Challenge Update

Klara’s favorite phrase these days is “ugh, my whole body hurts”, complete with my exaggerated intonation.

So yeah. It’s working.

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Strawman Arguments

This is very weird article. I have never experienced or heard of a college where service and teaching assignments are made by the administration. I have always chosen my service obligations myself.

The only recommendations I have received (and only from colleagues, never from the admin) are along the lines of “remember you need at least two more leadership-role assignments at the college level before you go up for Full.” I can’t even begin to imagine a context in which the Dean or the Provost or anybody, really, would give me “service requirements with an expectation of empathy.” We don’t have separate service reqs for different gender groups. I’m guessing that would be very illegal.

As for teaching, I can’t begin to imagine a situation either where an administrator would tell me “you will teach a course on female literature because you are a woman.” The administration has zero input into which courses we teach. It’s all controlled internally by the department. I have been a professor for 10 years, and no administrator ever expressed any wishes or expectations about my service or teaching at all. Neither the administrators nor I seem to think it’s any of their business.

It’s like the author of this article inhabits a different planet. And so do the colleagues who are busily reposting this link on social media.

Why Are Grad Students Depressed?

Why are graduate students so depressed? I was one of those depressed graduate students, and to me the answer is very clear. The depression is a reaction to a delayed life.

It’s very hard to lead a life of a child when you are nearing thirty. What it feels like when you are nearing forty and you are still in school, I don’t even want to imagine. Everybody else you know already has an adult life, a family, a job, a house. And you get grades and submit final essays*.

Every day I’d wake up and feel as if a huge iron lid were falling on my head. “I’m almost thirty, and I’m still preparing to live” was a thought that tortured me constantly. “When is life finally going to begin?”

Many people are not self-aware, so they don’t verbalize it to themselves. But “the syndrome of life delayed” gets to them. The suspicion that if they keep putting adulthood off they might lose all opportunities to be good at it is always there.

The additional problem is that many people go to grad school not because they passionately love academia but precisely because they don’t know how to be an adult and are trying to delay entrance into adulthood. I’ve seen people who come up with very exotic strategies to keep delaying until they are forty. The dissertation just won’t finish itself, so they “have” to stay in grad school for one more year.

This, however, can’t abolish the fact that there is a rhythm to a human life that, if broken, causes suffering. A child who’s prevented from learning to walk when he’s ready will be traumatized. A teenager who never gets to party and transgress grows up into a messed up adult. An elderly person who has to keep working like she did at 25 will be miserable.

There’s no solution to this problem, so this suffering will be an unavoidable rite of passage for grad students. As you all know, my grad school career culminated in a dissertation on women who self-infantilize because they dread the responsibilities of adulthood. I was instantly cured of my depression the moment I started to live an adult life. But for many people it’s not going to be as easy.

* Yes, there are folks – rare as they may be – who start families and adult responsibilities while in grad school. But they are not the ones who are depressed, so I’m not discussing them here.

Friday Link Encyclopedia

How to become an intellectual. Really good. “Attention can be thought of as a long, slow, surprised gaze at whatever it is.” I loved this article.

A great suggestion on how to treat your adult child like an adult. Of course, it only works for parents who see at least something good in their children. Usually, it’s all “I’m such a fantastic parent, so why have I ended up with such horrible children?” OK, don’t mind me, I’m just bitter.

Unsurprisingly, Pope Francis has been really bad for Catholicism. The number of practicing Catholics is plummeting.

Aristos always get whatever their bored Highnesses desire.

Finally, an explanation for the plummeting graduation rates in DC that have been on the news this week. Turns out they are largely owed to ridiculously draconian absence policies.

I was happy to hear that the Obamas occupy second place on the world’s most admired list. But then I saw the rest of the list.

What the UK police is actually doing. I’m still under the impression from that bleaker than bleak novel about police force cuts in the UK, so this story sounded downright shambolic.

This is why home insurance rates are going up up up. And people say I’m exaggerating the danger.

It’s all good to exalt capitalism until it bites you in the ass. Fair warning: this is the Laura Ingraham story that American readers know by heart. Only read if you are not from here.