Academic Life Skills

I could say a great deal about this particular concept, but for now, briefly:

“Academic life skills,” a term coined by myself and L., refers to the paradoxical lack of common sense, knowledge, and skills that allows one to get through the ordinary tasks of life. This lack is a common trait of the “academic” type – scholars, tenured professors, graduate students … anyone who hasn’t (either figuratively or literally) seen the light of day in a long time. It can manifest itself in wearing black shoes with brown pants, missing buttons on jackets, inability to use office equipment (e.g. Xerox and fax machines), and most poignantly, attempting to “reason” one’s way to a practical, not theoretical solution – although I’m drawing a blank on an example of this one.

Academic life skills also implies, however, a great deal of skill and knowledge in a particular scholarly field. So it’s not simply “sucking at life,” but “sucking at everyday life,” if you will.

To that end, I spent a few minutes reflecting on may own development of “academic life skills,” that is, the increasing distance between myself and ‘the real world’ due to graduate school:

– I have probably read at least 1,500 pages this week – and by “read” I mean “go between actually reading, skimming for argument, and ignoring as pointless evidence”;
– I’ve started looking forward to my few hours of work in an office because I can photocopy entire books that I will never have to read;
– I haven’t had time to watch a Masterpiece Theatre/BBC TV classic adaptation that’s been on this week, so I went and got the book to find out what happens;
– I spent a few hours in the pub tonight in which Foucault, Chomsky, and the racial/gender/ethnic/colonial biases of the Playmobil figurines and playsets;
– I had a really good day yesterday, the sole mark of which was having a million research questions as a result of my advisor meeting and starting to find ways to follow them up;
– I spent this morning reading the paper – the London and New York Times from 1914-1919;
– And finally… I consider these things to be moves in a positive direction, not in themselves cause for concern.

If I start saying things like, “How do people shop?” or “What does ‘back by popular demand’ really mean? What is ‘popular’?” … intervention time.


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