Partly because I am a basically shy, socially insecure and rather unspontaneous person, I remember having tremendous problems as a young postgraduate student in navigating the transition from regarding academics with awe and addressing them with reverence to, well, still regarding them with awe and reverence but being treated by them in a more informal, egalitarian manner. In particular, I recall the very gradual development of letters between me and my supervisor, with his signature moving from “Peter G” to “Peter” to “P”, and me trying to come up with ways to avoid having to address him as anything for fear of arousing divine wrath through my presumption. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘higher education’
There are two carved reliefs above the entrances to the Yale Law School intended to make a point about teaching. On the left (or above, depending on how your browser is showing it), above the students’ entrance, we have the students’ conception of the lecture: they’re engaged and eager to learn, but the professor is bored and would rather be doing something else, and his assistant is completely disengaged, reading pornography. On the right (below) we have the professors’ conception: brilliant, passionate lecturer with students fast asleep. The dominant contemporary image of the lecture is the worst of both worlds, with disengagement on both sides – let alone when we’re talking about scores of students rather than half a dozen. That is, the negative perceptions and expectations on either side – and, let’s be honest, there are real negative experiences on both sides as well – are taken to define the nature of the whole exercise.
See Part One here.
July A month of very conflicted emotions. On the one hand, back in Berlin; on the other hand, Brexit. On the one hand, the remarkable pleasure to be gained from the Ablehnung of a Ruf, and an opportunity to reflect on the sheer weirdness of German academic appointment processes; on the other hand, Brexit, and the thought that a job in Germany might be no bad thing. On the one hand, some actual research into cheap translations of Thucydides (though not in a REF-able publication, unless the rules change dramatically in the near future); on the other hand, my most-read post of the year on, you guessed it, Brexit… (more…)
Death. Death. Crisis. Death. Crisis. Death. Death. That was 2016, that was. Good riddance, apart from the uneasy feeling that it may have been just the overture, and next year we won’t have the all-too-brief comic relief of England v. Iceland to cheer us up.
It’s all been very serious German novel. One of the themes on the blog this year has been the avoidance, if not fervent denunciation, of crass historical analogies, so I’ll save my next discussion of Volker Kutscher’s excellent Krimi series set in 1920s and 1930s Berlin [pervasive atmosphere of impending doom and dramatic irony] until the Tom Tykwer adaptation starts next year, by which time I may have caught up with the latest volume. Rather, I’ve been reminded all too often of Jenny Erpenbeck’s brilliant Aller Tage Abend (and I still dislike the English title End of Days without having a good alternative suggestion), in which the central character dies again and again – as a baby, as a teenager, at various stages of adulthood – with a constant dialectic between the hopeful counterfactual (if only this, then she would have lived…) and the inevitability of death, against a backdrop of twentieth-century horrors. That was 2016, that was… (more…)
Ellie Mackin, who has over the last few months been posting a series of thoughtful and helpful articles on ‘Post-PhD Life’ on the jobs.ac.uk blog, has written a very honest, brave and moving piece called Falling at the Last Hurdle, about the experience of post-interview rejection: so near and yet so far, doing all you can and it’s still not quite enough – or, it’s something about you personally that isn’t right. She offers wise advice on how to learn from the experience by seeing it not as a waste of effort and preparation but as practice for next time – but is also entirely open about the emotional side of things:
Let yourself cry, if that’s your style. Let yourself feel rubbish, and eat ice-cream, and lay in bed watching reruns of House. And then, pick yourself up and make the next application, next interview better. You’ll get the job you’re meant to get, and so will I.
Discussing her willingness to admit how much the rejection hurt, Ellie observes that “I know I cannot be the only person who has cried after not getting a job they were invested in getting. Or even one they were less invested in getting.” Yes, definitely, and what I haven’t said as yet to her or anyone besides my wife and close friends is: me too. Apart from the bit about House. I prefer Community as comfort viewing. (more…)
Once upon a time, there was a Good Boy. His parents told him to be polite and obedient, and so he was, not just to them but to everyone. They told him to work hard and always try his best, and so he did. They told him to be modest, and so he was, in the self-deprecating way that looks false to many people and irritates the hell out of them. And he came to believe, without ever really thinking about it, that if he just stuck to these principles his parents had taught him, everything would always be all right.
Mostly, it was, because Good Boys who work hard and toe the line, showing just enough imagination to get a little extra credit but never too much, tend to accumulate qualifications and go on – this being Once Upon A Time fairyland, where such things still happened with a degree of predictability – to get PhD funding and then a job. (more…)
As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, Thucydides is not the only historical figure to get regularly misquoted. One interesting example is the line that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country”, regularly trotted out to epitomise a certain attitude prevalent within big business. At least in the UK, there is at best only a fuzzy sense of the original context – it was said by Charles Erwin Wilson in 1953, during confirmation hearings for his appointment as Secretary of Defense after being Head of General Motors – and little idea that it’s not completely accurate. What Wilson actually said, when asked whether he would be able to make a decision as Secretary of Defense that would be adverse to General Motors, was that he would, but that he couldn’t actually conceive of such a situation “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. That’s a great deal more reciprocal, and less dubious – and hence less useful – than the usual version.
In universities – yes, I am going somewhere with this – there has traditionally been a similar assumption, all the way down to the individual level: (more…)