Graduate School and its Discontents

Invisible Adjunct has another good comment thread going. Remember that interesting (and often symptomatic) thread about the MLA a few weeks ago? There have been interesting ones since, and now there’s an especially interesting one. Well I say that because of the two last posts (last at the moment, last when I saw the thread), 10 and 11. Number 10:

In the first year of graduate school in archaeology we spent so much time learning about post-modernist theaory and how archaeology could not really tell you about the past (it could only reveal your current political views on power relationships) that by the end of the year my professors convinced me that there was no reason to continue my studies in that field. I dropped out and went to law school.

Number 11:

I also remember a huge emphasis on postmodernism when I was a doctoral student in the college of education. Yes, I enjoyed postmodern theory, but there were never any other perspectives; I had to find those on my own. For example, we never studied education from a Marxist perspective; after all, Marxism had been determined to be too “modernistic.” I guess my big gripe with postmodern theory is that it tends to lead to nihlism and a total lack of social solidarity and responsibility. It really reached the pinnacle of craziness when issues like classroom management were turned into postmodern “points of view.” For example, I remember several of us classroom teachers posing serious questions about what happened in our classrooms. We weren’t looking for “how-to” answers, but something better than the “what is disobedience, anyway?” I’m sorry, but if you were to spend time in an 8th grade classroom, I don’t think you’d have any problem with the concrete reality of negative behavior. What was super-ironic is that whenever we would be looking at politics or power relations and anyone would give down-to-earth examples of how power REALLY operated (i.e. through control of workers, surveillance, etc.) then those became modernist concerns and were open to interpretation, not social action.

Yes, from everything I hear, people in real-life 8th grade classrooms have no trouble saying what disobedience is, and why you need some of the other thing if you’re going to teach 30 or 35 children. And there’s something really enormously…ironic? Or is that too modernist. Perhaps I mean playful? Yes, no doubt that’s it. There’s something enormously ‘playful’ in the fact that postmodernist theory causes people to quit archaeology and go to law school instead. Actually what should be happening is that everyone everywhere should be dropping out of all academic programs – because those are all modernist projects too after all – and going into advertising. What could be more postmodernist than advertising? Especially now, now that everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody ‘sees through’ advertising, and ‘transforms’ it into a ‘site of resistance,’ so that advertising gets weirder and weirder, or more and more postmodern, in order to out-resist and out-transform and out-postmodernize all those people in the postmodern audience. Surely it’s the duty of all good postmodernists to provide more sites of resistance for everyone. And of course the pay is better, and you don’t risk ending up in places like Ithaca or Lubbock, and you don’t have to do all that reading.

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