Things have been very quiet here at Say Hello to my Little Friend lately. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, we found out recently that we need to move house, which has sucked away a bit of time making arrangements and finding a new place to rent. We will be shifting house on the 10th of July, and the time between now and then will be busier than normal. Also, moving has reminded us yet again of the perpetually and mercilessly rising cost of living (especially renting – we will be paying notably more at the new house than we are at present), so I’m possibly going to be picking up a few extra hours of work in an evening or two each week.
The big thing looming for me however is the reality that the prospect of an academic job is looking worse and worse all the time. Qualifications and skill simply don’t cut it, and in spite of the very kind things that people who listen to the podcast say to me, I’m aware that graduates vastly outnumber opportunities. Unless you’re an American, the doors in America are firmly closed and the industry is not at all friendly to outsiders, and in New Zealand, there are virtually no “doors” to begin with. New Zealand has absolutely no professional outlet for people with these passions (if you’re reading this, thinking “no wait, I know of an exception,” let me assure you: You don’t. You only think you do.), and the academic scene in new Zealand is incredibly small, meaning that graduates outnumber positions by something like five hundred to one (rough guess). What’s more, specifically Christian institutions, it seems, are captured either by a specific church or by organisations that exercise significant control over the mindset and the hiring that goes on. None of this is helpful for eclectic academics. Like a lot of graduates in the humanities, I’m having to think long and hard about whether it’s realistic to expect this to ever change, and the job that I’m doing at present is most definitely not something I intend to do long term. I am about to start taking some distance papers in accounting, which is work I will have to fit into my evenings and weekends. This means that there will be much less time on an ongoing basis to invest into Say Hello to my Little Friend.
I would love Christian academia to be a full time part of my life, but reality often does not conform to that which we want, so the output from this blog and podcast is going to be of a much more low key nature than it has been over the last couple of years.
<warning: rant triggered. I swear, when I started writing this post I didn’t intend to go in this direction.>
I would also love to see Christian academia in New Zealand spread its wings and encourage brilliance, but the almost successful pursuit of mediocrity seems for some reason to be a far more attractive goal. I’m sure I won’t make many friends in saying that and I may (figuratively speaking of course) go the way of John the Baptist as a result. So be it. What’s the point of me having these degrees if i can’t speak my mind every now and then?
Christian institutions expend much breath and ink talking about setting higher standards and being on the cutting edge of relevance or prestige, and then invest great time and effort in decision making that ensures that they will never do either of these things. It’s just the kind of thing I have been trying to dissuade people from with this podcast, but the occasional lone voice is not enough, and if this is what they really want, they are going the right way about ensuring that nothing will ever change. Don’t even bother thinking that I take some judgemental pleasure in saying these things. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is a real burden for me that I wish I did not bear. I wish things were different. I would love more than anything to be a part of making them different. I passionately want Christian institutions of higher education in New Zealand to succeed: To actually break free of its mold and to step out of its ghetto. But change needs – needs – to take place at an institutional level. New names of colleges and new signage doesn’t cut it. It is the persistent, sleepless determination to remain as out of touch, second rate and frankly laughable by world standards (or at least this is just what it looks like from the outside) that prompts these comments, and it frustrates the hell out of me. There are people in this country who are willing and able to work in and with institutions like this to really lift their game, but they are ignored by those who would benefit most from their input. They are, effectively, shown that Christians with a passion for bringing academic rigour to Christian higher education in serious interaction between Christian and unbelieving scholars, in defending a philosophically astute brand of Christianity and performing in publications alongside their non-Christian peers are simply not needed or wanted in New Zealand. For those of you out there who want that type of education but are disappointed that there are no Christian colleges in New Zealand offering it – don’t blame a lack of supply (and no, I am certainly not simply talking about myself here. I’m a little bit less shortsighted than that). Blame the colleges directly. They have this gap in their programmes by choice. This is actually the way they want it. You will have to ask them why this is so, but I can tell you that it is so. The problem is not (as some might cynically suppose) that I’m personally getting passed over in favour of others who have a better version of my CV. The problem is that absolutely nobody with the kind of interests I’m describing and a related background is being hired at all. Colleges are literally avoiding that type of faculty and curriculum altogether. It’s by design, but is it intelligent design? You decide, but the message looks clear enough to me: We don’t want that type around here. And so we do what I’m doing now: contemplating simply dropping out of the race for such roles altogether.
If you happen to disagree, or if I’ve offended you in saying this, let me know. If you work for the institutions that I’m talking about (yes, right at the moment I’m talking about that large one somewhere north of here) and you think I’m being unfair, please tell me how. If things are different, I’d love to be made aware of it. If my mind needs to be changed over this, convince me. I’d love to see things differently, really I would. I just can’t, no matter how much I try. It only has this effect on me because I actually care and I find it utterly bewildering that those directly involve actually seem to care less than I do.
So anyway, getting back on track, we’ll see what happens with this site in the near future. I’d like to keep it up, and hopefully I can, but a few factors conspire against me right now.