Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mission Creep and Its Discontents

Ok, so I'm supposed to be grading. Instead, I am sitting in my office and seething as I eavesdrop on one of my colleagues talking with (I think) a student. I can't say much about what they are discussing because it wouldn't be appropriate for the blog, but the bigger issue here is related to the direction of my department and the fact that we have been exploring developing a Master's program. There are good reasons for us to do this - namely that we are already servicing (and I use that word intentionally) a bunch of other MA programs around the university but we have absolutely no control over curriculum because we don't have our own program. Thus, when the Education people say "you've got to offer a course in X for our master's program in Y," we've got to do it for their degree, but we can't really choose what graduate courses we might offer. Big problems with self-governance in this. Anyway, all of this is administrative. The truth is that the one thing the world doesn't need is another MA program in English. As I listen to my colleague, I understand exactly why we shouldn't be ALLOWED to have one.

There is a real ethical problem with developing a program and letting people who are so far from graduate education in the discipline, so far from the mainstream of current scholarly debates and research, so far from the reality of what literary studies is, teach in it. Am I a snob? Maybe. But I'm certainly not an idiot, and I'm certainly not unaware of what's at stake in regard to these issues. I would appreciate it if my senior colleagues would demonstrate a bit more respect for those who may not have been here as long. I would appreciate it if they wouldn't bitch to a former student about how their colleagues don't know anything. I would love it if I didn't have to sit here and bite my tongue and I could tell my senior colleague that the reason a course he proposed was sent back to him was because I made sure it was blocked and I did so because it was a garbage course in [theory x] and I know this because I do [theory x] and have had graduate courses in [theory x] in the past ten years. Perhaps if this colleague took a moment to say more than good morning to me, he would know that.


Derrick said...

Doc, you could not be more right, in both the moral and insightful sense of that word.

A discipline is a practice. It has its own vigor. When someone who doesn't practice the discipline tries to teach it (or perhaps someone who has simply let the discipline go and let the vigor die off) students suffer.

I monitor a an Ethics class here at my center. The instructor has never studied ethics or philosophy as a discipline. But he is a good Baptist (an oxymoron to me)and so someone has decided he is qualified.

I will tell you it is like the difference between showing students the vitality of a garden in full bloom and showing them a bunch of sticks and stalks in the dead of winter. They have no idea that Ethics is a collection of living discourses.

Good for you that you blocked that course. Sorry to hear about your tongue-that's gotta hurt!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Good luck in keeping it blocked..

Remember, it is easier to complain to a former student than to keep up in the ways necessary to have a robust and competitive program. It is also easier to complain to that student than to put the effort into knowing a new faculty member.

Sooner or later the senior faculty will retire -- and you'll still be there.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Permission to virtually biotch-slap senior colleague