Paradigms and Theories and bears oh my!

I’m really rubbish at theory. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of different classrooms, physical and virtual, and done a lot of reading about all kinds of theories. Everything from positivism, to critical race theory, to literary theory, to critical theory, and on and on in directions I don’t even remember. And every single time, no matter how it’s taught or approached, my eyes roll back in my head and my brain skitters off to something else like a group of makkuro kurosuke at the advent of light.

Gif of the scene from My Neighbor Totoro when the makkuro kurosuke fly away into the night.
Flee little soot sprites!

Even now, I’m writing this while half listening to a lecture on paradigms and social theories, and I just. Cannot concentrate, and no amount of fidget toys will help. (I’ve had this professor four times now, I keep taking classes with her partially because I enjoy her teaching.) Talk to me about specific occurrences, and the larger trends and the symbolism of things, and I’m right there with you. But talking about abstract theories makes me want to claw my skin off (thanks ADHD brain!). This is a bit of a handicap to someone who wants to work in academia, and I hate that this is true.

I really don’t think theory should be quite so prominent, not even in humanities fields, as it is in certain parts of academia. From the literature, it almost seems if you don’t start out with a thorough knowledge of a particular theory, you don’t even have a hope of understanding the subject at hand. But I don’t think theory is actually as necessary as all that. I think it’s possible to look at trends and occurrences and the forces at work in our lives without having to resort to theory-talk every time. And the reason I know it’s possible is because I see very smart people talking about very important, timely, and academic subjects online all the time without using theory. They’re talking to average lay-people, breaking things into smaller chunks for twitter, or using the language of tumblr, or relating through memes. Probably the people making the posts know some theory, but not necessarily because not all of the people are formally academically trained in the subjects they’re talking about, they’re just talking through experience and their own learning.

Anyway, long post short, I hate theory and I wish it wasn’t quite so venerated in academic circles. I wish academia was better at communicating to non-experts, especially because there is nothing I feel like an expert in, and the “expert-talk” of much academic literature is actual torture for me to read. Petition to leave the theory at the door and just have a conversation for once where we’re not trying to out-smart each other.

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