Academic Cynicism

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a website where professors can anonymously bitch about their students, their administration, their colleagues, their facilities, their parking spaces …

It was funny at first, and a little cathartic. Then, after reading through more and more of the site, the cynicism started to get to me. It was post after post of profs talking about how apathetic and sarcastic their students are (where do we think they learned it?), about the sense of entitlement that students have these days, how dense they are, blah blah blah.

I know that sites like this are a caricature; nobody has a great day of teaching, or a meaningful interaction with students, and thinks, “I should bitch about this on my favorite anonymous professor blog.” You get people reacting to their most frustrating experiences of the semester.

Still, it reminded me again of something I’ve often thought: I have no desire to be a part of academia at large. If my position at APU goes away for some reason (like, if they find a dead body in my office. Or a copy of ‘Generous Orthodoxy’), I probably won’t even bother looking for a similar position somewhere else. I’m not all that interested in being a professor – I’m very interested in doing what I’m doing here, at this place.

I love our students. They are, for the most part, optimistic and intellectually curious. When we bump into each other outside of class, they want to have conversations about ideas; how cool is that?

I love the faculty that I get to work with. They have that critical mix of high intelligence and pragmatism; they are interested in what actually works, not in what theoretically should work (you have to spend a little time at academic conferences in order to appreciate how rare that is).

I respect my departmental leadership. The Dean is a political monster, able to bob and weave with the best of them, but he uses it to protect his faculty from administrative interference, and to advocate for student learning. His authority doesn’t just come from his position, it comes from his ability in the field. He can deliver. He’s a musician, who also happens to be adept at the politics of administration.

They give me the proper tools to teach my subject matter. I teach a technology class. Every 3 years, they rebuild my teaching lab from the ground up with the latest technology. Getting the right software for the job is rarely a fight. We have our turf wars with the IT guys, but it hasn’t yet inhibited the teaching environment.

I dunno. Maybe if you check back 10 years from now, I’ll be bitter and jaded and will spend every moment complaining. But not now.

Maybe it’s the two bottles of wine that I polished off over lunch while writing this, but I’m feeling blessed.

4 thoughts on “Academic Cynicism

  1. Sharolyn

    MIke, this is wonderful. You are a great contribution to the morale of the entire teaching staff where you are.

    I am teaching at the fourth elementary school of my career. In general terms, it is the healthiest of the four. I was recently talking to a “seasoned” teacher over lunch and she was telling me about the first student in her long career to actually regress academically. This girl also yells at my friend, “I hate you” when she forces her to complete a task. My friend then said, “What she is really screaming is, ‘Help me!’.”

    I thought, Can I grow up and be like you?

    Mike, I am totally with you that so many teachers become jaded. It’s refreshing to find those that use their experience to present at seminars, be adjunct professors at night, write new curriculum, or whatever. May we all become like them, in whatever field.


    Then again.. maybe I’m not so “green” myself… This week I met a co-teacher for upcoming Summer School. We attended the same high school. She said, “When did you graduate? I was in the class of 2000.” Holy cow.

  2. Sharolyn

    PS – I am slowing making my way through “A Generous Orthodoxy”. When the book was in front of me on a treadmill at the gym, I got the random inappropriate giggles (by myself) about the front cover. I thought, “What is so wrong with Brian McLaren’s forehead and chin that they cut it off? Does he have snakes for a beard? Does he have a Gorbechev birthmark?” ‘Probably too many endorphins.

  3. michael lee Post author

    [quote comment="86195"]Does he have snakes for a beard?[/quote]

    Well, he does now! At least as far as the rumors spread by this blog are concerned.

  4. betsy

    He eats babies.

    You should look up Keith Matthews; he teaches at APU, and is the antidote for cynicism and unpleasentness of all sorts.

    He was my boss for a couple of years. Here at Baby-Eating Central.

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