After my last post, I gave more thought to why I hadn’t been writing on what is, essentially, my professional blog. I came up with a very specific reason: fear.
Every time I sat down to give thoughtful analysis to the topic that has been at the front of my mind lately, I have self-censored out of fear. (For those of you who know me, you know this is unusual.)
The topic: critical higher ed studies. (Thanks to the #fancynewguy squad for introducing me to that term*). Critical pedagogy. The future of higher education, and legal education in particular (since I teach in a law school). Indeed, these topics are not new in my publication history.**
But they are new to me in this far more personal forum of a blog.
So, naturally, I posed the question to Twitter.
— Katie Guest Pryal (@krgpryal) March 5, 2014
And, naturally, I got some great responses. So many, in fact, this will become a series of blog posts. THANK YOU, FRIENDS. The first responses came from Lee E. Skallerup (@readywriting), author of the College Ready Writing blog published by Inside Higher Ed. Which makes her first (tongue-in-cheek) response make sense:
After a few ROFLs, she followed up with this:
So, apparently the first step to breaking through the fear-driven writer’s block is to realize that you are the grain of sand in the ocean (rather than to succumb to the fear in a handful of dust***).
Lee followed up with more substantive advice, a trend that later responses seemed to follow:
— Lee Skallerup (@readywriting) March 5, 2014
By linking the critique one might make on one’s blog to larger trends, one makes one’s critique less like a hatchet job and more like journalism (or even, gasp, scholarship). And it follows that this substantive critique would hopefully be protected by something like academic freedom. (I know, don’t go crazy, Katie.) But really, a substantive critique must be less likely to raise hackles, right?
Lee’s first bit of advice in that tweet, though, is “be honest.” Critical higher ed studies, it seems to me—must be grounded in honesty—in honest, clear-eyed assessments of the inequities that surround us every day in the academic workplace. These are the sorts of assessments that no one wants to talk about in faculty meetings or on committees (if one is even allowed to go to faculty meetings or join committees).
Thus, one person’s “hatchet job” might be another person’s “clear-eyed assessment,” when some of the most important evidence that critical higher ed studies has to work with is the anecdotal experience of non-tenure-track faculty.
And thus, I’m back to where I started. I’ll revisit this again soon.
* Go search the #fancynewguy hashtag on Twitter. You will thank me later, really. And you should thank Joe Fruscione, @ProfessorF74 for starting the hashtag. If you want the short version, here’s the FNG Storify. (Thanks to Pete Rorabaugh, @allistelling, for putting together the Storify.) Talk about clear-eyed-assessments.
*** I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.