I would say that part of the reason why we invest so much time in our academic persona facades is our own sense that this is how we would act if we were confident, instead of being so possessed with, and determined to compete with, other competent veneers and hide our imposter syndromes that we overwork, overdress, overcompensate. (I feel pretty confident about the imposter syndrome and grad students -- I just bet that getting a job feels more like you pulled the wool over the new school's eyes rather than an affirmation of your academic rockingness.)
One point I want to discuss is the sticky wicket of writing. Dr. O said:
. . .students often don't understand that we scholars learn in part through writing. Writing is not the reporting of completed and digested discovery, but can in its own right be part of the discovery process.
Yes! And if we want our students -- from first-year writers to grad students -- to consider writing part of the discovery process, we have to develop projects and assignments that encourage them to use it that way. Many teachers across the curriculum tell those of us in English that "students can't write." (It usually goes like this: "What are you doing over there in first-year writing? My students can't write.") What is it that they can't write? They can't work through their thinking about course concepts in their writing? Or they can't write a "good" well-formatted paper in the discipline? (Often what these complaining teachers say is that students don't know their proper grammar. Not only can a first-year writing course not inoculate students against the improper grammar that surrounds them everywhere, but compared to exploring complex ideas and communicating through the confusion of new concepts should hyper-correct grammar be what we mean when we say "good writing?")
Too often, assessment strategies (No Child Left Behind's timed writing tests anyone?) foreground organization over complex thinking. Complex thinking is often messy. Focusing too much on discourse conventions, format, and organization in a piece of writing can lead to well-structured but simple-minded papers. While developing a thorough understanding of discourse conventions is very very important, assigning writing that invites students to do the messy shitty-first-draft exploratory work that we do invites students into how the real work in the discipline gets done. Worrying over whether a piece of writing is structured correctly for the discourse before grappling with the complexity of the ideas is like making sure we have the tweed jacket with suede patches and the pipe in our mouths before we get to grad school. The smooth surface of a too-correct paper may be like the all-competent surface of our academic persona: totally empty beneath.