#HigherEdReads is a professional reading accountability group, but how do we define professional reading?
Last month, I read a journal article from Cerebrum and the book Indistractable. I shared my reading progress with both on social media throughout the month.
But I have a secret to tell you.
That's not all that I read in January. I was also reading this:
Why didn't I share this as part of my #HigherEdReads goals? It wasn't intentional, at least not at first. I'm an avid reader, so I always have multiple books going. I also believe that there is a time for every book under heaven, as they say. Right before bed, I read fiction. After dinner, depending on what's going on at home that night and if I'm not working, I do some spiritual reading. In the mornings and during the day, I tackle my professional reading.
I had filed Into the Magic Shop in the "spiritual reading" category of my life and gone about my business.
Sometime after completing chapter 4, it hit me.
"Higher ed could really use this book."
That realization was followed by this: "But you can't talk about this stuff in higher ed, at least not publicly. People will think it's weird."
What's "this stuff"? Who are these mysterious "people"? And why would a book about the mysteries of the brain and the secrets of the heart be considered weird? Not for nothing, but if higher education is meant to raise us up to the best version of ourselves, what's higher than developing a better understanding of our brains and hearts?
I've been chewing on this question of what defines professional reading all week. Into the Magic Shop is about a young boy who studies relaxation, meditation, and visualization with a somewhat eccentric mentor he met while on the hunt for a rubber thumb for his magic act. What does any of that have to do with higher education?
Well, from my little corner of the world, we're struggling. We're not managing our stress well. We mistake zoning out in front of a screen with true relaxation. We have a really hard time focusing. We feel constantly pressed for time, and we spend our days putting out fires rather than pursuing our most important goals and real dreams. What could be more relevant than a book that might teach us to calm down, focus, and clarify our priorities?
But talking to higher ed about a progressive, full-body relaxation? Sometimes I feel like the culture of higher education doesn't realize we have bodies; we live so much in our heads. And meditation? That's for the yoga studio, right? Not the classroom or the boardroom. Visualization?! Eye roll. At least, these are the reactions that I imagined in my head when I thought about sharing this book as one of my professional reading choices.
It's also worth adding that the book starts with a story from the author, James Doty, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford. He uses the techniques taught in the book to save a child who's bleeding out on his operating table, not through logic and the detached study of anatomy, but rather, with love and intuition. Does Doty's academic pedigree make the book more professional? Is saving lives not professional enough for us? If Doty wasn't an M.D. teaching at an elite institution, would the book seem less professional, even if all else was the same?
I'm wondering how others define "professional reading," and how the culture of higher education might direct us away from books and ideas that could potentially transform our lives, and the lives of our students, for the better.
What/who defines professional reading?
I write about higher education.