"Aye, Caeser, but not gone..."

Today's the day we do the final edit on the long awaited core proposal. At 2:00 I brief the president and provost, at 3:00 the committee meets for two hours of wordsmithing, and Monday it goes to the Curriculum Committee for release to the college at large. I am as nervous as a caffeinated cat.

You see, I know how academics think. I know the issues they worry about. I also know that as soon as this proposal is posted on the college's intranet, a lot of people will be pouring over it like actors counting the lines of their parts. Why is there no mention of discipline X? How is it you can spend nearly two years on this and not see it the way I do? Great, but how will this affect my favorite course to teach? What have you people been doing all this time? I hate it. I love it. I'm all for it, now here are 172 high-minded objections...

One of the challenges in designing a general education core composed of many disciplines is creating some kind of coherence. At best this challenge arises from the natural tensions existing between disciplines. At worst, it stems from attempts to protect academic “turf” or resistance to any change that threatens the status quo. No doubt some people will see our proposal as not going far enough. Others will see it as a radical departure that raises concerns about its impact on departments or disciplines. I am under no illusion that we will avoid these kinds of tensions. No proposal can expect universal acclaimation.

Yesterday before work I said to my wife, "How the did I suddenly become a person of responsibility? Husband, father, professor, chair of a committee that might louse up all these people's lives? When did this all happen? I used to be just a dumb schmoe who liked to read books."


Anti-Dada said…
As long as you don't pull an Obama and just disappear after you've done your part. Don't let your sympathy for others derail you, man! If they come up with 172 objections come back with 172 rebuttals. Unless, of course, you think some of the objections have merit.

That is the idea, after all, for such a project to be collaborative. The fact that there IS recourse allows for a participative endeavor. Don't let your dictatorial impulses (or your flight impulses) shield you from the fact that you're engaged in a neo-democratic process. There is a hierarchy, there are limits on who is eligible to participate, but you, in this case, play a role that gives you greater participative power because of your position.

Think of yourself as a journalist. Pay attention to who approaches you privately about this issue or that. Are there subtle, covert attempts at influencing the process? Overt, blustering (Bill O'Reilly) attempts to take control of the process, to direct it, guide it, subvert it?

I mean, this is the GOOD stuff. When you think about it. Politics in action. Affecting policy. Curriculum. That's a big deal, actually. Those are hearts and minds, after all, being winnowed by an academic institution. Changes in educational practice are huge. They can be. Transformative acts. They determine the course of history in a way. A micro-history, a history limited to a singular institution in a singular location, but in relation to all of the other institutions going through their cycles of stability and change it's a drop of rain contributing to the downpour. Thousands of lives are directly affected in a matter of years and tens of thousands over decades (well, depending on enrollment and faculty/staff turnover).

I'm intrigued. I'm always intrigued by processes involving policy changes. That's where the action of society really lies. Policy determines structure determines the rhythms of daily life. Might be an incremental shift for most, so subtle as to be invisible. For some, though, I'm sure it will be a seismic event. I want a play by play on this one.

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