Tyler Cowen says
the prevalence of individuals falling within autism spectrum make American academe competitive:
A lot of people at colleges are aware of dealing with autism (and Asperger's syndrome; I will refer generally to the autism spectrum) in their "special needs" programs. The more complex reality is that there is a lot more autism in higher education than most of us realize. It's not just "special needs" students but also our valedictorians, our faculty members, and yes —sometimes- our administrators.
That last sentence is not some kind of cheap laugh line about the many dysfunctional features of higher education. Autism is often described as a disease or a plague, but when it comes to the American college or university, autism is often a competitive advantage rather than a problem to be solved. One reason American academe is so strong is because it mobilizes the strengths and talents of people on the autistic spectrum so effectively. In spite of some of the harmful rhetoric, the on-the-ground reality is that autistics have been very good for colleges, and colleges have been very good for autistics.
All of us working in academia probably have anecdotal evidence for this, but anecdotes can be deceiving. It would be nice to see some numbers.
Whatever the numbers, you don't have to have on the autism-spectrum to appreciate the unique work-environment available in an academic career:
It turns out that the American university is an environment especially conducive to autistics. Many autistics are disadvantaged or overwhelmed by processing particular stimuli from the outside world and thus are subject to perceptual overload as a result. For some autistics, that is debilitating, but for many others it is either manageable or a problem they can work around. The result is that many autistics prefer stable environments, the ability to choose their own hours and work at home, and the ability to work on focused projects for long periods of time.
That's not great for everyone (as many intelligent but unhappy people discover in grad school - academic success isn't just about intelligence), but many of us thrive in that kind of environment.
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