Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Academia


What do I hate about academia? Let's start with the things I like:
1. I like teaching. I like teaching curious students, of whom I've had many, and I like teaching students who are smarter than me, of whom I've had many. 
2. I like researching. I've never finished a paper, an essay, or a conference presentation without knowing more than I did at the start. 
3. I like writing. It allows me to tune out the noise of human speech, to push the pause button and say what I want to say as clearly as possible. I do not always succeed. Most often, I don't succeed. A mechanic can't fix every car.
4. I like meeting interesting people who study interesting things I've never heard of.
5. I like meeting interesting people who study interesting things I have heard of and who happen to know more about those things than I know. 
6. I like receiving grants and I like traveling.
7. I like the money and the wealth of job opportunities.
So what do I not like about academia?
1. I don't like meeting incurious people, people who assume the mantle of knowledge and wisdom that they have not earned. Too often, I am this person. I try not to be.
2. I don't like the trivialization of political thought via groupthink. 
3. I don't like teachers who hate their students. 
4. I don't like condescension. 
5. I don't like bad writing.
I am now starting my sixth year of graduate school. I have spent more time in pursuit of a Ph.D. than I have spent in pursuit of any goal in my life. I've been ABD for three months, which is exhilarating in its own way. Looking back, I've had some awful lows in graduate school and some good highs. I've met people I would rather never see again and many more students and colleagues who I miss. I don't know if I would recommend this life to anyone, but at the moment, I feel content with where I am and what I am doing.

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