Recently, a friend I respect told me that she was concerned that my writing on academia came across as though I had “sour grapes.” She was mostly talking about the writing on this blog, although now that this blog is a series on The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae, I guess she means that, too.
(Some background: She felt like she had to bring it up because we are entering into a business endeavor together. And keep in mind, she was sincerely, truly worried about hurting my feelings. Also, you can see her perspective: Is a crank a good spokesperson for your business?)
But I was truly surprised that she viewed my words as sour grapes—or as anything that could reasonably be perceived as such—in the first place. I actually think I’m kind of pollyanna-ish, once you get past the “let’s stop deluding ourselves” bit. I don’t wallow in misery, and I’m very practical. The point of this whole blog/column #freelanceacademic endeavor is not just to identify problems with our work in higher ed, but to find ways to fix them as well.
I looked up “sour grapes” in the OED, and learned that it derives from one of Aesop’s fables, “The Fox and the Grapes,” and it refers to a situation “in which someone adopts a negative attitude to something because they cannot have it themselves.” So I guess my friend is saying (and I’m inferring here) that since I didn’t get a tenure-track job, I have sour grapes towards higher ed.
But she’s wrong. You can check out my previous post, but know that, right now, I feel like I narrowly escaped by not landing a TT job. There’s something rotten in the state of higher ed, and if I’d moved my family into that dying kingdom, where would I be? Defending it like a lifeboater? Hoarding my meager riches and stomping on contingent faculty? I’d probably be a terrible person and hate myself—IF I were self-aware enough to know what I was doing.
(OK that previous graf didn’t sound very pollyanna-ish, but it does fall under the “stop deluding” exception.)
Besides, this has been the question of the day:
Asking myself today: If someone walks up to you and says, “What do you do?”, what do you want to say back? #freelanceacademic
— Katie Guest Pryal (@krgpryal) November 4, 2014
This question isn’t about figuring out how other people see you. It’s about figuring out how YOU see you—and what YOU want to be for YOURSELF.
I know one thing for certain: I do not want to be a tenure-track professor.
They do not hold anything that I cannot have. That’s not sour grapes. That’s waking up.
Now: Soon I will address, in a more hopeful fashion, the wonderful open pathways that higher ed holds for us. Because that hope is there. Those pathways are there. Thinking creatively about learning, teaching, finding making sharing knowledge—we have to do those things. And we can.
Also we have to eat. I’ll talk about that, too.