Monday, March 1, 2010

This looks interesting

A few weeks ago, our Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division had a Seminar Day.

When I was in grad school, we had to go to seminars at least once a week. Some person doing research would come to our department and talk about their research and we would listen politely. I would wrack my brain for an intelligent question, because usually the grad students would have an hour to spend with the person, and it was really freaking boring if noone had anything to ask. You also got a mean look from one of the profs if you had nothing interesting to say.

During one such seminar, I realized that I liked being in an educational environment where people talked about the things they found interesting and other people asked questions about the parts they found interesting. I decided that I would like to stay in such an interesting educational environment. But not do research.

Eventually I found teaching. And I'm actually quite good at it. Nominated for awards, yo. That's pretty cool.

But being in the community college environment doesn't lend itself to seminars, or listening to people talk about their research. You have to go to conferences for that now. And that involves requesting travel. And there is nothing worse than having to justify travel to try to get reimbursed from the state of Where I Teach. Ugh. Torture. Usually I just pay for most of it myself.

So I actually really enjoyed the seminar day we had a few weeks ago. It was interesting hearing a geologist talk about things he is interested in. And to think about the environmental impacts of what he was discussing from a biologists perspective. It was just interesting. And I thought "I need to do this more often."

There is a large 4-year university nearby. I'm sure I can find people there wanting to talk about their research. But I thought I'd start paying attention in case other divisions started advertising seminars close to home.

You see, now that I understand things better ("things" being such a specific term, you know) I can even see interdisciplinary connections to alot of the ideas that I hear people discussing. So maybe even non-science seminars would be interesting.

In my email this morning, the Social Scientists are having a seminar, and a woman named Drucilla Barker is giving a talk entitled Caregivers and Other Dangerous Strangers: Rethinking the Paradox of Caring Labor.

(A principle of education is that you can understand an argument at a higher level than you can make an argument. So you can read something and understand it and then not be able to discuss it in any intelligible way. I'm about the prove that.)

So, I've read some things that some feminists write about economic equality. About how the jobs that women get don't pay the same as what the jobs for men pay. And how a single mother is more economically disadvantaged than a single father simply because she is female. I've both read about and experienced how short-changed educators are in our society in the paycheck department, and I'm actually one of the lucky ones because I'm on the higher education side of that issue. If I were a high school teacher I'd be in real trouble. An early childhood educator?

So I'm not sure what the paradox of caring labor is. I'm not even sure that what I think "caring labor" is is in fact what it really means. But her background is intriguing. She is tenured in anthropology, writes about feminist economics, and is head of a women's studies program.

Bet its going to make me think. I'll let you know how it is.

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