We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The Fawlty Towers of Academe: Analyzing Faculty Unhappiness
Every bright, curious young person has at least once considered a teaching career. Even I did, as an undergraduate. How could one not, spending all of those years surrounded by teachers? It is one of the few careers with which a kid has close experience.
Plus it is truly a noble profession, with no heavy lifting, especially at the college level.
So why are faculty always griping? Joseph Epstein tries to get to the bottom of this question via his review of Showaler's new book, Faculty Towers: The Academic Novel and its Discontents.
My sense is that his essay, which uses the academic novel as a jumping-off point, pertains mainly to faculty in the Humanities if not in Departments of English in particular - a group which, from the point of view of "consumers," seems to have lost its way, forgotten its mission, and sacrificed its prestige.
Eptein notes the dream of the academic life:
"Universities attract people who are good at school. Being good at school takes a real enough but very small talent. As the philosopher Robert Nozick once pointed out, all those A's earned through their young lives encourage such people to persist in school: to stick around, get more A's and more degrees, sign on for teaching jobs. When young, the life ahead seems glorious. They imagine themselves inspiring the young, writing important books, living out their days in cultivated leisure."
But such an idealized vision can never be realized, of course, and then a little envy drops in:
"But something, inevitably, goes awry, something disagreeable turns up in the punch bowl. Usually by the time they turn 40, they discover the students aren't sufficiently appreciative; the books don't get written; the teaching begins to feel repetitive; the collegiality is seldom anywhere near what one hoped for it; there isn't any good use for the leisure. Meanwhile, people who got lots of B's in school seem to be driving around in Mercedes, buying million-dollar apartments, enjoying freedom and prosperity in a manner that strikes the former good students, now professors, as not only unseemly but of a kind a just society surely would never permit."
And, the final blow - the realization of the triviality of one's "research":
"Now that politics has trumped literature in English departments the situation is even worse. Beset by political correctness, self-imposed diversity, without leadership from above, university teachers, at least on the humanities and social-science sides, knowing the work they produce couldn't be of the least possible interest to anyone but the hacks of the MLA and similar academic organizations, have more reason than ever to be unhappy."
Epstein cheerfully concludes:
"And so let us leave them, overpaid and underworked, surly with alienation and unable to find any way out of the sweet racket into which they once so ardently longed to get."