Thursday, May 20, 2010

My tenure kitchen

Hard to believe: I just finished my 4th year of teaching at what on this blog I will call East Central State University College. I agree it is ridiculous that all of these words can be strung together to form the name of an institution.

So, I am supposed to start thinking about putting together my tenure file.

Allow me to preface what I am about to say about tenure: I am not sure how I feel about tenure in general b/c I get that there are arguments for it pro and con, and this is now how they do it in the UK, and so on. For example, in terms of so-called job security, the idea of a 5-year contract, with possibility of renewal, sounds reasonable to me, too. However, tenure means "more" than job security. So, as far as that goes, I want tenure, too, as a sign of a positive appraisal resulting from the process of peer review.

Here is what I am about to say about tenure: I wish that there were more "perspective" on tenure. One of StraightMan's friends from graduate school remarked that tenure is proof of ability to self-exploit. Funny how many tenured and tenure-track professors do not find this, well, hilarious, as StraightMan and I do, sitting at our adjacent desks, preparing classes, then glancing and muttering at each other, "Self-exploiter."

What happened to irony: The kind that is so not what our high school English teachers meant, but that having come of age during Reagan and Bush I apparently cultivated. Or what happened to humility and the ability to see, like Straight Man, that "promotion in an institution like West Central Pennsylvania University was a little bit like being proclaimed the winner of a shit-eating contest. Certainly such success did not reflect greater worth on the open academic market. To move to a better college, we'd have to give up something - tenure or rank or salary, or some combination of the three" (27).

In other words, I do not want to make too small or too big a deal about tenure.

It might be b/c I am turning 40 this year, therefore feeling a bit more reflective than usual even, but this bit from Richard Russo also makes sense to me: "I sometimes tell myself that I might have found another book in me if I'd been in a different, more demanding environment, one with better students, a shared sense of artistic urgency, the proper reverence for the life of the mind. But then I remember Occam's Razor, which strongly suggests that I am a one-book author. Had I been more, I'd be more" (27). Which I quote not to be self-pitying or self-deprecating but b/c I think stating things so unpityingly and undeprecatingly, in fact, helps me to keep trying in any case. I think that it is necessary to recognize that research universities do not just hire researchers, but that they produce them. Similarly, teaching colleges produce teachers. Tenure, then, is academia / higher ed's brand of quality control. It ensures that the research universities produce researchers and the teaching colleges produce teachers, to more or less their specification.

BTW, I find Occam's Razor, how shall I say, a bit ethnocentric. Whose version of simple? What is so simple about your version or mine in the first place?

Which brings me to my intended topic: I hope I get tenure. When I do, I want a kitchen!

At first, I had been browsing magazines and books and Web sites like The Not-So-Big House, but I kept finding ideas and inspiration for not-so-small kitchens. Why does everyone think they need an island?

Then I stumbled upon Apartment Therapy and their Small, Cool Kitchens Contest.

I esp. like the kitchen with the old file cabinets in the International division.

Whatever my tenure kitchen looks like, it will not have an island.

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