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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: September ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0704.  Sunday, 29 September 1996.

(1)     From:   Tom Clayton <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Sep 1996 17:24:57
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0660 et al.: The State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 27 Sep 1996 22:36:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession

(3)     From:   Kezia Sproat <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 01:12:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Sep 1996 17:24:57
Subject: 7.0660 et al.: The State of the Profession
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0660 et al.: The State of the Profession

I thought I had sent the following earlier, but it evidently didn't arrive.
Since then, much has changed here, anyway. I leave intact what I wrote on the
16th. It now seems very likely that the University Faculty Alliance of the
University of Minnesota will win the collective-bargaining election handily
over the alternative of no action. If it does, we shall have rescued the
University from virtual destruction by a Board of Regents that has increasingly
demonstrated that it cannot buckle its distempered cause within the belt of
rule. The earlier communication follows. I am sending this as information to
any interested who are or might find themselves in the same rotten carcass of a
butt before they know it. The "State of 'the Profession," whatever one
considers that to be, is going to become increasingly contingent, I think.
__________________________________________________________________________

Considerable diversity of interesting views in 7.0660, to which I would gladly
put in my two-cents' worth; but we are beset at the moment here with the
beginning of the fall quarter (as usual) and (as unusual) with an impending
change to the semester system, which has to be designed this year and mostly
this quarter; and, still more urgently, with attacks upon academic freedom and
tenure by the University's Board of Regents, who on 10 October were scheduled
to take action on a drastically revised tenure-code mostly written by
out-of-state--Washington, D.C.--lawyers specializing in "downsizing" and
corporate hierarchies, without consulting faculty members on anything.

In response, members of the University Faculty Alliance, which formed early in
the year because of inchoate efforts of the same kind, went to work in
necessary earnest and on 13 September was able to file over 600 authorization
cards with the State Bureau of Mediation Services, to effect a cease-and-desist
order preventing further attempts by the Board of Regents to abridge if not
abolish the faculty's academic freedom and security of tenure until a
collective-bargaining election has been held. This is *not* a campus where
trade unionism would ordinarily have been welcomed by a majority of faculty
members, and union elections were lost here in the 1970s and again in the 1980s
(partly by the entry of third-party spoilers into the contest). No doubt there
will be numerous challenges of the cease-and-desist order. At the moment we are
strong, but not so strong that we don't need a lot more signatures to be
confident of winning the election; and in the meantime the Regents will be
colluding as they did all summer.

An otherwise admirable analysis of the problems of the University of Minnesota
published in yesterday's Minneapolis *Star Tribune* was marred only by a
deprecation of unions that many of us find doubtful: "There is evidence that in
the few major institutions that have taken this [unionizing] route, teaching
loads increase and the faculty are subject to more severe discipline, further
detracting from the research mission." Much turns on what "evidence" and
"major" are taken to mean. I for one don't believe this, partly because I know
of at least one university where the faculty is very much better off in almost
every way than it was before collective bargaining; but even if it were true it
should have no bearing, necessarily, on unions organizing and bargaining *now*,
except to serve as examples of arrangements not to make.

Not to clog the SEC with more of this digressive discourse, I would be happy to
have at my own e-mail address direct any experience-based or even second-hand
advice (please say which it is!) on what to do and what not to do in setting up
(for) collective bargaining. I can't promise much interactive response, but I
would also be happy to send by return e-mail a copy of a brief analysis by
chairs of 5 major faculty-governance committees with examples of the Regents'
proposed revisions for those interested in seeing what the Procrusteses in
charge of the "cutting edge" of academic "downsizing" are trying to do here in
the name of flexibility. If they succeed, they will have created a precedent
for a similar fate to come the way of other vulnerable faculties and
institutions.

This barbarously draconian cure is surely worse than the disease, since it will
seriously if not irreparably damage the institution as well as maim if not
enslave the faculty; but it is the fashionable mode of institutional
"reengineering," at present, and if it is not stopped here, it will not stop
here. It probably won't, anyway, but forewarned is forearmed.

Best wishes,
Tom

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 27 Sep 1996 22:36:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession

Hi,

I agree with the majority of Mr. Appelbaum's points on the debate so far, but I
would have to disagree with his assumption that having a Ph.D. in a field in
which one is not employable leads to a "ruined life."  I don't think my father
intended to have his current job when he was a seminarian, and I don't think my
mother anticipated her future so precisely when she was in university, either.
I just don't get this assumption that spiritual fulfillment only comes from
working within a field to which one has been highly trained.

I also agree that "(3) There is no necessary correlation between the joy of
education, or the joy of continuing education, and the doctoral degree."  On
the other hand, there isn't an inverse correlation, either. Amateur athletes
also compete against high standards which, if not exactly objective, are more
than set by themselves.  A large number of people find competing against fixed
challenges particularly fulfilling. I don't see why a doctoral programme can't
serve as such a challenge.

I may not get a job in the teaching profession when I'm through, though I'll
certainly try; there are, nevertheless, an infinite range of career options for
which my Ph.D., if not exactly preparing me, nevertheless provided valuable
skills.  Schweitzer's degree in theology did not prepare him to be a medical
doctor, or a Bach scholar, for that matter.

Cheers,
Sean.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Sproat <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Sep 1996 01:12:13 -0400
Subject: 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0701 Re: State of the Profession

The structure of Godshalk's question, "What is it we think students should know
today? and How should we organize ourselves to teach them?" might be taken to
imply a fill-the-empty-vessel pedagogy that was out of fashion, thankfully,
when my children entered elementary school 21 years ago as I searched in vain
for a teaching job.  I suspect neither Godshalk nor Applebaum, whose phrase
"ruined lives" gets the patronizing prize, intended those implications, but we
should perhaps scrutinize agency. Who determines what's learned, if not the
student, who chooses from all the available monkey models, and, with luck,
successfully  guesses and experiments beyond those models? Did E.K.Chambers
teach? The best any academic insider can do is model scholarly behavior, which
includes being able to look in more directions than down the nose.

There's good life outside--21 years after PhD I'm still intellectually free,
interested in Shakespeare and expansion of understanding of his texts, open to
these texts, doing such an exciting investigation in my spare time that (having
been burned long ago) I ain't talkin' about it in no detail whatsomever. I've
earned my living by learning and writing, learning, writing, recently on the
history of the Internet. Our very medium on SHAKSPER runs and sings, as we use
it, "You too are in a Renaissance! This is how Shakespeare felt about the
Indies!" Our times are thrilling and challenging, but tons of work needs doing,
mostly in communication, helping characters around the planet as diverse as
Cleopatra, Dogberry, Hamlet, Malvolio, Shylock, Brutus, and the King of Navarre
understand and keep from killing one another. Shakespeare scholars are by
definition well equipped to do such work. Which part of this work will I do
now? is the question I ask myself every day and commend to younger people who
find themselves outside the ivy walls. (Bleah ivy, in fact the worst thing for
walls.)

Create your own damn jobs and have fun! Forget, in case you ever thought of it,
academic pecking orders and the kissing up of arrogant deans! Thank the
Almighty you're not in much danger of becoming university presidents, lackeys
of developers and legislators! Enjoy being alive! Lose the self-pity! If you
lose your job, good  scholar Godshalk, come up to Chillicothe! We're seriously
thinking of starting a Shakespeare Festival there, emboldened by 25 successful
years with outdoor drama [Tecumseh!], the oldest continuously operating movie
house in the world [aptly named the Majestic], and Maurice Morgann's 1777
prediction of Shakespeare on the Scioto River [Essay on the Character of Sir
John Falstaff]. Morgann, a London land agent for whom the plains of the Sciota
were the ends of the then-known earth, was furious at Voltaire for calling
Shakespeare a barbarian and wrote something like, "When Voltaire's language is
forgotten, the  Appalachian mountains, the banks of the Ohio, and the plains of
the Sciota shall resound with the accents of this barbarian."

I know the chill of fear that one's own children will be hungry, so my fellow
never-to-be-employed-academically Shakespeareans have my sincere sympathy. Also
for them: a standing offer of nine bean rows at Highbank Farm Peace Education
Center in Chillicothe, and this suggestion: Wherever you are, nearby is someone
who knows less about one of the great enduring pleasures of life than you do.
Share your knowledge and joy. Shakespeare Festivals --or, to begin, simply
Shakespeare reading circles, in every county, on every corner of our cities is
what the hell this country, and possibly the whole world, needs. Certainly
academe needs some of the fresh air better general knowledge of the texts might
generate, don't we all agree to that?

Has anyone else on this list ever heard of Myles Horton? One of the most
influential educators of the last two centuries, Horton started the Highlander
School in Tennessee, where ML King and Rosa Parks were trained, before the bus
boycott in Montgomery. His philosophy was as follows: If you have 10 or 15
people who share the same problem and want to solve it, put them together
someplace and let them talk and wash dishes together for 10 days, and they will
find a way to solve that problem, no matter how apparently insurmountable.

Kezia Sproat
 

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