Thursday, December 23, 2010

Topic: The English Professor in Court

Question: If you had to participate in court cases as a consultant or ‘expert,’ would you be prepared?

Answer: “…as the anecdotes that follow will demonstrate, our public stance defending academic values turns out to be much more complicated than one might expect: our claims to expertness are not beyond question, we may have to choose which of conflicting values to argue for, and we can never predict which everyday activities might land us in the courts or other public arenas.” P. 184.

“As I reflect on the experiences in this essay, I think of the sermon I give our fresh PhDs as they assume their tenure-track jobs. You must, I tell them, become citizens of higher education as well as campus professors, be ready to stand up in court, in a hearing room, and in committee rooms as well as in the classroom to defend the values we represent. Such a defense can be complicated and frustrating; it may be ignored (as it was in the Fanny Hill case or the Senate hearing for me) or it may have immediate or delayed effects. You may be listened to with respect or suspicion, and what you say may not be heard as you intend. But you must be prepared to speak out because your job as an English professor comes with important public responsibilities you should not avoid. That part of our job was taken for granted by professors of my, mostly now retired, generation. With the increased corporatization of the university and the general replacement of tenure-track appointments with adjuncts, that task is both more difficult and more important than it was fifty years ago. We must hope and trust that tomorrow’s professoriate will be equal to the job.” P. 194-195.

Summary: A series of anecdotes illustrating some of the rewards and hazards involved in participating in court cases by an English professor. PhD’s take notice You might be next. Are you ready?

Some of the sub-titles in the article: “Fighting for the Right to Read.” “Protecting the Faculty from Itself.” “The Underside of Faculty Appointments.” “On the Hot Seat before Legislative Committees.”

Comment: The job of English teacher at the college level is expanding—to infinity? RayS.

Title: “”English Professor as Public Figure: My Days in Court.” EM White. College English (November 2010), 183-195.

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