Train Your Replacement

There is this game that people play to remain sober about the fluid economy. They answer the question of how long it would take them to train their replacement. Imagine you are given a person who is a blank slate in whatever it is you do. How long do you need to get them to do what you do at work every day? But you can’t cheat. Imagine you put everything you’ve got into training them. The candidate is an 18-year-old high-school graduate who arrived from his native Tajikistan yesterday.

For what I do now, realistically it would take 20 years. You simply can’t do all the reading and the processing of the reading in less.

N is overqualified for his current job, so he says 6.

If the war we are currently waging on research, literature, and anything beyond language courses is successful, then if the candidate speaks Spanish, it would take me two months. If he does not, then 2 years.

I don’t know what else to say to persuade people that we are nuts for doing this (of our own free will, no less.)

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20 thoughts on “Train Your Replacement”

    1. Im obviously not effective at communicating this message. If I had one person consistently (as opposed to situationally) on my side, if it weren’t always me having to be the evil party pooper.

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      1. Most of my colleagues are actively on this side. If all we offer are the courses to the language requirement, then not much training is needed and much authority is to be gained just by being a native speaker or a good non native speaker. The PhD, research, etc. become irrelevant and the whole point becomes verb conjugation, worksheets, etc. What’s not to love?

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        1. That’s exactly what it is. It makes one’s life easier in the short term. But at the price of completely deprofessionalizing what we do and contributing to the eventual dismantling of our programs.

          I don’t understand why people are not seeing this. This is not a fantasy. Language departments have been closed citing budgetary concerns. This is happening. I’m not crazy to worry about this. Tenure is no protection against this. We need to stop making decisions based on the individual interests of the moment and look one step ahead.

          I know I’m preaching to the choir here but this is constantly on my mind and eating at me. I feel very lonely in this.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It is very real and it keeps me up at night. We have to get together with Mayhew and write that article on the importance of literature in curricula. There’s someone in English I know who is very articulate on this problem as well. We could have an interesting piece and place it visibly.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. There’s a difference between how long it would train somebody to do what you do and how long it would take to train somebody to do what the state legislature wants from you. Unfortunately.

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    1. Do you mean filling the forms for state teacher certification? Yes, if the person from Tajikistan is bright a couple additional months. If he’s dumb, six months.

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  2. The candidate is an 18-year-old high-school graduate who arrived from his native Tajikistan yesterday.

    Ok, I’m being super concrete and literal here.

    1) I don’t know how great high school in Tajikistan is. We keep having these discussions about college students and I keep being amazed they don’t have a knowledge base I did. I shouldn’t be astonished because I’ve seen what poor preparation looks like.
    2) How smart is this person?
    3)How hungry/motivated is this person?

    If the war we are currently waging on research, literature, and anything beyond language courses is successful, then if the candidate speaks Spanish, it would take me two months. If he does not, then 2 years.

    I don’t quite parse what the legislature wants you to do. But I think it would take longer than two years to get someone up to ILR 3 or 4 for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish and doesn’t know a sister language. You say you sound like an ILR 5 to an Argentinean.

    It took immersion style classes from kindergarten to college to get my mother to the language level she’s at in English. My father took those classes from high school on and he also skipped a couple of grades. Nobody thinks they’re culturally native here.

    The State Department calculates it takes about 600 hours or 24 weeks *25 class hours to get to ILR 3…for an English speaker in Spanish. These classes are geared toward native English speakers. You’ve not said how proficient in English this person is. And Tajiki is not similar to English.

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    1. Thing is, you don’t need that much proficiency to teach Spanish 101. Or to discuss how to speak Spanish in English for 4 years, which is what’s often actually done. I was teaching beginners Spanish 18 months after I heard somebody say “hola, qué tal” for the first time in my life.

      But of course, the competing argument is that you absolutely need a PhD to teach beginners Spanish. I don’t think that this argument will convince anybody but those who are advancing it, though.

      Our problem is that there are millions of native speakers of Spanish in this country who can do it without a PhD. Or tenure. Or benefits. Or a wage that’s much higher than the minimal. So realistically, one doesn’t even need two years to replace us.

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  3. “we are nuts for doing this (of our own free will, no less.)”

    making yourself easily replaceable is an escapist fantasy – the flip side is that you’ll be in a position to easily slide into a new existence somewhere else

    fantasizing about how you can replace yourself is a liquid fantasy about replacing other people

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    1. Ok, maybe. At least, it’s an explanation. Because it just looks nutso boom-boom crazy otherwise.

      Not that it’s much better with the explanation but it’s something.

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      1. “t just looks nutso boom-boom crazy otherwise.”

        It’s nusto boom-boom zippety doo dah crazy. But it’s understandable crazy.

        understanding the motivation (even subconscious) can help in devising arguments against it

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        1. It will definitely help because I’ve been at a complete loss how to understand it and that just scares me shitless and I don’t want to say anything at all as a result.

          By the way, kudos on your most recent post. I just read it and it’s great. The one about the milk.

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  4. Are those in charge trying to eliminate experienced professionals and just have systems, institutions and industries run primarily by upstarts and contractors?

    I don’t understand modern society. Why are they trying to throw everything off so much?

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    1. “Are those in charge trying to eliminate experienced professionals ”

      they’re not trying to eliminate themselves…. they’re certainly not suggesting that universities need fewer administrators…

      “I don’t understand modern society”

      Get in line.

      “Why are they trying to throw everything off so much?”

      It’s a kind of collective madness, maybe part of the ramp up to a big war.

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      1. My whole point, though, is that in this case (and I’m guessing many others) this is entirely self-inflicted. Nobody is making us, hinting on this, suggesting it or coercing us in any way. Or if they do, then people have conspired to conceal it from me, which I don’t believe because that’s paranoid.

        I wish I could say there’s an administrator behind this. But there isn’t!

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        1. “this is entirely self-inflicted”

          That’s why I refer to it as collective madness…

          “an administrator behind this. But there isn’t!”

          My point is that this is a grass roots (sort of) collective madness, the administrative classes have not fallen for this particular virus and are not suggesting that universities need fewer adminstrators (I would looooove to hear I’m mistaken and that administrators are also advocating their mass dismissal but I don’t think they are).

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