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Rule 6–Simply because you work in a university does not mean you are an expert in higher education

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I have never understood why a PhD is the gateway qualification into an academic career. It is an apprenticeship for research but the idea that a PhD offers any capacity to prepare academics to write curriculum and teach or to contribute to public debates is bizarre.  This chapter explores the nature of 'expertise' in higher education.  While respecting discipinary expertise, it is necessary to recognize that a PhD in most disciplines does not prepare an academic to teach, or offer informed commentary about higher education.

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  1. 1.

    Peterson (2021).

  2. 2.

    Hartley (1958).

  3. 3.

    I am reminded of Mary Trump’s commentary about her uncle: “Donald has, in some sense, always been institutionalized, shielded from his limitations,” from Too much and never enough: how my family created the world’s most dangerous man, (London: Simon and Schuster, 2020), p. 15.

  4. 4.

    Peterson (2019).

  5. 5.

    Peterson (2021).

  6. 6.

    Richards (2017).

  7. 7.

    The oddity of the videos themselves are worthy of attention. Many of his videos are lectures that have been recorded. Lectures—at their best—are geared for analogue, multi-sensory experiences. They are also teaching opportunities for very specific courses and learning outcomes. But Tabatha Southey offers an interpretation of these videos. She states, “Peterson’s videos go on and on. It’s like opening up a tab for one of those bird nest webcams at the height of its popularity: Lots of people are watching, you feel like you should too, but nothing is happening,” from “Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man’s smart person,” MacLean’s, November 17, 2017, Is Jordan Peterson the stupid man's smart person? -

  8. 8.

    It is always important to note that, as Peterson stated about his background, “I attended conservative Protestant services during childhood with my mother,” and “I was raised under the protective auspices, so to speak, of the Christian church,” from J. Peterson (1999).

  9. 9.

    This donated income stream was reported as between $38,000 and $60,000 a month at the height of the ‘compelled speech’ debates. Please refer to J. Proser (2020).

  10. 10.

    Similarly, the empowered people who questioned Jordan Peterson’s right and ability to offer commentary on complex issues beyond his disciplinary expertise were also attacked and undermined. For example, when Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope resigned from Cambridge University, The Spectator described him as “the undistinguished Canadian lawyer” and blamed his failures on, “the humiliating treatment of Prof. Jordan Peterson, who had a non-paying fellowship withdrawn based on an equally ill-informed campaign against him,” from D. Murray (2021).

  11. 11.

    Peterson (2017).

  12. 12.

    Historically, it is important to log the remarkable maxim from Jonathan Rutherford. He published his landmark monograph, After Identity, in 2007. He stated that “we live in an afterlife of the post-modern and post-industrial,” (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2007), p. 9. Clearly, in 2007, the postmodern and post-industrial, with or without the hyphens, were dead concepts. Significantly, Rutherford also realized that, “In the last thirty years, the increasing influences of markets and neo-liberal ideology have transformed the social category of the individual,” p. 19. Rutherford, one decade before the Peterson ‘moment’ was able to show how commodification had summoned an inflated, atomized, marketized, individualized identity.

  13. 13.

    Zamora and Behrent (2016).

  14. 14.

    Burston (2020).

  15. 15.

    ibid., p. 149.

  16. 16.

    ibid., p. 153.

  17. 17.

    Oddly, Mikhaila Peterson ‘forgot’ about Maps of Meaning in her review of her father’s success. She stated, “His first book sold almost six-million copies. His newer book Beyond Order is out March 2, and has pre-sold over 100,000 copies,” from M. Peterson (2021). Significantly, the scholarly monograph, based on his course at the University of Toronto, has been erased from history to focus on the non-academic, self-help books.

  18. 18.

    “Author’s Introduction,” Peterson (2021).

  19. 19.

    It is important to note that research integrity protocols and principles have been increasingly governed and regulated during Jordan Peterson’s career. It is now more difficult to sustain a ‘freeloading postdoc’ position in research. The Vancouver Protocol from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors ( is one such example. Another example is the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018, This matter of authorship is so serious that publishers such as Springer now demand a statement of authorship, The reason such imperatives exist is because ‘courtesy’ authorship, particularly between PhD students and their supervisors, has been assumed, resulting in a minimization of student work, but a highly inflated publishing list from supervisors. Noting the recent movements to ‘mass authorship’—with thousands of authors for medical articles in particular—the politics of authorship and the validity of research remains an important area to watch, monitor and verify.

  20. 20.

    Peterson (2007).

  21. 21.

    Wong (2019).

  22. 22.

    Joan Smith studied “an epidemic of violence against women in this country” and located “classic victim-blaming, something often witnessed during outbursts of male violence,” from Home Grown: How domestic violence turns men into terrorists, (London: Riverrun, 2019), loc 279.

  23. 23.

    Campbell and Manning (2018).

  24. 24.

    Peterson (2017).

  25. 25.


  26. 26.

    McManus (2020).

  27. 27.

    My experience was confirmed by Brett Nicholls who stated that, “it is widely held within academic circles today that the term ‘postmodernism’ is unclear, overtly complicated and, perhaps, passe. Scholars who cut their academic teeth on this complex thought in the 1980 and 1990s now supervise doctoral students who have little or no use for it,” from R. Overall and B. Nichols (2020).

  28. 28.

    Redhead (2011).

  29. 29.

    Peterson (2017).

  30. 30.

    Peterson (2019).

  31. 31.

    Poizner (2020).

  32. 32.

    ibid., p. 2.

  33. 33.

    ibid., p. 4.

  34. 34.

    Dart (2020).

  35. 35.

    ibid., p. 5.

  36. 36.

    Proser (2020).

  37. 37.

    Zizek (2020).

  38. 38.

    Sibanda (2020).

  39. 39.

    ibid., p. 13.

  40. 40.

    Michelson (2019).

  41. 41.

    This point was explored by Paul James in “Cruel irony or structural cruelty? How good people are destroying our universities,” Arena, August 13, 2020. He stated that, “we do not need hard-edged neoliberals to do it to us: academic managers can be calmy efficient about the process, and, despite an articulate and active critical minority, many academics have over the last couple of decades quietly allowed it to happen with little sustained response.”

  42. 42.

    Rich (1979).

  43. 43.

    Acker et al. (2016).


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Correspondence to Tara Brabazon .

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Brabazon, T. (2022). Rule 6–Simply because you work in a university does not mean you are an expert in higher education. In: 12 Rules for (Academic) Life. Springer, Singapore.

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