Death by Duck

Spring is the time of year when students go a little crazy: they are trying to finish their studies, earn good grades and complete their major projects. This time of year I get emails from students who’ve been silent for months and months, who are now anxious to get their ducks in a row. My mailbox and email are filled with students needing last-minute help and it’s driving me crazy. One of my colleagues extended the mallard metaphor and said “it’s like getting nibbled to death by ducks.”

One of the graduate students whom I advise—bright and independent—recently confessed that she’s hit a wall. She’s trying to wrap up the threads of her research but can’t find the time. Work ends up taking priority and when she gets home, she just wants to relax. I get that: early this week I was so wrecked by the time I got home I went to bed at 8:30.

She confessed that she needs to change the pattern: she starts with good intentions but just can’t get into gear. When you try and try and try but your attempts don’t yield results, it’s time to change your approach. She reminded me that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results each time.

What keen insight.

I admire her courage to seize the reins and redirect her path. And it’s a good lesson for me, too, because I’m often carrying a rock up the hill only to find myself back at the bottom of the hill, rock still shouldered.

It reminds me of the barriers I face in my own research, when I struggle with how to leverage what I think is important: Native conceptions of science. It’s a constant struggle to remind Western scientists that Indigenous views of science and nature, and our place within the world, inform our very existence and define ontology and epistemology. But it’s difficult to break through the barriers that the mainstream hold so dearly: that science is value-free. And that’s nonsense.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, Indian, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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