David Perry does an excellent, and very polite, job of responding to this piece in the Chronicle by Mark Braude. Perry’s description of the whole genre Braude is entering is refressing:
Higher Ed pubs, in general, publish many of these essays in which the author takes his or her individual academic experiences and generalizes them as “here’s how I did it” advice. They “bootstrap,” telling a story about how with just hard work and good spirit the author faced down the odds and made his or her own American dream possible. hey aren’t my favorite genre. Too often, they ignore privilege and other unseen factors (like luck, especially luck) that made the positive outcomes possible. For example, this “Confessions of a Prolific Academic” is the worst kind of bootstrappy writing.
Already, you gotta love Perry. Comrade. Yes, yes, yes, just be like and you’ll succeed like me. Only it doesn’t really seem to work that way, and there seem to be different rules for different people, if you are fat or thin, black or white, pretty or not, have family money and WASPy manners, and yeah-fck-all.
(I’m not nearly as polite as Perry).
Perry’s discussion is well worth reading for yourself, but he winds up here, on a wonderful note about us wanderers:
I want graduate school to reward and encourage the driven people, like Braude, who have a plan and the means to execute it, even if his plan did develop over his six years.
But I also want room for the wanderers. Go talk to your colleagues and you’ll find many scholars who you respect, whoever you are, who did not have a clear plan and a narrow vision when they entered graduate school. Instead, they constructed it slowly, with many mistakes, over the years.
Too much emphasis on speed would remove those scholars – would have removed me – from the profession. So let’s be clear about the consequences of that emphasis as we move forward, re-designing graduate studies in an ever more fraught academic environment.
There is more than one way to be, as a scholar, and in the world. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.