Friday, August 05, 2005

i have no idea what to do about this ...

I don't even know what to write. I feel awful, worried and amazed at at once. Humbled too. All of this is probably a good thing and so I'm trying to work out why it should be a good thing and feel not good.

I should say that I read the situation very differently. I actually thought the 'meeting' was not much of a meeting at all (in terms of formal/informal). I actually thought M was quite articulate and contributed some important comments (which is more than I can say for myself!) I could see her trying and I thought things were going well. I has initially worried that she might be put off by what she might have thought of as the 'academic' environment (she's said things about this in the past). Funny thing is that M and her passions and straight forward approach is always thoughtful and reflective (perhaps she's the academic in waiting? ;)

Perhaps I was not switched on, but I thought everyone had got on well. I mean I said some silly things, but everyone knows that is normal.

The reason I asked BD to be there was simplyto get a perspective from the ed and to use this to go away and develop something we were happy with. I mean there is some flexibility here in terms of how the piece develops, but there is also the issue of the volume as a whole and I believe it is our role as contributors to try and engage with the demands or the idea of the collection, to work with other perspectives and to ride that tension. Comments from my two colleagues prompted me to think a meeting like this might have been a good idea.

My only discomfort with the meeting was BD talking it up a bit. I thought that M might think he was a bit wanky, but only b/c of how M has spoken about academics in the past. But when she seemed to engage with some of this I figured it was alright. I was expecting a funny comment from M later on when we were alone, in jest. I really had no idea how M was feeling - and it is for that I'm sorry.

If I'm being honest (and I always try to be) I'd say this situation might be a case of misunderstanding. As much as I would agree that BD is a difficult person to get to know, I also know personally that BD deeply cares about young teachers and about people in general. BD is highly sensitive to this kind of thing (playing the academic wanker) and the negative effect it can have on teachers. But I also know that a lot of the time this 'divide' between academics and teachers is a dodgy one and does not really need to exist. Of course it certainly exists in many places, but I do not believe BD is guilty of this. In fact he is one of the few people in this place (GP and RT as well) who really understands this issue of power/knowledge and the abuses it can be put to, especially with teachers-researchers-academics.

For my part, I believe these categories are not helpful and are created by people who are interested in gate keeping and status. Theory is not the problem, university is not the problem, research is not the problem, teaching is not the problem - people and their vainity/pride are the problem. This is what creates artifical distinctions between people on the basis of 'more' or 'better' or 'newer' or 'smarter' or whatever. Good teaching and research are the same thing (or at least very closely related). Good teaching and theory have an important relationship and one that is enabling and enriching. This has certainly been my experience. It is important to think and ponder and question this work we do. It is too easy to dismiss theory as unrelated to practice and as esoteric and useless. I tend to think of this as an Andrew Bolt argument. Theory, for me, also means thought. And this is something I never want to stop doing.

Anyway, I want to say that I think M and BD are great people. The kinds of people that one wants around because they inspire, motivate and reduce one to the depths of humility. If I'm lucky enough, I'd like to know and work with these people for many years to come.

4 Comments:

At 11:17 am, Blogger nb said...

Perhaps I shouldn't comment, cause I wasn't there, but this blog post seems like a 'good thing to come out of it'.
I'd also call the theory/practice divide a Luke Slattery argument. Naive little me- up til last week I took comfort in the thought that there was only one Andrew Bolt.

 
At 11:58 am, Blogger Scott said...

Perhaps Slattery is the new Bolt?

His sister is doing English method this year.

 
At 11:24 am, Blogger nb said...

"We may claim to scorn theory, but the moment we begin teaching, we enact our understanding- our theories- of what langauge and communication are all about and what kinds of reading, writing and talking deserve student effort. Theory is there, although it may be either explicit or submerged, sensible or chaotic".
-Bruce Pirie, Reshaping High School English

 
At 3:47 pm, Blogger M said...

I think sometimes I'm a "Theory basher" or an "Academic basher" but only because I love the get-straight-to-the-point approach in writing and conversation. Paradoxically, I've been accused of waffling my whole life. I think I am inclined to criticise academics because I'm concerned that I might miss their really valuable points because they cloak it in hyperbole and big words that make it inaccessible to me.

 

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