Thursday, February 22, 2007

Meet Me at My Locker

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.


Christopher said...

It sounds to me that your high school is a lot like law school. And that makes me sad for both of us.

Chris said...

If you're here, then the partying and drinking is on Thursday night.

Bruce said...

High School: You could not freely express your crush on the captain of the football team, and you had to try to avoid staring at him when you showered together after gym class.

Academica: You pray that the sweet, sexy, but stupid captain of the football team in your class had at least done some of the reading, so you wouldn't have to fail him at the end of the term.

Doug said...

You make academia sound like it's more mature. Working in the corporate world, I know for a fact that most of the people I work with have only a fraction of the maturity of high-schoolers.

Lotuslander said...

I went to an alternative high school, where you were sent to if you didn't fit in a mainstream one. There were trannies, gays, drug addicts, misfits, mental patients.....I loved it.

This post had me laughing out loud.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Well you somehow missed the classic rights of gender passage high school is all about:

High School: Males obsess about the point thier voice breaks the size of thier equipment (causing thier need to check it every 4-5 minutes), any implied threat in regard to size or developement is taken VERY seriously.

Academia: Male professors obsesses about the lack of thier peers to understand thier growing body of work (or if older; thier powerful and firm reputation); any implied slight is taken VERY seriously.

High School: Girls are taken away to a "special assembly" where they emerge pissed off at guys (and the inequality of nature in general)

Academia: Women are seen as an oddity and told when walking down the math department halls, "The Women's study building is directly opposite"; they meet openly to talk about glass ceilings and emerge pissed off at guys (and the inequality of the academic system in general).

GayProf said...

Christopher: Alas, high school never ends.

Chris: Go on...

Bruce: What do you mean they aren't doing the reading?!

Doug: This is best-case scenario. At worst, Academia is back to preschool.

LotusLander: There's an alternative high school? Why didn't anybody tell me?!

Elizabeth: Yours (and the other commentators') suggestions are much better than mine.

I am confused, though, is there some point where men stop obsessing about the size of their equipment?

Jen said...

Hi Gayprof,

I went to an alternative school too, but not nearly so cool as the one that lotuslander went to.

Mine had no classes. None. You did your work at your own pace from the books/videos/alt. resources (this was pre- widespread internet). If you needed help you went to the part of the building designated for math or social studies or English or whatever and got help one-on-one from a teacher or aide. Some portions of courses had required group work (seminars) or large group (lecture theatre sized) components. Some courses had parts that were known to be tricky and had regularly scheduled seminars that you could sign up for. When you were ready to take a test you went to the testing centre and took it.

Socially, it meant it was a bit tough to meet people. On the other hand, you never got stuck sitting in front of some ass or wondering why everyone had such dumb questions, or wondering if you were the only one who didn't "get it".

Also, once you did meet people, you could sit around in the cafeteria or field for the afternoon or sign in in the morning and take off skiing for the day. If you needed ALL of Jan. and Feb for a theatre production or every Fri and Mon to travel for competitve sports, then fine as long as the other stuff got done in the other 8 months/ 3days of the week.

I didn't love high school, but I really quite liked it.

Sorry this turned out longer...

tornwordo said...

That was very funny gayprof. Do you often assign compare and contrast essays? (I mean when you actually teach, lol)

Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cooper said...

Oh I'm so glad I'm out of academia.


Rebekah said...


I'm wondering what land a junior high school teacher falls in?

No way could what I do be considered academia. But... it is better than high school.


MaggieMay said...

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MaggieMay said...

Sorry, here's the whole link:

Dorian said...

Clearly I missed all the good parties in high school AND college.

lumpy pea coat said...

This is a really old comment, but I've been thinking about this lately, and while not typing as much as you did about it, we share the same idea. High school and academia are the same shit. A bunch of overgrown kids. Dope. NOT!