Saturday 8 June 2013

Why Academics aren't Retrainable

TV cop Taggart--Professional, loyal & funny: my kinda colleague
One result of turning British universities into businesses has been the inundation of work email boxes with offers of expensive courses. These will retrain me to ‘make my employing Education Provider more competitive!!’  The most importunate outfit is ACM training, whose clients include Grampian Police and Virgin Balloon Flights. ACM's website says it is the 'sister company' of ACP Television, proud maker of a documentary called 'The World’s Most Successful Madam’, starring the 'head of a lucrative European escort agency and sex empire.’

Given their distinguished pedigree, I am obviously tempted by ACM's course CRISIS COMMUNICATION. If my new Vice-Chancellor orders the immediate closure of all unprofitable teaching in the Humanities, attending this course will enable me to 'exhibit behaviours that illustrate credibility.' I want to find out what these behaviours are--presumably more than yelling 'YOU GOTTA BELIEVE ME' through a megaphone.

Stockbrokers' Summit
I considered ACM's WRITING FOR BUSINESS, which is, after all, what creating a handout on ancient Greek religion for my ‘customers’ now entails.  Explaining the Delphic Oracle could now help Define My Portfolio of Products!  I long to be partnered with a sardonic Scottish detective from the Grampians on the course, having always had a soft spot for Taggart. I have unfortunately been put off by discovering that my designated ACM tutor calls himself neither ‘teacher’ nor ‘coach’ but a ‘WORKSHOP FACILITATOR.’ If he needs two words where I use one I am not convinced he has important insights into writing.

The course I do intend to sign up for is DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE, which costs ‘from £119’. I previously attended a course with this title as a businesswoman in 1983. The pedagogical method consisted of providing a ‘workshop facilitator’ who was himself so ‘difficult’ (halitosis, invader of female body space, incessant interrupter of interlocutors) that you were supposed to infer all your new techniques from figuring out how many times your behaviour could 'exhibit credibility' if you visited the loo to escape from him.

In Academia, anyway, all colleagues are BY DEFINITION ‘difficult’. They are of course trained in belligerent discourse (i.e. in opposing your arguments and questioning your assumptions etc.) But most (myself included) are just the dysfunctional schoolchildren who could not make the transition from the classroom to the Real World. Levels of personal hygiene, humour, understanding of the importance of collective morale, and emotional intelligence are nowhere so low as amongst academics.

Underachievers at Femininity swot
I decided to become frightfully good at academic subjects out of desperation. I could not achieve in any other dimensions of female excellence, being in adolescence both ugly and bad at sport. I was a failure at Domestic Science. At Nottingham Girls' High School, mine was the only Victoria Sponge that did not rise. I did not realize until too late that one survival option was to acquire a wealthy husband who could hire a cook, and as a teenager stupidly rejected at least two suitors with money in favour of a ‘logistics operative’ (lorry driver). I suspect that many other academics ‘chose’ their career ladder because they, too, were incapable of climbing any other.

Only in academia is it tolerated for a colleague to depress the hell out of everybody else in the workplace by weeping EVERY DAY FOR SIX YEARS because an elderly relative is (still) dying and thus get let off half her workload. Only in academia can videos be posted, uncensored, on an ‘outreach’ website about ancient history designed to ATTRACT applicants to a university, of a lecturer  with dandruff scratching his private parts absent-mindedly. Only in academia can a well-off Professor send death threats to a longstanding friend and colleague who has beaten them in a competition for a travel grant of under £100. I am of course naming no names, but suspect that ACM Training, however worldly-wise they fancy themselves, are not really ready for the Difficult People of Academia just yet.

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