March 29th, 2004

Learning How To Read

Who needs reviled Eagles' songs? These days the sports pages are the place to learn how "every story might be the vehicle for another, different story underneath it:"
"As an outsider, I was amazed," said Brett Tomko, who has pitched against Grissom for many years. "Not to put Marquis down, but he didn't look like a typical No. 3 hitter whom you have to worry about taking you out of the park and hitting .300.

"I never looked at him that way, especially when he played for Milwaukee and L.A. When he came to town last year and I saw the kind of numbers he had, I was like, 'wow.' I really thought, 'What is he doing differently?' Obviously he changed what was going on."

The only change in Grissom's eyes was his health.
Will Marquis be able to see past his own reflection to the submerged threat beneath?
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Time to Say Goodbye?

One of academia's most dogged critics, Erin O'Connor, is apparently considering a new career.

I'm all for acknowledging the terrible treatment that most adjuncts receive. But, since O'Connor is not an adjunct, I can't help but wonder whether it makes sense to give up privileges that so many scholars dream of having:
Though the structural agoraphobia of the academy tries to pretend otherwise, the world is ever so much larger than the ivory tower, and full of opportunities for talented, creative, dedicated people to find meaningful, rewarding work that makes a difference.

I've been chasing a number of those opportunities myself this year, having slowly come to realize, over the last three or four years, that academe is not a place where I can do work I truly believe in and respect. Though the process of deciding to leave was agonal, the decision itself has felt incredibly freeing and right. I still plan to teach; I still plan to write; I still plan to read as much as it is humanly possible for me to read. But I plan to do it in a setting that feels less ethically compromised, more grounded in reality, and thus more likely to permit me to do work that actually matters. The prospect excites me no end, and it gives me a kind of hope that academe never did.
I'm sure that the strain of advocating a conservative but thoughtful libertarianism in an often hostile environment has worn on O'Connor. It would surely wear on me. Her decision to leave, however, seems to come from some place deeper.

When I first read her entry, I felt a surge of satisfaction. The involuntary leftist ideologue in me wants more Michael Bérubés and fewer Erin O'Connors commenting on my professional world.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I have long struggled with precisely the feelings that O'Connor articulates. The painful conversations I've been having with knicolini in recent weeks on the topic of class have reminded me that the impulse to reject my privileged existence as an academic is itself a function of that privileged existence and one which proves particularly galling to those who don't have it. It's like watching rock stars destroy themselves with drugs.

I'm starting to understand that there is no law for the "conservation of privilege." If Erin O'Connor forsakes her academic career, she won't be able to guarantee that her position goes to somebody who both deserves and desires it. The situation of adjuncts is unlikely to improve as a consequence of her decision. And her departure from professorial life will deprive her of the credibility that makes her critique so powerful.

Will academics be as interested in reading an outsider's perspective on their world? I doubt it. I suspect that Erin O'Connor's readership will shrink to the already-converted, the right-wingers who merely search for validation of their hatred of higher education. And that will be a loss, both for the academy, which needs better insider critiques, and for Erin O'Connor, who needs the provocation of intellectual disagreement to remain incisive.
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what I was thinking:
"The administration's attempts to discredit Clarke have backfired. They have merely given the story legs and hurt the administration. The issue of whether Rice should testify should keep the story alive for several more news cycles," said University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape.

"The Bush administration and its allies have certainly not helped the story go away," said Howard Opinsky, a Republican operative who ran media relations for Arizona Sen. John McCain during his 2000 presidential bid.

"Instead, they adopted the risky strategy of trying to refute his charges, which makes it appear that they have something to hide," he said.

Clarke accuses Bush, who is running for re-election on his record of fighting terrorism, of being obsessed with ousting Iraq's President Saddam Hussein at the expense of fully focusing on the war against terrorism.

The White House at first questioned an assertion by Clarke that President Bush asked him immediately after Sept. 11 to investigate whether Saddam was involved but on Sunday it confirmed that the conversation had taken place.
Note the last sentence in particular. Is there an ideological struggle underway in the President's inner circles?

It's hard to imagine that all that money and experience are being used to such a paltry end without there being some sort of internal crisis to blame.
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We need a special form of caller-ID for the religiously inclined. Most of the time it's one of the devil's people on the phone. And they're stuck in some bleak call center in India to boot.
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The Sense of an Ending

I wonder if that woman who stoned her boys to death because she thought God told her to do it -- see my previous entry -- had read the Left Behind series? I'd be willing to bet room-temperature cash that she did.

Michael Bérubé and I must be in the same chapter today, because he just posted a blasphemously beautiful complaint about our devious deity, including these throughts from a true X-Man:
"I really believe that there is a blessing on this series from the Lord," he said. "Just like with the 'Passion' movie, it is all part of the warning we get before Christ returns." He added, "Many people have asked me, Do you think they will finish the series before Christ comes?"
I'll let Michael serve up the punchlines. Suffice it to say that I have a Moby Dick of a graduate seminar in mind.
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