Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri 6/24/2005 5:20 AM
Random Thought: Let Me Count The Ways

Lately, I've been talking with a professor about the evolution of my philosophy of education, how I employ my credo that encompasses more than merely transmitting information, methods I use to introduce and sustain classroom community, the climate I generate in and outside the classroom, challenges I run into, and techniques I've developed for students to learn and retain the material. As our exchanges continued over the past few weeks, I noticed more than the occasional appearance of more than a couple of those throwing-up-of-the-hands, self-focusing, loss of "otherness," idea killing phrases: "It's so complicated.....It'll take too long....I can't do that....That's going to cause such problems.....that's not going to be easy......"

Each parrying comment was like experiencing the torture of 10,000 cuts. Nevertheless, her words were riveting. They seemed to capture a profound sense of desire on one hand, but a willingness eroded by helplessness and hopelessness and fearfulness and resignation on the other. She always seemed to transform challenges from opportunities into obstacles. She always seemed to give control over to others, whomever they were, rather than seize control for herself. She always tended to blame others rather than realize that she was in her own way. As she strung together a host of rationalizations for herself that she wouldn't accept from students I wondered how many new and ambitious efforts would any of us undertake if we knew for sure that it would be simple, there would be no problems, there was a guarantee of success, and we'd get recognition? And how many worthwhile achievements do we avoid because we fear that it would be complicated, there will be problems, there's always the risk of failure, and our effort would be less than applauded if not go unnoticed?

Don't fault her. She is not alone. So, I am about to step up on an academic soapbox as if the campus quad was an adjunct of Hyde Park and make myself a target. If you want to throw tomatoes or eggs, get them ready. Now, if I had the literary skill of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I'd write a poem entitled, "How Do I Kill Thee" and loudly recite it from the heights of my stand. It would be about the myriad of ways we have of resisting change and burying any new concept, method, technique, and approach in higher education. It would a reminder of something John Locke once wrote. He said, new opinions are always suspected, if not usually opposed, if for no other reason than they are not already commonly held and accepted. But, I don't have Browning's way with words, so just let me put out a bland counting of ways academics all too easily deflect, resist, reject, kill, bury, put aside, and above all, get in their own way:

		It wonít work.
		They'll think I'm crazy.
		I'll wait until someone else does it.
		I'll look silly.
		Itís not me.
		It's so different.
		I have no choice.
		That's a waste of time.
		You can't get to all of them.
		Why are you doing that?
		I have to cover all the material.
		You can't buck the system.
		How can you assess that?
		Iíve never done it that way before.
		I canít do that.
		I won't be able to do my research.
		After I publish....
		That's hard.
		What if it doesn't work? 
		Can you guarantee it will work?
		It didn't work the one time I tried it.
		In my humble opinion.... 
		I don't believe....
		I believe....
		That's impossible!
		That takes too much time.
		I don't have that kind of time.
		I don't have the time for that.
		Do you know the problems I'd cause for myself?
		It's too complicated.
		You can't get to everyone.
		We don't do things that way around here.
		What will others say?
		It won't make a real difference.
		They won't let me.
		The students won't like it.
		No one really cares.
		It's not my responsibility.
		They won't understand.
		That will get me into trouble.
		Iím doing fine now.
		It's not important.
		Iím not comfortable doing that.
		It's not worth it.
		I've got better things to do. 
		What a waste.
		I don't have tenure.
		After I get tenure, I'll....
		I'm up for promotion.
		After I get promoted, I'll....
		I'd have to change.
		I can't change.
		Be reasonable.
.		I agree, but.... †

Etc., etc., etc.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

Return to The Complete Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to the Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier