Tuesday, December 19, 2006


It's been refreshing, since starting the new job last year, to stop running on the treadmill of the academic job market. A bit pf perspective makes it all the clearer that Bitch PhD's take on Bérubé's new book is not only a great review, but a resounding and inspiring manifesto on just what academic life is about and for.

There are things that are frustrating about higher ed, just as there are things that are frustrating about any big group effort. But the funding cuts and higher teaching loads and adjunct outsourcing and such are frustrating because they get in the way of our being able to read and think and write and teach. That is to say, the essence of the job--reading, thinking, writing, teaching--is a good one. And we should say so, and we should defend that idea as being, after all, the entire point of the American Dream: we've found the good life, we should be able to pursue it. We--all of us, not just the professoriate, but the rest of the country and damnit, while we're at it, the rest of the world--should be able to assert without apology that leisure to think is a good thing, one of the primary advantages of being American (that is to say, living in a society in which our basic needs are basically met for most of us).
At the other end of the continuum running from inspiring to depressing is Paul the Spud's summary of a recent article on education in Iraq. Or rather, on the impending collapse of education in Iraq:
Across the country, campuses are being shuttered, students and teachers driven from their classrooms and parents left to worry that a generation of traumatized children will go without education.

Teachers tell of students kidnapped on their way to school, mortar rounds landing on or near campuses and educators shot in front of children.

This month insurgents distributed pamphlets at campuses, some sealed inside an envelope with an AK-47 bullet.

At one elementary school in Mansour, a neighborhood of large homes once known for good schools and relatively little violence, the principal scoffed at an unarmed guard the ministry had dispatched after the campus was threatened.

"What is he going to do? We even started to make jokes about him," said the principal, who spoke on condition her name not be used. "When a gang of armed men come, he will start screaming: 'Here's the principal! Kill her!' "

The principal, a woman in her early 30s, said she had started bringing a revolver to work. "I cannot risk being kidnapped," she said apologetically.
When you have to be armed in order to try to educate the kids, you're ef-you-see-kayed.