Tuesday, January 12, 2010

i almost lost myself again in a giant box of postgraduate pomposity

You know how one thing leads to another? It started with the boys' closets...Mr. D chewed me out because Mr. B wore jeans with holes in them to the funeral the other weekend. I went through their closet and pulled everything ratty/torn/ripped/stained and replaced it by going shopping at Old Navy. Somewhere a child in a Chinese sweatshop got a small raise, right? Seriously, $72 for FOUR pairs of pants and SEVEN shirts. Something is fundamentally wrong there, folks.

But I digress.

Then I got after Mr. D to clean out HIS closet--which resulted in TWO GIANT GARBAGE BAGS full of clothes he never wears. I already had five boxes of outgrown toys, books and videos slated for the thrift shop--in addition to some household goods and my brown J. Jill turtleneck sweater that makes me look stumpy so I never wear it. And a sewing machine that I bought thinking I'd morph into a craftacular human being. And place mats I never use, candles I'll never burn and purses I never carry.

Which led to opening up a couple boxes in the basement while I was carrying up the loot for the thrift shop. I unearthed all of the paperwork from my Master's program back in the 90's...I went to UW-Madison and graduated with a MS in Curriculum & Instruction. Fear me, people, I can totally diagnose the fundamental racist underpinings of an ethnocentric text. I waded through a mountain of notes and articles wondering at my self-righteous intellectual piety back then. I'm so glad I quit academia--I would have evolved into a total ass. But I was really good at it--I played the game well, spitting out in class discussions everything my professors wanted to hear, challenging my fellow students on their pedagogy, research methods and their inferior preconceived ideals. (Yes, academia is really just a giant debate where everyone tries to come out superior in an argument--I still do this, but I'd be even worse if I'd stayed there.)

There lies three years and thousands of tuition dollars--slated for the recycling truck.

I am getting rid of almost all of it because I realize that over a decade later I really don't need articles explaining the different schools of feminist theory (Marxist, Radical and some other one I forgot--maybe I should dig that batch of articles out again). I know the difference between quantitative and qualitative research and remember how much I detested Ruth Behar's navel-gazing ethnographic research on herself. Quiz me on gender identity, the dynamics of being a teacher-nurturer, the politics of literacy, "Warranting Voice and the Elaboration of the Self (Gergen) or "Personhood, Literacy Practices and the Social Construction of Intertextuality (Egan-Robertson).

It scared me a little, going through this box. I was so sucked in to a world where nothing mattered but ideas and theories and research. Not that these things don't matter, they do! But it's easy to turn into a judgmental talking head when all you do is sit around libraries and classrooms pontificating on what a crummy job schools and policy makers and teachers are doing. For all my knowledge (and I am surprised at my retention--I haven't cracked this box open in over a decade!), I think I do more to help schools as a SAHM who leads the local PTA than I would have done as an Education Professor. Because once those young teachers hit the trenches, all theory--Friere, hooks, Heath and Foucault--they don't matter that much.

Which is not to say I'm throwing it all away. I'm keeping a small pile of papers. My thesis is in there, as are a few articles I have special fondness for, like Carl A. Grant's Culture and Teaching: What do Teachers Need to Know?

I'll keep this--for posterity.

I feel lighter now. I'm happy knowing who I was, where I might have gone and how I've ended up (at this point in time anyway). I earned my graduate degree with my own money, time and sacrifices and I'm glad I did. But that chapter? It's officially closed for now. I guess I never realized it until this morning.


  1. Good for you! I've been looking for weeks at shelves of textbooks, ceu classes and junk!!! I don't know why I'm having such a hard time tossing it...my last link to a premarriage/children stage? Its not like I'd ever go back in a million years. its amazing how we shift and grow in a decade's time!

  2. You are on the same tear I am on-get rid of a lot of this STUFF.

    Listening to you talk about all that made me excited to start my Master's program one day (I want to get it in Public School Administration, so I need to teach for a few years first). I live to debate.

    But I get what you're saying.

  3. I don't miss academia, not one little bit. I don't even have a copy of my undergrad thesis and sometimes cannot even remember what year I got my master's degree.

  4. Isn't it something - what was so important a dozen years ago now is just a footnote to a former self. I know I'd be a better student AND employee with my experience as a stay at home mom. Too bad it doesn't translate so great on a resume.

    p.s. thanks for visiting my little ole blog. :)

  5. I bet you feel lighter!

    I never finished my degree, I got as far as Hospitality Management "Associate Degree", whatever that is, and realised that I would never want to manage a hotel or restaurant. But I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

    I'm glad I did that two years, though, I learned plenty of really good stuff.

  6. Wow. It's so great to hear your perspective. (And don't even get me started on the absolute THRILL of organizing and re-organizing and purging stuff!) I never was able to get a hang on the whole classroom tell-'em-what-they-want-to-hear stuff, even though I did complete graduate school and did very well thank you very much. ;)

  7. hi green girl....
    loved finding your blog since I'm in wisconsin, too

    aren't you excited for our warm up this week/weekend....the middle 30's maybe....time to dance !

  8. So glad you're happy with where you are now. :) And way to get a jump on your spring cleaning!

  9. Here's how one things leads to another... After reading this post, I felt the need to dig into my linen closet and rid it of mismatched and old sheets. They will be heading to the Rescue Mission in the AM.

    And I totally know what you mean about the philosophy mattering nil when you're actually in the classroom. I remember thinking that exact thing when I sat in my educational philosophy classes despite actually enjoying the discussions.


  10. I finally dumped a batch of Masters' degree binders last summer. I've been gradually purging, as I took a very practical Masters program and many of my projects were intended for immediate use in my classroom. I swapped several texts on paperbackswap.com.

  11. Oh man. I went through that a couple of moves ago and it was enlightening and embarrassing all at the same time. ;-)

    This weekend my closets are slated for a good purging.

  12. I am such a hoarder

    that really sounds bad

  13. Did my nesting rub off on you?? :)

  14. I'm so proud of you. I wish I knew back then what I know now.


Spill it, reader.