Re: tenure & potty training (long, rambling)

Kenneth Robert Wright (kright@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 00:38:47 -0700

On Thu, 26 Sep 1996, Michael J. Salvo wrote:

> At 09:34 AM 9/26/96 -0500, Eric Crump wrote:
> >These prerequisites to privilege are the shoehorns of the educational
> >system (as we skip lightly to the next metaphor). But the system is not a
> >penny loafer. It's a wing-tip. Nobody's feet will naturally slide right
> >in. They all have to be made to fit, and then the feet are shaped by the
> >shoe and the shoe by the feet.
> funny, i own more pairs of english-made wingtips than any other kind of shoe
> -- i just don't polish them -- ever -- and people make judgements about me
> based on *that*. its not just the systems we inhabit (and how they inhabit
> us) but the way in which we keep them up. do we work to reform our
> institutions and have them evolve over time or do we call in the wrecking
> crew when we decide to move on? we seem to love big machines.
> i've got a big problem with current debate (defined as broadly as possible).
> it isn't even debate. instead of dialogue, different sides produce
> competing discourses. neither side in this current tenure fight,
> administration or professoriate, is to blame, but dialogue -- interacting
> discourse -- is totally lost. it happens on the list(s) and it happens in
> our lives -- think of the presidential maddness. nobody speaks with anyone
> -- they talk AT each other. soundbites in place of communication.
> seems to me our culture has taken the problem of linguistic slippage and
> decided that rather than do the hard work of communicating with words, we've
> all chosen to accept language as bludgeons to be weilded against perceived
> enemies. and then we find out how close our constructed "sides'" goals
> were/are.
> sick of the rancor,
> mike

I too am sick of the rancor, though I have produced, and
probably will produce, much myself. IMHO, we need to envision
systems that are, perhaps, nearly beyond our ability to envision
right now. For if we throw out the wingtip for another shoe, we
still have the shoe-shaping force. If we throw out the foot, we
still have the idea of the foot (i.e., post-secondary education)
for our culture to work upon. I'm sorry to be so pessimistic,
but I feel that we may not be capable of coming up with any
system that U.S. capitalism will not shape into the most bean-
counter expedient form. I've felt that way since the 1960s when,
as a high school wannabe radical hippie, I would visit Berkeley
(hippie Mecca) to bask in the counter-culture's glow. On one of
those trips, I noticed, as a friend and I walked along Telegraph
Ave., that there were dozens of shops making a lot of money
selling all the paraphernalia necessary to be a radical hippie
who rejected the very System that was allowing those shop owners
to profit by selling the symbols of that rejection. Pretty
ironic, huh? Also, I think, pretty revealing in that it
indicates there's no ill wind in the U.S.A., which is good news
if you're a bean counter and bad news if you wish to envision
some kind of post-secondary educational system that is not
riddled with capitalism. I don't mean capitalism in the sense
that one needs money to keep the system going. What I mean is
that the shaping force of the system is conceived in capitalistic
terms. After all, much (most? all?) of our current college
system is conceived of in terms of exchange value. We, or if not
us our students, view education in terms of what its material
worth is or will be or will translate into: "What slot does this
class fill?" "What job does that degree get me?" "What is the
value of a college education?" "What kind of job can you get
with an English degree?" Or, recalling Eric's feelings about
grades, we receive students' work and "pay" them with grades.
I'm not blaming our students, for they have been geared by our
culture to approach education in that manner, maybe to approach
all of life in that manner. But to move away from all that requires
much more than just leaving the academy. It requires a new
paradigm that is a quantum leap in distance from the current
paradigm. Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood. Or maybe my
inability to break my writing into paragraphs, something I just
noticed, has affected my brain.

Kenneth R. Wright

Teaching is not the price a composition studies person pays to do
research; research is the price a composition studies person pays
for getting to teach.
--Jasper Neel