Monday, March 13, 2006

To what do we lend a voice?

A link on Inside Higher Ed brings with it a huge uptick in site visits (I've had well over 300 unique visitors in the past two days, according to last count), and incidentally a bit of soul-searching about the nature of the blog, and the voice that is being heard. To what do I lend a voice?

This is my second link on Inside Higher Ed. The first was Silence is definitely NOT golden about the near silence I received from my dissertation committee, after submitting a complete draft. I realize in reading other blogs over the past few months (see my blog roll!), that each one's relationship with their mentors is quite different. And I recognize that much is determined by our own personalities and propensities.

This most recent link from IHE was a posting of what I dubbed a tacky rejection letter. As I mentioned there, perhaps it's a bit of sour grapes. Nonetheless, there is a wide range of tactfulness exhibited in academic rejection letters. There's little reason why search committee (or grant committee) chairs can't make the extra effort to exude a bit of courtesy, a modicum of respect, a degree of genuine openness to the diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and experiences, without making rejected candidates feel inadequate or unappreciated. Failing to get the job or grant is quite insult enough.

But I'm not writing now simply to rehash those earlier posts. I'm wondering what this all means. I've written over 100 posts, but only a few of those have been picked up by others. I am still new to the blogosphere, I confess. There is a temptation with a captive audience (knowing so many visitors will come) to get on the stump with a megaphone and rant. But what is the appropriate topic of my posts? And, secondarily what will my audience hear?

As teachers and scholars we deal with this everyday. We prepare lecture notes or conference papers; we labor over the outline, our path through the data and ideas, our conclusion. Yet, we don't have ultimate control over what will be heard, much less what will be retained.

There are many topics about which I am passionate. Yet some of them seem tangential to the purpose of this blog. It's a constant wrestling with ideas, and that process is good. Not only how to say things, but which things should be heard. If I remain silent on something important, am I culpable in the end for collusion with what I failed to oppose?

I think of Socrates at his trial. There was one argument he made that always struck me as tragic: I never opposed these laws when I was free to oppose them, though I think they are unjust. How can I defend myself against them now that I am no longer free?


Ahistoricality said...

My experience with traffic such as comes from IHE (or other major traffic direction blogs or carnivals) is that very little of it (single-digit percentages) goes beyond the linked post; the realization has cut down considerably my desire to "exploit" the traffic, though I have expanded my sidebar a bit to highlight what I consider important or ongoing issues. I keep meaning to put together a "greatest hits" index....

We can't all do everything. Sometimes we link, sometimes we comment, sometimes we rant, sometimes we create or energize movements, but we can't all do that all the time.

timna said...

I find that IHE tends to pick me up at my whiniest... dang it.