc.)
  4. General contractor crew member
  5. Trim carpenter (mostly cutting and installing wood base trim in new homes)
  6. Campus mail-carrier
  7. Security guard

Has Your Summer Started Yet?

I realize that the answer for most of my readers is a resounding “yes.”  I am guessing that for many of you classes have ended and your summer schedule has begun. 

Or has it? 

At what point do you feel responsible for “cleaning the deck” before you begin to pursue work on your summer project(s)?

Messiah College graduation was on May 12.  I am writing this on June 12.  I had hoped that my “summer work” would commence several weeks ago, but this has not been the case.

Since graduation I have, among other things:

  • Sat through “May Development Week.”
  • Hired three adjunct professors
  • Edited the history department information sheets that the admission counselors use when they go on the road.
  • Finished four overdue book reviews
  • Answered e-mails for which a response is long overdue
  • Read a few book manuscripts for friends (and I still have a two more to read)
  • Sat on a book prize committee
  • Attended a conference
  • Edited an essay that will appear in a future book on Evangelical-Catholic relations.
  • Started readings books that I promised to blog about.

The deck is almost clear and now I can begin to do my “summer work.”  This includes:

  •  Meeting my August 1 deadline for my book, “The Power to Transform: Reflections on the Study of the Past.”
  • Write a 30,000 word paper for an organization who has hired me to do some historical consulting work.  Due September 1.
  • Write a chapter for a book on John Adams.  Due July 15.
  • Write an article on Christian nationalism for the OAH Magazine.  Due July 15.
  • Prepare a series of talks I will be delivering in July at St. Peter’s Church in Ocean City, NJ.

Thank God for research assistants.

Of course I shouldn’t complain, because I love what I do and I realize that everyone is swamped too.

What do you hope to accomplish this summer?  Has your summer started yet?