The other day I had to check something on Google Scholar for work. Since our computers now know who we are, mine asked if I would like to update my profile on the site. I figured it couldn’t hurt. I waited until after work, however, since my scholarship is strictly separated from my job. When I went to complete the profile I learned that you can’t do it without a .edu extension on your email. In other words, and independent scholar is no Google Scholar at all. It’s not the first time I’ve run into this bias. I have sat through many meetings where those with no institutional affiliation are spoken of with deep suspicion, as if the extreme shortage of academic jobs has left only the worthiest employed. Classic blaming the victims.
Having once been a full-time academic, I have watched the job ads for nearly three decades now. The number of positions has steadily decreased while the number of new Ph.D.s has readily increased. There aren’t enough jobs to go around and those who don’t land one of the few available are considered inferior scholars. Even Google says so. The interesting thing about this is there is little outcry from academia itself. You’d think that, given the protests that go on in other areas of perceived injustices that the educated would call for redress. You’d think incorrectly. As a society we distrust those who don’t have an institution backing them. Unless they’re rich (for money is a kind of institution). It’s a strange state of affairs.
In my line of work citations on Google Scholar don’t really matter. In fact, many publishers are kind of embarrassed when their employees are published, or are even cited in the books they produce. Scholarship, in other words, is institutionalized. The thing is, life in our society isn’t so neatly categorized. My first job, in a poverty-level family, was working as a janitor. I was always surprised at how philosophical the discussions were among the cleaning staff at our local school district. Many of these guys were deep thinkers behind a broom. In the schools where they worked the students tended to make fun of them. You certainly won’t find their musings on Google Scholar. I tend to think that our society might be more equitable if we’d recognize intelligence where it exists rather than sticking it behind the walls of academe. But then, I’m no Google Scholar so you need not believe a thing I write.