Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At CHE: How to Live Less Anxiously in Academe

At The Chronicle, "How to Live Less Anxiously in Academe" Carl Cederstrom and Michael Marinetto suggest four ways to live less anxiously. [There's actually a fifth, and it's a big one: be tenured, as Cederstrom is, or in a presumably secure lecture position, as Marinetto is, but let it pass.]

Here they are, with commentary, in descending order:

4. Teach well.
This takes on the old canard that teaching doesn't matter--that, indeed, teaching too well means you're not serious about your research. The authors advise putting "care and attention" into teaching, to which I would say, "well, who doesn't?" Maybe people need this reminder, though.

3. Stop writing badly.
This is an example of "begging the question"--that is, it assumes that everyone writes badly and that, as the authors say, they do it on purpose. Does this really happen? Still? I don't read a lot of really bad writing in academe, although working through theory-dense reading to get to a Captain Obvious point, which happens a lot, makes me stabby.

2. Be an amateur.
This is the old "follow your bliss" and "do what you love," which, okay, makes good sense if you have the security of a position that lets you do it. It charges and stimulates your brain.  They're basically saying don't be afraid to speak out even if you don't think you have the credentials.

1. Kill your institutional aspirations.
Also known as "say no to service," this advice got a lot of blowback in the comments from people who noted, correctly, that if white male academics are busy following their bliss, the service demands will fall on women and people of color. They congratulate themselves on, as they quote one person's prescription, distancing themselves from the university "spiritually" while leeching off its money. [The sentiment is phrased with such an obnoxious sense of entitlement that I won't quote it here, because see above: makes me stabby.]

Some of the commenters mention that institutions bring this on themselves when they require committee reports, surveys, etc. and then completely ignore the results and ask for the same things again, over and over, resulting in a colossal duplication of effort and waste of time.

So is there a way to live less anxiously in academe? The shorter version is probably "do your utmost with things you care about and let the rest go as much as you can."

Edited to add: Don't forget Sophia Gould's wonderful "I am the woman in your department who does all your committee work": https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/i-am-the-woman-in-your-department-who-does-all-the-committee-work

And see xykademiqz's great post on a different kind of entitlement: https://xykademiqz.com/2016/10/08/noisy/


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

You heard it here first: my take on a conservative academic's perspectives on some things

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Mark Bauerlein has declared that "We've reached a point where we need a jolt," and that the name of that jolt is Donald Trump.

I would call it a nuclear conflagration rather than a jolt, but instead of passing judgment (who, me?), I offer some of his other opinions as they've appeared on this blog via CHE over the years.
Based on the CHE articles--and there were many more I didn't discuss--I'd always assumed that MB was their Andy Rooney-like lovable professional curmudgeon, but maybe not.