Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teach or Perish

The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 19th, 2015

My undergraduates’ career plans are a peculiar mix of naked ambition and hair-shirt altruism. If they pursue investment banking, they do so not merely to make money. Rather, they wish to use their eventual wealth to distribute solar light bulbs to every resident of a developing nation. They’ll apply to the finest law schools in hopes of some day judging war criminals at The Hague. Countless want to code. They dream of engineering an app that will make tequila flow out of thin air into your outstretched shot glass. My students, I suspect, are receiving their professional advice from a council of emojis.
There is one occupation, however, that rarely figures in their reveries. Few of these kids hanker to become professors. Maybe that’s because undergraduates no longer believe that the university is where the life of the mind is lived. Or perhaps they are endowed with acute emotional intelligence; they intuit that their instructors are sort of sad and broken on the inside. It’s also possible that the specter of entombing oneself in a study carrel does not appeal to them.

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