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Re: [xmca] Re: Human Sciences Scholar life?

This is in most respects a rather gloomy subject, but I think that our younger colleagues deserve our honest reflections, even though I hope their own optimism will buoy them up despite whatever we elders say.

The cheeriest note I can sound here is that I believe that historically scholarship and intellectual creativity have often flourished under, and perhaps precisely because of, adverse political conditions. Intellectual creativity is not, I think, mainly the product of supportive social conditions, a substantial flow of funding, and utopian universities. I think it flourishes when people get fed up, feel angry, resist established ideas and thinking, rebel, and seek new ways to understand their condition and troubles, and new ways to change their worlds.

Mike seemed to say that a lot of good work got done in the USSR despite adverse conditions. I am suggesting that in part it may have been because of those conditions. AIDS and political malign neglect rallied scholars developing queer theory. The powerful influence of "christian" denominations oppressed many scholars and birthed many creative rebellions over centuries. Censorship was very strong in most areas until the end of the 19th century, perhaps until WW1 scraped the legitimacy off of all european establishments.

I'm not trying for a universal theory of intellectual history here. The prosperity of the 1960s also allowed a degree of social experimentation and radical thinking that faded quickly after the economic downturn in the 70s. But some trace its roots to American fascist conformism of the 1950s, beatnik forerunners of the hippies, etc.

Universities have never been bastions of anti-establishment thought. They have rarely even been communities of intellectual debate, supportive of creative ideas. They have always been part of the hegemonic state/church apparatus, even when "private" (with the exception perhaps of a few small institutions founded with their own agendas).

The difference today is that the neo-liberal, or frankly, neo-fascist ideology allows things to be done and said more openly and less politely. It has long been a hallmark of establishment, upper middle class, modes of power that they disguise fist in glove. Now the right feels strong enough to dispense with the glove, and they find this approach has an emotional appeal to a disaffected working class (where power has always been performed more nakedly). The power of the right has grown enormously, commensurate with their massive re-distribution of national wealth in their favor. And I speak here of the powers and funders, not of their pet pundits and fundamentalist hucksters.

I think the era of polite intellectual argument with these people is over. My advice to the younger generation is to treat them as forces of evil, outspokenly. To not just speak truth to power, but to condemn, de-mystify, castigate, and expose. If I thought it would do any good, I'd say burn their books on the steps of the library. But of course the people who matter don't write books. They pay other people to write them.

I don't think the next few decades will be quiet and peaceful ones. And if they are, then we will have lost.


Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

On Apr 3, 2011, at 6:01 PM, mike cole wrote:

> I would like to take this conversation back to Wagner's earlier request for
> information about how we, at LCHC, are trying to organize our work so that
> graduate students can deal strategically with the rapidly changing
> ideological, political, and economic times.
> Please note that our discussion is oriented toward the young members of LCHC
> including the many undergraduates who we work with in practicum courses
> where we can get to know them well enough to be intelligent interlocutors.
> The issues are necessarily different for people at different stages of their
> careers, never mind in different national settings.
> LCHC is at UCSD, a research university with a long tradition of high levels
> of government and industrial financial support. The social sciences and
> humanities in general are seen as a special "problem" because they do not
> bring in big bucks, relatively speaking (some parts of our Social Science
> division, which includes psychology, economics, and cognitive science do
> bring in substantial outside research monies).
> Within UCSD, LCHC is one of those odd, hybrid organizations that focuses
> both on community-based research and undergradute education, two largely
> neglected concerns, academically speaking. We make our way by virtue of past
> accomplishments and the fact that the University is in desperate need of
> help in dealing with issues of class and ethnic diversity, which we also do.
> So if you are a graduate student associated with the laboratory, I give the
> following advice: Prepare yourself for at least three identities associated
> with three domains (perhaps the term, markets, would not be inappropriate)
> where you can be paid to do something that you would not mind doing and
> allow you some way to retain the resources (time) for academic inquiry.
> Which three selves the students pick depends upon their special funds of
> knowledge and personal goals. Knowledge of a foreign language, knowledge of
> contemporary computer programming at a graduate student level, knowledge of
> film making, etc.
> Each of these selves emerges pari parsu with the long term goals that each
> student formulates.
> We are systematically seeking partnerships which can serve both as sources
> of support and potential future career goals of the students. As is obvious,
> we network.
> Beyond this point, its all pretty local in making the appropriate
> experiences available.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> A word about the present situation. This is not the first time in my
> lifetime that academia and the national economy and world peace have face
> very difficult times.
> Bad news can aggregate, like storm clouds, that may or may not blow away.
> Hard to tell.
> I find it amazing, in this connection to consider the life work of my cohort
> of scholars in Russia, never mind the conditions under which their parents
> lived and died. Think about an 80 year old Russian academic who attended
> Moscow University when Stalin was in power and published his first article
> the year that Khruchev denounced Stalin.
> In both cases, what has never ceased to amaze me is the generativity of
> their theoretical commitments and methodological power under extraordinarily
> difficult circumstances. They found ways, wherever they could find work, to
> continue a humanistic tradition of practice-based thought no matter how
> unwelcoming the soil for the seeds they wish to propagate.
> ISCAR, along with XMCA, seems like an organization that is quite sympathetic
> to confronting seriously the difficult circumstances our students face.
> There is a meeting of ISCAR coming up in September and, well, here we are on
> Do other more senior people on the list have different/better advice to
> profer? As I said, so much depends upon the local, generalization tends to
> be useless for those under the gun.
> mike
> On Mon, Mar 28, 2011 at 5:10 PM, elizabeth anne daigle <
> elizabethdaigle@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> How does the ennui of academia compare to the experiences of public school
>> teachers?
>> ...
>> This NYTimes debate comes from the recent report that suggests the US would
>> do
>> well to improve the status of the profession of teaching.
>> the report:
>> http://www.mcgraw-hillresearchfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/pisa-intl-competitiveness.pdf
>> the online debate at nytimes:
>> http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/03/27/how-to-raise-the-status-of-teachers?hp
>> Potentially, this is an arena for these discussions of the roles of
>> schools/schooling, the value of "value added models" of quantifying teacher
>> efficacy, the differences(and intrinsic relations) between
>> thinking/knowing/understanding/asking...  In so many ways, it seems like
>> this
>> should be the time in the US for these thoughtful conversations.
>> .....the readers' comments are like roadkill--- fascinating and disturbing.
>> There's something cultural about valuing learning as distinct from having
>> knowledge.
>> Is it that the commodification of knowledge makes teaching merely a
>> vehicle, and
>> thus not worthy of respect?
>> And its economic inefficiency is an affront to this model of what is
>> important,
>> making it somehow threatening in its continued centrality in socialization?
>> I was thrilled to see this report come out and naively thought, "Yeah- NOW
>> The
>> Man will finally see!!!"
>> ...as my mother says, "It must be hard to see with his head where it is."
>>   1. Re: Human Sciences Scholar life? (Jenna McWilliams)
>>  2. Re: lsv "sketching the future" -- From tool and sign?
>>      (Larry Purss)
>>  3. Re: Culture of Poverty, not reduxed enough (ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org)
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Message: 1
>> Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2011 18:25:27 -0400
>> From: Jenna McWilliams <jennamcjenna@gmail.com>
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Human Sciences Scholar life?
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> Message-ID: <3D8476E0-DC34-49AC-AEF3-67DC69DB6DD5@gmail.com>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed; delsp=yes
>> Google "Tihomir Petrov AND urinate" and you'll fetch 8,500 results,
>> which is more than 100 times the number of Google Scholar results
>> attached to Petrov (73). And Peter, I do think Petrov may have had a
>> broader (alleged) impact on his students and his field through his
>> (alleged) actions than through his scholarly publications.
>> Recently, a disaffected fellow graduate student told me she wished
>> someone had informed her of the high attrition rate for Ph.D. students
>> before she decided to pursue graduate study. My response: Someone
>> probably did tell her. Someone certainly told me--many people told me--
>> about the long, grim path of academia. We don't listen because of one
>> very human characteristic: We think we're special. We think: it must
>> be so sad for those students who do drop out before finishing their
>> dissertations, for those academics who can't find jobs, for those
>> scholars who can't figure out how to balance their priorities.
>> Hey, at least I'm having a really good time in my toils toward
>> obscurity. To borrow a line, I get to visit exotic locales (like
>> Scottsdale and Indianapolis!), meet interesting people (like Mike Cole
>> and Jay Lemke!) and...well, never mind the rest.
>> ~~
>> Jenna McWilliams
>> Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University
>> ~
>> http://www.jennamcwilliams.com
>> http://twitter.com/jennamcjenna
>> ~
>> jenmcwil@indiana.edu
>> jennamcjenna@gmail.com
>> On Mar 27, 2011, at 12:00 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
>>> Here's one way to make an impact:
>>> * The Feral Professor:  Tihomir Petrov, 43, a mathematics professor
>>> at California State University Northridge, was charged in January
>>> with misdemeanors for allegedly urinating twice on the office door
>>> of a colleague with whom he had been feuding.  (Petrov was
>>> identified by a hidden camera installed after the original puddles
>>> turned up.)  Petrov is the author of several scholarly papers, with
>>> titles such as "Rationality of Moduli of Elliptic Fibrations With
>>> Fixed Monodromy." [Los Angeles Daily News-AP, 1-27-2011]
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>>> bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Wagner Schmit
>>> Sent: Saturday, March 26, 2011 5:32 PM
>>> To: lchcmike@gmail.com
>>> Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Human Sciences Scholar life?
>>> Another video, this time "Simpsons" view of Grad Students
>>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XViCOAu6UC0&NR=1
>>> <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XViCOAu6UC0&NR=1>Wagner
>>> On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 6:29 PM, Wagner Schmit <mcfion@gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> I'm a freshman in academic life... pursuing a PhD and already
>>>> working as
>>>> temporary teacher at University and College. The only thing that
>>>> makes me
>>>> still pursue an academic life is that i try to make my students
>>>> think  about
>>>> the impact of their work in other peoples lifes, and that, i hope, my
>>>> research will bring something that may help people in their school
>>>> life...
>>>> But it is hard, no time to read, no time to write (the coordinator
>>>> of our
>>>> research group always says "you need to publish"), all "free" time
>>>> i have is
>>>> dedicated to prepare classes and supervision of  trainees. No
>>>> weekend,
>>>> no holiday, no vacation and a very low payment (my students in the
>>>> private
>>>> college i work have a better income than me).
>>>> But what worries me  most: who really reads what we publish? I see
>>>> ideas in
>>>> the educational field pointed as "innovation", but they were already
>>>> presented by people like Dewey and Vygotsky decades ago... One of my
>>>> students, after a meeting with pedagogues of a high school, pointed
>>>> out that
>>>> "all we listen and see is just common sense, where are the
>>>> application of
>>>> all those researches you pointed? where are the educational
>>>> theories?"
>>>> I point out that one of the works of Psychologists in School (since
>>>> i give
>>>> classes to future psychologists) is to rethink school along side
>>>> with the
>>>> school community (teachers, administration, parents, students)...
>>>> This helps
>>>> articulate science and real life, but only in a punctual way (in
>>>> the daily
>>>> life in school)...
>>>> What about academic life? what can we do to change it? Or, should
>>>> it be
>>>> changed? Where are the academic debates, innovation and
>>>> contribution to
>>>> society?
>>>> Those things make me sleepless sometimes
>>>> Wagner Luiz Schmit
>>>> Londrina State University - Brazil
>>>> On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 5:45 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I think all of us recognize this scene, Wagner.
>>>>> At LCHC we are discussing these issues. "We" includes grad students,
>>>>> post-docs,
>>>>> old people like me. We are lucky that the interpersonal alienation
>>>>> at LCHC
>>>>> is lower than that depicted (although it is in abundant profusion
>>>>> among
>>>>> those around us). But difficulties for grad students contemplating
>>>>> making a
>>>>> living in academia are pretty grim, especially outside of the
>>>>> presumably
>>>>> "non-ideological" areas of science and technology (where a
>>>>> different set of
>>>>> alienating circumstances are plentiful).
>>>>> We have no great revelations but we are grateful that we have
>>>>> adopted an
>>>>> intellectual stance that makes the study of human life in cultural
>>>>> practices
>>>>> our grounding. we are trying to work that into an implementable
>>>>> strategy for
>>>>> surviving graduate school and gaining acceptable employment.
>>>>> What are others doing? What more might we be doing collectively?
>>>>> mike
>>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>> End of xmca Digest, Vol 70, Issue 28
>> ************************************
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