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Rebelious Profs No Match for "Rachel Corrie Award"

in real world, people put their lives in line

Date: 12/05/2004

In announcing the Rachel Corrie Award 2005...

The Progressive SIGs and Caucuses Coalition (PSCC) of the CCCC wishes to honor the memory of this extremely courageous student by recognizing a teacher in the CCCC who has taken professional risks in order to promote social justice through the teaching of writing. It is well known that the politics of hiring, tenure, and promotion often motivate graduate students and junior faculty to write, teach, and serve in "safe" subject and project areas; many are encouraged by mentors to shy away from genuinely "controversial" or "risky" subjects until they are tenured. In making this award, the PSCC hopes, conversely, to encourage writing teachers early in their careers to take on research, pedagogy, and service projects that promote commitment to peace, justice, and human dignity-even when hazarding the ire of deans, chairs, editors, and hiring and review committees.

This is bizarre. I think it's absurd how obtaining tenure consumes 99% of the lives of aspiring scholars and I think that it's pathetic that they are often forced to compromise their commitment to social justice, but the "courage" to risk tenure--which, hello, most workers in the U.S. don't have tenure and life doesn't end there--is nowhere near equivalent of the courage and the conviction it takes for one to stand unarmed and nonviolent in front of raging military tanks to keep them from bulldozing civilian houses.

This is what's wrong with academia. Only professional academics are so sucked into the whole tenure process as if their worlds revolve around whether or not they get tenure. I've seen many friends lose sanity in this process. Meanwhile in the real world, people are putting their bodies and lives in line to protect their home, their families, their human dignity.

Sure, I'm all for awarding young scholars who defy pressures to comform--perhaps with enough pampering our colleges faculty will become more interesting. But giving them the award named after Rachel Corrie because of their "courage," demonstrated by their willingness to address "controversial" subjects prior to tenure, seems disrespectful to what she actually fought for and died for.

And it scares me to think that even the scholars who wish to encourage more "risky" scholarship (i.e. those who set up this scholarship) don't understand that the "courage" of young scholars who address "controversial" topics and the "courage" of young, unarmed woman walking up to the Israeli tank are two entirely different things.

- ek