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Abstract

Select groups and organizations embrace practices that perpetuate their inferiority. The result is the phenomenon we call “mediocrity.” This article examines the conditions under which mediocrity is selected and maintained by groups over time. Mediocrity is maintained by a key social process: the marginalization of the adept, which is a response to the group problem of what to do with the highly able. The problem arises when a majority of a group is comprised of average members who must decide what to do with high performers in the group. To solve this problem, reward systems are subverted to benefit the less able and the adept are cast as deviant. Marginalization is a resolution of two tensions: marginalization of the adept for their behavior, and protection from the adept for the mediocre. The American research university is used as an example to describe the phenomenon and to formulate a theoretic argument. The forms and consequences of marginalization are discussed. Marginalizing the adept illustrates an anti-meritocratic behavioral pattern which serves to sustain social systems on which all people, however able, depend.
... A consequence of this practice is that those hired in-house are likely to become subservient to senior academics that had the institutional power to have them hired, and are also more malleable to conform to established practices of the hiring institution because they have high degrees of institutional identity (Horta et al., 2011). Therefore, academic inbreeding may work as a social mechanism bound to maintain the status quo, organisational ossification, and extend institutional cultures, often of mediocrity, where high performers of any academic group may be marginalised under the guise of tradition, and organisational stability (Hermanowicz, 2013). ...
... The lack of cosmopolitanism and overemphasis on local knowledge by large proportions of homegrown academics means that these universities will tap less into global and other external knowledge flows and their academic staff likely assume a more rigid, disciplinary, and conservative perspectives on research which will not be attuned with multidisciplinarity, versatile, and risktaking attitudes that are urged from academic research in face of increasingly complex challenges (Bozeman & Corley, 2004). These beliefs and characteristics will likely lead to a feeling of false self-acknowledgment and standing (Hermanowicz, 2013), in an organisation that will be mostly harmonious and efficient but one that marginalises mobile academics, thinking and actions that run against the status quo (Horta et al., 2011). So far, only one study demonstrated that the lower research performance of homegrown academics is the result of these academics greater reliance on in-house knowledge networks which underlines also the likelihood that these academics are possibly less ambitious, innovative, risk taking, and reliant on disciplinary research approaches (Horta et al., 2010) but do the research strategic agendas of homegrown academics really have these traits, comparatively to their mobile peers? ...
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en Academic inbreeding is a phenomenon that has been studied mostly from the standpoint of its association with research productivity. The focus has been on knowledge creation outputs and outcomes, while little to no attention has been given to the association of academic inbreeding with knowledge creation strategies and processes in academia. This article focusses on the latter, confirming that academic inbreeding is detrimental to the research aspirations, innovativeness, risk‐taking, and multidisciplinarity engagement of academics' research agendas, as predicted by literature. These findings, based on a sample of more than 7000 academics from all fields of knowledge, working in more than 140 countries, do not find a greater influence of the PhD mentor on the strategic research agendas of homegrown academics as the literature would expect. The findings also underline critical differences between homegrown academics and silver‐corded academics, stressing that the latter category of academics should not be considered as part of the academic inbreeding process (which concept rests on immobility), but rather understood as a category of limited institutional mobility that deserves further study. Resumo pt A endogamia académica é um fenómeno que tem sido estudado maioritariamente do ponto de vista da sua associação com a produtividade científica. O foco das investigações empíricas tem sido na produção de conhecimento e resultados associados, enquanto que pouca ou nenhuma atenção tem sido dada à associação da endogamia académica com as estratégias e processos de criação de conhecimento no mundo académico. Este artigo foca‐se neste último tópico, confirmando que a endogamia académica tem um efeito prejudicial na ambição de investigação, inovação, tomada de risco, e participação multidisciplinar nas agendas de investigação dos académicos, tal como previsto pela literatura. Estes resultados, baseados numa amostra de mais de 7000 académicos de todas as áreas de conhecimento, que se encontram a trabalhar em mais de 140 países, por outro lado, não indicam a existência de uma maior influência do mentor de doutoramento nas agendas de investigação estratégicas dos académicos endogâmicos, tal como seria de esperar pela literatura. Estes resultados sugerem também diferenças críticas entre os académicos endogâmicos e os académicos ‘silver‐corded’, indicando que esta última categoria não deve ser considerada como parte do processo de endogamia académica (cujo conceito é definido pela imobilidade), mas deve ser antes entendida como uma categoria de mobilidade institucional limitada que precisa de estudos adicionais.
... Mediocrity consists of central group practices performed around the average whose repetition results in their embeddedness in a group (Hermanowicz 2013). Mediocrity arises as a result of an organizational problem in the distribution of ability and the presence of group leaders who reinforce the claims of the less able. ...
... Lack of honesty sows a ground for mediocrity (Hermanowicz 2013). Mediocrity is found throughout social life. ...
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Honesty is widely understood as an ethical imperative in science and scholarship. This article examines the operation of this ethic in an area crucial to academe but which has not received sufficient attention: faculty review of candidates seeking appointment to academic rank—in hiring and promotion—in U.S. higher education organizations. Confidentiality is a professional norm indicative of these faculty assessments. By turn, academic freedom is exercised by speaking without fear of retribution, but it is handicapped to the extent that breaches of confidentiality—an instance of professional deviance—cause a group to censor speech. The article investigates the conditions under which honesty is undermined and confidentiality transgressed in review proceedings. In addition, three social-institutional forces are theorized to account for lack of honesty in this central practice of academic life. A situation wherein honesty is systemically inhibited renders the legitimacy of academic organizations in question. The argument articulates a path of reform by spelling-out appointment criteria, professional ethics, and the means of their enforcement to maximize requisite behavior.
... The greatest problem with academic inbreeding is that it reinforces the existing characteristics of a university, and if the university is mediocre, academic inbreeding is bound to reinforce this mediocrity (Hermanowicz 2013). The same is true for other possible features of the university, such as an autocratic collegial control based on self-interest cliques who stonewall change, as is the case in Italy (Dobbins and Knill 2014). ...
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Most studies of academic inbreeding have focused on assessing its impact on scholarly practices, outputs, and outcomes. Few studies have concentrated on the other possible effects of academic inbreeding. This paper draws on a large number of studies on academic inbreeding to explore how the practice has been conceptualized , how it has emerged, and how it has been rationalized in the creation and development of higher education systems. Within this framework, the paper also explores how academic inbreeding shapes and maintains a powerful academic oligarchy, leading to the stonewalling of both knowledge and institutional change to maintain social and political structures somewhat akin to those of medieval societies. The paper shows that the key to mitigating academic inbreeding practices lies in ensuring that academic recruitment processes are open, meritocratic, and transparent. However, a more difficult task is to change longstanding mentalities and disrupt a system that serves the interests of certain groups but not the advancement of knowledge or the fulfillment of universities' social mandates.
... Concurrently, they have limited space for action and reflection since they are aware that they were hired due to the action of powerful professors and need to abide by their requirements and accepted views of knowledge and academic behaviours. This places their academic autonomy and creativity in jeopardy, something that becomes evident in institutions promoting self-reinforcing cultures of mediocrity (Hermanowicz, 2013). ...
Article
This is the introduction to a special issue focused on offering new perspectives and analytical approaches to better understand academic inbreeding. The seven papers of this special issue offer original analyses and new avenues of research on this highly resilient social phenomenon in academic settings. The findings and arguments forwarded by these papers can be used to further develop future studies and policies to curtail this practice, known to be detrimental to academia and scholarship. Este artigo serve de introdução a uma coletânea de artigos científicos que visam enquadrar a endogamia académica a partir de novas perspetivas e análises. Os sete artigos científicos desta coletânea oferecem análises originais e novas avenidas de investigação relativamente a este fenómeno social que se caracteriza por ser persistente na academia. Os resultados e argumentos apresentados pelos artigos científicos desta coletânea podem ser usados para desenvolver estudos futuros sobre endogamia académica e políticas que visam mitigar esta prática, reconhecida por ser nefasta para a academia e para o avanço do conhecimento.
... Numerous studies have argued that the quality of research and teaching in the peripheries is inferior to loosely defined Western standards. The umbrella term 'culture of mediocrity' can encapsulate all these voices (Hermanowicz, 2013), while one could also point to an organizational setting that does not allow for producing outstanding research results and supporting academic excellence (Bauder et al., 2018). In some of the analyzed studies, the term mediocrity occurs spontaneously. ...
Article
We review the musical conservatory as a model for educators to learn how to enhance admissions, instruction, and assessment in liberal arts collegiate settings. Although conservatories serve primarily students wishing to enter musical careers of various kinds, the model on which they are based can, in many ways, serve any student and any school. We review some of the history of conservatories and describe how they work. Next, we explore how they develop a wide range of technical, cognitive, affective, and conative skills. Finally, we show how the skills they develop are important not just for music students but also for all students who will enter the world of work and face difficult and unexpected adaptive challenges.
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The concluding chapter discusses different metaphors that have been proposed for addressing life and problems of living. This includes metaphors of humans as the children of God, life as a game, and life as a narrative. It is suggested that some metaphors seem to work well, but that others do not. The chapter pays particular attention to the metaphor of life as a journey, noting a number of strengths of this metaphor, including its resonances with a range of philosophical and psychiatric literature, as well as with work in cognitive-affective neuroscience. The metaphor of life as a journey helps conceptualize a number of issues that may be useful in informing us about the nature of human nature, and hence about the way we should live our lives. These include the importance of being guided by key virtues, the value of good companions, the relevance of good resources, the need to steer between unbridled optimism and relentless pessimism, and the usefulness of the metaphor of balance.
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This study was conducted during 111 days of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown and reviewed current media articles that revealed government bodies and institutions have come to view people not as priceless treasures, but in terms of the money they can generate and the economic value they may give to a nation. This view was contrasted with the historic Christian concept of inherent royalty and value that is intrinsic to all people, and embodied in monarchs and bishops. This study focuses on a review of historical literature and biblical texts around monarchy and the episcopacy in light of current media articles related to COVID-19. It found that politics and policy need to be grounded into the more fundamental aspects of our human condition and that it is the compassion and care people have for those who are more fragile: be it financially, physically, mentally or spiritually, that bishops and monarchs should be embodying in a time of COVID-19. Contribution: This study drew its key insights from contested historical thoughts on the role of monarchs and bishops. The results of this line of thinking challenge us as we consider the future function and role of these positions, and what they mean in times of crises. The key insight gained is the reminder that the lives of all people in our communities are important as each person holds an intrinsic value that cannot be traded for the sake of a country’s economy and business desires to turn a profit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Gallipoli Campaign began on 25 April 1915, when the British-French Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) attacked the Ottoman 5th Army on the Gallipoli peninsula in contemporary Turkey. The first MEF troops to land were the “Anzacs”, a nickname for the all-volunteer Australians and New Zealanders. The operation was one of the worst military disasters in history and ended in a humiliating withdrawal by the MEF January, 1916. Despite causing an estimated 142,000 Allied and 251,000 Turkish casualties, after more than a century, the campaign remains central to myths of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish nationhood. In this chapter, I argue the bungled MEF operations were inextricably entwined in a wider culture of “endemic disorder” in the British War Council in London and General Headquarters in Gallipoli. I maintain men in these organisations planned and executed the campaign with interlinked ideologies of imperial masculinity and racial superiority they thought would easily defeat culturally and militarily inferior Ottomans. Instead, a combination of these belief systems and outmoded military techniques foundered against a determined and adept enemy, and the campaign developed into a classic “fog of war”. This dispassionate perspective on military operations is vital for understanding the dissonant reactions to the Gallipoli battlefields by the Australian and New Zealand tourists I travelled with and interviewed for the book.