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A Few Thoughts on This #dayofhighered
April 1, 2012 - 9:09pm

First off, just because I blog doesn’t mean I mustn’t work very hard at my job. I do this because I love it, it is part of practicing what I teach (writing), and because even academics who “complain” about being over-worked are allowed to have hobbies. Plus, as most of your have been able to tell from reading my posts, I have time to write; I don't have much time for proofreading. As for the Tweeting, well, it’s been more valuable to me professionally than just about any face-to-face conference I’ve ever attended.

My husband, also an academic, is currently sitting in front of me, on a Sunday night, working. He spent all Sunday afternoon working. I spent all Saturday afternoon working. We took a break for basketball (we are in Kentucky, after all) and will take another break for Mad Men tonight. Do-nothing weekends are rare for academics.

Two anecdotes. At my mother’s place of work (a medium-sized, growing private company), she can no longer visit Facebook during her lunch. In fact, the company put up a firewall that block most social media and other websites (which is their prerogative to do). This wasn’t always the case, however. As we live in different countries, she used to like spending her lunch eating and browsing through the new pictures and videos I would put up of the kids. But because one person at her job abused that privilege, everyone at the company has been blocked. This person, who was spending their days wasting time on the Internet instead of working, wasn’t fired.

My brother drives a tow truck. He makes more money that I do (but only a little and lives in a place with a higher cost of living but he also doesn’t have a huge debt because of student loans. He also gets raises.). When he is waiting for a call to two someone, give someone a jump, or help them get into their locked car, he sits in his cab and reads. I think some weeks he reads more than I do. He is paid by the hour and not by the tow (which is a pretty sweet deal, really). He has days and weeks where he is never not on his way to or from a call, but other days and weeks…He reads. He is basically being paid some days to sit in a truck and read.

How things work “in the real world” versus academia is false dilemma. There are “lazy” people in every field, at every job. How “hard” people work also depends on the person doing said work; if academia were as easy as everyone seems to claim it is, why aren’t more people doing it? My hours are, indeed, more flexible than a standard 9-5, clock in-clock out job, but my work (like many, many other professions) follows me wherever I go. I am almost never not thinking about my job, my teaching, my research, or some combination thereof. And, thinking is hard. If we are inefficient at our jobs, then so be it. Critical thinking, creativity, discovery, and, more importantly, teaching those things are hard. Maybe the authors of Academically Adrift are right that we’re doing a poor job if it. But is increasing our class sizes and course loads really the answer? Because it seems to be working out well in the high schools.

Finally, I want to talk a little about class and gender. One post addressing the accusations that are being leveled against us talks (sarcastically) about “eating bonbons.” The origins of the reference aren’t clear (Victoria-era middle and upper class women? 1960s housewives? Peg Bundy?), but it smacks of gender and class bias. I was thinking about this connection the other night, before reading about bon-bons here, about how we’re an entire generation of academics forced to defend our worth and our roles therein much like “housewives” (or women who chose not to participate or are excluded from the workforce for whatever reason).

I’ll let greater minds in gender and class studies take that and run (or not). Honestly, I don’t have time. This little experiment is about to start, but I have papers to grade. If I had really wanted to promote it, I would have posting a link to my original post to every blog and article that dealt with the Levy accusations, asking readers to spread the word. But I didn’t even have time to collect a list anywhere near complete (I tried to crowdsource that particular piece in the comments, but y’all were apparently too busy, too). 

I don’t mind if some (many) people think that this day is stupid, useless, a waste of time, or proof that we really do have too much time on our hands (read the comments). Sometimes I think we are re-arranging the furniture on the bridge of the Titanic, but I have to do something. And I have to try and do something that is more than just about myself and the work that I do and the anger and frustration that I feel. Venting is one thing. Actually trying to do something about it is another.

So if nothing comes from this day other than you explaining to someone (or more than someone) what it is you do in a day, either face-to-face, through social media, in a blog post or op-ed, then it will have been a success. For those of you who have tweeted and shared in other ways, thank you. We may be busy, but we are all deeply devoted to what we do and what higher education stands (stood?) for. For that, we should always take the time, for ourselves, but more importantly for our students.

Some posts/places to look today:

Academy as Slacker Heaven

Quantifying the (Academic) Self (which, by the way, has the best linked list of blog posts dealing with Levy)

Stupid or Lying: Wildly Overpaid Faculty Edition (the most cited and retweeted post I’ve seen in response)

Slacking for a Living (where the bon-bons reference comes from)

General reactions from the peanut gallery over at College Misery here, here, and here. I know there are a lot of academics who don’t like their brand of snark, but I think the discussion in the comments section of each post is revealing. 

 

 

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