The long haul: failures, successes, and equilibrium

Drawing from the informal poll I did weeks ago on Instagram to solicit suggestions on what content should appear more on this blog, one of the suggestions was a discussion of my failures in academia. I don’t know why, but it kinda just popped up in my head as I was vacantly gazing outside the window. My dog was chasing a garden rat.

When I was a student, both undergrad and grad, I imagined academe would be nice place where everyone is civilized (not all), intellectual (definitely not all), and working together towards the common goal of human enlightenment (some are actively conspiring against this). Plus, my dad is an academic and he got to travel—business class!—everywhere. Given these rose-tinted goggles, I sought my place in academe.

What most people see on the outside are the happy moments: graduation, completion, and acceptance. These are moments I choose to present. However, this is all superficial. What often goes unrecorded are the constant failures, rejections, and plain old stress. Also, back pains because of too much sitting and irritated eyes because of too much screen-staring. And indigestion. Lots of it.

What I learned, especially in these two years of holding an active academic position, is that everything oscillates until it reaches equilibrium. If you haven’t failed yet, you will, and vice-versa. You just don’t know when. So here’s a short summary of my academic journey. It’s not always smooth, as you may infer. Caveat abound. Some unconscious self-censorship may be present.

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Student-professor relations

Starting from a Twitter thread by @roythaniago (see below) which basically compiled a bunch of complaints students had to their professors, I also want to chime in with my own two cents.

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No easy way in the battle against misinformation

In light of the recent 22 May riots in Jakarta, the Ministry for Communication and Information (KOMINFO) enacted a “soft ban” on social media and messaging applications. Instagram and Facebook were blocked (surprisingly, Twitter was left alone), while WhatsApp users could not share images or documents (but could still receive and send text messages). The three-day ban was a preventive response to potential misinformation surrounding the Jakarta riots. However, despite the ban, as much as 30 pieces of fake news still fell through the cracks. The ban was also easily circumvented using VPN services. The ban has been criticized left and right on grounds of infringement of civil liberties.

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Studying IR #2: A guide to reading

Ah, reading. According to some of my students, once they get hold of a book, they start feeling queasy. As they read, they develop lightheadedness. Some start convulsing in pain. Ten minutes in, they have to be escorted to the ER. No seriously, this is exactly how one of my students described the experience of reading an introductory text in International Political Economy.

Hyperbole aside, reading, especially academic texts, is not the most exciting activity there is, but it is the most important part of studying IR. After all, a large part of IR is about understanding the thoughts of other scholars through their written work.

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Teaching IR #3: Should the lecture stay?

Some thoughts about whether the oldest pedagogical trick ought to stay or be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Today, the lecture faces a lot of criticism, especially from education reformists. In this post, I do not aim to address all criticism exhaustively. Instead, I focus on one piece of representative criticism, namely the argument that the lecture is “passive” and thus, should be replaced with more “active” pedagogy.

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Fostering a healthier national security debate in Indonesia

The military needs to loosen their grasp on information so everyone is on the same page in the national security debate.

The Jakarta Post ran the following headline, “Indonesian Air Force to fly jet fighters to wake people for ‘sahur’”. This isn’t the first time JP has ran such a loaded headline, but this particular one is amusing as it ignited a short scuffle on Twitter between a national security academic and the official Twitter account of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

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Teaching IR #2: The Conventional Presentation

I thought I ought to also provide some discussion of the conventional presentation method, since it is perhaps one of the most basic student-centered teaching method. Also, I made an extensive critique of it in Teaching IR #1, so I might as well explain why I don’t really like it. Though easy to execute, poor execution actually brings more harm than good.

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