On the Purpose of Whining

An experienced senior colleague and I are talking about University X.

“That place is horrible,” I tell my colleague. “It’s a regular dump.”

“What makes you think that?” the colleague asks me.

“I’ve been talking to people who work at that university,” I explain, “and they say it’s a horrible place. They are exploited and unappreciated in all kinds of ways.”

The senior colleague looks at me with compassion.

“Did they also tell you that their teaching loads are 1.5 times lighter than ours and their salaries are significantly higher?” he asks.

“Really?” I say. “But then why do they complain so much?”

“Whining is what we as academics do,” the colleague explains patiently. “We pretend to be miserable so that nobody realizes how great we have it and tries to take it away.”

“But ours is the best kind of job ever,” I say.

“I know,” the colleague smiles. “But shhh. . .”

The Problem With Journalists. . .

. . . is that they are incapable of recognizing which genre is appropriate to which occasion.

At our Graduation Ceremony today, our alumna who recently received the Pulitzer Prize for her achievements in investigative journalism was giving a speech.

“Out of each 4 of you,” she said, addressing our graduates, “2 will find jobs in your chosen field, 1 will find an unqualified job where your degree will be of no use, and 1 will remain unemployed and will have to return to Mom’s and Dad’s basement.”

We awaited some sort of a punch line but it never came. I can just imagine how this journalist toasts people at their weddings by reciting them the statistics on divorce.

As an investigative journalist, she probably forgot that not every occasion calls for sad revelations and unpleasant statistics.

Is This For Real?

I’ve been staring at this article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed for twenty minutes trying to figure out if this is meant to be some sort of a parody or if it’s all for real:

You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. . . Then there is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of “Race for Profit: Black Housing and the Urban Crisis of the 1970s.” Ms. Taylor believes there was apparently some kind of conspiracy in the federal government’s promotion of single family homes in black neighborhoods after the unrest of the 1960s. Single family homes! The audacity! But Ms. Taylor sees that her issue is still relevant today. (Not much of a surprise since the entirety of black studies today seems to rest on the premise that nothing much has changed in this country in the past half century when it comes to race. Shhhh. Don’t tell them about the black president!).

On the one hand, I don’t think it’s possible that Chronicle of Higher Ed would publish something this racist and egregiously stupid.  I mean, people who are at least marginally familiar with the academia have got to know that we, the scholars, study things that happened long before the 1970s and do consider them relevant today. Some of us even write dissertations on the Medieval Spain or the Ancient Greece because the study of the past is something we find to be useful and enlightening. And we do proceed on the assumption that things that happened a long time ago are still relevant today because the present is a result of everything that happened in the past. I feel like an idiot explaining all this because it’s very self-evident.

On the other hand, there is no indication that this article is supposed to be a joke. It is written in a very uneducated language of a person who cannot possibly be part of the academia. Has it been placed there to ridicule brainless uneducated people who criticize research they are not intellectually equipped to understand? Was this the goal of publishing the article?

I’m very exhausted from round-the-clock grading at this moment and I feel like I’m missing something important here. Has anybody been able to figure this out?