Every Friday People Conspire to Annoy Me

These students are going to drive me nuts! Now one of them has decided that “read the novel you will be analyzing” means “find some half-assed, abbreviated, error-ridden translation of the novel online and waste a month reading it.”

No matter how many lists of possible fuck-ups I amass and warn the students about on the first day of class, there is always some bizarre way of going about things that they manage to invent.

I have noticed that the resistance to visiting a library is so huge that students prefer to download some crap from the Internet, pay significant amounts of money to Amazon for sending them books they later discover they don’t need, anything to avoid going to the library and simply checking out the book they need. This is a sad mystery.

Cato Institute

A student wants to use a publication by Cato Institute in his research. Should I allow this? Is it a legitimate academic source?

I remember hearing that they are a non-academic think-tank that is heavily subsidized by lobbyist organizations. Am I right or am I confusing them with somebody?

Tel Aviv University Rules!

Wow, this is an academic I really admire:

The Tel Aviv University business school on Monday told its undergraduate students to get their degrees in other academic disciplines rather than business. . .

Ellis said in his email that the business school recommends undecided undergraduate students choose disciplines like pure sciences, math, economics, psychology, computer science, history, literature, philosophy and architecture.

“Study of academic disciplines prepares students to think scientifically in these fields and form the foundation for advanced studies in graduate degree programs,” he said.

But wait, there is more. Brave, honest professors at Tel Aviv U say openly what so many of us have wanted to say for a long time but never dared to:

In TheMarker magazine article by Tali Heruti-Sover, Tviran was quoted as saying business administration should only be studied at the graduate level and that an undergraduate degree in business is unnecessary. “Business administration is an excellent degree but needs to be studied at the appropriate time,” he said.

This is so true, and finally somebody is admitting it. Undergraduate degrees in business are a joke because they turn universities into vocational training schools. In order to conceal from the students how lacking in substance these programs are, professors and administrators fill their heads with pipe dreams about the untold riches that await them the moment they graduate. My sister (who is a job recruiter) says nobody has more inflated and unreasonable expectations than these kids. In reality, nobody can learn how to run a successful business while sitting behind a desk.

The reasons why universities keep deluding their students on this account are clear:

Ellis said, “Unfortunately for us and many of the world’s leading universities, there are open and hidden pressures to serve as institutions for professional training. The MBA was first founded to train graduates of disciplines who already had practical work experience in their professional or scientific fields for administrative positions.

Later, over the protests of many professors, undergraduate programs were also opened. At first, such programs were established at colleges, and the universities were left with no choice but to open management programs from fear of losing good students who are very interested in this field.”

As a result, universities turn into vocational schools that offer useless training for non-existent vocations.

Here is what Tel Aviv U is doing to preserve its integrity:

He continued, “As opposed to other colleges and universities, our senate approved the study of management only when combined with an academic discipline to retain the scientific character of undergraduate studies. For this reason it also barred combining management study with accounting, which isn’t recognized as an academic discipline.”

This is an example we should all follow.

Image Is Everything, Thirst Is Nothing

What would you think about a professor who specializes in the French literature of the 1920s and 1930s but never read a line by Balzac and has a very vague idea of who he is?

What would you think about a professor who specializes in the Russian modernist poetry but never read a line by Tolstoy and says things like, “Could you tell me what the deal on that Tolstoy fellow is? What did he write about?”?

What would you think about a professor who specializes in James Joyce but never read a line by Dickens or Hardy?

I know somebody like that in my field. This person is a Peninsularist who has never read anything by Galdós and is not sure how to pronounce his name.

That isn’t what I find really curious, though. I also don’t find it surprising that this person was given a very prestigious job fresh out of grad school on the strength of very poor Spanish and zero publications. Neither am I shocked that this person – who still hasn’t published a word anywhere on this planet – is about to get tenure at a very good school. (I know who this person’s Daddy is, so nothing surprises me.)

What I do find incomprehensible is how this individual – who is very very limited intellectually, is not well-read, is not doing any interesting research, is hated by students for teaching in a boring and uninspired way – has managed to convince absolutely everybody in sight that s/he is a rising star of contemporary Hispanism.

“Oh, so you know JJ, right?” people keep asking me. “JJ is such a star! The future of our field belongs to JJ. There is just no competing with somebody so brilliant. I only wish I were as good at research as JJ.”

It seems like wherever I go, I encounter a bunch of folks ready to gush about the Zero-Publications JJ. Of course, JJ keeps announcing that something super impressive is about to be published but 5,5 years after getting a PhD, you either have a record of publications or you don’t.

“Ah, you just wait and see!” somebody told me the other day. “JJ is writing this really break-through piece right now. You might want to hold off on submitting your article on the same writer. It might be of real help to you to see what JJ has to say about him.” The word “JJ” was pronounced with the veneration one normally reserves for luminaries who have had a huge impact on the field.

Of course, I;m not holding off on submitting my article because I do want it to appear in print before the end of this millenium.

I find it fascinating how people manage to create a certain image of themselves and then get everybody to believe it. I have no doubt that JJ’s admirers are being completely sincere. I just can’t figure out what drives them to stick to this vision of JJ, all evidence that JJ is a flake notwithstanding.