Saturday, October 23, 2010

Preaching to Academics

I wonder why there are so many people nowadays who are falling all over themselves in their efforts to tell academics how to do our job. A while ago, there was a profoundly silly article in The New York Times by Dr. Pippin of Chicago U who decided to educate scholars of literature about the many things we supposedly do wrong. Still, Pippin is at least an academic, albeit one who is completely ignorant of how literary criticism works. Recently, I discovered that failed academics who have had to drop out of academia also often like to preach to their more successful colleagues about what we do wrong.

Last week, I stumbled on a blog post suggesting that academics who blog anonymously betray the interests of our educational institutions and of the general public. The author of the blog kept insisting that it's my obligation to post under my own name. Of course, I find it ridiculous that people I don't even know would tell me what my obligations are to my employer and my readers. And especially to "the general public," since I don't know what that even is. Figuring out what my real name is from this blog is a matter of two minutes at most. However, whether to mention it or not and when is nobody's business but mine.

Obviously, I wanted to find out what kind of a name this blogger (who knows what all academics should be doing and is pretty vocal about it) has been able to make for themselves. What I discovered was that this person is so passionately opposed to other people's blogging anonymity simply because they have never managed to make their own name mean anything in academia. This individual hasn't been able to make it in the academic world (which is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as it doesn't transform into annoying preachiness), so now their job is to write online and for all kinds of conservative foundations about how the academics are the devil. In short, a case of sour grapes of humongous proportions.

The problem with this tendency to dump on academics is that we have to go back into the classroom on Monday and we need our students to trust us and respect us. We need to be empowered in our fight with the administrators. What we don't need is to read yet another contemptuous and condescending article or blog post telling us how we have no idea what we are doing and how we are wrong about pretty much everything.


Richard said...

Of course the good Dr. Pippin is an academic all be it a professor of philosophy not literature. Looking at from the outside, I would say there appears a tendency to disrespect the field of literature and literary criticism as somehow not ‘serious’. This view by any rational standard is nonsense. In point of fact it is through literature and literary criticism that one learns that there are many ways to view the world and interpret the events in it. On a personal level literature enriches our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
At least this is the view of a non-academic.

Snarky Writer said...

And we're lazy and entitled for whining about not getting paid a living wage but still having summers off. Don't forget that part.

Anonymous said...

The rise of the authoritarian mindset has been something I've devoted a lot of thought to over the past few years.

This encroachment of MBA thinking into where it really doesn't belong is another aspect of this miasma of authoritarianism.

History says these sorts of episodes end badly. This one will not find any different denouement, though I think it will take several decades to fully play out, with much destruction along the way.


eric said...

Academics blogging (anonymous or not) is a real godsend, and is in the best tradition of the engaged intellectual. I imagine that if Dewey, Sartre, or Foucault were alive today and in their prime, they would be blogging--no question about it. No wonder there are some who find it threatening!