02 June 2003

This is an interesting article, especially to a current university student who hopes to be a professor someday. It's true that the university is very cut off from the outside world. In the past year, I only watched television in my dorm once. The news I got was mostly from skimming the front section of the New York Times about once a week, or maybe from hearing a news show on the television in one of the on-campus food joints. When the war in Iraq started, I didn't know about it for three days, until I sat down at a table with some friends in ROTC and heard them discussing it (I tried to hide my ignorance). A lot of the professors at the university I attend are a bit radical, but they're mostly the philosophy and theology profs. The professors from the history, English, and music departments that I have encountered are no more eccentric than one would expect from people in those disciplines.
College professors are eccentric. I mean, who really wants to hang out with 18-22 year-olds for the rest of their working life? Who wants to be dedicated to just one subject, and be around other people all day who are equally immersed in that subject? And who really wants to wear those funny robes and hats for commencement exercises and academic convocations and such? Well, me, actually. It's very appealing. Ok, so I want to be cut off from the world a little. But professors are not as cut off as students are. They go home at night, most of them do not eat in campus dining facilities, unless they get breakfast from our Starbuck's ripoff coffee shop, and a lot of them have families. (Of course, the Jesuits are a breed apart, and take the normal eccentricity of college professors to a probably otherwise unknown extreme, but we're trying to talk about the average prof here.)
Ok, now for being a mature adult. What, exactly, is a mature adult? I'd like to know. If my professors (and I know some of them pretty well) are not mature adults, and indeed, if some of my classmates are not mature adults, then I don't think I've ever met one. And I've met a lot of adults. Has a mature adult ltraded an imagination and sense of whimsey for the gray drudgery of responsibility? Or can a mature adult handle responsibility with whimsey and imagination? Do they keep their noses to the grindstone all day and keep up to date on every single news item in the paper or on television, or do they enjoy their work and keep a grasp on the major events in the world and not worry too much about things that don't pertain to them? The article does not say what about the professors makes the author consider them to be immature, except that male college professors often do not remarry after being divorced. Is it possible that this is not a reflection of an inability to commit to an adult woman, but rather an inability to meet available (and appropriate, i.e., non-student of comparable age to the man) women within the sphere in which they, of necessity, spend most of their waking lives?

Ok, I'm obviously biased. But I beg you to remember, I think that no one would consider the hardworking medieval peasant not a mature adult, yet he too was pretty cut off from the happenings of the world outside his village and probably worked at the same job in the same village for his entire life. If college professors are not mature adults (a claim for which the author provides scant example or evidence), I would contest that it is not for these reasons.

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