Tuesday, August 1, 2006


I write this from the breezy porch of a rented house in South Carolina where I've spent four glorious days and nights at the end of my summer vacation.

My college and my students await me in 3 weeks time, and I am filled with overreaching dread about it. I've been teaching for 5 years, and it sends me into paroxyms of panic when I think that this is what I will face for the rest of my working life.

I can't stand my senior colleagues who dismiss me as young and untried. My students are lazy and uninterested in my field. I hate the ass-kissing I must do to publish articles in journals that nobody reads. I hate that I hate all of this, too, because I spent 4 years in college and then 6 more in grad school to get right where I am, right where I thought I wanted to be.

Nobody told me that having a "life of the mind" meant that you would lose your mind. Why does the academic world attract such vain, venal, vacuous, and sometimes vicious people? Everyone is so small, petty, and they hoard their little chunks of real estate (literally or figuratively).

I always thought that at least the teaching would be fun. But my students write in my evaluations that I "want too much of [their] attention in class," and that I "makes [them] read material every week, even when a holiday is coming up." One person wrote: "I only flunked one test but that shouldn't mean I can't still get an A." Well, yes it does. There are 3 tests and you got 40% on one.


I feel too old to start again, to find a career where I could get away from the parts of my profession I hate. But I feel like a coward for not trying to fix the system. And the semester looms. And I'm already sick to my stomach.