Thursday, May 13, 2004


My New Status, Fall 2004

As cryptically as possible, I would like to update my readers (those who are still around, given my poor performance as a blogger as of late) as to my status in the academy and my possible plans for the future.

Starting in the Fall of 2004, I will become what is known in the profession as a "trailing spouse". My wife, who is also an academic, was successful on the job market this year, and I will be rejoining the ranks of the invisible adjuncts, whose ranks I left back in the Fall of 1999 to pursue my Ph.D. in English literature. I will be teaching the same number of classes as she, though making about 20% of what she will be making. Because of this, the tone of this blog will likely change come Fall.

This will be particularly true given the fact that as an adjunct, I will have zero control over the content of the courses I will be teaching, both freshman composition and introduction to literature. The freshman composition course has been designed in such a way as to deliver the leftist academic message to all students enrolled (the entire student population), and I will obviously have some problems with that; my class will likely be an exercise in exposing and tearing down ideological thinking, rather than one designed to get students to parrot the party line in papers which demonstrate little or no critical thinking abilities.

The up side of all of this is that I will have plenty of fodder for the blog. This term has proven particularly dry in terms of blogging material, as I have completely abandoned my university's guidelines in teaching my composition course and gone my own way, forcing students to tackle large and untimely philosophical issues rather than bitch and whine about current events. I have also become increasingly disassociated from the place, as my affiliation with it is quickly coming to an end; and, as the majority of graduate students admitted in the last three years have increasingly self-identified according to their political approach to literature rather than the literary era they have come to study, I have little or nothing in common with most of them. My main point of contact with my current univiersty is the almost finished dissertation, and I doubt if anyone wants me to blog on that. Besides, to do so would likely reveal my identity to anyone who looked into who's writing in my current area of study.

However, I have taken the adjunct position solely out of financial need, and do not see myself renewing the contract (should an offer even be extended) beyond the first year. We have discussed returning to the job market with the Ph.D.s in hand, to see if we have any more luck that way, but we will not be making that decision until September or October. For my part, I plan to spend the 2004-2005 academic year writing and sending out articles like a madman, and hope that by Fall of 2005 my CV will be a bit longer and more worthy of notice among hiring committees (at present, I have only two publications on it).

Yet my experience on the job market this year, and the stories I have heard from others--successful and unsuccessful job seekers--leads me to wonder what sort of success I can hope to find, given the fact that my work is at odds with conventional wisdom in the humanities and social sciences, and has been known to provoke the ire of audiences at conferences. That I do not "do theory" is pretty obvious, and that I lean towards the right is something that can be easily discovered through a few well-considered questions.

As the spouse of a faculty member, I have the option to enroll in courses at my wife's university free of charge. I have given serious consideration to the following options: (1) Law school, specifically, international law and (2) Cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

For someone trained in English, the move to law is pretty much a no-brainer. I have no idea how I would do on the LSAT, though my GRE scores (the general scores, not the subject test) were pretty high. Yet I have spent years in a field that does not require the sort of rigorous study that law does; I think the GRE is the last real examination I took, back in 1998. I'm not sure how much those skills have atrophied.

Cognitive psychology and neuroscience offer the same challenges, with the additional problem that I have not taken a science course since 1989. I have obviously been doing some work in this field, but it is as an amateur, and I have no idea whether or not I would be able to keep up with the professionals, nor what sorts of undergraduate training I would need in order to gain entrance into a graduate program.

These decisions need to made rather soon, as I need to determine where my energies would be best directed. I am in my mid-thirties, and if I'm going to make a career change that requires additional years of my life to embark upon, I need to get started right away.

Oh, and I'm not really willing to go the Erin O'Connor route. I taught at a private high school for three years, and that was enough for me. As for a public high school, there's no way I could sit through the bullshit credential courses. I took a few as an undergraduate, and learned almost immediately why entering college freshman are so ill-prepared for their classes. You don't make dioramas in a literature class; you write essays.

After teaching freshman comp, I discovered that my GRE scores actually went DOWN a few points. It was horrifying, to say the least.

LSATs are just the logic puzzle/reading comprehension portions of the GRE--you should do just fine.

Like the comment option, btw.

Big Arm Woman
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Can't figure out how to edit comments, so I wound up deleting the last one by mistake.

Anyway, what I had said was that I've been making the teaching of formal logic and major portion of my composition classes for some time now, so teaching comp isn't necessarily having an adverse effect on my ability to take the GRE/LSAT.

I took a pratice LSAT online last night, and did okay. I noticed that there are a few "trick" questions on the test--worded in such a way as to make you have to really concentrate on what is being asked, lest you answer incorrectly.

However, I presume that the series finale of Frasier will not be playing in the room in which I take the actual LSAT, so I think I'll be paying more attention to the test itself than I did last night.

If anyone has any recommendations for good LSAT study guides, pass 'em on.
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