Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Academe quits me

Tomorrow I will step into a classroom to begin the last semester of a 24-year teaching career. Don’t get me wrong. I am not retiring. I am not “burned out.” The truth is rather more banal. Ohio State University will not be renewing my three-year contract when it expires in the spring. The problem is tenure: with another three-year contract, I would become eligible for tenure. In an era of tight budgets, there is neither money nor place for a 61-year-old white male professor who has never really fit in nor tried very hard to. (Leave aside my heterodox politics and hard-to-credit publication record.) My feelings are like glue that will not set. The pieces fall apart in my hands.

This essay is not a contribution to the I-Quit-Academe genre. (A more accurate title in my case would be Academe Quits Me.) Although I have become uncomfortably aware that I am out of step with the purposeful march of the 21st-century university (or maybe I just never adjusted to Ohio State), gladly would I have learned and gladly continued to teach for as long as my students would have had me. The decision, though, was not my students’ to make. And I’m not at all sure that a majority would have voted to keep me around, even if they had been polled. My salary may not be large (a rounding error above the median income for white families in the U.S.), but the university can offer part-time work to three desperate adjuncts for what it pays me. A lifetime of learning has never been cost-effective, and in today’s university—at least on the side of campus where the humanities are badly housed—no other criterion is thinkable.

My experience is a prelude to what will be happening, sooner rather than later, to many of my colleagues. Humanities course enrollments are down to seven percent of full-time student hours, but humanities professors make up forty-five percent of the faculty. The imbalance cannot last. PhD programs go on awarding PhD’s to young men and women who will never find an academic job at a living wage. (A nearby university—a university with a solid ranking from U.S. News and World Report—pays adjuncts $1,500 per course. Just to toe the poverty line a young professor with a husband and a child would have to teach thirteen courses a year.) If only as retribution for the decades-long exploitation of part-time adjuncts and graduate assistants, nine of every ten PhD programs in English should be closed down—immediately. Meanwhile, the senior faculty fiddles away its time teaching precious specialties.

Consider some of the undergraduate courses being offered in English this semester at the University of Minnesota:

• Poems about Cities
• Studies in Narrative: The End of the World in Literature & History
• Studies in Film: Seductions: Film/Gender/Desire
• The Original Walking Dead in Victorian England
• Contemporary Literatures and Cultures: North American Imperialisms and Colonialisms
• Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature: Family as Origin and Invention
• Women Writing: Nags, Hags, and Vixens
• The Image on the Page
• Bodies, Selves, Texts
• Consumer Culture and Globalization
• The Western: Looking Awry
• Dreams and Middle English Dream Visions

To be fair, there are also four sections of Shakespeare being offered there this semester, although these are outnumbered by five sections of Literature of Public Life (whatever that is). Maybe I’m missing something, but this course list does not make me salivate to enroll at Minnesota the way that Addison Schacht salivates to enroll in classics at the University of Chicago in Sam Munson’s 2010 novel The November Criminals:I could study the major texts of Latin literature, to say nothing of higher-level philological pursuits, all the time. Do you know how much that excites me? Not having to do classes whose subjects are hugely, impossibly vague—like World History, like English [like Literature of Public Life]. You know, to anchor them? So they don’t dissolve because of their meaningless? I’ve looked through the sample [U of C] catalog. Holy fuck! Satire and the Silver Age. The Roman Novel. Love and Death: Eros and Transformation in Ovid. The Founding of Epic Meter. I salivated when I saw these names, because they indicate this whole world of knowledge from which I am excluded, and which I can win my way into, with luck and endurance.That’s it exactly. The Minnesota course list does not indicate a whole world of knowledge. It indicates a miscellany of short-lived faculty enthusiasms.

More than two decades ago Alvin Kernan complained that English study “fail[s] to meet the academic requirement that true knowledge define the object it studies and systematize its analytic method to at least some modest degree,” but by then the failure itself was already two decades old. About the only thing English professors have agreed upon since the early ’seventies is that they agree on nothing, and besides, agreement is beside the question. Teaching the disagreement: that’s about as close as anyone has come to restoring a sense of order to English.

In 1952, at the height of his fame, F. R. Leavis entitled a collection of essays The Common Pursuit. It was his name for the academic study of literature. No one takes the idea seriously any more, but nor does anyone ask the obvious followup. If English literature is not a common pursuit—not a “great tradition,” to use Leavis’s other famous title—then what is it doing in the curriculum? What is the rationale for studying it?

My own career (so called) suggests the answer. Namely: where there is no common body of knowledge, no common disciplinary conceptions, there is nothing that is indispensable. Any claim to expertise is arbitrary and subject to dismissal. After twenty-four years of patiently acquiring literary knowledge—plus the five years spent in graduate school at Northwestern, “exult[ing] over triumphs so minor,” as Larry McMurtry says in Moving On, “they would have been unnoticeable in any other context”—I have been informed that my knowledge is no longer needed. As Cardinal Newman warned, knowledge really is an end in itself. I fill no gap in the department, because there is no shimmering and comprehensive surface of knowledge in which any gaps might appear. Like everyone else in English, I am an extra, and the offloading of an extra is never reported or experienced as a loss.

I feel the loss, keenly, of my self-image. For twenty-four years I have been an English professor. Come the spring, what will I be? My colleagues will barely notice that I am gone, but what they have yet to grasp is that the rest of the university will barely notice when they too are gone, or at least severely reduced in numbers—within the decade, I’d say.


Marly Youmans said...

One disadvantage of living in the modern era is that as we grow older, the world changes until it's not quite our own any more. But I fear that in our part of the modern era, the world will change until those of us who love books and the arts have little place.

I am so sorry that the post won't be renewed. And I think you are quite right about the future of the humanities in a college setting. (Strange, isn't it, that all this happens at the same time the creative writing MFA is seeding itself wildly in every crevice? Or maybe not so strange...)

A sudden increase in time can be hard to use, but I hope to hear some interesting plans about how to use it here. Better luck and better health to you!

Anonymous said...

There but for the grace of the academy go I. I didn't receive tenure a few years back, and I got another job, and I'm still on the treadmill to stay productive after getting tenure. But I know just exactly where you're coming from. I send this as an encouraging word. Don't let the bastards get you down.


Lex Williford

Anonymous said...

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit.

Dr. Purple said...

While no consolation it must be stated: you are not alone. The tipping point for us (mature, seasoned, experienced, passionate), I'm afraid, will come far too late but we will be remembered for sounding the warning bell. Keep your chin up and be prepare for that next big thing to come your way. You have much still to offer.

Unknown said...

I am so sorry to read this. Your work was crucial to my dissertation research, and if your written voice is at all similar to your teaching voice (and i firmly believe it is almost identical), I would have loved to have been your student. I wish you all the best l- it is never too late to be who you might have been, said George Elliott - you have already been that person, but I hope there is a new life that values you more than academe did.

Unknown said...

David, I am saddened to hear the news about your position. I also agree with your analysis. Something is very "rotten in Denmark" throughout academia, especially in the humanities and in English departments. See my blog posting that will appear later today -- in my newly resurrected blog -- for another perspective. Perhaps the academy's over-reliance upon adjuncts has been part of the growing problem. In any case, I have a perspective on the adjunct issue, and I invite your input. Well, with all of the foregoing out of the way, I would end this response by saying simply this: I have enjoyed and I have been enriched by your comments and essays throughout the years; if your classes are anything like your blog contributions, future students are being deprived of something very special. I hope you will find some kind of future in academia. And I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

Just had the conversation with another geezer today -- about how our younger colleagues mostly want to teach their research but other than their research and career don't really like books.

D. G. Myers said...

Who are you calling a geezer? Oh, wait.

Mel u said...

As a non academic who has read classics and such for over five decades, the love of reading and books, not the same thing, is in no danger. Universities are more like vocational schools than true places of learning. I am sorry you were treated so poorly.

George said...

I am sorry to hear that your contract was not renewed. I wish you the best in figuring out what to do next.

The percentage of humanities majors has fallen to 7% percent; the percentage of hours is not addressed. And the 45% figure is for Stanford, which does have 15% of its undergraduates majoring in the humanities. Given the coverage requirements of the curriculum, it could be that the percentage of hours is somewhat closer to the percentage of faculty. No doubt the real situation is bad enough.

Pace Kernan, a focus on systematization seems to me one of the ailments of the humanities. We seem to have inherited from the Germans (lately filtered through the French) the notion that to systematize is necessarily to rationalize. Judging by the results I have read, this is not so.

Anonymous said...

Many older workers have lost their jobs through a reduction in force. I was RIF'd out of a good-paying, full- time job at age 58, and have been cobbling together part-time work for the past 6 years.


Anonymous said...

The whole point of reading the classics, I always thought was to develop a particular bent of mind, if I may say so. To say that humanities is useless is to underestimate the power of words & language, as the base of our humanness. Our thoughts are words, and our lives are stories. What is happening in humanities is an overkill of super specializations. One comes across courses which one cannot even comprehend the title of. Much like what is happening in the biological sciences, where there is a definite overkill in terms of the utility of what is being taught.
Do we teach the students everything about something or a few things about a lot of things? The analytical mind no longer finds fodder in the universities, and that is a sad truth.
BTW, I am a medical doctor and a teacher, and have been an ardent STUDENT of the humanities.

PS: Adjuncts are temps which is just a way of exploitation. Hope someone teaches a fancy sounding course on adjuncts!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you come to India? Several millions want a good English teacher.

D. G. Myers said...

Why don't you come to India?

Too hard to find kosher food.

Unknown said...

"Too hard to find kosher food." David, that may be the funniest thing I've read in a long, long time. Thank you for giving me something to smile about this morning.

You may notice at my blog that I have been severed from the English department but I press onward in the theater department. I hope you will drop by the blog now and then. We're taking on some challenging plays this semester, and I will be blogging about those plays and my classroom experiences. I would love to have you input.

Jennifer said...

I'm a 22 year old history student and, believe me, the problems are as obvious on this end as they are on yours. Different, of course, but it feels like universities aren't about learning any more. There's nowhere to go in academics, and it feels likealot of my professors are constantly in a fight with the university to keep their courses passionate and engaging.

Anonymous said...

The questions of authority and knowledge that you raise are certainly important, but I think it's more about who's teaching. In that NYT article you linked to, I found the following sentence:

"At elite universities, such departments are safe but wary. Harvard had a 20 percent decline in humanities majors over the last decade, a recent report found, and most students who say they intend to major in humanities end up in other fields. So the university is looking to reshape its first-year humanities courses to sustain student interest."

Yeah, maybe that lack of interest is the result of having approx. 70% of undergrad teaching done by adjuncts and non-tenure track faculty members. Adjuncts and non-tenure track teachers work hard and are mostly passionate educators, but their worth to the university is clearly conveyed to them by the little money they receive and the job security they do not have. It's sometimes hard to put 100% of yourself into something (even if you love it) when the university treats you like just another warm body to scribble on a chalkboard.

These changes are the result of turning the university into a for-profit institution. Consider that since the 1970s, the professor/student ratio has stayed largely the same, but the number of administrators (often with MBAs) has doubled.

Stephen Alexander said...

Dr. Myers,

I am a former student who took your Bible as Literature class at Texas A&M. I would like to thank your for teaching me. I don't remember the circumstances that brought me to your office one day but you told me that you were a runner. One of the lessons you learned was to run, when sick, as if you were not. I have returned to that advice several different times in my life. Thank you for that advice.

I also took another class, the course name escapes me (appropriately), we read Fackenheim, Author Cohen, Derrida, and Foucault. You challenged me and helped me to be a better person. I learned to think more about the kind of person I wanted to be and to think critically, you helped me to lead a more examined life. Thank you for being my teacher.

Stephen Alexander

Anonymous said...

Nice comments all, but I would predict that only one really matters to the author: Mr. Alexander's on January 9 2014.
"A good teacher takes nothing seriously -- even himself -- except in regard to his students"
No institution of learning can afford to lose the person who wrote the words of this blog post.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Prof Myers,

Sorry to hear about your predicament, I hope you will find your path. In my experience the best place to start is reprogramming one's belief system.

Humanities departments are being downsized and staff fired all over the world since the current economic depression begun, due to falling enrollment caused by the tuition hikes and the students asking themselves "is it worth it"?

Is it worth it?

Many if not most academics seemed to have ignored the issue of their own individual human dependency upon the big soulless institutions, and the issue of the overgrown government itself posing the biggest threat to the society and culture.

Most if not many academics have embraced statism in various disguises, and now they are being thrown overboard by the very system they silently and sometimes vocally supported. This is quite surprising given the fact that such academic and social crises happened many times in the past and has been thoroughly discussed in the literature [A.Rand, "Atlas Shrugged" springs to my mind].

I was a research scientist in the 1980-ties (space research physics, plasma physics) and back then the physics departments were being cut just like yours is today. In a sense I feel we were lucky - the science departments were being cut down back then while your specialties (humanities) managed to drive on "on fumes".

When I faced having to survive on starving wages and research grants justified by some "pro forma" publications, I said "no"! I asked myself if my work was useful and sufficiently paid to live off ("no" and "no") so I quit in 1989 (P&F debacles was the last straw) and went to work as electronics design engineer for a small business, without waiting for the academic guillotine to come down on me.

I hope it helps.
Best regards and good luck,
Stan (Heretic)

Anonymous said...

While I am a graduate student and decidedly not in the humanities, this entry so struck me that I immediately went to Buckeye Link to see if I could register for your course—not knowing what it was—only to find that The English Bible is undergraduate, full, and at the exact time as one of my required classes. Sad to be missing it!


Dan King said...

The muse of our generation: Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho. Western Civ has got to go.

Penfuin said...

I graduated from OSU almost 15 years ago with a BA in English and this news pains me. I have been asked over and over ago WHY I chose to an English degree. I'm not sure I can answer their question using my 20 year old self, but I can sure answer that question now.

I CAN think. I CAN interpret. I can form a VALID argument of my own without spewing another's words rote. I feel I can draft a pretty decent letter to my insurance company when they mess up yet another claim.

Studying the written word has placed a seed inside of me to continue to read, seek out and study more and more. I find my knowledge of the world I inhabit is daily increasing because of this seed. It has helped me to understand, relate to and even want to seek out other cultures.

The ultimate question here is, but what do you DO with an English degree? Well, this degree has helped me to raise $10,000 for ONE class in a small school district. It has helped me to convince the average citizen that voting for our local schools isn't only important, it is necessary. It has helped me to petition the bureaucrats at my insurance company for the life saving treatment I needed when they denied me. I find anymore that many coming out of school with a Masters in the ever popular Business field cannot write a well thought out letter to the editor much less help their child with basic grammar.

I am sorry this has happened to you. I am sorry to hear that my Alma Mater is moving away from teaching the next generation these extremely important skills. I feel bad for these kids. They are missing so much.

Thanks for allowing me to share in your disappointment.

Shannon Fraizer
Proud English Major

Jeff Cox said...

Anonymous 5:53,

Bible courses have always been popular at Ohio State. When I was an undergrad there we repeatedly tried to take one, only to repeatedly find out the course was full.

I am sorry to hear of your plight, professor. Ohio State needs good English teachers. (It also needs good STEM teachers, but that's another issue entirely.) And students need such learning of literary classics.

Bradoplata said...

I thought teaching jobs were only open to oppressed minorities. Hope you find something to do. Hearne could always use good teachers.

Anonymous said...

I have a PhD from a top-tier humanities program, and because of the market and its politics, the only job I could get was in a very mediocre small college. My workload precludes almost all work on writing and so I have published very little. My experience is that those looking from the outside into college-level humanities are rather hypocritical. My courses are very much about enduring texts and topics, and my students mostly love my courses. I'm one of those carrying the torch. But I assure you that my record will impress no one who writes for Commentary or similar publications. When I cross paths with such people and tell them what I do, they make clear that since I'm not at a university they have heard of (which implies a long publication record) they find me a little pathetic. So I get tired of the laments from the outside in writing. It is clear that in real life they admire those attainments they claim to be so specious.

Anonymous said...

Way back in 1973 my academic counselor informed me that with a degree in Classics about all I would be able to do was go to grad school, get a PhD and then teach other students Classics.

As there were only 5 other students in my Classics courses, I switched majors to Business Admin and Accounting. And, with the counselor's advice, took every Math and Computer related course I could.

Maybe there is very little demand for the 'Humanities' but the professors in that discipline are really smart and care deeply about their students.

Thank you for all your hard work and I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand what you mean by this: "The problem is tenure: with another three-year contract, tenure becomes an option." Can you elaborate? Does it mean that after a 24-year career, you might get tenure if they offered one more 3-year contract?

Jeff Cox said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an English major. When I was attending Ohio State, I started out in engineering. It was not my first love, but I had this "They always need STEM graduates" meme drummed into my head. It was the dumbest decision I have ever made (and that's saying something). I hated it. Was bored with it. Couldn't focus on it. Hated the atmosphere. And the teachers, at least in the early stages, prefer to weed out than teach. Lesson being: follow your first love. Because if you love it, chances are you will be good at it. If you don't, you won't.

SGT Ted said...

@ Penfuin,

The dirty little secret is that you don't need a degree in English to do what you did, or to learn how to write well.

You simply don't. That's the main problem with Academe; the assumption that there is no other way to learn the skills they teach, or that what they teach in the humanities is grounded in reality.

Consider the promulgation of courses such as Chicano Lesbian Poetry and the obsession with leftist drivel about race/class/ Imperialism and the rot and corruption becomes very apparent.

The world out here bears little resemblance to the one they teach about in Academe. People are wising up to this and are not spending money on it as a result.

Anonymous said...

A win-win for both you & OSU: Eliminate tenure. It's a Dark Age/medieval institution.

"The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore, so it eats it. It’s rather like getting tenure." -Daniel C. Dennett

62-year old English prof

Victoria Ordin said...

Sigh. Where to begin? I'm so sorry you got shafted and misled about the spousal higher. I am ABD in English from UCSB (Humanities Predoctoral Fellow) after Yale. I'm not a Republican. But I went to Yale and believe in the Canon. I'm not into Cultural Studies. My single-author dissertation, out of fashion even by the late 1990s, was about George Eliot and ethical/aesthetic intersections.

The list of U of M courses actually doesn't sound nearly as bad as some course listings you might have suggested, but I entirely understand your position and wholeheartedly agree.

I wrote a piece for the Weekly Standard about Edith Wharton and Cultural Studies (2/2012). UCSB was far too left for me and I don't care about gender, race or class. I have this odd believe that language, consciousness and form still matter and that part of being an English teacher/professor is to communicate that to students (even if they can't write haha).

But I am very sorry. Though happy a FB friend of mine posted your blog on my wall.

English is a SNOTTY profession. History is mellow. Classics too (though that's been cut way back even at Oxford and if you can't take Virgil and Ovid at Oxford, where are you going to study them?).

The fitting in thing isn't easy. I still have professor friends, one close tenured professor at UCSB and another in philosophy at Columbia. They're both wonderful and found their respective ways (one is your roughly your age and the other slightly younger).

On the upside, Ohio is affordable. Your situation would be infinitely worse in a state with higher cost of living, but it's all a ghastly business regardless.

I blog for the Huffington Post now. No money but I have no kids and am fortunate to have family support. I hope you find something fulfilling that pays you what you're worth.

Anonymous said...

I tell my children I will not fund their education if it will not provide them a decent income. Sorry but the humanities are a wasted investment. If osu did not charge so much maybe the wasted money would not matter so much. I must say the classes I was forced to take were interesting, but worthless.

RedDirt said...

I have an idea for you - take your love of literature, your integrity, and your fidelity to the canon and make them available to students worldwide in a MOOC-based environment, through Google Helpouts or through your own Khan-academy model. Find a local videographer willing to engage in this work with you. The barriers to a quality web presence are incredibly low - and "everyday people" are incredibly hungry for this knowlege, which is why the Teaching Company is thriving by NOT offering pablum to the masses.

Unknown said...

Ms Virgo, Ms Vicense, Sister Mary Ethel, Sister Mary Bernard, Sister Mary Margarette, Mrs Lawton, Mrs Bissieci, Mr Kelly Prof Clough, Prof Benulus and a dozen more. I'm an engineer by birth but they helped. I hope some of your students remember what you gave them, maybe no.

Watch this when you a the time..

The Twilight Zone S03 E37 The Changing Of The Guard

Good luck

Ronnie Schreiber said...

Prof. Myers,

In time you'll stop seeing yourself as an English professor and more as a writer. Besides English literature, do you have any hobbies? Ever try writing about something besides your academic subjects? Start selling your writing to new audiences.

Anonymous said...

During my work to attain a English Master's from a local university, several esteemed (white male) professors told me privately that their comments were unwelcome these days. Indeed, the feminists ruled with iron (peevish) fists. One (white female) was thrilled to have enrolled voters during class; another (white female) screamed at me (a white female) over her shoulder that I was bothering her because I asked when my last class would be offered. I had to seek the guidance of another professor (male Lebanese) to acquire the information.

Anonymous said...

Almost-62-year-old white female adjunct here. I teach at an urban community college, which is really an extension of an awful high school, judging by the lack of basic language and social skills I see every class. Academe becomes more depraved by the day.

Something great is waiting for you. Stay alert.

Anonymous said...

No sympathy from this reader. You lived off an enforced education system supported by taxpayers and a captive student body. No you can join the rest of the non-government employees and prove your worth in the free market.

If you're good at what you do, you'll prove yourself by earning a living teaching your subject to people who don't need a degree and who want to learn.

If you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I don't expect you to post this message and we both know why.

Grzegorz Lindenberg said...

"Traditional "brick and mortar" higher education is probably going to be extinct in a decade or two. Watch some of he speeches online that Sebastian Thurn has given" . Well, judging by Thurn's results, along with "higher education" becoming extict all education is going to be extinct too. "When the online class was compared with the in-person variety, the numbers were even more discouraging. A student taking college algebra in person was 52% more likely to pass than one taking a Udacity class". "A recent study found that only 7% of students in this type -not for profit- of class actually make it to the end". Read more

D. G. Myers said...

You lived off an enforced education system supported by taxpayers and a captive student body. No[w] you can join the rest of the non-government employees and prove your worth in the free market.

If you can’t see the difference between the Department of Motor Vehicles and a publicly supported university—an American idea that originated with Jefferson—then I can’t hope to explain it to you. I will say, though, that my students were hardly “captive.” They were in my classes by choice.

Unknown said...

"[A]n enforced education system" is such a bone-headed notion. I know, David, that you do not need me to defend you or education, but I am glad you responded so quickly to the trollish comment. I respond with this: Would the troll have no government involvement in education? No states involved? No counties involved? No cities, towns, or townships involved He (or she) needs to think about that prospect. But perhaps his or her experience in the classroom as some lower level was no very congenial to thinking.

Anonymous said...

If you had a child starting college would you discourage majoring in English or humanties?

Unknown said...

I know the question is addressed to Prof. Myers, but I am also a university teacher (literature and drama), so I feel somewhat qualified to offer a response: My son was urged to pursue his passion. I would not now change that advice, regardless of his choice of majors. Passion in life is important. After all, why pursue a degree or a career in something about which you care very little?

D. G. Myers said...

If you had a child starting college would you discourage majoring in English or human[i]ties?

Great question. My oldest kids are ten, but if they were eighteen and starting college today, no, I’d tell them to study literature but not to major in English.

As my teacher J. V. Cunningham said, nothing that a writer or critic can learn is irrelevant to literature (except, these days, what passes under the name of literature). Especially if any of my kids wanted to be a critic or writer, I’d recommend that he or she spend most of his or her time on another side of the campus.

Anonymous said...

A problem with college majors is the very practical issue of making a living. Music majors, like English majors, are a dime a dozen; but unlike English majors, Music majors are weeded out early in the game, and encouraged to pursue more practical studies,with music as an avocation. Such was the case with our daughter who, though a talented singer, was discouraged from pursuing music as vocation. Instead she majored in the biological sciences, and now works as a primary care physician.


B. Glen Rotchin said...

Literacy is the foundation of a healthy democracy. Ignorance breeds tyranny.

Anonymous said...

It was nice while it lasted.

A great deal of what passes for literary scholarship today is borderline marketing.
I suspect that is not where you wish to go.
I do hope that you maintain your blog. ( I came here via a link on Instapundit and am always interested in good links sources, and good reads.)
If you know TeX I believe that there is a growing role for editors and designers in the growing self-publishing world.
Hopefully you bought in Bexley and not UA!

Daniel Silveyra said...

You wrote beautifully and honestly. I am sorry this is happening, both to you and to the field. There is something important that will be lost, even if it is not the largest share of what is there now.

Best of luck!

Andrew Fox said...

David, your post has affected me very deeply. I am vastly disappointed that I was never able to have been a student in one of your classes, but I feel as though, having read your wonderful blog for several years now, I have had the opportunity to be a student of yours. And you are a wonderful teacher.

The educational administrative apparatus is tyrannical. I have no other way to put it. My wife Dara will spend tomorrow in the company of our lawyer, arguing (for the fifth time in five years) that our son Levi, diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Delays and also having a severe mood disorder, should receive the supportive educational services to which he is legally entitled. The Prince William County School System is digging in its heels because granting Levi and I.E.P. (and Individual Education Plan) would raise Coles Elementary's School's percentage of students having I.E.P.s, which would make it less likely for Coles to be designated as a Prince William County School of Excellence, which would mean they would receive fewer extra grants from the county. So my son's education is being sacrificed in the interests of bureaucratic comforts. Not only that, but they have written their seclusion policies in such a way as to hold themselves legally blameless for the psychological and physical endangerment to which they subjected my child -- forcing him into a dark printer closet, euphemistically called a Resource Room, where he would beat his fists against the door until his anxiety fit subsided. We were informed by a concerned parent that this was being done to our boy over the past year as many as eight times per day. And the bastards can legally get away with it.

I know your heart is breaking over your situation. My heart has been broken multiple times. I spent this past Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in a psychiatric facility due to an emotional breakdown, caused primarily by my son's health and his treatment at his school.

Yet I am taking great comfort right now in a book you have recommended to me with your blog. I am simply LOVING Francine Prose's Bigfoot Dreams, which I read each night before bed with great delight. With my recent tendencies towards panic attacks and heightened anxiety, I often have trouble falling asleep at night, and Francine's wonderful book helps settle my mind. I never would have picked her up without your recommendation.

So thank you, David, for contributing in some small part to the resurgence of my mental health. Perhaps this could be a sort of new career direction for you?

Take good care, and may God bless you and your family and keep you well.

mike zim said...

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum“

Aonghus Fallon said...

"No sympathy from this reader. You lived off an enforced education system supported by taxpayers and a captive student body. No you can join the rest of the non-government employees and prove your worth in the free market."

Is there really a free market over in the US? Over on this side of the pond we just assume that's all so much hot air - what with bailing out Ford Motors et al, subsidising Walmart's wage bill by providing food coupons to their employees, and grants to farmers (68% of Kansas farmers rely on subsidies to make ends meet). Not - I hasten to add - that we have a free market, either.

Anonymous said...

Why in the world have you rather randomly picked on the University of Minnesota English department? Why not write about the OSU English department offerings? That would seem more relevant to your situation.

molonlabe28 said...

I am sorry that your university has pushed you out the door, professor.

You know that you have enriched countless lives during the course of your professional career.

My wife and I were both English majors.

She has owned and operated a specialty shop for the last 15 years, and I have been a tax lawyer for more than 30 years.

We hope to leave a sizeable gift to the English Department of our alma mater at our deaths.

In the interim, we plan to make significant annual cash gifts, with a view to making much larger gifts as opportunities permit.

B-school educates students about business models and making and selling widgets.

But the humanities teach students creativity, a knowledge of the past, wit, a view into human nature and an appreciation of the arts.

The choice for me was an easy one.

D. G. Myers said...

Why in the world have you rather randomly picked on the University of Minnesota English department?

Because the Minnesota department is a good one (if a little trendy), and because my complaint is about the discipline, not OSU.

Eric Nentrup said...

Sadly, your article is going to linger in my bookmarks list. I'm certain this isn't part of the legacy you intended, D.G., however, it is prophecy.

I'm reminded of an article in response to the annual literary blitz known as NaNoWriMo. The naysayer was pinpricking the fun on the grounds that a 50K word manuscript chunked out in a month would be pure drivel and as such, a waste of time for anyone lured into the festive nature of the event. The writer went on to prove his point with evidence that there are more books ABOUT writing sold every year than actually well written books.

Granted, the expertise in Language Arts that you describe and decry are indicative of the pending paradigm shift against expertise, in lieu of the "amateur", I think also that there's a pendulum swing towards the process vs. the product. I think that will course correct.

I also think enough of us exist to represent a way of life that is contrary to the profitability of these coming changes and figure out a way to protect that which we love, even if it means reinventing the infrastructure supporting that way of life.

Hats off to you. Thank you for this piece.

Unknown said...

Sounds as though someone has a case of sour grapes. I quit reading after he picked on another school's program, they are not the ones letting him go. And any English Professor worth a tenured position wouldn't end sentences in prepositions. It's whiney bitches like this guy who make our country what it has become today.

Anonymous said...

You're not alone, which is either a good thing or a pretty depressing reminder of how disassembled things have become. I send most of my lunch hours at the mall reading novels that nobody in my office, which is full of highly educated people, has ever heard. Right now I am reading Native Realm by Milosz. In the mall food court there are many other young professionals none of whom i've ever seen with a book, but everyone's head is buried in an iphone. Maybe I am just being snobbish and unfair, but I really just think that when money is the measure of all things, the things that feed the soul just can't measure up.

All the best.

Unknown said...

Edwardough G: My parents taught me that I should say anything about someone unless I could say something nice. But putting that aside, I think you miss the point of the posting. Most of us in academia (past and present) understand what is at stake here. It is not one person's career. It is the cultural shift leading to what it means to be educated.