Written Words – academics and kick-boxing

There are days when you wake up and think, what is the internet for if not for blogging about similes? Today is one of those days:

Academics is like kick-boxing. Or more accurate, like a collegiate basketball team learning to kick-box.

The offseason we learned to kick-box my team had a tradition; at the end of the session we lined everyone up and every guy had to go through the line performing a series of punches. It was the type of rah-rah moment, with everyone yelling for their teammates, that makes college sports so special.

Except every once in a while, a captain with a twinkle in his eye would set one of the freshman up. And instead of the freshman doing the punching, we’d get a couple of shots in as he went down the line.

And that, in a nutshell, is academics.

See, when I went down that line, it wasn’t super clear what the purpose was. Were the older guys trying to make me tougher? Was I trying to prove I was tough? Or was it just good, old-fashioned hazing?

That’s exactly how I feel about the academic process and what I’m struggling with while doing the field work for my PhD. As I make countless cold-calls for a survey about neighborhood associations, I can’t help but note that this isn’t the way I would do it if it was about my knowledge. It seems like I learn far more about the associations from the conversation as opposed to the survey. The knowledge is learned outside the academic process. It’s in the stuff that doesn’t count.

But maybe academics is about communicating that I have knowledge. It’s not about me, but about showing other people what I know. Or about organizing information in a way that proves to other people that I know it.

And on days like these, when no one wants to pick up the phone and my neighborhood associations are blackmailing me (I’ll fill out the survey if you come to my meeting), I think it’s the final option.

The academic process is hazing. And we do it because it makes us miserable.

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