Monday, February 13, 2006

Professionalization will kill me

There are two major aspects to a graduate school education in my opinion: inquiry and professionalization. For some reason that frankly escapes me, most people who excell at the first seem to fail at the second and most people who excell at the second aren't too terribly hot at the first. For instance, there are plenty of academics whose inquiry tends to be in the direction of whatever the academy currently finds interesting, and plenty of us who could happily study things that nobody else could possibly care about, for the rest of our lives.

I tend to excell at inquiry, in that I have a million questions about nearly everything, and can, on occasion, find unique answers to them. More often than not, I find more questions than answers. But, that is okay with me because I have a lot of curiosity (again defined as the active intellectual persuit of novelty) and don't really mind if a project takes me the next three decades to finish. Of course, this attitude is extremely unprofessional, because an academic is expected to produce quality work and, well, finish things and act like they want a freaking job.

I think I hate everything that goes along with that, or at least, almost everything. I hate conferences, especially ones that I'm supposed to give papers at. But, I am generally not too fond of ones where I don't give papers. Actually, I hate the whole idea of conferences, which seems to be that it's mildly entertaining to watch desperate people compete with each other for attention- sort of like the Gong Show or back alley boxing for intellectuals. With wife-swapping thrown in. I hate department meetings, although honestly, everyone in the world hates department meetings. I hate the idea of submitting papers to journals, an experience I find strangely akin to taking out a personals ad in a strange city for a bizarre sexual fetish. I hate the whole "cognition-by-committee" aspect of academia- thinking should be solitary. In general, I hate all aspects of professionalization, which feels to me like an affront to intellectual activity. I realize that my attitude here is pretty much ludicrous.

A lot of times, I see myself not lasting too long in this world. It's ridiculously cutthroat and petty at times, and entirely too banal and nicey-nice at others. I'm curmudgeonly, and cranky. I'm friendly at some times, and yet can be impatient and isolated at most times. The only reason that I have any hope about remaining in academia is the fact that so many of my professors are exactly the same way.

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