Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Torn between in and out

The tour of duty as an adjunct has certainly calcified my anger towards the low esteem with which education is treated in this country. I heard this morning's NPR report on the cost of the war in Iraq. Bush (who thinks $35 billion over five years for S-CHIP is too costly) is asking for an additional $46 billion for the current fiscal year alone, to continue the failed fiasco in Iraq. And he has the audacity to call for an "all or nothing" vote. FUCK HIM! Excuse my French.

Just think what good this nation could do around the world if we spent $700 billion a year (the current level for defense spending) on education. Pity the poor fiscal conservatives profligasts who bemoan the possibility of increased taxes under a Democratic administration. What I care about is not the level of taxes, but the level of spending. If we're taxed like Europeans, but the spending reflects real and decent priorities, then tax away my friends! But if we're spending so much on failure and destruction around the globe, and padding the pockets of our friends with their no-bid over-priced contracts, then what the hell is there to be proud of?

Okay, enough of the rant.

What I began to write about is my personal conflict with continuing to pursue a career in academia. Just as I'm ready to walk away and close the door, I see lights at the end of the hallway, and I wonder... what's on the other end?

A couple weeks ago, my old advisor/chair of my dissertation committee (Tasse Plein) sent me an email lauding a particular post. This is for you, he implored, apply for it. I checked out their website, and found another posting for an interdisciplinary position, to spearhead a new effort which is right up my alley. Yesterday, I spent 38 minutes on the phone with the chair of that search committee. Everything he said sounded perfect.

It's a 2+3 teaching load, with class size no larger than 20 students! The position would be a one-person show for now, preparing all new courses, developing a curriculum in this particular cross-disciplinary area of study, coordinating and collaborating with professors and students from across the campus, teaching probably 2 courses per year within the home discipline. It's a highly selective small liberal arts school, located about an hour from my inlaws.

I then spent about 20 minutes on the phone with someone at that school within the discipline of my PhD, to discuss the position that Tasse Plein had alerted me to. She was friendly, enthusiastic, supportive, interested. She described an influx of new blood in the department, and their moving in new directions. I wrote to thank her for her time, and to ask if she might not send a note or make a phone call to the other search committee chair, to offer the department's support for cross-disciplinary efforts in the area of the other position (since that particular department had not be considered one of the core ones). She wrote back that she'd be delighted to, and that she would also look forward to spending some time with my materials for the position open within the department.

And so, I've regained a desire to forge ahead with this one last season of applying. I'm particularly drawn to courting this one school, with its two attractive positions. Courting them, I like that idea.

I want to believe that it'd still allow me time for my research, for developing the ideas and applications that I am pursuing currently outside academia. With courses capped at 20, assuming a negligible commute, I might have close to twice the time currently. Sure, some more of that time will be spent prepping and designing new courses (if I were to get the interdisciplinary post) but this is an area I'm excited by. That work would be a pleasure (even if it would necessarily include some drudgery).

The cost of living there is significantly below the national average, and the cost of housing is about a 1/3 the national average!

After so many ups and downs, it's hard to remember or fathom just what it is I really want. Mostly, what I am sure of, I want to engage in interesting work. I want to pursue the questions that fire my passions. I want to share those passions. I want to pursue them to logical conclusions, then move on to other questions. If that describes the life of an academic then fine. If not, I'm a committed entrepreneur. Ideally, I am both, with students and clients, with a title and a dream.

Only time shall tell.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

Hmmm, interesting, exciting new developments! Are you going to apply for both then? I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you.