Sunday, February 12, 2012

my piece at Consider, and new ventures

I was asked to write a piece for Consider Magazine, in support of President Obama's recent tuition-control proposal that he announced in a speech at the University of Michigan. So I did. I'll be honest: the venture makes me a bit nervous. But at this point, the challenge that stratospheric tuitions pose to the university and its students is significant enough that I'm willing to put that fear aside. It is time for us to solve this problem, and if we need to get heavy-handed to do it, so be it.

You can read a few more thoughts I wrote on my piece here, and this is why I'm really posting. I've registered, and set up a professional and academic website there. For some time, I thought I would keep that completely sequestered from this blog. I'll admit that, at many times, I've come to regret ever revealing my last name online. But as I've said, I believe in accountability for one's statements, and this is the Internet, where everything is forever. There's no sense in hiding.

There is sense in growing. Look: my political positions are what they are. My disposition is what it is. I believe that democracy is about antagonism. I believe that the consequence of rule by the people is that  political disagreements are naturally going to be unfriendly, if they are real and prosecuted well, which is why family and friendship are so important. You know how I feel about this stuff. This is not an apology; for those who don't like the way I interact politically, the bridges have been burned. For those who do, there's no need to apologize. But it's time to evolve. I rarely achieve what I want to achieve here.

I consider myself, at the end of the day, an insanely fortunate person. I am living in a nice place with a beautiful, accomplished, and brilliant woman, with our dog and cat and my books. I've got good friends and great food and dark beer and a warm bed. There isn't much money, but there hasn't been for a long time, and anyway we don't need much. Most of all, I get to do what I've always wanted to do: I teach writing and language, and I get to research about same, and when I'm in my office grading papers or pouring over some recent study, I know how lucky I am. I realized some time ago that many people don't know what they want to do with their lives; I've known since I was thirteen. It's an incredible blessing, and I force myself to consider what a privileged, lucky man I am every day.

What I want is to take this ceaseless push to make myself understood and direct it towards what I want to do and want to be. So I'm inaugurating Interfaces of the Word, my new blog on language and education. It's named in honor of Walter Ong. I wrote a long introductory post for you to peruse. As I say in that post

 I want this blog to consider writing, in many forms and through many lenses. I want to talk about writing I like, or writing I don’t; about trends or fads in writing or writing technologies; about books, articles, magazines, stories…. I also want to give advice for writing and writers, should anybody be interested in taking it. I’d also like to write a book review every once in awhile. I’m not going to artificially restrict myself. If an issue seems interesting and relevant to me, I’ll write about it. But this won’t be a general interest blog. I know myself, and the best way to keep my writing focused and temperate is to engage with issues pertaining to my academic research. 
I also want to consider education, as my primary academic interests revolve around pedagogy. Educational research and journalism are issues of both personal and academic interest to me, and I possess enough professional training and research to write about them with reasonable expertise. Obviously, my focus will mostly be on research in literacy and language, but I will also likely consider education reform efforts and the research concerning them.

This is, obviously, not going to be a high-traffic proposition. But as my critics tell me frequently, neither is this blog. I would rather write something online that is fully myself and fully my own with a small readership than write something with a big readership that duplicated what everybody else was doing. I do hope to fill some of the void left by Alan Jacons and Text Patterns, though Alan and I disagree about almost everything and my blog will be quite a bit different than his. I also recognize that I need checks on myself, ways to control my own anger. That has never been a problem with academics; it has always been a problem with politics. Let's be clear: this is also a part of professionalizing. I need to cool my jets, for self-interested as well as principled reasons. If you'd like, you can feel free to call me a sellout. (Though note that's a term I've never used.) You just can't do it in the comments over there; I'll be moderating those. The comments here will remain, as ever, unmoderated.

L'Hôte isn't going away for good. I've never been able to leave it alone for long, after all. And there will undoubtedly be times when I will feel compelled to speak out about a political culture which I find alienating and wrong. I do hope to channel those feelings into other publications. Perhaps I'll write again for The New Inquiry; I genuinely respect and admire the publication. (The first e-magazine is out now; you should subscribe, for only $2 a month.) But I will continue to write here occasionally, I'm sure. In fact, there's a story I want to tell in this space soon; I've been working on finding the words and the courage for some time. Maybe I'll continue to post a couple of times a week. I don't know, we'll see.

Whatever the case, I rest easy knowing that there are some amazing writers out there who carry the flame much better than I do. I've already told you about my respect for publications like Jacobin. I am thrilled with the rise of someone like Corey Robin, who speaks plainly about power and revolution. I know that Glenn Greenwald will continue to work tirelessly in pointing out impositions on personal liberty of those here and abroad, and in his insistence that Arabs and Muslims are just as deserving of life and rights as anyone else. And I know that, all around, people are dissatisfied with the way things are, and that the order of things cannot always endure. For now, I'm content to tinker quietly in the soft light of the prime of my life.


sweet tooth said...

I'm too drunk to carefully read all that, but i think a congrats is in order.

Talk of selling out is silly. You are someone who wants your life to mean something, you have all this coruscating animus and idealism, and if you think this opportunity -- whatever it is, my eyes kinda glazed over lol -- is going to give you a better chance to take your antagonism and give it some goddamn AGON then fuck yeah.

Interesting that you quote Father Ong. Certainly laid down some serious insight in those bizarre meanderings. Overall the dude missed the boat by a few centuries but I do remember some fond afternoons a few years ago chuckling and fervently nodding and wincing.

sweet tooth (last name, muskrat)

Anonymous said...

Good luck!

Freddie, know you're the ripe old age of 30 and all but have you ever noticed how many times you say "I"?

sweet tooth said...

Also, just have to say: you're not that lucky. Don't lay it on so thick: kind of yucky.

Sure, you may be comparatively lucky, but at the deepest human level you were just as insanely traumatized as everyone else, and just as mad, repressed, and wretched.

Because: you are not a Real Person. You were born to be a real person, a bona fida hunter-gatherer, but you are the farthest thing from one. Like I am the farthest thing from one.

Until we're able to grasp what I'm talking about, and yes, the solid 100% empiricism behind it, there will be no Left, no revival of the Left, no sad poor whimpering ghost of the Left.

Get it?

sweet tooth signing off for a spell

Everyone Be Well haha

AB said...

I'm excited to see things on the new blog, Freddie, and sad to see L'Hôte winding down (for now, at least). I'll be continuing to follow both, but I hope that you do keep the flame alive here. Best of luck with everything!

Freddie said...

Well, anon, I'm a creature of my generation!

Shawn Gude said...

Best of luck, Freddie.

PrajK said...

Congrats. I look forward to following the new blog.

Good luck finishing up your PhD, and on the job market after.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy irrelevancy, man.

Freddie said...

Thanks, friend.

My job prospects are perhaps a bit better than the average lit candidate. This is a bit old:

but still relevant and indicative of broader trends. Note that despite making up 20% of new hires, rhet/comp candidates represent much less than 20% of new doctorates.

Freddie said...

Although, you know. It's all a crap shoot.

Max Fischer said...

Congratulations Freddie. I'll be book marking your new blog. I'm happy to see you doing so well!