Another Theory…

What if those who say they are having such a hard time with research and writing and suffering so greatly, are faking it completely?

What if the ones who want me to use my blog space to discuss suffering even more than I already do, alleging that only in this way can I convince the legislature that what we do is work, are precisely those fat, entitled types the legislature is complaining about?

What if going on about how much we are suffering just makes us look silly to the legislature? I want to emphasize that research and writing, if work, are not onerous requirements but what we came for.

I seriously think that people who do not like to write, should not have gone to graduate school in the humanities, and people who are not interested in research, should not have gone to graduate school at all. People who did not acquire a taste for it, yet continued on, might have done better not to.

I do not understand why graduate students who believe seminar papers are a form of “regurgitation,” pass, nor do I understand the assumption, even among professors, is that we did all of this just so as to be able to get up and teach what we were taught.

I am not talking about difficult working conditions, or about what gets transferred onto research; both of those things really are hard. I am trying to transfer those things — such as the duty to suffer — off of what is actually pleasure and fun.


23 thoughts on “Another Theory…

  1. All right, I’ll soften the language, but I am talking to certain people of whose complaints I have had quite enough. Someone I know thinks her department is discriminating against her by having her teach at 11AM which conflicts with yoga. And, oh yes – because she and her boyfriend both have jobs, they can’t see enough of each other, and it is the university’s fault. Etc.

  2. And I really do find that a lot of people do b**** and moan just to discourage others, and to steal their energy. This is what I am fighting mad about and I want all those people to leave the profession, now!

    1. Also – discussion about writing difficulty, how to overcome, writing habits, etc. is completely different from alleging that it is “too hard.”

  3. And although it is a good R1 with nationally ranked PhD program in field, is not Harvard Princeton Berkeley and therefore should not expect research. (This is someone who never liked to write.)

    I’m also smacking back at my father who always said research was so hard and I would never do it. He retired early, fortunately, because to hear him talk he really hated his job.

    1. Although it was a lie: read his stuff and his internal documents and you see all kinds of affection and love: he just couldn’t say it outside the building; I aim to.

  4. Another post I love so much I could kiss every word of it.

    “I seriously think that people who do not like to write, should not have gone to graduate school in the humanities, and people who are not interested in research, should not have gone to graduate school at all.”

    -This is a very brave thing to say. I’m afraid you will be excoriated for saying it. Even though it is completely true. Nobody wants to hear it, though. Or almost nobody.

  5. I’ll go further: it’s a strategy to cover for workplace abuse, discrimination, and obstruction. If you can make the excuse, oh well, s/he wasn’t good at research/couldn’t write, and get them to believe it, then you’ve totally justified all kinds of asshattery.

  6. I stayed out of this topic so far because sometimes I felt I lived in an alternative university. Aside from the personal factors, I experienced none of what you describe on grad school. I’ve wondered more than once if it was related to the fact that I did not go to a fancy R1, so (female and male) smart cookies like me and some of my classmates where really appreciated and groomed by professors. Also, it was very clear from the beginning that teaching would be a big part of our careers. Although we did not get more than one teaching methodology class (THANK GOD FOR THAT!!!), it was remarked over and over how important it was to enjoy being in front of a classroom.
    I think I will write my own post regarding teaching, writing, reasearch and everything.

  7. Yes – I went to public Ivy and everyone was from Ivy/Michigan. And you have to realize how hard the tenure fights were for the professors I had, and how hard it was to be a woman / minority then, and lots of things. They had a much, much harder time than people do now, and I had a much harder time in terms of those things than people starting out do now.

    Another topic is that my graduate program wasn’t Spanish, so I, thankfully, didn’t have to teach Spanish or Portuguese language classes, which is what I mostly do now. I find it incredibly tedious and there is too much volume – I have 95 students in those classes this semester, plus other classes and other work, so sitting around coming up with fun videoclips like the TAs is not something that can be priority, etc.

    And then, I am truly an elitist b****, if you will — I’ve got to say that in general I am truly not interested in teaching to gen ed requirements as mainstay of diet — one could have a good community college job in FL / CA / TX for that — and that for a freshman type class I like English comp better, because it doesn’t have a freakin’ workbook to deal with, or tests, and because I’m such a language sponge that anything I can do to teach it feels odd — I’m much better off teaching writing, something I can remember learning / have put some effort into learning.

    I don’t know that our professors knew we might have to teach those kinds of courses if we became professors — in the universes they knew that wouldn’t be the case; most of what I’ve taught as a professor was there done by TAs, lecturers, community college. They can’t warn you about what they don’t know about, can they? Especially if they’re not from this country / don’t know the lay of the land.

    Finally, one is at a disadvantage here without K-12 training, because of the students’ skill levels. They need to learn things I don’t know how to teach. This is always difficult to figure out what to do about.

    I realize I sound ungrateful and all but this stuff for me is a lot harder than research / writing, partly because I lack training, partly because of the politics around all of it (awful), and partly because my interests and goals lie elsewhere.

  8. I just wrote something about it in my blog. I am not judging anybody, and I certainly don’t think you are an elitist bitch. I think that everything is highly subjective, informed by our personal experiences. I just try to avoid prescriptive rules that say “one should be X/Y/Z, one should like X/Y/Z and dislike A/B/C”. I have fought against that myself. In fact, my experience might have been the opposite of yours in some ways.

    I have many friends teaching at better places than me, with lower teaching loads, and I’ve fought hard against the implied message I received from them that teaching was not really the purpose of the profession. It might not be, but I actually love doing it. It took me a while to overcome a sense of inferiority that I wasn’t good enough because I enjoyed teaching. The message I received many times was that research is highest goal and the only thing to enjoy about the profession, and teaching is a necessary evil one has to endure, and should not be a pleasure (specially if you are teaching undergraduates).

    What I wrote in my post is what works for me, and what I find pleasurable. And I think we would both agree that that is the whole point of the discussion.

    1. In every job I’ve had except the ones at the R1s, I’ve gotten beaten up for being interested in research at all.

      While people I knew at R1s complained about having to do research.

      1. “In every job I’ve had except the ones at the R1s, I’ve gotten beaten up for being interested in research at all.”

        I’ve only have one job, but from my own experience and what I talk to of people that graduated with me, we’ve had the reverse experience: Increasing research expectations for new faculty. I don’t complain about it, because my teaching load and the expectations are fair, and I am actually happy doing it.

        But I know of people who’ve gone to 4-4 teaching colleges where they ask them a book for tenure, with no sabbatical release. And with senior colleagues that have published 3 articles throughout their entire career. Now that is a position I would be miserable at. No matter how much I like research or not.

  9. …although naturally I do a charming job of it all, have done 4.5 hours of language courses today, 95 total students, as is the case each M and W!

  10. Spanishprof, remember I’m not talking about what actual production requirements are, I am talking about working conditions. Can you be considered for a job at all, being a woman? How many more times than twice as much as the men will you have to publish to get tenure? Will people (literally) piss on your office door if you are a minority?

    These are the sorts of things many professors I had, had to go through and they really aren’t done that way any more; also a lot of places hire with the intention of shepherding to tenure not just seeing what happens.

    When I was new, except at R1s it was really inappropriate for women not to like to teach foreign languages, bake cookies, and things like that; now that is no longer expected. Life *really* is a lot easier without the harassment and the baking type activities, even with publication requirements for tenure going up. The horrors of how one was treated are why so many people are so maimed and behave so badly now.

    But what I am talking about are attitudes required socially, or repeated informally, by people, in advice columns, etc. Teaching, and especially lower level teaching, is supposed to be your passion, and research you are supposed to do but have serious trouble with, is the correct attitude especially for women and minorities! It is what you are supposed to say!

    I am just so tired of listening to people talk about how research is so hard and writing so difficult and how if you aren’t suffering with it you aren’t working hard enough.

    Another of my big rants is how people always have to spit on administrative work to prove they are intelligent. As in: only someone stupid like me would write a grant like the one you admire, because that is administrative. Only someone stupid like me would actually do work on the committees that defend our work to the legislature, because that is administrative. (Paradoxically, I am asked to “show solidarity” by declaring writing difficult on my blog.)

    People who love freshman and sophomore teaching above all are free to do so but I am tired of being required to say it is what I love and find easiest and so on. Just because I am a girl, just because I can speak foreign languages, and so on, does not mean it is my duty to have certain tastes and not others, I say.

  11. P.S. the other part of my comment didn’t go through, or yes I it did but I want to emphasize. Life is *much* easier for women and minority faculty now. You can be married / have kids on the tenure track without stigma, for instance. You can be a minority faculty member and not have people place excrement on your door. You can be openly gay. People older than me went through really things breaking into academia and it is part of why they are so hard bitten. I went through things people don’t go through any more. People also actually get hired with intention of tenuring now, which is a new thing — it used to be much more random and dog eat dog. So yes, in smaller places where it used to be easy to get tenure with weak publications research requirements are higher now, but the atmosphere is so much better and women and minorities are treated so much better; the difference is downright surreal from my p.o.v., I can hardly believe my own memories of what used to go on.

    I started graduate school in 1978, when I was 20; I did Comparative Literature at Berkeley; by the end of program few were left standing and fewer got jobs; fewer got tenure; everyone was really smart. Our professors had started graduate school before then, clearly, and had gone through some stuff and went through some stuff. In my father’s graduate classes, in the 50s, I am not aware of there having been *any* women or minorities. Later on you should have seen what it was like, getting the first Chicano Studies programs, the first Black Studies, women’s studies, etc. — very, very difficult, I can barely imagine it myself, things have changed so much.

    When I first went on the job market married women had to conceal spouses to be taken seriously; for a long time there was no Internet, no wikis and no blogs. I know people who did it before Interlibrary Loan came in, too, and when there were many fewer journals than now, and when only first tier journals counted. So no, I wouldn’t say things were harder now, just differently hard, and that one must take into serious consideration that Lombardi article “deconstructing faculty work” (IHE) which shows in what ways the whole ethos of things really has changed (for the worse).

  12. Also SP – remember, I”m not telling you how to be; this blog is against the demon of Reeducation (psychotherapy plus dealing with co-assistant professors plus dealing with senior faculty in certain SLACS and regionals, which resembled my first education. *And* I had to deal with Francine as a dissertation director, who is famous for being mean. I do not at all mean to say anything bad in general about my alma mater though — a truly great school.

  13. “But what I am talking about are attitudes required socially, or repeated informally, by people, in advice columns, etc. Teaching, and especially lower level teaching, is supposed to be your passion”

    I agree with you on that, but I think it is more what you are supposed to say given the realities of the market than anything else. Just as you are suppose to say that you use the “communicative approach” if you write your teaching philosophy, another meaningless term (I could go on a rant about the so-called “communicative approach right here). To give you an example of the above: I went on the job market on 2006. I got 15 MLA interviews. One of them, they told me right at the beginning: “So that we do not waste your time, this is what the job entails: it’s a 4-4 teaching load, and you’d be teaching 3 Beginning Spanish classes each semester, and the fourth one would be a language class and occasionally a culture class. Are you interested?”. I just looked at them, told them I appreciated their forwardness, and that no, I was not interested. I walked away. If that had happened in 2009, I probably wouldn’t have walk away, I would have fake enthusiasm the best I could.

  14. I know you are not looking for my approval here, but I can only say that both your grant and working on a committee to defend your work in the State Legislature are things I admire more than you can think. Specially because there are too many “revolutionary” scholars who couldn’t give a damn about anything but their own books. To people who spit on that type of work, I would just tell them “F**ck you” without reservations. I have no patience for that type (a few big names come to mind).

    And you are absolutely right that in 20 years, things have changed and things are easier in many ways for (white) woman and sometimes minorities (some places still haven’t catch up)..

    I also know that blog this is your very personal space. My only point in what I wrote here and in my own post is that there isn’t a single model for being a successful college professor, as there are many types of institutions. And as you rightly refuse to be put down by peers who look down upon you because you like research and actually consider it fun, and because you engage in administrative work, I refuse to feel less worthy because I love teaching and writing can be difficult for me. I believe that I am very good at what I do, and I believe it is valuable on many levels.

  15. I’m just railing these weeks to unburden myself of about 20 years of anger at all the discouraging talk I’ve been nice and diplomatic about, to my own detriment.

    Also, I think the reason research/writing are so fraught is the tenure process — they are associated with the possibility of a kind of death sentence, so you’re not just doing your work, you’re fighting for your life against a strong tide.

    For me, it’s lower division teaching that is fraught in that way: for one, because in my day the danger for women in being perceived as good at that or interested in that was getting yourself tracked off the tenure track and into the pink collar instructorship zone; and for two, because in a couple of departments I’ve worked in, the real issue for tenure was staying on the right side of the language methodology wars — with the right side being the side that does everything the way one wouldn’t, which is traumatic to discover for every newly hatched PhD since (a) they are shocked to discover that this is really the key issue, and (b) they now have to do everything they were explicitly trained not to do and they have trouble swallowing the heresy. (Dealing with these wars is an amazing drain on everyone, I must say.)

    There are two ideas that set all this off – (1) that there is exactly one way to do these things, and that it fits all people and all institutional situations, and you can’t take a single step off the beaten path because your death bells will toll, and you, despite all education and experience, are not mature enough to be able to judge when a step off course may in fact be the right step, and that everything is terribly unforgiving (it really isn’t, even in bad markets, at least not in large fields like Spanish, English, Math, etc., that every institution has programs in), and (2) that one should envy / resent the super fortunate, anointed ones … yes, I know there are some anointed ones and it is not fair, but still worrying about that is not where I want to put energy; I’d rather put it to lobbying about *everyone’s* health insurance and things like that.

    The other thing that occurs to me is discussions of the past, of how things were easier in the past. I remember things like the institution of PhD and MA reading lists: before, there was no list, and so no limit to what they could ask. There were also no written tenure requirements, so no limit to what they could ask or parameters for judgment. Also there was at one time no job market per se: you were indicated for jobs by powerful professors, you didn’t get to apply or compete with a field of candidates. So I’m not convinced about the golden times, although there was that period in the 60s and even 70s when universities had more money.

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