I have become faculty advisor for the secular students’ alliance, an important organization because it creates a space in which secular students can be secular. It is not so easy here because they face ostracism from family and friends and some are not in a position to come out of the closet, so they need the group. I have decided supporting them is an important teaching activity.
I was chosen mostly because it was considered I was one of the few faculty members daring enough to be out to the university as a secularist. I was also informed that I have strong opinions and am able and also willing to defend them in an articulate manner; and that I see through manipulations and lies, and call people on these fearlessly.
I thought it was all quite interesting since on this weblog I present myself as one who does not stand up for themself and who fears speaking up. (The students do not know, of course, that after I make my brilliant public speeches I have private crises — but still.) All of this was very instructive, as was another research related love note I received today.
I do note, nonetheless, that in much of academia, what one must actually do is hide one’s views. Practicing this most of the time — despite the days on which I make my impassioned speeches — is detrimental to research and writing, I find. I have been told that one should channel all one’s actual views into what one publishes, and hide these otherwise, and I think many people are trained to compartmentalize things in this fashion, but I am not.
The things I used to work on are beautiful and fascinating but I never stopped to enjoy them, really, because from time immemorial I had been employing the efficiency model in the interest of getting things done, making deadlines. Other people may have explored as undergraduates or beginning graduate students but my friends and I went at it like tenure-track assistant professors at very good schools. We went at it as our professors did, to be precise, and we modeled ourselves after the ones who were clearly going to make tenure.
I only see now, as I return to them briefly, how truly interesting the things I used to work on are.
I stopped working on those things in part, I think, because I had to declare independence from several things including that get-it-done model. You have to actually take pleasure in all of these things and let them work on you. That is what they want to do, after all.
Meanwhile there is the pleasure of feeling calm. That, of course, in Reeducation was being too “controlled” and not enough ruled by passing “feeling.” I don’t agree at all. The yogis, for instance, are calm so that they can meditate and come to the heart of matters.
It had a quotation about advising people on graduate school that I thought was smart but that bothered me in the end. I killed it by mistake but perhaps that was a good thing. I am going to stop railing about academic advice because in the end it is a personal issue, I am talking about academic advice, I discern, to talk about something else and I would like to see what that is, if I can.
Railing against academic advice used to be illuminating but it is starting to hurt. I do not know that I want to think about it any more. I would like to stop reacting against (a) the doom and gloom atmosphere — don’t do this, and (b) the coercion — you must now do this and only this. I would like to stop being the one who listens and tries to find meaning.
This semester I would like to just be a person, like the others. To drop my ancient role as marginalized aspirant. To stop having to struggle against bad news. To stand in expertise. To drop pain. If you translated my dissertation into a personal statement it would say: “But I do not like to be under the power of sadists, and I want agency.”
One of my great problems is that I was always told it was important, for survival, not to be teaching oriented, and then only ever got jobs where teaching was the most important thing. I am intellectually challenging generally, so I am often considered a “bad” teacher. It has been made more than clear to me that it is very dangerous to be considered a “bad” teacher, so I spend much time and energy making sure I am well enough protected. I understand very well that great teaching is not required, and that research is more important. What I am talking about is being considered good enough at teaching to get tenure, and to not be called up on post-tenure review.
So I ran into students Out and they were telling me how wonderful my classes were. It is my materials they save, my syllabi, the papers they wrote for me. Their perceptions of the situation and mine are so different, and mine are based on the complaints from the failing people and the fact that the administration believes them and not anyone else. This is part of why, in the absence of actual moral support, the only way I could have healed from the various blows I was dealt in the late 80s and early 90s would have been to get to a place in which these wounds would at least not be re-inflicted.
And that, in turn, is why I am so icy to people who say all I need is to understand that research matters — and to come up with a rational schedule for doing it. I refer such people to this post on the research schedule I had before I had ever heard any of their exhortations, “encouragement,” or advice.
But I digress. This post is not about that, it is about how I am not actually a bad teacher. I, who never said I wanted to teach (and was also warned so urgently that if I did, I would ruin my career as a professor). I, who in any case had hoped the Ph.D. would gain me entry to work for a large research organization and not to any kind of teaching job. I, even I, am not a “bad teacher.”
Moreover: I challenge every R1 person barking about the need to “cut corners” on teaching to survive, or manage where I have doing what you say you do. I also challenge you on your accusations that I spend too much time preparing materials. Let us do it together: you prepare yours and I will prepare mine, and I am betting that I can do better than you in less time.
This article; the syllabi; the LASA2015 abstract; the grading; the parking permit.
In the fall: the other article.
It is strange no longer to collude in my own oppression but I appear to be achieving this. I will become stronger still.
The very worst aspect of working at our place is the way we are undermined by the administration and used to undermine each other. I will guard against this.
So it is going now, and I am becoming one with this project. Whole. The image of jumping off into a project does not work for me. I decided it was not a question of jumping off, but of drawing things toward me.
You have to think in terms of integration and love, not alienation, rubrics, duty. That is my academic advice.
Now everything is beautiful again and it has to do with pleasure. Or the self-love I lost in Reeducation and have difficulty summoning here.
It is not this town that is terrible, although it does not suit me; and it is not academia, although I wish I could have done something more interesting. It is this university having been, and being such a space of trauma.
The idea of “getting back to what needs to be done” is so freeing in so many senses. In Reeducation, doing what needed to be done would have been considered “being in denial” and “having control.”