It is, I suppose, that time in the semester. Papers are coming in en masse, I have 100 things I feel like I need to do but am not totally sure about what I want to do with them and thus feel very behind. And more than anything else, I have that occasional feeling of dread I’ve been carrying around with me ever since beginning my graduate education some five years ago.
The nature of this dread is something I’ve talked about many times with my colleagues, though I’ve never attempted to write about it in any meaningful way. I suppose I could attempt to break it into pieces, pieces of dread has a nice ring to it, so in what follows I hope my dread to become both more comprehensible to me and perhaps interesting to read about for others. I doubt that these concerns can be totally universalized, but perhaps others who have had similar days can weigh in.
My Coursework is Taking Too Much Time Away from Work I Want to be Doing
Many graduate students have felt this, but for me in my last semester of classes, this feeling is at an all time high. Its not that my courses aren’t useful to what I do and study (well, with the exception of a quantitative methods course that is purely a hoop to jump through and nothing more), its simply that there is so much other writing to be done and other things to read that feel more important than my course work. I was told recently that in Chemistry, at least at my university, they tell their students to privilege publishing opportunities over coursework. This is not the case in my department, however, and the feeling that I’m behind on everything is compounded by having a schedule that revolves around course work, not research/writing work, and thus the latter despite its greater importance both to me personally and to my professional aspirations (I won’t feel comfortable applying for jobs without more publications) suffers.
My Field Hates Work Like Mine (and People Like Me)
Over and over again, but especially this semester, I find myself having conversations about very similar topics with two groups of people. One are educators/educationalists/folks from my field. In these conversations, I am often making all kinds of wild points (it seems) that are too radical, too politically charged, not practical, and so on. The other group, people worried about teaching and pedagogy who aren’t in education programs, seek me out to talk more about their work in the classroom. I find more collegiality, more respect for ideas and critical theorizations, and generally feel better when I’m talking about pedagogy with people who are not in curriculum studies. Why? Education as a field is wildly insular, and despite the numerous folks who have advised me, “read outside the field” I have yet to master the ability to bring things from outside of education in and have them ‘matter’ (my “Toward and Anti-Capitalist Teacher Education” has been rejected twice, both times the editors didn’t even send me the reviewer comments as to why it was rejected). On top of all this, my home within my home field, social foundations of education, is being cut all over the country as technocratic educational ‘reformers’ dismantle teacher education in favor of teacher-proofed curricula and authoritarian classroom managers. It seems my field is disappearing, and I can’t seem to find any other field within education that will have me (or at least, who I am right now).
Education Has Been Taken Over By Neoliberalism and We Can’t Get Out Of It
Which brings me to what I think is making it so hard to be motivated to dig into my intellectual labor on this Monday afternoon: neoliberalism and its impacts on education. Capitalism is the most profoundly powerful ideology and political reality in the world at present, and likely nowhere is this playing out more on local levels than in the United States. I am not hopeful about Occupy and the various occupations, something I will write about soon in some way. I am not hopeful that out of all of this school reform nonsense we will have a more democratic, more humanizing education for all students. I am convinced public schools will be abolished in my lifetime in favor of voucher models and charter schools unless we do something to fundamentally restructure economic inequality. Teacher education is under attack on all sides, and I am also convinced teachers will no longer have a licensure requirement from a college or university soon. Anyone can teach, right?
And so I’m in a bad mood and writing this here, if nothing else to have it all expressed and off of my chest. I’m fortunate that I get to teach tonight, and that I still think of it as “getting” to teach ought to be indicative of my confidence in classrooms to be sites of radical humanizing action and possibility. Classrooms are profoundly different from schools, universities, and the various other institutions that classrooms are located in. And I love my students terribly, and love that despite bringing all of this into the classroom with me tonight, I will put it aside within five minutes of listening to my students, being with them, and working with them on the readings for this week and on the work they’ve completed since our last class meeting. This is why I keep going, and reminding myself of that before writing all of this might have been more cathartic than what this post has become. Still, at least it is an update for the blog I wish I did more with… OK, I’ll add that to my list of grievances next time…