Worth the Struggle
As busy as I am keeping all of my students, I am managing to keep myself even busier. I continue to make headway on the dissertation, though it seems like drops in an enormous bucket. Admittedly, there are is a shortage of people that ask me why I am bothering to work for such a goal. Why, they ask me, do I wake up at 4:00 am to work on a dissertation that will not necessarily advance me in my career, and which (if statistics can be trusted) is in a field that does not seem to offer a bright financial future? It's a tough question for some, but not for me.
My answer was really solidified one day after an encounter I had as I walked my son to school. A parent of schoolmate was praising their partner, noting that they were a "bona fide" intellectual as marked by their job position and publications. Knowing well that I was working on my dissertation, squeezing in hours between work and family, it stung a little. As I taught my kids in an old and neglected classroom that day, my mind kept going back to that conversation. I thought of all the writers, artists, and intellectuals that struggled their entire lives only to die unknown and unappreciated, with their work unrecognized. I thought of my students, who I push to strive for the very best in their reading and composition, even if the society in which they live disregards them and their work. I thought of what I tell my students when they ask me why I demand of them such a high level of critical thinking and effort in writing.
I dwelled on the conversation because I realized that the kind of exclusivity the fellow parent was trying to uphold (an elitist division between the "authentic" and "inauthentic" that is unilaterally determined by the former) was endemic of the very hierarchical structure of power that I strive to expose, and that keeps kids like those I teach in a socioeconomic culture where they are taught that their ideas, concerns, and contributions aren't "bona fide" because they do not have access to the same resources and audiences as do kids in other communities.
So when people ask me why I pursue my dissertation in the face of such challenges as I have, I tell them what I hope to hear from my students: because we I have something to say.