Some More of my Personal Failings, to Prove that the Meritocracy Exists

Today’s Post Format brought to you by Jean-Francois Lyotard and the Number “#”.

Today is the auspicious debut of my inspiration* William Pannapacker’s latest on the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

1) Digression! Last night I had a dream that my editor at the CHE emailed me to let me know that they’d changed their boilerplate contract, and the new version stipulated that the CHE retained copyright of everything I have ever written. Like, they were going to go back through this blog and reprint entries from 2007 under their masthead. It was weird.

*how soft is that focus on my man Peter Cetera? #StillMadHot

As usual, I completely agree with just about everything Pannapacker says. I’m a #Pannapackophant, yooguise (make this hash tag happen!). The only possible exception is that he is way more diplomatic about straight-up telling people not to go to graduate school, whereas in the face of #ArMOOCgeddon(TM) and the ongoing #AdjunctPocalypse (MAKE IT HAPPEN!), I am perfectly fine being painted as a disseminator of “blanket ‘Don’t Go’ advice.”

2) I am fine with this, because contemporary academe is basically the institutional equivalent of the Titanic, Costa Concordia and Carnival Dream all in one right now, and if you are rich enough to get a PhD and not care about that, then that just perpetuates the elitism and makes everything worse, so why in the eff would I encourage that? Forget THAT.**

**The only possible exception to this is the Tressie/Annemarie view that The Life of The Mind is an afterthought if you’re getting an advanced degree to fight institutional racism. In this case, postgraduate education without socialization is not only possible, but oftentimes the already-present result of being a marginalized minority in a near-exclusively WASPy profession (although the “blessing” of being subjected to constant institutional racism and therefore excluded from your department’s in-crowd and thus “luckily” immune to the cult mentality is only possible because of serious amounts racist bullshit, natch!).

A few weeks ago, when the #PackAttack (an all-Mennonite “Zack Attack” cover band) told me I’d be cited in this column, I was 

3) flattered

and then

3a) nervous.***

***Remember, in by far the most widely-read thing I have ever written, I misspelled homeboy’s name AND called his most famous grad-school column a “screed.” INSINCERELY, but words hurt, man. I’M SORRY! *sob*

I wasn’t sure which of my ignominious efforts would be featured–but lo, it turns out it was this unintentionally hilarious forum on the Chronicle Web site–which is dedicated, in its entirety, to the many things that are wrong with me. Ah, the trappings of “fame.” I’ve only skimmed it once, when I clicked on it unwittingly (my postac InterFriend JC linked to it and I trust everything she links), but it was highly edifying. You see, the reason I crashed and burned on the academic job market four years in a row has nothing to do with the systemic failures of the academic labor market, and everything to do with me being straight-up the worst.

5) I take serious issue with these folks, although not because they are a-holes who apparently have nothing better to do than go dick around on the CHE fora all day long (Some of them have thousands, thousands of posts. Talk about a “body of work”!). I take issue with them because their seemingly exhaustive list of my personal failings is woefully incomplete. Please allow me to add a few more important ones, which are, lest I need to remind you, far from the totality of the things hopelessly, deeply wrong with me. 

My standards for fruit are WAY too high. This is one of my better (or at any rate balder) half’s pet peeves about me. If a cherry is anything but its plump and tumescent Platonic ideal, I will wrinkle my nose at it, declare it “effed up,” and ask him to eat it. Last night I fixed myself a huge bowl of blueberries, only to be crestfallen that they were a little gritty, and thus I was left to pound them down with a frown. The idea of eating an apple between the months of January and August is absurd–those out-of-season pieces of shit are going to be half-rotten! And if a banana is either too green or too ripe, I will eye it askance until someone else in my family eats it. WE’RE DOING OUR BEST! Say the fruit. GIVE US A BREAK! No dice, fruit. Try harder.

I am great at acknowledging that food in the fridge has gone bad, but terrible at disposing of it. This is because we are not supposed to waste food (it’s too bad we don’t live in NY; we could just ‘recycle‘ the food–thanks Bloombito!) in a country (and world) where far too many of our brothers and sisters go hungry. I know this, and that is why when those two tablespoons of homemade knockoff Yumm Sauce are just sitting there STARING AT ME, I want to gouge my own eyes out. If I don’t have to deal with the spoiled food, then I didn’t waste it!

I have abysmally lowbrow taste in movies, and I am unapologetic about it. Yesterday I went to see This Is The End in the theater, alone–and I laughed MY ASS OFF. This week I am going to see it again. In the theater. Because I thought it was that funny. I’ve been a huge fan of Seth Rogen since F&G, and it always brings a tear to my eye that so many of the F&G crew have made it so huge despite NBC’s ludicrous decision to cancel the show in the middle of its single, absolutely perfect season. James Franco’s ability to make fun of himself in this movie is transcendent, and Franco as Franco might actually be one of his greatest performances to date. 

I have kept this little pile of random shit on the foyer table for like two months, for no apparent reason. My balder half (he shaves his head, he’s not got male-pattern baldness, though I’d love him even more if he did; I love baldies!) is getting really annoyed that when I moved in, I unloaded a bunch of deadweight from my wallet (so as to de-Costanza it), and some of it was stuff I didn’t necessarily want to chuck. YET. So I’m still deciding what to do with this stuff. Do I really NEED my Sephora Beauty Insider Card when I do most of my Sephora shopping online (and that is only twice a year)? How likely is it that I will return to Mama Mimi’s in Columbus to claim the free take n’ bake pizza I earned after a semester of Heteronormative Pizza Tuesday?****

****aka me attending spin class, then bicycling home from it, then getting a “spa pizza” (1/3 of the calories!) and downing it in four bites while I shame-watched The Heteronormative WTF Hour before staring my grading.

I leave half-filled glasses of water, coffee and seltzer all over the house. 

Sometimes I forget to turn the heat or A/C off when I’m leaving.

I eat too many cookies.

Sometimes, at spin class, when the instructor commands me to “ADD A FULL TURN!” I just add like an eighth-turn, and when she says “QUARTER TURN!” I just touch the knob. Actually that’s to prevent knee injury, so I don’t count it as a failing as such. My busted-ass knees are a failing, though.

All right, this should give the caring scholar-teachers of the Internet a lot more to work with, once they’re through discussing my parents and my general stupidity. 

For now, I gotta bust it because the coffee shop where I work is straight-up flooding right now. 



My non-calamitous last day of class surprise party!

UPDATE: Now with non-tiny photos and non-illiterate captions!

I thought this would be an appropriate companion piece to the article I had come out in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, which–given that it made me look like a complete goon, which I absolutely was on the campus visit in question–has elicited some responses in the anonymous Internet a-hole sphere along the lines of: well, she had a bad demo because she’s a bad teacher and a shitty person and a jerk, and HOW DARE SHE QUESTION THE STATUS QUO IN THE INDISPUTABLE MERITOCRACY THAT IS ACADEMIA, I MEAN, LOOK AT ME, I HAVE TENURE AND I AM THE BEST.

I had a bad demo at that school (where the faculty were extremely kind, and I would have been delighted to work, by the way; I would have made those students come around), because I was woefully ill-prepared for these particular students, and because these students had not been in any way informed that I would be there, because the teaching demo of this particular visit was pretty much an afterthought, because (SPOILER ALERT) that job was an inside hire the whole damn time anyway, so it was all just a massive charade (pronounced like the Fronch, sha-RAAAAHD).

Anyway, I have been accused by those nearest and dearest to me of harboring an academia-sized chip on my shoulder, and I am trying to move this blog, and my life, into a more positive direction now that I have mercy-killed my academic career. Phoenix rising from the proverbial Aschenputtel, mixed metaphors, ad infinitum.

ANYWAY. I am, as it turns out, not a bad teacher–I am actually a very dedicated and passionate teacher, and aside from a few holdouts (a VERY few), my students adore me because I adore them. ADORE. This semester, my German 3300 class (“Vienna Prague Berlin”) was a particularly special group. Every single one of them was functionally conversant in German (a credit to the venerable Ohio State language program and definitely not moi, a-duh!), and so the full-immersion aspect of the course was straight-up effortless. It was simply a foregone conclusion that everyone spoke only German in that room, and nobody so much as uttered a sentence in English during class time for the entire semester–not because they feared my wrath, but because they wanted to be speaking German.

I have had a lot of terrific students and a lot of terrific groups, but this one, as far as foreign-language courses go, was the greatest among equals. A fitting end to an abortive career. (Sorry, sorry, negativity).

At any rate, on the last day of class, much to my surprise and delight, I found out in the best possible way that the feeling was apparently mutual, and I’ve been waiting to put this up for over a week so that I could make sure each one of them waived FERPA in writing (they did! I break no laws by posting these!), but here goes…

Last Tuesday, as my teachin’ heels and I clopped down the hall of the decidedly non-centrally located Central Classrooms for one last time, I caught a glimpse if a student poking her head out of my classroom door. This was slightly out of the ordinary, but not REALLY suspicious–I mean, maybe they just wanted to see if I was coming? Then as I approached the door, I noticed the room was dark, which was super weird. And then, as I walked in, I noticed a huddled mass of adorable Studis in the middle of the room with a poster they made themselves. “ÜBERRASCHUNG!” they yelled. “ACH NEEEEEIN!!!!!!!!” was all that I could manage, so verklempt was I.

Yes, my angels had taken it upon themselves to arrange a surprise party! I cried. It was embarrassing.

So, now on to the (now not tiny) pics I am finally allowed to post! Here is the entire lot of them, together with the poster they made! I still don’t know who commandeered this operation, but it took some serious planning and forethought. I suspect they did it while they were filling out evaluations and I wasn’t in the room, given that I had told them (in German): “Well, I care about these evals, but they don’t actually matter, given that I am leaving OSU and probably professordom forever and ever.” Students–understandably–don’t understand (nor should they) a single thing about the inner workings of academia, so to them, if you are a good professor that they like, you should have a job teaching them forever and ever. I so wish this were the actual reality, but of course it is not. Anyway, here they are with the poster, which has pictures of all of them on it, next to which they left kind messages wishing me luck and happiness in my next venture:

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They also BAKED me a cake, which reads “Wir lieben Sie, Prof. Schuman,” which is technically the incorrect form of “love” in German (reserved only for intimate relationships), but I didn’t teach that distinction, so I absolve myself of blame–plus, my German friends tell me the younger generation of Germans is starting to use “Ich liebe…” for all sorts of stuff now. Anyway, the cake was pretty intense at 9 a.m. but delicious and appreciated. I also ate a Timbit (the Ohio version of a Munchkin), thus putting me in a complete sugar spasm for the rest of the day, which I mistook for emotional overload. Maybe it was emotion overload. I don’t know.

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Here’s the same kind message on the blackboard (for all of its state-of-the-artness, OSU still has chalk boards instead of whiteboards. BLURGH. I HATE CHALK).

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And here are some pics of the activity we did that day: GERMAN KARAOKE! Here’s Falco’s “Der Kommissar”:

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…alles klar, Herr Kommissar?

And here’s Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (all cool German and Austrian pop artists have one name):

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We all agreed that 80s hair-band bass players had the best “I’m playing the bass” dance ever, and wondered aloud why no bass players do that anymore.

And here, finally, are two wonderful students I’ve had the joy to teach for three entire courses, with the INAPPROPRIATE but still amazing gift they insisted I open despite not having graded them yet (the self same finger puppets that have since caused my ascent to master auteur status):

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I would say I missed these guys more than anything in the world, but I’ve still got a stack of their exams to grade to keep me company. But I still miss them!