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Friday, May 3, 2013


What would my ideal work conditions be?

*I would teach the students I want to teach. They would have to apply to work with me. There would be many applying to work with me and I would teach the best ones. I can fire a student whenever I want. A student can fire me too with no repercussions.

*We would meet in small groups whenever they wanted to. We could have several on-going working groups devoted to particular topics. There would maybe be four groups at a time, with no more than 10 students in each. Each would meet whenever there was a scheduled meeting, of no fixed length. I would have 10 hours of teaching a week, during which these meetings could take place.

*All the work would be for publication. Each student would work on his or her publications, or we could all collaborate on group publications / articles. A student or group of students might want to learn something that would not lead to an immediate publication. That would be fine too. Undergrads and grads alike would do meaningful research leading to publication.

*Lectures would be presentations, in the style conference papers. I could do some and the students could do some. They would be infrequent.

*No grades. No degrees.

So you can see that those are not my current conditions. I am not complaining about my current conditions, either. In many ways they are quite wonderful. What I want to do is to imagine what I think my ideal would be. Now that I've done that, I need to think of ways of moving my current conditions 1/4 of the way there.

My first thought is that independent studies don't work very well, even though they tend to be more "ideal" in the way I've conceived of things. Directing dissertations is not ideal either. I'm going to have to think of this a bit more.


Anonymous said...

I am actually having a working group like this this summer. One student needed graduate readings and another needed one more course to graduate. So we are going to be a reading group on Afro-Latin literature. The graduate student is supposed to come up with a conference paper and submit it, to the 29th (2014) round of La Chispa in BR. The pair is supposed to come up with an annotated bibliography and submit it for publication to some student publication at least.

Thomas said...

It would be interesting to work out an institutional structure that could provide these conditions. I suppose graduation could depend simply on a certain amount of publications in specified journals.

Thomas said...

But there's the problem of admissions. No student you want to teach should be prevented from enrolling in your courses (and therefore the institution.) So basically you'd need a way to choose your ten students per course. Anyone who you select but who is not already enrolled at the university would automatically be enrolled after you approve them for your class. The only way to get into the school is to get into one of the classes offered by its faculty.

So you'd probably have a set of "introductory" courses offered by various faculty members. The criteria for getting into one these might be quite conventional (high school grades, etc.) but could also include an essay and a personal interview with the instructor. The question is: what do you do with hundreds, even thousands of applicants?

The higher level courses would be protected from this administrative issue by prerequisites.

I'm thinking this through because I'm wondering if, by the time you deal with all these issues that arise simply from the sheer amount students you have to deal with, you'd end up with the current, actual, "real" university as the closest approximation to the ideal you're presenting here.