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Thursday, May 22, 2014

A bit of a break now...

After a lot of internal back-and-forth about having to get up early enough to make it to today's colloquium, I ended up going--and am glad I did. I didn't stay for the whole thing, in part because the second of the speakers for the day was not holding my attention (however important his points) but in larger measure because of a whopping sinus headache, which finally said "go home." But the first speaker was very interesting. There were no real surprises in what he said, but it was damned nice to listen to someone say it--and in front of administrators, too: stuff about the fact that the SUNY strategic plan says a lot about "commercializing" and "markets" and nothing about academic freedom or critical thinking.

The state of education as it now stands. The burning question is, what will it take to get those in power but not in the trenches to listen to those in the trenches but not in power?

I intend to take these ideas to my students in the fall. Legislators and administrators tend to discount anything faculty say, because they think we're being self-serving (and they're not always entirely wrong, quite honestly). But if students--and, for the K-12 system, parents--get vocal, people start to listen. (I guess politicians forget that faculty are also both tax-payers and voters.) I did a teeny bit of research the other day from the office, looking into the kinds of articles available on our databases: I need to do some more checking around so I can start to choose articles to use as idea generators and, even more important, so I know what students can find where, which will be crucial for the structure of assignments.

Right at the moment, however, I'm posting primarily to state that this blog is going to enter one of its quiescent periods: the term is officially over for me as of today, so although classes and assignments and committees (and my application for promotion) will all be on my mind throughout the break, I won't be posting much if at all until the new semester is ready to gear up. I do want to emphasize, however, that the thinking and planning--the mental work--goes on all the time. Being a professor is not just what I do for a living, it is an important component of who I am as a person: I am deeply invested in the educational process. The speaker was talking today about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, and although the extrinsic motivation of promotion does fuel some of my choices in terms of how I allocate my time and energy, the real impetus for everything I do in my career is entirely intrinsic. When I left a highly secure position at the Metropolitan Museum to take my first academic post, not only was there a significant decrease in my salary, I had a two-year non-renewable contract. I took the risk in part because, as my father succinctly put it, the choice was between being scared shitless or bored to death--and I chose the former. But I also took the risk because I didn't think working at the Met was of tremendous social value, and apart from being a parent, I can't think of anything more socially significant than being an educator.

So, as I head into a break from being in the classroom--and setting aside the ad hoc committee I'll be serving on, or the work helping Bruce with adjunct scheduling--I'll still be "working"; the work will just become internal rather than external.

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