Thursday, September 21, 2006


(Alright, so I mixed Old English and Modern German affixes with a Middle English root. Call it artistic license. Nobody bitched when Tolkien did it!)

After the emotional disaster that was the end of last semester, I knew I needed to approach this grad student business in a different way. I decided to alleviate my feelings of helplessness and perpetual confusion by absolutely throwing myself into the grad student experience this semester. I'm running hither and yon attempting to create the grad school experience I want. Often by sheer force of will.

Conversations go something like this:
Me: I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: I'm afraid I will not accept that answer.
Authority: Too bad.
Me: Here's why I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: And here's why I think X will benefit the department/graduate community as a whole.
Authority: Why are you still talking?
Me: I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: And here are the ways in which other graduate programs have implemented X, to their ultimate benefit.
Authority: Will it get you out of my office?
Me: Yep.
Authority: Fine. I hate you.
Me: I'm OK with that.

One subset of the agitprop I'm creating and distributing willy-nilly among fellow students and faculty has to do with professionalization seminars. We want them. Or, rather, we want to know how to get from here in the trenches to the "professional level, publishable work" our professors all SAY they demand from us.

(In a meeting with the director I learned that "I demand professional level, publishable work" is a rhetorical tool that professors in the department use. Presumably, when we have no idea how to accomplish that, can't get anybody to explain it to us in any useful way, and hand in our unprofessional, unpublishable work ... well, that's OK, too. Because it's emphatically NOT unethical pedagogy to set a bar, refuse to teach students how to reach it, then tell them with a lovely grade that they've surpassed it.)

So, I'm designing this here group of professionalization seminars, with the help of an ABD(insisted upon by the dept.), and then we have to go professor wrangling to get it all together. And I need a nap, like, yesterday.

I have a slightly different take on the recent "to professionalize or not to professionalize" debate as seen at In the Middle and Quod She. Without thinking too hard about the job market, it just seems to me that it's asinine that every kind of knowledge we have can be published, catalogued, and used as a basis to create better, new knowledge EXCEPT for professional practices. There should not be a special code you have to be granted by mystical dwarves to unlock the secrets of the profession. Nobody can intuit their way through the exceptionally weird world of academia, and they shouldn't have to do so. Now, the level of emphasis that should be placed on "professionalizing" is beyond my scope at the moment. I don't know. But I do know that some effort to mentor should be in place.

I'm also with Ancrene Wiseass on the "pre-professionalization" nonsense. Since when is teaching at the university level pre-professional work?

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a young man coming to my office hours today who demands, DEMANDS that I change his grade to reflect work he didn't do. He wants me to tell him the pretty lies my professors tell me. I'm not going to do it, but I have to listen to his arguments anyway. Karmic retribution, I guess. If I can get him to understand that the pretty good grade he got will not ruin his chances at law school, and that demanding much from him now is my way of helping him out in the long run before 3:30, I just might be able to get that nap in before I move on to my next project. Yeah, who the hell am I kidding?


New Kid on the Hallway said...

hee hee, mystical dwarves! I also love your conversation with Authority. Seriously, good for you - I hope the professionalization stuff goes well.

HeoCwaeth said...

Thanks, New Kid.

It's a delicate operation, because we have to come up with everything we want to know about, and figure out who would best explain that particular thing. However, we also have to be very careful not to direct too much, because that would be insubordinate. And, really, I've met very few people in my life who have the death-grip on personal dignity that many of Microburg's professors have. Can't step on that.

But, I think it's going well so far. You wouldn't know it from my blog, but I can be very good at phrasing things with just the right mixture of serious demand and sycophancy. That's my major role, actually. We started the thing together, but the ABD has more experience and can therefore think of more things we need to know. Then she hands those ideas off to me, and I spin-doctor them.

negativecapability said...

I cannot express how much I wholeheartedly agree with your long paranthetical on the ridiculousness of asking for "publishable" work with NO direction whatsoever. Here's to hoping your agitprop results in you getting a lot more out of coursework than I did.