One of the more bemusing academic exercises is the analysis of the working class. Sometimes sociologists or scholars of religion take it upon themselves to present the view of the underprivileged. While they certainly seem to get some aspects right, in truth, they frequently don’t have a clue. Growing up in a working class household is the only way to have the authentic experience. I am one of a few, and I should I say I know many, many academics, who grew up in an authentic blue collar environment. When I read my fellow religionists discussing what it must be like to be underprivileged, I think, why don’t they just ask? Oh yeah. That’s right, I don’t have a teaching position. Why not? I have no connections. I have no connections because a kid who grew up in small town in a poor family doesn’t know to go to Harvard. I applied to transfer to Harvard from Boston University and was accepted. I decided not to go. A guy with connections would’ve known better.
Those of my colleagues with university or seminary posts tell me that the authentic blue collar academic is a hot commodity. In my blue collar frankness, I would equate that statement with what one might find behind the hindquarters of a male bovine. When a rare academic job opens up, the connections circuit begin to whir. Those of us who are unconnected (and I know I’m not the only one) will be passed up for one-year replacement positions as well as non-tenure track positions. They’ll gladly hire us as adjuncts—the blue collar workers of the academic world. I have been an inside candidate before. Although I knew entire departments I was not hired. I guess I don’t know the right people, dang-nabbit. (Imagine a thigh slap in there, in case you want to visualize your narrator.)
Blue collar workers are hard workers. As everyone, friend and foe, knew at Nashotah House, I worked hard. I obey the foreman. It’s a skill I learned before I finished middle school when I took my first blue collar job. Don’t bother telling me the excuses since I’ve heard them all before. We had to hire a (fill in the blank). So-and-so was already in our mind when we advertised the job. Once a seminary trustee complained to me that he had to get up at 4 a.m. to catch his flight. I get up at 4 every day, sometimes earlier. He was also well known for having an expensive, frivolous, and vain collection. He was the rector of a large and very influential parish. No worries; the poor you’ll always have with you, but be careful not to let them join the conversation. They might interfere with your connections.