Saturday, July 7, 2007

We Let A Smartass Correspondent Reply to an Otherwise Innocuous Query From a Student Reader - And We're a Little Ashamed

I'm a college student and I have been exploring many majors and careers. (You mean drinking and whoring? Yes, those were our favorites, too.) So I've finally found something that I'm interested in and something that I'm good at: Social Psychology and Research! (The exclamation point brings us such sadness. The word research should be followed by a skull and crossbones instead.)

Now I know there are very few career options for someone who has a PhD in Social Psychology and wants to do research, and I also know that becoming a University Professor is one of the most common career outlets. (Oh, are you looking for a fall-back position? That'd be great. The academy is full of people who don't have the ability or the nuts to make it in the real world. You'll be able to be bitter alongside the rest of us. Nothing is as exciting as someone who is looking for a "common career outlet." We wouldn't want you to teach because it was a burning desire or anything, or because you wanted to help young people develop into mature and exciting adults.)

But here's the deal, I don't really know if I'm cut out to a be Professor. So I've decided to come to you very opinionated professors to ask some questions. (Sure, it's summer. We're mostly just drinking umbrella drinks and watching HGTV.)

Why did you become a Professor? (I did it to avoid becoming a corporate drone. And then when I got here, I realized that all academic administrators dream about turning the academy into a mini-General Motors. We have just as much excess and stultification as any corporation, so I've made a huge mistake.)

What do you think are qualities of a good Professor? (I'd say that you need to completely strip away any ego. You also will need to have to be able to give up all hope for the future. Once you get a load of the students, you'll mostly want to plunge a knife into your brain. And that's on a normal day. On bad days, you'll be on your office computer looking for plastique recipes.)

What do you think makes you qualified to teach (besides having a PhD)? (Nothing at all. That's the crackerjack part of it. If you can just put the years in to grad school, people will imagine you're qualified to teach. It's one of the great cons of all time. I teach and am probably just as professionally prepared to be a rodeo clown. But don't worry about being qualified to teach. The modern classroom is just a place for the young swingles to hang between the caf, the rec, and the dorm, and as for you, the classroom is just a place for you to work out various frustrations in front of a docile and supplicating mass. Feel free to tell everyone what you really think of Al Gore, express your disdain for the people you work with, give bad advice in your own discipline - you don't want any of your students to become professors down the road and push you to the side.

Do you find it easy to teach students a subject that you're passionate about? (Seriously. You're cracking us up. You can't teach students anything.)

How do you create an interest in students to learn a subject you love? (You're killing us. Is this a put on? There are so few students who are interested in ANYTHING, that we're not even thinking about it anymore. We're doing this job because there is a tiny shred of us still invested in our own discipline, or own work. Occasionally we find a student or two who wants to know more, and those tiny successes are a minor balm for the otherwise hateful and mind-numbing drudgery of the rest of the semester. And you've caught us on a good day.)