Click below for the other sections of this lecture:
|[a] Gathering RF|
Part Five of Five
|[b] Focus RF|
My own view of scholarship is profoundly catholic. If that sentence raised your sectarian hackles, you may need to look it up (it has a lower case "c"). Of course, there has been fine Catholic scholarship throughout the ages, but that is not my concern here. Our examples have shown that there is a wide disciplinary array of investigations under the term "scholarship," and the manner in which a biochemist carries it out is profoundly different from the scholarly work of, say, an economist. Any good academic dean will tell you that one of the things she most enjoys about her job is learning about how people in various disciplines "think." This is not just a throwaway line used by former academics who have become administrators. It is (so I hear) one of the biggest perks of being able to take a macro-view and being in charge of many departments.
It also has everything to do with what we have been discussing up until now. The way that historians view "sources" or the manner in which sociologists treat "theory" casts a very distinctive shadow over each discipline (which, in this case, seem clueless about the "shadow" of the other). You have certainly seen how different, even in your years in college, the language, assignments, and modes of thought can be among your friends in different majors. You might also have noticed how pompous some can be (and how self-deprecating others learn to be) in the great academic hierarchy in the sky. Whether you are pompous or deprecating, allow me to let you in on something that is—but should not be—a secret.
|[c] Contingent RF|
That way lies folly, and you should just laugh at your peers (and possibly yourself) who would imply that such subjectivity as an isolated, non-repeatable event is "squishy" and unworthy of study. I call that isolated, non-repeatable event the American Civil War (or French Revolution). Please. Scholarship engages the whole world. Every bit of it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is arrogant, ignorant, lazy, or all of the above.
|[d] "Truth" RF|
"afraid" to say it openly, but certainly not because we are unsure. No, we at liberal arts colleges don't say it (much) because we are afraid even to hint at anything beyond devotion to students and tuition paying parents. We're afraid to tell the truth.
The truth—and all of you in this room know it better than most outside it—is that students and tuition-paying parents need to be surrounded by a rich, scholarly focus if they are to get the best educations. You will notice that I haven't even mentioned university teaching. Don't they do scholarship? Yes, and with a few exceptions, almost to the exclusion of teaching emphasis or reward. They don't get it either, but they miss the point in almost completely the opposite direction. They are not our concern today. Think instead of liberal arts college professors—people who are rewarded for commitment to teaching. Really think about them. Imagine all of your professors—close your eyes and think—sitting in their office right now.
They are not reading, writing, running experiments, or engaging in the long
process of which I have just spoken. No, in this scary little thought experiment
they are sitting in their offices, their notes from graduate school slowly yellowing
and the PowerPoint teaching files sitting idle on their computers. They can't be
bothered with scholarship. No, they are waiting for you to drop by. They are
devoted to nothing but you.
|[e] Empty RF|
I think back to my own college days, and I am grateful that my professors were accessible, yet busy with their work. This is what made class, office meetings, and lectures truly transformative for me. As I stated at the beginning of this lecture, none of this has much to do with publishing. I could name a half-dozen professors at every school I have attended who, without publishing much at all, were as intensely scholarly—and often much more so—than the faculty member who churns out "papers." No, it has little to do with publication (something that most colleges and universities also get wrong, if only because there is little way to know who is deeply "scholarly" and who is not without a way of counting...even if it is completely flawed). I trust that you have seen it, too—the professor who reads, thinks, writes, teaches, writes, thinks, and reads. You know who s/he is, and I can name a dozen on this campus without even pausing to think. That's scholarship...and teaching.
I adore teaching now, but let me come full-circle and make a final point about scholarship if I can. Although the following scenario is hypothetical—indeed, impossible—I trust that it will make the point. If I were given the following ultimatum tomorrow, I know exactly what I would do:
|[f] Bargain RF|
We will triple your salary, but you cannot produce any new knowledge for the rest of your career—no "scholarship"; just "teaching"). You may work back through your notes and previously-read books*, but may engage in no new work. This means no fieldwork, no archival study, and no "labs." That's all there is to it, and the reward is triple salary.
This Faustian bargain would not be for me. I would resign immediately and find something else to do. I would miss the classroom terribly, but I enjoy teaching precisely because it is an extension of scholarship, not the other way around. Period. There is no other way to look at it from my perspective.
That is the relationship, to my mind, between scholarship and teaching, and it is why I love what I do.
*A tempting concession, since rereading is truly one of life's great joys.