Dr. Soltan has an interesting post on the sabbaticals that academics take in abundance. Her point is that sabbaticals are seen as a problem by the public because they waste public money and so often lead to shallow careerist tripe (although she's a bit more polite).
I find this paragraph beautiful:
"What makes it even more difficult to justify sabbaticals, it seems to me, is the obsolescence of the professor-as-intellectual, the professor as essentially a monkish pensive type. Traditionally, the professor was not a publications-generating, conference-organizing, grants-getting, newspaper-quote-issuing dervish. She was intended to do the world’s slow and careful thinking for it, and her primary function was to share the fruits of that thinking with students and colleagues within the walls of the university."
To do the world's slow and careful thinking for it...
I think these lines contain wishful thinking: "No one questions the need for contemplatives to sit atop mountains and reflect to no particular end. But everyone questions the need of non-reflective careerists to reflect." So, the public would have no problem subsidizing true contemplatives? I hear people say that from time to time. But, I'm unconvinced.
Nevertheless, I love the vision of the scholar as she who hangs back. Let's hope it can still be so.