A letter was featured in the “advice column” on Salon.com on Monday that does a good job of elaborating what seems crappy about teaching academically: read it here.
It mentions the terrible job market and administrative hassles but focuses on the experience of having to be an authority figure to ungrateful, uninterested, sometimes academically dishonest students.
Because I’ve read my fair share of undergraduate papers, it’s pretty apparent to me when something is plagiarized — and thanks to the Internet, it’s pretty easy for me to prove it… This doesn’t, however, stop it from happening. And it also doesn’t stop me from feeling nauseous every time I have to do it. The anxiety lasts for days. Students almost always dispute it, of course, so I spend hours of my days worrying about our meetings, or neurotically checking and rechecking my e-mail, convinced that they will, at any moment, send me something terrible, and that I will be put over the edge … from what? I want to say shame. I can’t make sense of that…
I don’t have a particularly insightful reply re. this issue, though I can repeat that I much prefer running this podcast and dealing only with my co-discoursers and you fine people who I am thankfully no kind of authority figure over. It seems like nearly any kind of job sort of sucks, and if you can get by with the low pay and don’t mind the performance aspect and grading involved in teaching, go for it! It’s certainly hard to make a decision re. whether your current job is “bad enough” when you don’t have a clear idea of what alternate opportunities are out there.
Warning: don’t actually read Cary Tennis’s reply, which is much more on topic than his usual responses, but still nauseating. An excerpt:
Go to the beach. Have a spa day. Don’t let them get you down.
Just clicking semi-randomly through Tennis’s recent articles, I see that this response to a different letter (and I’m looking at a bit of without reading the letter, because it’s funnier that way) that better exemplifies Tennis’s long-form, pseudo-philosophical, “poetic” approach. An excerpt:
In a nutshell, I’d say this:
The ego as a unitary concept is too limited. There is no one “I.”
It is more like this: We are old houses to explore. In a big old house there are rooms that are yet to be furnished to our taste. Some old rooms have dreams of their own. Built at one time for one purpose, their utility is obscure. We wander about the house and sit in rooms and wonder what is the deal.
Some rooms are empty. Other rooms are crowded. There are rooms that others see when they visit, and there are rooms that we only go into when we are in the house alone… That is what I hope you are doing in therapy. You are exploring all the rooms of this house.
Think about friendship and sexual awakening. There might be a room in the house for friendship and a room in the house for sexual awakening. Both might take place in the same room. But they don’t have to…
…And it goes on and on and on like that. Feel free to enjoy that kind of thing! You may. You may not. There are many ways of feeling the world, like the stops of a bus. You may get off at one stop. You may choose to get off at at a different stop, but then look on your surroundings in dismay and jump back on again before the bus leaves. You may get off at a stop and wait for the next bus, which will take you somewhere else. It is your choice, and your choice alone, and your adventure! Also, please shoot me. From a bus.