Hey gang, so here’s the latest.
While I am up for a few more potential academic jobs, which I’d love to take, I’m also preparing for the possibility that I won’t get one in the coming months. So I’m currently set to teach at Purdue again as a continuing lecturer this fall, go back on the academic job market, and work on a few writing projects that I’m very excited about. I’ll be honest in saying that, if that’s what comes to pass, I’ll have a hard time not letting it feel like failure. But I’ll live a comfortable existence thanks to some freelance writing I’m working on, and my CV should be better, and it’ll give me a lot of time to just write, which is what I need. And it takes a lot of people a couple years on the market. Besides, I finished my PhD early. (People on Twitter love to call me a “perpetual grad student,” which is weird considering that I started and finished an MA and PhD in six years. That’s… not a long time.)
If it doesn’t work for me this year, we’ll see. I may move on. If I do, I’ll still consider going to grad school one of my best decisions. It was six of the most satisfying, enjoyable, enriching years of my life. (Note: don’t go to grad school.)
As far as freelance writing stuff goes, I know I’ve teased a bunch of stuff recently, but I still have nothing to report yet. I can’t wait to share with you. I’m not trying to be arch; this stuff just takes time. I feel like I’ve been standing at a doorway for a really long time — my grad school self would call this a liminal moment — and I’m eager to just walk through. The editing process is frustrating even when you like your editors and think they largely get it right. We’ll see. The pieces are good work and deserve to be read, and it looks like they’re going to be.
Miles is good! He’s progressing. (Here’s info on what he’s been going through for those who don’t know.) We’ve moved to a new apartment where I have a much easier time of getting him out the door. He can amble around quite a bit now on his own. His mobility is hugely dependent on how much time he’s had to warm up and get moving. When we first get out of bed, he’s frighteningly uncoordinated, and I have to do a lot of carrying and shepherding. Over time, he gets warmed up and can walk around quite well on his own. (Well enough that I have to keep him from eating the cat’s food.) His bloodwork still isn’t where we want it to be, and I am still taking him in to the vet once or twice a week, but signs are positive. For now, bedtime is the biggest issue. I have not slept through the night since he came home from the animal hospital on the Fourth of July. He often needs to get up in the middle of the night to go outside, and his medication frequently makes him shake and breathe heavily to the extent that I wake up and worry over him. It’s kind of like caring for a newborn. Luckily my current life affords a lot of time for naps. We’re trying to tackle a few stairs right now. It’s slow going but we keep trying.
So that’s the skinny for now. I have been thinking and writing a lot, lately, about the academy and its troubles, and the troubles within my own field. One of the problems with any status hierarchy like academia is that there’s a built-in resistance to critique: those who find themselves in an elevated position within that hierarchy have a vested interest in protecting it; those who are likely to criticize are outside of the hierarchy and thus their complaints are subject to dismissal on grounds of sour grapes and jealousy. I suppose you’d say I’m in the latter category. Well: as someone with a world in both the worlds of academics and media, I’m in the very frustrating position of finding that the types of complaints about the academy in the media are frequently wrong, but that there’s a bunch of accurate complaints that don’t get taken seriously in the academy. It’s like, “yes, the academy needs reform, but not those reforms!” I wrote a dissertation (that I’m quite happy with, thank you very much) about standardized testing in the American university and the policymakers pushing it. And I look out at the professoriate and I fear that so many of them seem so unaware of what’s happening.
At present, my concerns are with my own field, a field full of brilliant, committed people with great intentions that seem intent on driving themselves and their programs off a cliff. I’m not sure how one goes about being in a position to lay out the case against our current practices, given that having your criticisms taken seriously requires first advancing in the very field that you find to be broken. I’ve previously pointed to this piece by Keith Rhodes and Monica McFawn Robinson as a fantastic criticism of my field. They write within it about the difficulty of getting the piece published, and the journal they published it in, while great, is obscure in the field. The question is, how do you get the people who control what arguments get heard to listen to an argument they don’t want to hear?
But criticism is still worth doing even if few will listen. And perhaps, someday, I’ll be able to lay out my case at length, whether anyone is listening or not.