Humouring 2017

I’m over change and I log into WordPress to do a nice funny new year post only to find it’s changed….WHY???

I would love for something, just one thing to stay the same and not change, ever.

Anyway, here is something to make me laugh when I need it: Funny Cartoon I hope you find it as funny as I did.

PhD wise I’m reading Piaget and enjoyed my two weeks of no thesis thinking at all, so nothing really humorous there. And it will be less humorous when David asks for some writing…that’s why funny cartoons are good for the soul.

It’s never too late to change

I am so thankful to all the people who have helped me on me journey. I think of it as serendipity, but honestly, the planets align too often for it to be chance.

Doug and Bruce – you are amazing. You don’t realise but the little nudges you both give me from time to time have helped me to remain open to content I would never have used.

Michael – your gentle post-structural mocking has paid off. I think I’m changing my mind. As a result I’ve just bought more books from Amazon (Weber, Habermas and Piaget) to see what I can think through, and I’m returning to my research on discourse theory for options other than post-structuralism.

As many of you know who have been with this blog since the start (my apologies) I’ve never really been able to problematise my problem other than “it feels wrong”. Thanks to the session by Ben and Doug I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Last week in response to David and I not agreeing again, I did up a model. It didn’t feel right. So, today I returned to the big sticky note on the wall and I think I worked it out. The product of education, defined by industry and government is being delivered by universities through their interpretation of the defined product which then produces graduates who are interpreted by industry based on how they defined the product. And no one is happy.

Problem is, the doesn’t need post-structuralism to analyse. Yes, I’m still looking at language and how it constructs the ideas and how there is a disconnect between what is said and what is happening, but that’s not about questioning of structures, it’s a questioning of how we are interpreting. It’s a translation issue, not a neo-liberal issue. If my thesis is about explaining what the problem is and pointing out it exists, I can’t do it in a way that turns people off. Going down post-structuralism is turning people off. It’s too angry for what the issue is.

The literature tells me  universities, government and industry do want ‘good’ education. And while it tells me globalisation is tearing university education, it’s by accident rather than design. We are here by chance, or perhaps incompetence, not because of intent. Did people really intend university education to become what it is? I need to write a thesis to answer this question, and perhaps depending on the answer, provide hope for how university education might just become what people want, rather than what it is.

Walking a different path

Won’t lie, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. But this morning, in the shower, there was clarity. (Often is – not sure why showers are good thinking time, but they totally are!)

People do PhD’s to become academics. To show the world their smarts. The issue in my research I am finding is the ‘dumbing down’ of all levels of academia so a PhD is no longer really showing your smarts, it really is just a gateway piece of paper to be an academic. So that means anyone gets in now. And recently that has annoyed me as I feel like I’m working so hard, and all I really needed to do was become a favourite of faculty management. Apparently they would have enrolled me, regardless of my ability, and would no doubt support me in such an active fashion I couldn’t possibly fail. This annoys me because it devalues my work.

Then I thought, no. People like that aren’t going to have the full experience of the PhD because they are people who always take the easy road. They aren’t going to grasp the full details or implications of their research. They are going to do what they have to and take the piece of paper, the prize at the end. They are not a giver to society now, and they won’t be a giver just because they have a PhD.

You see, for me a PhD is about giving. Research is how we advance society and my PhD is about trying to address issues in university education. I won’t be an academic (they work way too hard). But I will have a license to publish more research. I will have a piece of paper to show the world I’m allowed to be out there with my position on a topic. I want to give in a way that people might just listen, rather than me just being another person with an opinion.

I had dinner with two academics last week and the conversation we could have about society, and concepts, and how their own research changes them and others in unexpected ways. That’s what givers can do. They can change the world.

So, I need to let go of what I think about other people. I need to let go of a concept of ‘value’ in the work I do and how it compares to that of others. I just need to work, do my thesis my way, show what the research shows in a way my dad can understand, and then keep researching and writing, so maybe I can change the world – just a little.

The sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists are welcome to their ‘take’ attitude. I walk a different path.

Research is a time sink

Today I forayed to the National Archives. First of – awesome staff! So kind and helpful (and patient). Second – OMG. In order to access the green paper of the Dawkins era, I have to lodge a request which takes 90 days. And then that request might actually just tell me the submissions aren’t in that particular set of papers. Basically, it takes 90 days for someone to find the set of papers, look at it, and then put onto the web site what is actually included. Then I can’t access them until July next year even  if they are there because the Archives are moving buildings (naa-closure-notice). But I can pay to have them scanned.

On the upside, this process indicates I’m the first person to go to the source document for research in higher education because no one has activated the file before. In research terms, I’m in unchartered territories and that’s always a good feeling!

However, on the downside, I’m now in holding pattern for the 1988 data, but I do have a lot of other work to do. I was also told by the helpful person how the Archives lodge the materials (it’s done by agency, not topic…) so now I’ll go back to their web site for more effective searches in case the 600 submissions I need aren’t where I’m hoping they are. I did get told the story of the people who pull down 100’s of documents to find just one….it could be that this is going to take some time…..

Where I am in the literature

Yesterday there was a great session where Ben and Doug spoke about how to situate research within the literature using the work of Locke and Golden-Biddle. Fortunately Doug had given me a copy of the article so I knew where they were going (in fact I’ve used it as a reference in my thesis already!). the presentations were great because they showed thinking. They showed how other people consider the options for their research and how they build their understanding of their research problem. I also have an idea for structuring my literature review. Bonus!

I also liked the forum because I asked basic questions and people were really informative and patient with their responses. Additionally I got to thank Bruce publicly for the amazing support he’s given me and continues to do so.

What made me sad was at the end in casual chat I was reminded how academics are their own worst enemy. Ben mentioned how he had been nervous and I asked why, given his presentation was so good. Another academic remarked that it’s always scary presenting to colleagues because you’re exposing your research to your peers and that can be really bad. I was reminded how some people do not know the line of critique and being critical. I hope I never lose the courage I have to talk about my research, anywhere, to anyone. I know I almost lost it after my confirmation, but I held onto it, and will now nurture the courage more than ever.

Frank and fearless advice

Back in the good old days of the Australian Public Service (APS), there was a clause in the legislation under which public servants are engaged. It was something like, “…the provision of frank and fearless advice…”. I like this expression. Frank means clear and true (well at least to me) and fearless, well, it means that anyone in the APS providing advice to the Government of the day should be fearless. There should be no dynamic preventing honesty in the advice being provided. They change the legislation and removed the word fearless. I have no idea what it says now as I’m so disheartened by Australian politicisation of the APS I no longer read the legislation. (Yes, I used to read the legislation for fun.)

Yesterday I had a meeting with David in which there was much frank and fearless advice – on both sides. It was while in this exchange I realised something. As tricky and complicated as the relationship with my supervisors is, there is just so much value and trust. This makes the relationship important to my thesis. Without the ability to be fearless David, and Linda, will not be able to provide me important ideas and feedback, but if I can’t be fearless, my thesis will become theirs, not mine. The fact we can all be frank and fearless is sometimes painful – we hear things we don’t necessarily care to – but there is great value for me and my thesis will be stronger for the experience.

As I said in my last post, I actually wrote theory content and this is what David and I discussed yesterday. We have agreed it’s a basis from which to move forward. I also mentioned in the post the work with Leo. We’ve met and have altered my proposal to a point where we think we’ve got a good paper. So, I now have a lot of work to do. A methodology chapter (not yet started), refinement of the Change Chapter (about 65% of the way there) and completion of the theory chapter (about 30% there) as well as data analysis for thesis and for the paper with Leo. All before 31 December. Good thing I quit my full time job yesterday! (Yes – I know rent will need to be paid……I’m sure there’s a job I can find…..anyone hiring?)

As a side note – I’m blaming Bruce again today. Even though I quit my job and have very limited income stream I spent money at Amazon today! I thought I could use the e-book for Logics of Critical Explanation for research, but Bruce spoilt me with all these beautiful books I can hold in my hands, flick through, visualise the page with the information, scribble in and tag up with post-it notes. Damn you Bruce for showing me such beauty!

Silence is not golden – but maybe the end is shiny

It’s been a very long time since I posted and that’s not a great sign. In fact even that post was depressing too. This is a really handy insight into my journey and I’m really glad it’s here to remind me how bad it’s been for so long. Of course bad is relative – I’m not starving, I’m not homeless and I’m warm (I currently have two heaters running). Bad for my thesis has been no writing in almost two months and total frustration with theory (again).

There’s the summary, now what’s the detail? Well, as can be seen in my last post the literature review was not ideal. Of course what happened was I sucked it up and gave it to my supervisors anyway because horrible feedback is better than nothing, and is considerably better than me sulking in a hole about how awful it is. Turns out, both supervisors weren’t too unhappy. They aren’t in love with it or anything, but they had constructive feedback and there was no suggestion of binning the whole lot. What did this teach me? Well, that maybe my bad is not the same as everyone else’s.

Other detail is David trying really hard to get me to write the theory and methodology chapters. He has given me structure, he has given me word limits for the structure, he has given me reading resources, he has guided, cajoled, prodded, advised, humoured and been patient. I repaid all this with an email to him expressing frustration and anger and stating how I was going to do what I was going to do and then we would talk about it.

Something amazing happened. As soon as I sent that email I started writing. A lot. And it wasn’t dreadful. I mean let’s not get delusion here, there’s still a very long way to go, but at least I can write about theory now without wanting to vomit. (That’s serious there people – theory made me actually want to throw up every time I tried to write.) My plan is to write as much as I can (with references and everything!) and then provide it to David so he can see my vision of theory rather than more conversations of me trying to explain what I mean, failing, getting frustrated and sulking.

The other amazing thing is back in July I met with Leo on our next collaboration and I promised him a proposal by the end of July. That didn’t happen and the guilt has been building. Today, I got it together, did the data analysis I needed to in order to draft the proposal and then drafted. It’s now with Leo for comment. I can see the next article in what I’ve written and more interestingly, the theory was also completely clear to me. I can see how discourse theory works in this next paper and how I would write it up. And so while the silence of the last two months has not been golden (teary, frustrated, complicated – but not golden) I think the results to come from the silence might just be a little shiny.