Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keith Humphreys Remembers an Old Fool

Hey, what are you wasting your time here for? Pop on over to Reality Based Community  and listen to Keith Humphreys remember Dr. Omphalos.  It's a  tale almost canonical in structure and content and yet when I try to pick it apart, I am puzzled.  In my experience (fairly long)  most academics are pretty insecure, hungry for approval, contemptuous of so much of the approval they get, always listening to the little bird on the shoulder that says "you know, you really ought to be back in Poughkeepsie scraping gum off the bottom of  bus seats."  And yet our profession is structured so as  to engender monsters of vain self-conceit.  We talk, they take notes: the wonder is not that there are so many blowhards in academic life, but that there are so few.

On second thought, I suppose these two stories can be woven together. It's precisely because so many of us are so needy (affectionwise) that we are so stung by displays of dismissive pomposity among our betters.  One thing is clear: it's hard to imagine a profession so rich in opportunities to generate a lifetime of animosity among people  of whose very existence we are scarcely aware.


Jeffrey Davis said...

I'm not an academic, but I've met hundreds. It isn't that they are blowhards. It's that's tenure begets lifelong infants. As Kipling noted, "A [school]master is not a man."

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

I'd think that law school would be different (although I know it is not.) Today's law students are tomorrow's judges and regulators and practitioners, all of whom law professors want to influence.

Buce said...

Scrooge, it's a point that deserves thought. My guess is that outside the top 14 schools, the number of grads profs want to influence is small and often identifiable in advance (though we've had a few total surprises here). Flip side is that in the new intensely socialized world of scholarship, professors of hum and soc sci likewise want to make sure they are buttering up the potential stars.