Thursday, April 26, 2007

Giving Up

For my awesome class full of awesomeness, I'm assigning a chapter from my dissertation. Wait, I should say that I'm assigning a pared-down version of a chapter from my dissertation. I am in the process of de-dissertationing it and cutting it from roughly 45 pages to something a little less unweildy. I'm not enjoying the task.

Here's what's been going through my mind. I'm giving up research. This is not necessarily a permanent thing, and it's not to say that I won't retrace my steps and make an attempt at some point to renew work on the diss and seek publication, or even apply for University positions at some point. In fact, I have tentatively decided to submit said chapter to a journal. So I've still got a toe over the line.

But if the last few months have taught me anything, they have taught me that my true interest (and my true talent?) lies in teaching. I'm expressing creativity through the development of new classes and new lessons. I'm still writing, but in smaller forms (encyclopedia articles, possibly a scholarly article, definitely bloggy junk). And I think I'm ok with that.

In the fall, I start my full-time job at a CC. I'm looking forward to exploring new settings and teaching new classes. It's been 5 months since I defended my dissertation. I feel no burning desire to revisit it. Is that really giving up, or am I simply writing a new chapter? (One that wasn't in the proposal I gave my advisor, incidentally.) Is that giving up? And if it is, is that ok?

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Blogger DevilMacDawg said...

At worst, it's redefining yourself, and getting in better touch with yourself, and doing something that, for now, makes you happy and gives you fulfillment.

That's never wrong. :)

4:14 PM  
Blogger Neel Mehta said...

What exactly are you giving up? If we're talking about the subject matter of your dissertation, well, that's understandable. It's researched, it's done, it got you the degree. You may return to it and take what you need when you teach, and use other spare parts for publication. But the work, in its current format, has served its purpose. You pretty much have to move on.

But if you're talking about giving up research in general, that's a bigger deal. Some would say you're leaving the active world of exploring knowledge and entering the passive world of imparting knowledge. (Like if Indiana Jones were to stop taking archaeological trips and stick to the classroom.)

And while there are professors who know what they know and don't ever bother to adjust their perspective with new information -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- I don't think you automatically become like that when you start teaching. You're new to this. You'll remain in the learning process, I think, and maybe become the kind of professor who stays in the quest.

By the way, the new 40th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone includes an interview with Norman Mailer. He recalls going to Zaire with Hunter S. Thompson to cover the Ali/Foreman fight. Guess whose name comes up? Mobutu.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Quinn said...

But then again, Dr. Jones was denied tenure.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous kr said...

There was a German professor at my college who retired after like 30 years having never "reached" a "higher" position than Asst Professor ... because he rarely published and didn't make a point of doing research for it's own sake. He did a lot of collaborative translations, that sort of thing, and seemed well respected intellectually by the rest of the faculty, so I don't think he was stultifying.

I can't imagine you will stop reading and intaking information ... remaining "creative" requires remaining open. It doesn't require, at least not regularly, forays into specific structured applications of your knowledge and learning.

I did more studying and learning and thinking on some of the papers I failed to turn in than on most of the ones I turned in ... the more intereseting a subject, the less it can be confined to the formal written academic structures.

If you are engaging your students and yourself ... I think you are doing better work than most people in any field.

(If you want a huge ranting dismissal of the "research-based" model of valuing higher educators, see John Gatto's An Underground History of American Education. He suggests judging "educators" by their research output is symptomatic of the complete and purposeful removal of any actual "education" from schooling, based on the needs of industry. My college was small enough and selective enough that they only kept professors who also could teach ... but we've all heard the horror stories of professors at "prestigious research universities" who were worse than worthless as teachers ... .)

10:53 AM  
Blogger N. English said...

Perhaps you are giving in, rather than giving up. I share your sentiments. I just checked up on one of my better teachers from High School (one P. Copley). He has a total of 2 published works (interestingly enough, judging from the abstract, he might agree with your decision, Quinn). See here (

As for what N said, if you teach history, and you're still alive, aren't you living history and therefore actively exploring the world. And hey, Dr. Jones was denied tenure because he never showed up to any faculty committee meetings. Did you ever see him at one (the opening of the Arc was NOT a faculty meeting).

11:47 AM  
Blogger Brechi said...

I love that you are called Quinn. That is great. :)

7:32 PM  
Anonymous kr said...

Heh. NE reminded me of one of my favorite professor-stories:

The head of our theatre dept (my major) graduated from my college in the late 60s.

Popular at the time was the question: "Do you Make Art?" (capitals emphasized)

Her favorite response at parties?

"Well, I'm willing to try ;)."

Woo woo :)!

4:16 PM  
Anonymous patricia said...

the executive recruiter in me says: focus your efforts on what makes you happy, particularly if you are good at it and it pays bills. you can always change it later

the MBA in me says: sunk costs are sunk costs. don't continue down a path just because you sunk a lot of resources/effort into it unless the path takes you somewhere you want to be

the dog-lover in me says: if it feels good, do it. Dog Rules.

of course, the real wisdom always lies with the dogs.

congrads on the gig, by the way!

6:50 PM  

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