Monday, June 6, 2016

A lifetime of homework...

The title of this post sounds a little Sisyphean, doesn't it?  After all everyone dreads homework...don't they?  Perhaps if you are Lisa Simpson maybe you do not, but for most people the idea of homework does conjure up the mental image of a chore.  Something that isn't particularly pleasing, yet we have to do it.  It also seems to be other-regulated.  Homework isn't something you make for yourself (usually), but rather it's something given to you!  I think that the best word that describes homework for me is the Greek word αγγαρεία (agga-rhéa).  In English it translates to chore, but as with many translations there is something lost in the translation.  Αγγαρεία also has the connotation that the task you are given is pointless and lacks pleasure.  So, with this in mind, I was reading Maha's post the other day Academia = Lifetime of homework.

After reading the post I was hit by two thoughts.  The first thought is that we might want to reclaim the word homework to mean something that we enjoy doing.  After all, many of the things that Maha described in her post (things that I do as well at home and during my commutes) are things that I enjoy.  And, when I have downtime in the office I use my office time to undertake those activities as well. For example, Virtually Connecting sessions tend to usually happen when I am in the office.  I do get tired as well, and when I can't read any more, I have my iPad and Nexus read posts to me (thank you Pocket!) so I can keep "reading" and thinking.  Every so often we do need downtime as well (for me it's video games), but unlike regular "αγγαρεία" homework which weighs on you if you don't do it, the reclaimed homework is happy to wait for you to come back to it. After all, it's regulated by you and not some other party

The other thought that came to mind is that while academia is a lifetime of homework, it does not mean that we are the only ones doing homework!  In many cases the things you do outside of the context of work, things that you do for pleasure, are called hobbies.  Hobbies have their own homework as well, but we never really think about it as homework because they are fun.  Everyone is a geek about something, and in order to keep up your knowledge or skill in that something you need to practice (also known in some circles as homework).  I do wonder if because we are working in academia that we are predisposed to think about work outside of work as homework?

Your thoughts?
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