Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Modern College (cont.) - "Mistakes Have Been Made."

I can't say I'm on board with everything the "Modern College" proffie wrote yesterday - you're against lockable offices and are unhappy to have a new building? - but I do share his nostalgia about what I thought "college" was going to be like.

I grew up in a small town about 100 miles from the nearest college. My pop occasionally took us there so he could use the library - he was an amateur (and sometimes very explosive) inventor. As a boy, I'd walk that campus and marvel at the place, all greenswards and Roman columns. The students looked like young happy adults, laughing and studious all at the same time. The professors eased out of buildings in the cliched uniforms of the day.

And by the time I was in the 10th grade I knew I'd be a professor some day. My romantic notions for the profession were high, and as with many things, they soon faded.

What my life is like now, of course, is nothing like what I'd imagined. It's meetings and fights over textbooks, and so little about the actual opportunity to teach and help students find their ways. I go weeks sometimes where I might as well be a coal miner, just trudging along, doing the dirtiest work I can imagine, keeping my head down, and longing for 2 pm on Friday when I can get in my car and go home.

It's been 15 years of this now, and I've long since forgotten the bucolic and pleasant campus of my youth. I teach at a giant state university which rises out of metal and concrete and does indeed look more like a shopping center than anything else.

It's a job I have to pay the bills. It's something that I got instead of what I thought was the life of a professor, and now I feel I've done it for too long to get out. And I look at my younger colleagues and their romantic notions get dashed as well, usually in that first semester as a visiting assistant professor. They come in happy and leave disgusted.

If this is what the modern college is like elsewhere, then mistakes have been made somewhere.