"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Universities and ourselves, exposed

"Decisions at all universities are ultimately financial."--Poet Donald Hall after teaching at Michigan, in Unpacking the Boxes.
 One more chapter read, as Hall compares teaching and universities in America with England. He hits me in the forehead with his truths about teaching a long time. One more quote:
"I became aware of colleagues around me who were burned out, suffering boredom compounded by tenure."
More tomorrow. I'm two chapters and 45 pages from the end...and he tells us much about teaching long term. My challenge is always to keep up-to-date, and effective in class. 
 Higher education is antithical  (What a great academic, inflated, but still very appropriate word) to that. Poets speak truth. I'm thankful for the young teachers on our faculty and that I know..they're full of vim, vigor, "piss and vinegar" as my old partner Don Morrison used to say. New ideas, new blood who haven't been soured by the system...yet.
He doesn't just expose universities, but professors, and teachers, and me.
He also writes, "Every now and then something that appeared to be dead comes gradually  to life. Often it dies again." Personally, that is the most disturbing idea in the book, and depressing.

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