As a doctoral candidate coming to the end of my journey, the ever present need to find a job post studies is a challenging position to be in, as many before me can no doubt attest to. Talking to fellow participants at the 2017 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference it would seem that insecure work arrangements and opportunism is the only pathway to the ultimate role of a tenured position lecturing. Nevertheless I was filled with quite a bit of excitement at my good fortune last week when I secured a job interview for a permanent lecturing position – a bit of foraging for a job certainly seemed fruitful.
The interview proceeded with the usual back and forth about practice, my experiences and perspectives on educational issues. I was suitably charming and energetic, while the panel played their role in the to and fro of interviewing that we all have had to perform at one time or another. However, when it got to my turn to ask questions, I simply wanted to ask, as any keen AARE conference attendee would want to, about the research component of the position. Curiously, I was told that there was no research role whatsoever.
Considering I had been just asked about how I stayed up to date as an educator, to which I had replied that it was research and links with the academy that gave me a broader perspective on my practice, I wonder how a ‘teaching focussed’ academic is expected to stay abreast of developments in the field if they aren’t ‘in the field’ themselves. I also wonder why early career researchers would take these roles on other than out of desperation, underpaid as they are considering a standard teaching position in a school would offer me $15,000 more than a starting academic. Perhaps more importantly my question is why would incumbent academics actively position their future co-workers in these less than agreeable roles? Not only less agreeable, but I would argue that these role definitions imply, one would think, that research doesn’t matter. One would think this would be anathema to the spirit of the academy itself and importance of research to academic teaching.
In the spirit of the conference (Education: What’s politics got to do with it?) and in sight of the wider unrest of the current moment in Australian politics here in Canberra, one surely has to ask the question, how are we as intellectuals, or at least in my case a ‘wannabe’ intellectual, becoming complicit in our own demise? When do we speak truth to power instead of just writing about it? When do we stay the pen and pick up the pitchfork?
George Variyan is a doctoral student with Charles Sturt University working in the sociology of teaching, looking at teachers in elite private schools in Australia. George is also a Maths and Science teacher himself, and has worked in diverse school settings such as independent schools dealing with students at-risk, the elite private school sector as well as further afield in international schools. George currently lives in Perth with his young family, enjoying the warm climate and extended family nearby.
George is one of the hundreds of educational researchers who attended the 2017 AARE Conference in Canberra all this week.
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