It’s Not the Students

It is increasingly a fashion to harrumph against the students for everything. It gives older academics and public intellectuals a moral glow without them having to face the real and uncomfortable beast. It is not the students who are the cause. It is a certain section of professors, academics, and departments that act as Soviet political commissars within campuses. Put simply, this all is an intra-academic war, where students are simply pawns in a greater power play.

Exactly! Students are never the problem. Students are great, I love them. We are blaming our own pusillanimity and idiocy on them, and that’s unfair and stupid.

God, if only the administration of my school reacted to my scholarship with the enthusiasm, respect and curiosity of the students towards it, I’d be the happiest person ever. And it’s not just me. Yesterday I talked to somebody with amazing credentials, experience and knowledge who offered to give a guest talk at one of the departments at my school, and they ignored him. This guy spoke at Stanford and other places of this caliber, and here he is, offering to give a talk for free because he just happened to be here for personal reasons, and they ignore him even though we never get any guest speakers any more for lack of funding.

This wasn’t ideological in any way, and I’m sure students would be overjoyed to hear him. It’s the apathy, the indifference, and the lack of caring about the life of the mind, or anything beyond the trivial concerns of grading primitive multiple-choice tests and bickering over classroom assignment.

I’m tired of fellow academics telling me I’m weird to “waste so much time” on stuff like Shoshana Zuboff’s book. Students never think I’m wasting my time reading. I never saw anything but support and admiration from them. It’s risible how different the reaction is from students and from professors when they see me lugging a huge stack of books around.

It’s the academics and the ideology commissars who tell me that I have to “stop intellectualizing everything.” Students never do.

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