The Main Problem

Ronald Irwin (
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 22:42:49 -0500

I tin (soory no backspace) think Fred's initial commnets on this bring up
hte essential contradiction of university life/: that we are paid
functionaries of an institution that is about stratification and control
and that is about teaching freedom, humanism, creativity, etc.

We are paid by the powers that be to evaluate and rank students for what
are in teh end largely economic rewards in a scarce society. It happens
to be that we teach content that is about things that matter. Why do we
have to grafde writing? Doesn't it make more sense to just comment on
its effectiveness, or whatever? We have to grade and fundamentally that
is the most important thing we do because that is the value assigned us
by our roles? And we must do it efficiently.

Writing in our society is a part of the repertoire of what is needed to
succeed. We are supposed to rank students by their abilities.

But writing is not only about suckcess (that was not a typo, but an
allusion to Bob Dylan). Writing does have a n element of resistance and
rebellion and play and creation, etc. that does not have a socially
uesful role. Real writers partake if this kind of writing.

Many academics are not intellectuals. They are in it for a career: that
thing you need to pay off the mortgage. And I bet that most academicvs
will never aspire to being writers, in spite of churning out the
requisite number of pubs to get tenure.

I have seen so many silly comments about writing in university that I am
inclined to think now that if you want to be a writer, get the hell away
from the university, because it will just poison you.

I have just seen colleagues of mine order their TAs to measure margin
lenghts as a part of grading. Or make them hunt down pa plagiarism cases
for hours to prosecure students (that's preosecute)

I have heard too many academics speak of pubs like they were automobiles
turned out of the Ford plant of their dead imaginations to believe that
the writing down in universities is real writing.

Sorry about the typos. I have no backsapce (yeeks) because I can't
figure out my new connection (anyone out there cgood with Windows Terminal?)

Oh yeah, and by the way, while I am new to the list to most of you, I was
involved with this list back in 91-92 and went to Biloxi and Indianapolis.

Ron Irwin