One more insight about the assumptions in standard academic advice

1. It assumes your primary goals in life are suburban, and are house-driven rather than field-driven or research-driven.

2. It either assumes you are so interested in your work that you will put up with anything, anything at all, in order to do it, OR that you are in fact not interested in it and only want to find a way to get through it.

3. And, as I keep saying, it assumes you do not know how to do research or get writing done.

Clarissa figured out what one problem is: people who go from plush, kind liberal arts colleges to PhD programs that do not include the M.A. and who have good fellowships and a lot of time on their hands in graduate school, do not in fact learn how to work. So item #3 applies to them, especially if they get jobs at research institutions without having ever had to do research and writing while working. It does not apply to me because standard academic advice is always about how to get research and writing done, which I learned in school. What I do not know are unmentionable things like how to deal with stealth attempts to close down your subunit by sabotaging the individuals in it one by one, or how to teach foreign languages to hordes of lower division students when there is no SLA person coordinating these classes, no technology and no common goals or practices.

Part of why I do not know that last is that I am not from a national literature department that teaches foreign languages. More importantly, I have always been advised to ignore this problem until it goes away: I am not to get myself labeled as someone who knows these things, because then I will be stuck in them. I believe the opposite: the problem does not go away, I have it every fall, and not knowing these things keeps me stuck in them.

So: standard academic advice speaks to a certain kind of person which is not me, because #1 and #3 do not apply to me. #2 does not apply, either, since my interest level is high but does not extend to martyrdom. And there is a #4 almost nobody will give advice on, which is how to recognize and handle abusive work atmospheres — the kind that fall short of being illegal and that masquerade as collegial, familial, and so on.

(By the way: every time a school or a department tells me they are a “family,” I run in the opposite direction; it means they have grandmothers to take care of, dominating parents, sibling rivalry, and all the other things that make families not about love and support but zones of Darwinian survival.)

ANYWAY: my advice is that all things have to be done in small pieces and you have to do a little bit of everything every day. It is sort of like menu planning. But research and writing are the vitamins, they really are, and not the dessert, and if you are in a job where research counts against you for tenure and promotion because it is uncollegial, you should still do it. In a worst case scenario you could have one vita for your school, and another for everyone else.

You also have to take power and people are trained to defer and to take direction. This, I suppose, is the other reason I react so strongly to the repetition of basic academic advice: what, direction again? more basic instruction? more stonewalling on the advanced questions I really have at this point?

Axé.

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2 Comments

Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, News, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “One more insight about the assumptions in standard academic advice

  1. “Every time a school or a department tells me they are a “family,” I run in the opposite direction; it means they have grandmothers to take care of, dominating parents, sibling rivalry, and all the other things that make families not about love and support but zones of Darwinian survival”

    - This is SO true. Any workplace that claims to be structured as a family forgets to let you know that this will be a heavily patriarchal sort of family. Bleh, I hate such places.

  2. Pingback: Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion « Clarissa's Blog

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