When a Single Research Paper Ended My Teaching Career

This “story” got me into the most trouble as a college professor in my entire career. I was having my students research, as a class, the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing and its possible dangers to wildlife, our water supply, and future ecosystem. Most of the groups of researching students came to the same conclusions that this article does: Overall, the dangers of this process outweighed its advantages — by a lot.

Many of my students, before that semester, had never even “heard” of hydraulic fracturing. They told me it was a great experience doing this research and working together to get to the bottom of a current and potential problem in their country, in 2012.

My administration and my English Department didn’t think the same way. I received the lowest overall staff evaluations in my 25 years of teaching. In fact, just before I was “pushed” into retirement, I was officially placed on “probation,” meaning I would need to get another evaluation, and if I did not improve (meaning, get this kind of topic and research by students) out of my curricula, then I would be history.

The irony of this, perhaps, was that the full-time faculty and, indeed, the entire college system, came up with the “innovative” idea to collectively assign papers to all students on A SINGLE BOOK and on environmental issues in a vague and pretty irrelevant manner. They used an ancient (in Environmental Science terms) book by Rachel Carson, authored in . . . wait for it . . . 1962, called “Silent Spring.” WTF? Banning DDT was old news, wasn’t it? How many more controversial practices, including fracking, had happened since then? No, the administrations did not want students having their “consciousness raised about current environmental horrors.” This was the collective wisdom of the teaching establishment to “inform” ALL THE COLLEGES in San Diego!

I was wondering if other teachers around the country are presently facing the same pressures to conform? I discovered that many on the Board of Trustees of the college where I worked (Grossmont Community) were investors in shale oil, and perhaps even some of the full-time faculty, although I never researched it. Their comments on my evaluations led me to believe there was some overt bias going on, at the very least.

In 2020, we are now “exporting” our oil for a profit, and it’s all based on this practice, which is taking land from farmers, indigenous tribes, and, most importantly, from our future life on the planet. You judge for yourselves. Do the research, find out the exact process they use to rape the land and devour her delicately formed resources to fill the engines of our polluting mobile monsters.

I’m 74. I hope my former students for that semester and the new students and teachers are carrying on my effort to educate the world about this environmental crisis.

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Jim Musgrave

Owner/Publisher/Author at EMRE Publishing, LLC, San Diego. Former professor at Caltech (English and Project Mangement). Developer of the Embellisher (TM) ePub3.