Monthly Archives: November 2009

Revolution Rock

We have not sung in some time, but now we are singing Revolution Rock.

After twelve years of oppression I told the M.A.’s I had had it, I would no longer test from a commercial testing bank, I would make my own examinations and peg them to national standards.

I said I was sure I was competent to do this, having done it for eighteen years before coming here.

I said I knew every expert and accreditation agency would support me, and that I was tired of pretending I did not have expertise just to be “fair.”

I said I would not surrender, and that I awaited them in my office if they wanted to take me out.

I gave my memo the avant-garde title “Manifesto With No Reverse Gear.”

I await them now.

Axé.

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Academic Issues From A Very Contrarian Point of View Monday: On Rights for Non Tenure Track Faculty

Do you think all the kind articles about how adjuncts and other non tenure track faculty should be well treated is part of the abolition of tenure generally?

An old colleague of mine thought adjuncts, instructors, and non tenure track faculty should have non ideal working conditions precisely so that they would either go on for the PhD or go into another industry. Improvement of working conditions for this group was merely an effort to keep them there and make the PhD, research, and a part in governance seem superfluous if not downright unattractive.

I wonder: if the point of being on the tenure track or tenured is not having academic freedom but having decent working conditions, and if the latter are then extended to non tenure track faculty, such that tenure is no longer a necessary protection against abuse, is all of this not a convenient way of taking academic freedom (as well as a few other old fashioned goods) out of the equation?

Axé.

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Straitjackets of Normalcy

I have so many things to do that it is hard to know where to start. It is hard to know where to start because realistically, there is not enough time to accomplish it all — if there were, I could start anywhere. I would prefer to just start anywhere but I must first discern which task takes priority, since I know I cannot finish everything on time; this is very difficult since I have already reduced the size and scope of everything to a minimum.

I am glad at least that my building at work no longer feels hostile or empty, and that I can feel calm at work. I am glad I no longer dread work because of dreading the feeling of dread that came with it.

*

It is easy to criticize oneself but the actual meaning of my overly busy situation is not that I do not know how to manage time, but that my responsibilities are too diverse. People used to say that about my last job, but (a) it was not true except in comparison with a job an Ivy/public Ivy or Big Ten school, and (b) they had not seen this job which is far more diverse.

The Reeducated would tell me I am “blaming circumstances” when I should be “taking responsibility.”  Such people haven’t the faintest idea what they are talking about. In addition, if they had ever moved from a more abusive to a less or non abusive workplace, which I have done about three times at this point,  they should have observed that circumstances do in fact change people. It is not all you, and it is not all a question of how “spiritual” you are able to be or “how you look at things.” I am a materialist and I say practice forms theory.

*

In the Reeducated world, which appears to be the world of the Average Mentality, one cannot know things. In the time of Reeducation this idealist world thought it inappropriate for me to know I did not have time to complete my project as assigned. Nor was I supposed to realize I had not done all the necessary reading. I was to assume that the perception of a need to read was “procrastination,” and that the realization that a deadline I could refuse was unrealistic was “low self esteem” or some such thing. The only forbidden thought was that I could possibly have analyzed the situation correctly.

Now I have discovered that someone else is doing this abandoned project. Reading through the articles, I realize this person really has done all the reading I thought necessary, and more. I was right all along. The project of Reeducation may be to remove one’s legitimate authority, and to keep everyone seething about in some mendicant form of anxious seeking.

In the case my current project, it is past time for me to have started writing — even though there is much more which could be read. It is hard to write because I have so much material, it cannot be put into a small box. The only solution to is to write a great deal, as quickly as possible, and to put as much time into it as possible.

If I were still Reeducated, I would be questioning that thought. How could I be so arrogant as to think I can know for myself what I should do, and so on; how could I possibly believe I had professional expertise; and on, and on. And yet I have.

Axé.

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The Average Mentality?

Someone said the typical person does not think at all about the common good, the point of view of anyone else, or doing what is right. They only do what they want, and they are so oblivious to the existence of any other way of operating that they do not realize that this is what they are doing.

I thought this was unnecessarily sour until I heard a different remark. It was in reference to an extremely frivolous fantasy expressed by me, namely that if I could afford it, I would definitely have expensive rejuvenating facials and fill my wrinkles in. I would do this, I said, because having been frozen and distorted for a long time due to Reeducation, I have not done all of the things I would have liked to by now. I want an extension on life therefore and I would acccept both real and artificial extensions on youth and health.

The response: you cannot blame your frozenness on Reeducation! My question: do you mean I have no right to desire an extension on life? I found it very interesting that the opportunity was taken to assume that my topic was blame. Yet it seems people assume one is seeking ways to do this. They appear to have a deep desire to discover others placing blame, and to preach about this.

I wonder to what extent this has to do with the delight people take in police shows. “Do you admit…? You must take responsibility…!” they bleat. I wonder whether this is why they enjoy discussing the deficiencies of  “welfare mothers”.

Perhaps the person first cited here has a point. What, if anything, can one make of all of these neuroses, and what, if anything, do they have to do with the psychologies of capitalism?

Axé.

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Reading for Work: Grades

People do not like to grade papers but I always find it interesting except when I did not create the assignment, do not agree with it, did not create the course goals, do not agree with these, do not find them feasible, do not know what they are, or am unsure whether there is any reason why the course is given as it is other than that it was in 1930.

The above describes my situation about 50% of the time. Not having the information I need to make useful decisions in these situations, or the authority, latitude and time to design creative solutions to problems, is the most frustrating aspect of being a professor.

Having to limit oneself so as to fit into local systems antithetical to national and international norms and often to actual teaching (let alone research) is the most difficult aspect of the job.

Axé.

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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Interlibrary Loan

So many people speak of the wonders of Interlibrary Loan and I do understand them, but nothing can substitute a library full of actual books.

I just read an article to which I would not have had access had it not been for the Internet — but which could not have been written with only Interlibrary Loan and an Internet connection.

I know what you will say: summers are the time to gather these materials. I do not have the right kind of personality for that degree of resignation.

Axé.

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Introducing: Academic Mondays

Following the suggestion of a reader, we will now have an open thread each Monday on a current academic keyword (e.g. “excellence”) or on other topics of very broad interest to academics.

Today’s question is: what did you not learn in graduate school that you most wish you had? My answers are: how to teach English literacy skills at the primary and early secondary levels (not just the late secondary and early college levels), and how to design (and not just use / imitate / borrow) programs, exercises, and testing programs in beginning foreign languages.

Of course, I would never have registered in a graduate program that emphasized those things.

Axé.

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En hiver: Archpriest of Hita

It is winter, and key limes are thick on the branches. Garlic is blooming, and soon there will be bright kumquats. Picking oranges, seeing how the tree branches had bent under their weight, I realized that the globes on Christmas trees represent fruit.

Every winter we quote from the Archpriest of Hita. This year we will quote in English, from the Willis translation, stanzas 317-320.

“You, Love, are the innkeeper and the lodging house of sloth; you never want a man to do any good works; as soon as you see him idle, you give him a life of torment; it begins in sin and ends in sorrow.

“You are never idle: once you have caught a man in your bonds you make him turn his throughts to deceits and many nasty brawls; he takes delight in sins and in disorderly acts: by your wicked arts you destroy bodies and souls.

“Also with sloth you bring hypocrisy; you go about in great simplicity plotting litigation; while you are in thought you are melancholy, your eyes will not be lifted up; when you spy a pretty girl you ogle her slyly.

“Of all the good that you preach, you yourself perform nothing; you delude everybody with your fair words; you want what the wolf wanted of the fox: you common-law barristers, listen to a worthwhile fable.”

Axé.

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How Long, Lord? How Long?

It is of course Friday, so we should be wearing white, and it is the weekend, so we should sing. I sing that I used to be surprised at what was happening. Then I was shocked, and then angry. After that I was sad, and then I was ashamed for a long time. Next I became anxious, and now my most important emotion is rage.

If I composed a song it would be about myself and my colleague. I do not know what the title could be. It might be something like The Ballad of Leo and the Fire-Girl. In it we would ask how long, how long? How much longer must we continue to defer the development of ourselves and our students to the ravings of each new Blackguard?

Axé.

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Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Miguel de Cervantes

Now we have discussed the Quixote, about which I do not always think, and I have decided to read it again.  I learned as well that tuition at Brooklyn College in the late forties was $3.75 per semester.

Axé.

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