Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Self-Fulfilling Teaching Experience Prophecy

I talked with a professor recently, and he gave me maybe the clearest example yet of how my department is oblivious or indifferent to how they're setting us up to get shitty teaching jobs.

Prof’s big advice was about the importance of Teaching Experience: I should try to teach even more courses, new courses, courses I hadn’t taught before and thus would have to spend a lot of time with new preps for. It’s important to have taught as many different courses as humanly possible, Prof insisted. Teaching! Experience! I suggested my time could maybe be better spent teaching more sections of courses I’d already taught before. (This would mean avoiding new preps, the second most time-consuming part of teaching. (Grading’s the biggie.)) Hell, this way I’d have time left over to put into such extravagancies as writing a worthwhile dissertation. Prof’s response was that we had to learn how to do philosophy while teaching a bunch of new courses at some point in our career, and we might as learn how to do it in here grad school. Never mind that I’ll already be hitting the job market with a dozen sections of three different courses. (By comparison, people in PGS’s dept go on the market having taught around four sections of one or two courses.)

But notice what this means: we spend so much time getting all this awesome Teaching Experience that our dissertations, by necessity, kinda suck. And almost none of us have any publications. And guess what a sucky dissertation and no publications gets you on the job market? A shitty teaching job, or just as likely, no job at all.

Of course, Prof’s advice to get lots of Teaching Experience makes sense for him. He’s assuming that people from my dept will never be able to get anything other than the crappiest teaching jobs. But the assumption itself ensures its own truth.

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