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Monday, August 7, 2017

Not a paradox

Here’s the paradox. Most of the consistently productive scholars I’ve known in my more than 30 years as a professor, at three different universities, have also been caring teachers and active in academic service work. And, you guessed it: Most of the angry, embittered, and problematic colleagues I’ve known have been toxically stalled writers.

Of course, this is correct, the only incorrect thing about it is that the writer frames it as a paradox. In what other profession do we assume that people must trade competence for one part of the job for competence in some other part of the job?


Anonymous said...

Not having to trade, but having particular strengths, that develop toward a track. Litigators who are really good in the courtroom and are charismatic before juries, for instance. That isn't everyone. Introverted corporate attorneys with good heads for figures and business detail. You could also say those are different specialties, but very many people (not I) argue for the clinical professorship (you have to be a popular teacher, true people person, who even enjoys managing hordes of students, but not a strong publisher). I, for instance, will never be that popular teacher type, but am world class advisor and thesis/dissertation director, which is teaching too. And others may show up as required to committee meetings, be responsible, but I can negotiate contracts.

However, this teaching-as-enemy-of-research and research-as-enemy-of-teaching idea is partly a product of the idea that research is irrelevant, and partly a true enough fact in relation to lower division teaching. There are in fact a lot of people who are good at that and not research oriented, and a lot of research oriented people actually are in another world and seem like aliens in basic skill courses.

So I am not sure. In certain kinds of situations you can expect everyone to be good at everything but I think you need a degree of homogeneity to actually support this.

Anonymous said...

And, hm. I am trying to fit this model onto people I actually know at 2d to 4th tier schools. At 1st tier it is possible to be good at everything (and you can't be a stalled writer and stay).

Upon reflection I would say that I don't know anybody who has finished the PhD and isn't an adequate teacher ("caring"). They're all different, of course, but that's a different question. After that, unless it's a person who has managed to get an R-1 style teaching load, it really does seem that the actual conflict is between research and service. But that isn't because of avoiding research in favor of service, but because of factors like having enough English to be able to do service at all, or being in a field the university doesn't support for research, things like this.

Anonymous said...

More on the paradox: this paragraph seems to be saying that people are either happy and comfortable enough to be doing well, or they are not.

Research and writing are of course the thing that sustains it all, or so I feel at least, although I will reiterate that my attitude is considered very elitist and it is NOT acceptable nowadays not to say it is OK to not be interested in research (again, I find this odd, and need to analyze the point of view to understand it better).

Re my comment above, I do also know people who slide in both research and service. Teaching seems to be the last thing to go, for most people. For me the business side of things is the last to go, although university administration is not where I'm interested in using those talents.

Anonymous said...

OK, and now, looking at my own place: angriest and most embittered is a high publisher who is frustrated because wants to do well in teaching and service too and is prevented. Most peaceful are high publishers who have given up on teaching and service. Others very mixed. In some other units it isn't this way and that is because of governance.

Anonymous said...

So that is my objection to the piece. Everything is a problem of the individual, which is all well and fine if you don't have severe governance problems, but if you do, all bets are off.

Also, on people who don't make tenure: I have very rarely actually seen one who didn't know how to set priorities, get things done, have writer's hours, things like this. 80% of the time it is that they simply are not in a position to do these things, and the situation is not of their making / not some projection from internal conflict, immaturity, lack of self-control, etc., etc.