On Academia… Can I Handle It?

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I went to a conference today and it was pretty interesting/informative. Not just in terms of what I learned, but in terms of what I have realized about myself: I am not an academic.

Last fall I took a course and was confronted with what politics look like in an academic setting. One of my professors comepletely bad mouthed another professor. She went on a tirade about him for a good 5-10 minutes. It was appalling. I know we are all human, and can’t like everybody, and sometimes need to vent but I thought it was completely inappropriate for the setting, I don’t care how cozy the class seemed.

hearing other details about who doesn’t like who within each department and reflecting on a grad school visit where I was warned by students in the program which professor pairs and trios were not good mixes for thesis advisors (I did not end up going to that university btw) has left me a bit drained.

The pretentiousness is stifling. Not just from the faculty but from the graduate students as well.

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I know this seem like an aimless rant, but I am trying to focus things a bit. At the conference several working (I’m assuming) papers were presented and other scholars and attendees offered their rebuttals/critique/suggestions. This is fine, people should always be pushed to consider other angles and try to balance subjectivities.

But at the same time, there comes a point where we accept that no one is going to get the whooooooooooooooooole story in a 25pg paper or even a 250 pg book. Something, someone, someplace, something will have to end up on the cutting room floor. I don’t know, I’m just so sick of people analyzing other people’s work thinly veiled under the guise of constructive criticism. Is there no place that is safe from personal vendettas?

Argh!

And then there are the straight up b@#! sh%^*ers. There is a group for graduate students to share papers and give each other constructive criticism. I was at first excited about the group but don’t want to be bothered because of my experience with it. I submitted a paper for critique and while I received constructive criticism from some people who actually read/skimmed/admitted to not reading it (however useful that would be) I was really annoyed by people who obviously hadn’t read it at all and still felt the need to give negative comments. one girl stated my thesis to be the exact opposite of what it was and said that whole paper fell apart because of it (if she had even scanned it she would have known better). while she was duly corrected by those who had read my paper, a lot of other blow-hards got the chance to grace us with their words of “wisdom.” It’s not just me either, I’ve seen the same scenario with other people 😦

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m just tired of all the hot air, the theories the taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk but no action.

And there is the issue of one field to another. I’m in an interdepartmental area studies program, so definitions of themes can be fluid, heck they have to be if you want to gain a full rounded view of things. But, it seems that some of the grad students I have interacted with are so caught up in the way their field defines things like history, memory, culture etc. that they can’t wrap their minds around someone else’s.

I know that I will PhD (after a much deserved hiatus of course) but the thought of dealing with the dynamics of department politics is a bit daunting and quite frankly, unattractive.
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I guess I’m just scared of becoming “one of them.” The whole point of an education/learning the most you can about a particular problem is so that you can change things for the better, right? I just don’t want to get so allured by the sound of my own voice, some new phrases I coin, or some theory I make up that I loose sight of what’s important.

academics should be about bringing their information to the masses, not just using overly verbose verbiage among intellectual “equals.”

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2 thoughts on “On Academia… Can I Handle It?

  1. Margari Aziza

    All the things you’ve stated are the exact reasons why I hate academia, but the same reasons why we need to break through. I completely agree with you on how annoying it is when people who have not even read your work have to throw in your criticism. I am sure that dumb girl felt like she gave a presentation in front of the class while naked after being called out.

    I doubt that you’ll ever become one of those stuffy bulls&*#ers. You actually have some real insight and intellectual integrity. I wish I had been more prepared for the crap in grad school, I would have done far better in my first few years.

  2. Gazelle du Sahara

    It’s awesome that someone out there knows what I’m sayin’…lol.

    It reminds me of a facebook group; “dear grad school, high school called it wants its drama back. More future academics need to make a concerted effort to not feed into the hype. (either that, or programs need to scrutinize applicants more, somehow).

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