19 January 2012

Professorship in Education

Below is the text of a letter of application to Oxford University recently sent with regard to a professorship in Education.

Dear ...

I am applying for the Professorship of Education being offered by the Department of Sociology in association with Green Templeton College, as advertised in the University Gazette, and attach my CV, which includes the contact details of three referees, together with notes on my CV and a testimonial from the late Professor H J Eysenck.

As my position is an anomalous one, I would be grateful if you could read the enclosed notes on my CV, as they give information about how I came to be in this position. As you will see, my CV is one that was prepared to go with an application for an appointment in philosophy, rather than education. I cannot in fact comply with all the criteria listed in the requirements for the post. However, I can comply with some of them.

I have decades of administrative and fund-raising experience as the Director of the Institute for Psychophysical Research. I also have completely original insights into what is called the educational process, due to the unique and extreme circumstances of my early life and education. The introduction to my book Advice to Clever Children provides some background on how I have been exposed to the inner machinery of the educational system, from being observed by educational experts as a case study at the ages of 4 and 11, to experiencing the contrasting approaches and outlooks of private and state schooling. The latter provided me with knowledge of the underlying motivations of those that chose to teach; having teachers for both of my parents doubtless also contributed.

I am in fact capable of carrying out research, teaching, and administration in areas in which I do not have paper qualifications, owing to my own ability to learn new topics very fast and very thoroughly in any situation in which I need to learn them.

For realistic information about my life, abilities, and situation, please see the Preface ‘How this Book came to be Written’ to my book The Lost Cause, a copy of which is available at http://celiagreen.com/thelostcause-preface.pdf. I apologise for the anomalies in my application, which arise from the extreme social misplacement which has resulted from my ruined education. There is no recognition of the predicament of the exiled academic.

I am making this application in spite of being above the normal age for a Professorship because the process of recovering from a ruined education is extremely slow, in fact there is no provision for it to be possible at all. There was a time lag of decades before the work which I had done in exile from an academic career led to my being offered testimonials from senior academics who were willing to act as my referees. After still further delay, one of the areas of pioneering work which I had initiated (lucid dreaming) came to be recognised as a suitable topic for doctorates, yet this still did not lead to my reinstatement in a normal academic career.

The enclosed notes can give little impression of what I would have achieved by now if I had had a normal life, i.e. one that was normal for a person like me. As it is, they are a statement of how efficiently the expression of my abilities has been prevented by the society in which I have been living. Academics advising me have often said, ‘Don’t say anything about your ability, only about what you have done’, and ‘Don’t mention your unofficial teaching and research.’ But society can prevent one from doing anything officially, i.e. within a normal academic position, and is what one does outside its auspices in an attempt to regain reinstatement, automatically to be regarded as disqualified from consideration?

Apart from the fact that getting me back into a normal position as a senior academic would be remedying an extreme anomaly and injustice, there are strong reasons for supposing that the field of Education would be benefitted by a Professor who is prepared to take into account factors other than those which have supposedly been considered by those who have done research in this field over the preceding decades. Clearly their insights into the situation have not created any solution to the current situation, and in practice the results of the current educational system are deteriorating rather than the reverse.

So the academic world should consider there is a need for work to be done under the auspices of someone who does not have a vested interest in the rationalisations which are currently fashionable. Those who were successful in entering normal academic careers to which, no doubt, they felt they were suited, did have such a vested interest.

The attitude to the outcast of the socially approved academic system should, in itself, be the subject of research. When one is outcast, destitute, and socially disgraced, one is described, amazingly, as being ‘free to follow one’s interests’, it being supposed that a university appointment would be a restriction on one’s freedom.

It should not be held against me that I have published fewer papers than other applicants. The exiled academic, struggling to build up an institutional environment from scratch without an income, and with no eligibility for income support when not receiving a salary, lives in circumstances which negate the possibility of carrying out research of any kind, even leaving out of account that if one did manage to produce publishable research it would have little chance of acceptance by academic journals, on account of one’s lack of an academic appointment.

I give the referees I do, as best I can, because it should be regarded as amazing, and highly creditable, that I am able to give any at all. However I expect that my referees will observe the usual conventions that (a) one’s case is not to be considered highly anomalous and in need of redress, that (b) only work done by the holders of official academic positions counts as academic, and that (c) there is supposed to be no such thing as ability which is transferable from one field of intellectual activity to another. Therefore they can do no more than damn me with faint praise for the few pieces of work which I have been able to do within the restrictive parameters of what is regarded as ‘relevant’.

Finally, I should like to make a statement. It may be that you reject this application out of hand, on the basis that it does not meet the ‘essential requirements’, or that I otherwise fail to fit the University’s idea of what an education professor ought to be like. However, it is my belief that if the University really wanted to contribute to the advancement of education, rather than merely occupy a prestigious role in what has developed under the label of ‘academic educational theory’, it would take this application very seriously indeed.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Celia Green