Torn recently had an entry about an encounter with some loud high school students on the metro. Let me tell you, high school was not the best time of my life. Granted, it was better than junior high. Those middle grades (sixth, seventh, and eighth) were my Vietnam. Still, high school was no pleasure cruise. I wasn’t one of those cool gay kids who came out in high school; who then forced the school to recognize his rights by inviting another boy to the prom; and ended by getting a blow job in the back of his dad’s Buick LeSabre. No – I just danced at my prom and marveled at all the decorations that I hung just a few hours earlier. Yep – I was that kid.
Anyway, Torn noted that high school never really ends. We just learn to cover up our behaviors a bit more. Or words to that effect – I was kinda too lazy to find his exact quote. Anyway, it got me to thinking, the social dynamics in the academic world still do run off the same basic principles as high school.
Seemingly we never quite get over our adolescence. Let’s see where high school and life as a professor intersect:
High School: Who you eat lunch with matters a lot. There is a designated table where the cool people eat lunch.
Academia: Who you eat lunch with matters a lot. There are no cool people – Our non-coolness foreshadowed our life as professors in the first place.
High School: Those who drop out are doomed to a life of economic hardship.
Academia: Those who drop out usually find jobs that pay twice as much.
High School: Classes are just space-filler for your day. Most of the time is spent daydreaming and ignoring the teachers.
Academia: Classes are just space-filler for your day. Most of the time is spent daydreaming and lecturing the students.
High School: Jocks are given undue preferential treatment.
Academia: Jocks are mythical creatures who exist in some sort of alternate universe.
High School: Though there is a great deal of illicit sex occurring, nobody is talking about it openly.
Academia: Though there is a great deal of illicit sex occurring, nobody is talking about it openly.
High School: Many individuals think that trashing and/or bulling other people is the key to popularity.
Academia: Many individuals think that trashing and/or dismissing the academic research of other people is the key to career advancement.
High School: You wonder why your teacher assigned some dry eighteenth-century novel.
Academia: You wonder why your students are not as excited as you are by that thrilling eighteenth-century novel.
High School: The principle is in a position with questionable authority. He/She often fears that students will TP his house – again.
Academia: The dean is in a position with questionable authority. He/She often fears that the faculty will organize a non-violent, safe gathering of interested parties to air grievances – again.
High School: Teenagers imagine their problems are the most important things in the world.
Academia: Professors imagine that their research is the most important thing in the world.
High School: Your peers relentlessly judge you and force you into social conformity.
Academia: Your peers relentlessly judge you as part of the job description.
High School: You need a hall pass to pee.
Academia: You debate the philosophical and social implications about the spaces designated for peeing.
High School: Social events are sponsored by the school. Many students sneak in liquor to spike the punch.
Academia: Social events are sponsored by the university. Many faculty won’t come unless they serve liquor.
High School: Truancy is against the law.
Academia: Truancy is part of the lifestyle.
High School: Angst, self-doubt, and social awkwardness mark these formative years.
Academia: Angst, self-doubt, and social awkwardness are prerequisites for the job.
High School: Though 99% of students never hold the title, most daydream about being named prom king or queen.
Academia: Though 99% of professors never hold the title, most daydream about being given a MacArthur Genius Grant.
High School: Friday night means partying and drinking.
Academia: Friday night means partying and drinking.