Long ago someone I knew made a diagram of the graduate programs in which his wife and her friends, of whom I was one, were studying. The diagram drew and explained the parallels between these programs and the branch of the military they most resembled. The military parallel for my program was the Marines, because we were required to have the most skills and had the roughest form of basic training.
People become professors for various reasons but for me it was strictly about becoming the subject of my own discourse, and a subject in my life. Reeducation stopped this, largely because it believed itself to be the only legitimate subject, but I have perhaps remained a professor for as long as I have because I still want to get from, in or through it the most fundamental of the things I came for – ownership of my life.
Academia is about as unlikely a place to seek such a thing as is the military. On the other hand, I know quite a few military people and they are often far more independent thinkers than are people with regular jobs in business or government. It may be that as with the military, if academia does not turn you into a Stepford Professor, a useless pile of mush, or a petty and egocentric tyrant, it then requires that you claim a self in a way that relatively few are required to do (although many do it anyway).
My mother expressed surprise when she realized I was not going to get married. She had, however, emphasized throughout my childhood that marriage was not a good idea, and recommended that I postpone it as long as possible. She did not foresee that I would be able to postpone it forever.
I was relieved to discover, late in the fourth grade, that not everyone got married – even though people as alternative as Grace Slick had been married – and that it was again going out of fashion. I knew by now that marriage was a patriarchal institution designed to enslave women, control men, and produce new workers. I had not learned this from feminists or Marxist-Leninists. It was obvious just from observing operations around the housing tract where we lived.
It was also clear to me that I, in particular, should not marry because I was by now structured in such a way as not to be able to distinguish between a clinically abusive relationship and the more mildly hierarchical – or sadomasochistic, if you will – marriage relationships which were and to some extent are still the accepted norm. I was especially terrified not to make my own money, because I had been told very clearly that those who are being supported financially have no rights. Most specifically we had no right to be subjects of our own lives, as opposed to objects in the lives of others.
I also learned somehow from my mother, who kept saying vaguely I could “do anything I wanted with my life” but did not discuss the meaning of this phrase or any details at all, that in fact I would not be able to get or keep a job. This created a very worrisome double bind, since I also did not dare to be supported. And one of my father’s favorite songs during that period was Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” If you read the lyrics, and consider that since I thought I could neither work nor be supported I was in fact counting on hitting the streets when school ended, you can begin to see the outline of my dilemma.
My father, however, had a job. I could see what it entailed, and I knew I could handle that. I became a professor for this reason and for some other practical reasons, but I think mostly because I would have, anyway. My Reeducator believed this career choice indicated faulty individuation, and perhaps it did. It could also be seen more calmly, as a particularly steep path to self.
I am in my specific field for similarly contingent reasons, but once again, even with true freedom of choice, I might very well be here anyway. Had it not been for the distraction of Reeducation, of course, I might have switched fields by now – or found ways of soaring higher above the humdrum aspects of the academic life than I do at present – or perhaps not. And as I have said before, it is very interesting to see how much Reeducation paralleled my first education. But I have graduated from both of these homes, and I go to school now. And there are many problems with school, but I still prefer school to staying home.
At school we make observations, develop theories, draw pictures of these, and finally write them down. We do this no matter what anyone else has to say about the evils of “overachievement.” Because we are not “overachieving,” we are living, and doing creative work. We do this in memory of Paulo Freire, and for the sake of the collectivity – and to entertain the spirits. And everyone has a right to be a subject in their own life, to stand at the head of their own acts, and to speak.