Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Catching Up

I seem to have this tendency to write a provocative post just before I leave for a place where I don't have internet access. In this case, it was the post about my dream school and a spring trip to hike in Shenandoah National Park. With the dog and his short little legs, we went up and down mountains, splashed in waterfalls, and I caught my first few brook trout on a fly (of course it took me many, many years and my daughter caught one on her first try). Now I'm off to give a lecture at Washington College in Maryland, and I arrive back just in time for my son's sixth birthday party and a bunch of relatives arriving for that and because my brother is running the Boston Marathon.

So I'll just use this post to tie up some loose ends and clarify a few things.

First, one reason I haven't posted much is that I was in proofreading hell. But the new edition of Beowulf and the Critics is now proofed and back to the publisher, so that's moving along. It may be a while, though, before it actually gets printed, as we still have to index (though I can in some ways just mod the old index), but it's much closer now, and there's a 2010 date on the copyright page.

This is a completely corrected, revised and expanded edition. The expansions include the text of a previously unknown note by Tolkien that was part of the drafting of Beowulf and the Critics (found by Christopher Tolkien and included with his permission in this volume), an identification of all the voices in the "Babel of Voices" allegory, and a discussion and illustration of the structural evolution of "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics." The corrections are thoroughgoing: I proofed the entire thing against the microfilm (my reading of Tolkien's handwriting has inexplicably gotten better) and received help from many scholars as well.

Now, on to Professor Drout's Academy of Wisdom and Learning. I received many interesting comments and emails, which I will try to address at some point. But at this time I just want to say this: I agree that it's not always the case that people with Ph.D.'s are better teachers than people without them. That wasn't the point of the post or the plan. The point was to suggest a model of an academy that would create an educational atmosphere that would be highly beneficial to certain students (and certain teachers). I think a place where the teachers were all new Ph.D.'s, all starting on the academic career path, all wanting to learn how to teach, and all part of a research organization would produce such an environment. I specifically designed the plan not to be a permanent career for anyone. The point is for people to flow through the system, share ideas, get energized, provide their own energy, and inspire some students, and then go off and do great things elsewhere. That's also why I chose the salary base of $ 42,000 per year. It's competitive for adjunct pay, but not something that a professor would stay at for more than two years (and it also illustrates, by the way, how bad the pay is for adjunct teachers, when 42K is considered a pretty good one- or two-year position by people who have on average 11 years of higher education).

There are surely weaknesses in the plan, and a school would probably be better served in some ways (not all) by long-term, experienced teachers who stuck to the institution. But I think that the flow of new talent through the system, the chance to do research in an interdisciplinary environment and involve high-school students in that research, and the chance to create an environment in which teaching and research were shared and valued and which in turn would show the students that their intellectual contributions were valued, well, I think it would have been a cool place to go as a student, as a teacher and, now, as the head of school (if some philanthropist wants to give it a shot).

Now to finish that lecture I'm giving tomorrow...


heu mihi said...

This does not pertain at all to your dream academy idea, which I find really interesting. But I was struck by this--

"That's also why I chose the salary base of $ 42,000 per year. It's competitive for adjunct pay, but not something that a professor would stay at for more than two years."

Actually, that's slightly more than my salary, and I'm finishing up my third year on the tenure-track in English at a SLAC. (And I have a Ph.D.) The market being what it is, I'm not going to be able to move out of this position anytime soon, and I'm lucky to have a job at all.... But even tenure-track positions aren't all particularly cushy, especially given the amount of training we've had.

I think that that's actually a great salary for the kind of position you describe; I'm not quarreling with anything that you say here. But I also think, as a tangential point, that we need to acknowledge the range of salaries even within the tenure-track; I confess that I feel a bit of a sting whenever I hear someone disparage a salary that's higher than what I'm making. Ultimately, unfortunately, given the market, salary is something that we have little to no control over (and that's not necessarily representative of our merit, as I need to remind myself occasionally).

Oh, and our adjuncts make $1,800 per three-credit course. So 42k would be AMAZING for that segment of the workforce.

heu mihi said...

(PS--Sorry to have rambled on with such a long and largely unrelated comment! I suspect that this is all some complicated strategy to avoid prepping for my next class.)

Unknown said...

I just finished listening to the lecture you gave at Washington College (through Professor Olsen's iTunes link), and I enjoyed it quite a lot!! I was actually really excited when I realized that it was you giving the lecture (since I dug the stuff you were talking about on "Clash of the Gods"), and that I'm following you over here. :D

theswain said...

I liked the idea of this academy....good stuff. The only quibble I have is the "42K" as a good adjunct salary. There may be some adjuncts out there somewhere who make that kind of money, but I honestly don't know any. To make that kind of money would take being hired for an insane number of classes. I teach five classes at two institutions on average during the school year and whatever I can put together for summers. SO even during the school year I bring home less than half what someone earning 42K would. And then there are the periods of unemployment between semesters, Spring and Christmas for which periods there is no pay.

So yes, 42K would be an amazing salary for an adjunct, and if there are adjuncts out there who make that without teaching 10 classes a semester, they are among the very few and fortunate.

Carl Anderson said...

A a completely corrected, revised and expanded edition of Beowulf and the Critics! Argh! A shame publishers don't offer "upgrade pricing" on printed books .... ;)