Category Archives: Da Whiteman

Henry Giroux Today

Having a bad day today. Maybe the hangover from being denied tenure by the right-wing stooge John Silber, the then president of Boston University, in 1981 still stings. Since those dark days, I have always had some hope in the university, recognizing that it was an important site of struggle and filled with contradictions. I am losing that hope. I consistently meet administrators who are not only unimaginative but cowardly and incapable of supporting programs whose value cannot be reduced to cost-efficiency metrics. These people do not just lack a vision, they constitute a kind of academic walking dead, albeit with the ever present smile on their faces–a kind of sickening embrace of civility. They are truly incapable of providing support and resources for faculty fighting for economic and political justice, faculty who take risks, join hands with those colleagues who have been reduced to Wal-mart workers, and act in solidarity with students who refuse to be reduced to customers. Where are the administrators from the ranks of the humanities and liberal arts? In too many instances we have dead-beat administrators drawn from the empirically based disciplines who do not have a clue as to what scholarship is about and increasingly reward the most unfit people with university awards, academic positions, and committee assignments–all the while making clear that qualified people should not apply. Rigorous and courageous scholarship has now gone the way of typewriter. Faculty are rewarded for committee work, grants, and a general attitude that can only be viewed as supine. Even worse, these individuals organize themselves in clicks exercising power that represents the worse form of cronyism. They barely publish, have no international reputations, and feed on gossip and innuendo, reproducing themselves in hires who mimic their own idiocy. I am sure there are exceptions in North America, but dark side of neoliberalism has just about killed the university as a democratic public sphere. All that is left is the detritus, filled with losers and dead beat careerists.

Axé.

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A flash of insight

Why did you not ask for advice and information?

Because I already knew that my father would not answer such questions. From this I had learned that answers would not be forthcoming from anyone.

Axé.

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Steal this university!

The book seems dated now, but I did not pay enough attention when it came out in 2003, although I read the reviews. It is about how the for-profit ethos has crept into universities. I do not know whether I knew enough then to understand the book as I do now.

I learned a very great deal from the third chapter, about the inefficiency of merit raises, whose points are supported by this recent article on metrics. And I am fascinated with the poor behavior of some professors I know in the 1995 Yale strike.

The truly important insight I had while reading in this book, however, was that much of the academic advice I have received and been confused by came from professors dealing with the slow encroachment of this model. Either they were in a position to take advantage of it (e.g. had other people to grade for them and were otherwise in a position to say, don’t spend time on teaching), or were themselves struggling with it and saying things that did not make sense entirely, because they, too, were in a new world they did not fully recognize because it used (in another way) the vocabulary of the old, and were looking through a glass, darkly.

Axé.

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Pour penser

I would not frame the discussion in terms of success and failure, instructions for success, but I think this post gets closer to a useful discussion of how to do an academic job than do most in the genre. The activities it discusses are, of course, the ones that interest me and also interested me in taking this direction.

In my case the question is complicated, of course, since I was not raised to think I would ever be able to do anything. And my father was a professor and said he was unhappy. He thought going into academia was a poor idea, and did not think I could survive in it. I, of course, did not think I could do anything at all, yet knew I could do academic work and was very interested in it. I was careful each year of graduate school to make sure the main reason I was continuing was that I was interested, not that I was trapped; and to make sure I was working to lessen the factors that had made graduate school my only option when I was twenty.

I always felt I should quit to please my father, and I always felt one could not commit fully, since one would probably not be let in. And I haven’t always had the best of luck, or made the best informed choices, but these things, no matter how serious (and they are serious), are secondary. The primary issue is the early and constant message: you must renounce now what you love because it will never love you.

My father loved this song. It seemed to express much of what he felt and to comfort him, but it terrified me. I already knew my parents were afraid of ending up on the streets themselves, and ambivalent about us. Would they put us on the streets if they could? Would we ever be able to hold onto anything we loved?

And these things are all true and must be acknowledged but at the same time, I am so tired of them. I would like to work as I did in graduate school, days of innocence, when the work itself was healing balm.

Axé.

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On giving up what you love most

I was saying things about academia, how I dislike it because it requires you to renounce the things you love most about it. That is about working at institutions that work against your programs, of course, and I won’t say this is not a real problem, and that it is not highly irritating. But “renouncing the things you love most” means something more to me, I realized as I heard myself speak.

“I don’t have the money to keep you.” That was what my mother always said, and she kept saying it even though she had the money. We were to be cast out, it was a daily danger, and she was to commit suicide, and that was a daily danger as well. Again and again I prepared myself for these losses and although they did not actually take place, the psychic one kept being repeated. Every day we were told, every day we renounced and steeled ourselves; every day we knew we would be abandoned, and love was withdrawn.

I always appreciated and felt affection for my mother, but I do not remember loving her. One could not love her, she was too coercive, cruel, weak and vindictive too often, and she might commit suicide any day. She was also a potential role model, and that was risky. If I got too close, I feared, I could become death-oriented like her, and I did not want this.

Just now I was thinking irritably about how foolish it is to accuse people of insufficient love (“you don’t love the university enough, if you did, you would put up with this!”) when they have in fact gone so far as to renounce what they most love to prove this love — renounced their own work and their better judgment to be polite to fragile power. I realized suddenly what this meant at another level: it means I must have loved my mother once. I don’t remember when I had to stop but it was very early on, and it must have been very painful because I have repeated it a few times, to try to get over it and also to try to see it; this also explains the reactions I have when I am asked to sacrifice or renounce.

People really should not have children to amuse themselves or to claim an identity. They should also not threaten suicide around their children. With the suicide threats, and also the accusations having to do with our failure to fill an emptiness, I remember renouncing love again and again. I remember the toy I held in my hand one time, watching my mother sail away from me as it were, and saying, “Good-bye, my honey. Good-bye, my honey.”

I can see it now. It must have been devastating, and I know there were many such scenes.

Axé.

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Alguien dijo

“One must do what is central to one’s self before anything else.”

It is interesting because I still do not, or do not really know what that thing would be as I do not do it. What I must do first is take care of Mother; second, I may choose what I like best from the menu she gives. That is all.

What would that thing be? People keep telling me I do not know what I want, or do not want what I should want enough, but that is not true. It is a certain kind of setting I want, and activity, and atmosphere, and autonomy.

Axé.

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Writing begins with forgiveness

For me, writing always begins with self-forgiveness. I don’t sit down and rush headlong into the blank page. I make coffee. I put on a song I like. I drink the coffee, listen to the song. I don’t write. Beginning with forgiveness revolutionizes the writing process, returns it being to a journey of creativity rather than an exercise in self-flagellation.  I forgive myself for not sitting down to write sooner, for taking yesterday off, for living my life. That shame? I release it. My body unclenches; a new lightness takes over once that burden has floated off. There is room, now, for story, idea, life.

I put my hands on the keyboard and begin.

Voir le texte entier.

Axé.

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