Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reprieves and Rescues

This week, a meeting was cancelled, a meeting that we have on a regular basis. These meetings always lasts at least 2 hours, and they usually leave me drained and irritable. These meetings often kill the better part of the day, what with the dread of them, the meeting itself, and the recovery time afterwards. When the meeting was cancelled, I had that feeling of elation that a snow day used to bring: the gift of time, the gift of letting go of anxiety.

When I read Dean Dad's post about meetings, I realize I shouldn't complain. I've never had so many meetings in one day that I forget their locations. Still, I find meetings the bane of my existence. I wouldn't mind them if we talked about something new or if we emerged from our meetings with actions that we actually attempted. But too often, meetings are just repetitions of what we've already been discussing via e-mail. All too often we talk about possible actions, but we never actually attempt them.

Let me stress that I think that most people have similar experiences with meetings. I see meetings as a leftover creation from the 20th century, which we continue to have as part of our lives just because we've always had them. It's like a land line telephone--occasionally very useful, but often not the most efficient tool.

Is the university such a leftover? Is higher education doomed for the dustbin along with _____? ( . . . oh there are so many ways to fill in that blank (8 track tapes, video tapes, typewriters, doctors who visit your home, dairies that make home deliveries . . .).

I went out for a late lunch with a friend who is more resistant to technology than I am. We talked about the future of education. She believes that the future of the Western world depends on scholars thinking deep thoughts. I'm fairly convinced that state legislatures are at the end of paying for scholars who sit in universities thinking deep thoughts.

She thinks the end of the university means calamity. I tend to agree, but I'm also fascinated by the ways that technology opens up new opportunities that we can't anticipate. I read this article in The New York Times which made me really excited about the possibilities that technology might offer to us. And then I read this article about a person who writes a wide variety of papers for students (some of them working on the Ph.D.), and I just feel gloomy.

Of course, for those of us who have been college level teachers for decades, it's hard to imagine what else we might do. I worry that we're seeing an education bubble (just like the tech bubble, the housing bubble), and I wonder when it will pop. There are days when I think, this must be how newspaper writers felt in the late days of the 90's (and before that, autoworkers). I hope to make it to retirement--and then I feel gloomy again, because I can't imagine that I'll ever have enough money to actually stop working.

But enough of this gloom! It's the week-end, and we're promised beautiful weather, with the joy of Thanksgiving to anticipate. Last night, my psyche sent me a powerful message, which I think applies to all of us creative types.

I dreamed that I was hosting a creativity party for a wide variety of friends and acquaintances. They kept asking for supplies: fabric, papers, paint, beads, ribbons. I gave them what I had. I kept looking for the rest of the supplies. I said things like, "I know I used to have more fabric than this, but here's what I have" and "Where's the rest of my paper? But look at the cool patterns on this sheet." We created marvelous things.

You don't need a degree in Psychology to analyze this dream: we may not have everything, but we have enough.

That will be my mantra today, as the home inspector comes to create a variety of reports that will determine our insurance rates.


Kathleen said...

Love your dream! Connect to the technology back-and-forth feelings.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Love the feeling of "snow day" when the meeting is cancelled. Also love the idea that meetings are leftovers. It's true that we can do most of it by email.

The only committee I can stand to be on is the Library Committee b/c we have two very specific activities that we organize each year: Banned Books Week and National Library Week. Therefore, it's all about planning and implementing...not a lot of hemming and hawing and nothing being done.

Lovely dream to end on!