Wednesday, November 09, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Twelve:

All of your academic skills having been honed through these other steps, the last and most important hurdle is left before you.

Why is tenure so important? Why is any permanent job with no supervision and no real duties important? Why did you enter academia in the first place, to study great ideas and literature?

The process basically involves no new steps, but involves engaging in all forms of academic excellence at once. Certainly schmoozing is of the essence of the tenure process, now taken to the extreme of schmoozing your friends and colleagues, the dean of your college, your department head, and sometimes even students. It's abhorrent, but always keep your eyes on the prize.

Can anyone be guaranteed tenure? There are anecdotes told of a professor-to-be hiring private investigators to discover helpful information about the President of a major Midwestern university. It turned out the President was sleeping with the professor-to-be's significant other. Rather than sink into Victorian bourgeois morality, the prospective tenured faculty member did the right thing: used the information to advantage. Alter your domestic life only after it has been utile in winning the ultimate status of academia: an unimpeachable position in a job-for-life.

Think of it: you and Josef Stalin!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Eleven:

Teaching is a necessary evil on the track to success. To legitimate your work, you must have an institutional affiliation; and in order to maintain an institutional identity, you must teach. There are two ways out of this unfortunate situation:

ONE: Reduce your teaching work. Demand an assistant to grade exams. Settle your lectures into a standard form, timed to fill each class precisely.

You might object that writing lectures so carefully takes time and effort, and so it does at first.

But after they reach final form, they will be permanently reiterable, and if you time them perfectly there will never be any extra class time for pesky questions.

As for the teaching assistant, remember what it was like when you were a T.A. These people are getting paid to attend your lectures! What do you get in return? Never give up on Step Five! For further advice, see The Prince concerning the way to maintain power over lesser princes.

TWO: Use your institutional status to generate as many volumes, works, and publications as possible (see steps 1-7, 9 & 10). Pursue endowed chairs with no teaching duties. Repeat until you are so successful that you need never work again.

Monday, November 07, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Ten:
Your Work/Volume

Now that you have found an editor and publisher willing to "look at" your work, you need to produce it.

As has already been mentioned, no one "writes books." However, volumes are put together.
What, you may ask, does this phrase refer to?

Take all of the material you have composed in your young academic career: your dissertation, articles, book reviews, coursework, your comprehensive exam essays, your undergraduate thesis, idle notes on bar napkins -- and put it all in a 10 x 13 clasp envelope preprinted with your academic institution's address.

Insert a cover letter explaining that you have pitched your monograph to the editor, and have included it for consideration. Explain that the editor invited you to submit this manuscript.

Add to your c.v. an item stating that you have a work under review.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Nine:

Do you know how many academic books are published every year?

Do you know how these books get into print?

If you've ever read an academic book, you may wonder about these questions. But even if you haven't, it's important to note that every academic book, before being published, is proposed, or "pitched" to a publishing house. Generally, would-be academic authors pitch their books to knowledgeable editors. This can be a problem, especially if the editor knows something about your field.

Shop around for a publisher whose editors know little or nothing about your specific interest. Put together a proposal and an outline that shows how your book will:
  • sell!
  • resolve ages-old disputes!
  • become required reading for courses at universities everywhere!
  • look nifty and contain many sections, chapters, and headings!
  • be less than 300 pages!

Surely you've seen the enormous publishers' displays at major meetings of academic societies. Who do you suppose the guy is standing behind the table with the University of Chicago Press banner? He's a University of Chicago Press employee. Get information from this person. Find out the names of editors, who their friends are.

Look at the books on the display. Don't look at the titles, look at the names of the Big Shots who wrote them! Then, go schmooze those Big Shots and inform them you may soon have a monograph or a 'volume' under review there.

(IMPORTANT: never say "book." Academics do not "write books," they "put together volumes" or "work on a monograph." If you must refer to the content of your volume -- which should be avoided for obvious reasons, namely, that it might become a topic of critical or rational discussion -- use the term "my work," never "my book." Words are crucial: you should know that by now!)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Eight:
Hitting the Job Market

Often the most frustrating experience for young academic wannabes is the absolute despair and futility of entering the job market flooded by the excessive production of Ph.D.s by mills. (Think: supply and demand.)

Once you have an appropriate c.v., have done a thorough job of schmoozing, have attended enough conferences, taken enough drugs, won enough grants, and stomped enough others, you should stand in good stead. But that's still not enough.

All of these skills and more will be demanded of you on the market. One or more of the following is essential to earning a job:

1. Bribe the interviewers. This bears no further explanation.

2. Devise a performance that will make you an irresistible candidate. Learn to make beer and offer a constant supply of it for department functions (this can double as a bribe). Or run a counterfeiting operation. Or give brilliantly compelling lectures which argue conclusively for positions held by the interviewers. Finally, have you ever seen "Deep Throat"?

3. Kill all the other candidates. (Be sure to make it look accidental!)

Friday, November 04, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Seven:
Writing Your C.V.

Everyone must have a c.v. (curriculum vitae), which lists achievements, education, and other qualifications. The question is, what should you put on your c.v.?

Assume that the person reading your c.v. does not know you, and has not attended the same conferences, nor met you in the restroom. You need to be memorable and impressive. Of course, only the people who were actually at a certain conference can tell in what way you participated.

What you need, then, are several versions of your c.v., each of which will contain different information, depending on the following:

1. Whether the person you send it to knows you, or knows Big Shots in the organizations and societies whose conferences you claim to have addressed.

2. How many plausible-sounding journals and conferences you can think of. (GOOD EXAMPLE: Journal of the Method of the History of Methodological Studies; BAD EXAMPLE: Playphilosopher)

3. Nothing else.

It may sound as if this step advocates that you dissimulate. Not at all. We intend, rather, that you outright lie. Be creative.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Six:
Follow these Conference Attending Guidelines

There are two kinds of conferences: extremely large, concurrent-session conferences, and small, plenary session conferences. In larger conferences, more Academic Big Shots attend than in smaller conferences. You do the math.

Rule 1: Go to sessions with the biggest names. Do not attend sessions, or indeed conferences, where less than half of the participants are Certified Big Shots.

Rule 2: Ask questions. Say something in every single session, about every single paper, regardless of whether you understood the paper, have anything to say, have studied or even considered the problem at issue, or paid any attention. In asking your questions, mention books and articles published by the Big Shot who gave the paper, even if you never read them, and even if they weren't about the same topic.

Rule 3: Be noticeable. Sit in a location which makes you clearly visible from every vantage point in the room. Wear eye-catching clothing. Develop a style of dress, a posture, and a way of gesturing that is distinctive and cerebral. Use effusive body-language, whisper to your neighbors.

Rule 4: Be familiar. If you have met a Big Shot even once, say, at a urinal, use the Big Shot's first name. It will appear that you know the Big Shot personally, and no one will question that you have earned the right to this familiarity. By association, then, the audience will conclude that you are at least a quasi-Big Shot yourself.

Rule 5: Ignore the proles. No matter which rung of the ladder of success you stand upon, do not bear the intrusions of the hoi polloi. Turn away; go stand next to Alasdair Macintyre until he notices you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Five:
Stomp On Others

Look, it's you or them.

Human beings are animals, animals of great tenacity, cleverness, and savage viciousness. It's part of your genetic makeup.

You can send your emotions to the cleaners, but you can't make anything but hot red blood flow in your veins. Kill or be killed. Take no prisoners.

EXAMPLE: "Professor Ratbag, I would like to ask you a question, but I don't know whether I can find a way to put it that doesn't seem condescending in the light of your childishly naive view of epistemological certainty. Any child of five can tell you that certainty does not entail prescience or metaphysical commitment, and it seems extremely strange to me that you would want to develop a position on the basis of a puerile view that is counterfactual to the simplest and clearest consciousness. Do you wish to modify your position, or shall we all just suck our thumbs and make wee-wee?"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

the step-12 program for academic success!

The 12-Step Program for Academic Success
Step Four:

The importance of schmoozing can hardly be underestimated, and it hardly ever is.

The true questions are when, how, and to whom to schmooze.

WHEN: Always schmooze. There is no inappropriate time. For men, one of the best times is when you happen to meet your schmoozee at a lavatory urinal. This is ideal, because obviously the schmoozee cannot make too hasty an exit. He is, as it were, all ears (he certainly won't let his eyes wander).

HOW: Introduce yourself, giving your name and your academic affiliation. If you have ever seen the schmoozee before, mention it (e.g.: "Professor Whitehead, nice to see you. My name is Chris Nagel, from Duquesne University. I saw you catching a bus once, in February of 1937"). Mention any publication of the schmoozee that you have read -- in case the schmoozee asks about it --, regardless of its importance. Also, in mentioning the schmoozee's published work, be sure to indicate how it has advanced your own (e.g.: "I read your limerick about the man from Nantucket in the middle toilet stall the other day. It has made a big difference in how I interpret ideal essences!"). Finally, end your conversation with an open-ended allusion to a deeper, continued relationship; however, be cautious not to appear too subservient or obsequious.
DO: "We should discuss this in more depth later. Enjoy the session on 'Evidentiary Ethical Postulates and Undecidability in Relation to Really Uninteresting Stuff'!"

DON'T: "I'm in room 1409. If you'd like, tonight, if you're feeling... lonely... you could come up. Any time. I'll be there... alone... all night."

TO WHOM: Appropriate schmoozing depends on your own academic position more than the schmoozee's. Say you are a graduate student Ph.D. candidate at a second tier (at best) private, Catholic university east of the Mississippi that is not named "Loyola." From this vantage point, everyone is good to schmooze (e.g.: "Say, you work for the custodial crew of the hotel, don't you? I just wanted to tell you that your interpretation of vacuuming and emptying ash-trays has genuinely helped me understand Sartre's third ekstasis of being for-self. I was wondering if you could score me one of those leftover boxes of Zinfandel").