The arrogant general public

I had a conversation last night with a friend from undergraduate days, who transferred from an Ivy League school to save money and had a hard time because the University of California was so much more demanding academically. He did not get into a strong M.S. program or any Ph.D. program.

Him: How are you? You sound tired.

Me: I am fine. I am just a bit drained right now because I am just coming off of teaching three classes, three topics, managing three groups of people, 1.5 hours each. This is a bit more social than it is easy for me to be, I do better with just two such groups in a day, but I am fine otherwise.

Him: I had lecture and lab, a total of four hours for one course in a given day when I was a student. That is a lot more demanding intellectually than anything you could be doing. (This is a person who keeps telling me to use coffee table books for culture courses and does not understand why I put work into teaching since “it is just the same class all the time, isn’t it?”)

Me: Well, having done the same and also taught it, a lot, all I can tell you is that for me, managing and running something like that is more draining than being a participant. It sounds as though you probably find management of large, diverse groups and attending to different and disparate needs a lot easier than I do. I would love to be that way, given the kind of very scheduled, very social, very crowd-management oriented academic jobs I usually have.

You can tell why this person had difficulty at the university and was not allowed to go on. And this is what arrogance really is — not someone who actually is good, knowing that they are.




Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?

6 responses to “The arrogant general public

  1. Jonathan Mayhew

    4 and a half hours of teaching is much more grueling that 4 hours of sitting in class taking notes or daydreaming. What is someone’s concept of teaching. Showing slides and reading what is on them out loud? I am not a great teacher but I know at least you have to be engaged every moment, and monitor the students’ level of engagement. You have to be relaxed (not tense) but at the same time alert to every thing that’s going on. Your energy has to come forward, the more so the less energetic the students are. It is incredibly hard work and very draining.

    And yes, arrogance is not pride in accomplishments, but the arrogation of judgment.

  2. Z

    He’s talking about listening to an hour of a lecture that is difficult for him to comprehend all of and important that he catch, and then three hours of work in a lab that is also difficult. For FL study, the equivalent would be what you do in a difficult language intensive.

    I think I realize what he means. In graduate school I taught a language intensive in the summer, in Spanish, and I took one in Arabic. Being a student in the Arabic one was actually harder than teaching the Spanish one because (a) I was in class with people who had a background in Arabic, (b) it involved a new alphabet, weird handwriting, and fewer cognates than Latin or German and (c) in the Spanish course I taught, which was 3 quarters in 1, I already had materials, presentations, etc., ready because I had just taught Spanish 1, 2, and 3 during the AY … and I had a grader ! ! !

    He doesn’t realize that that is not what I am doing, because he doesn’t realize what professors really do and is not able to realize this, and does not know that he does not know because he is an educated and cultured person, reads NYT, goes to museums, watches PBS, does not comprehend that there is more.

    This is the whole problem with the general public and so on.

  3. Z

    Oh, yes. This was a housemate so I am ranting about him as about a sibling. He, a science major, took simplified math for his science major, whereas I took regular math for math majors. And he had the gall to always be asking me how it was going, why I wasn’t having more trouble, etc., not being in sciences.

    The problem with being in Humanities, someone said, is that everyone else thinks they are experts at it.

  4. Jonathan Mayhew

    That’s so true. Everyone is an expert on what we do and on our own subject matters. Why don’t they teach Shakespeare anymore? (They do). Why do they only teach race and gender in history courses (they don’t). Humanists are not really smart like rocket scientists or brain surgeons (except when we are). Anyone can get straight A’s in the Humanities at UCD (except the other kids in classes with me who struggled for their B’s). Every member of the general public knows the intellectual poverty of women’s studies programs. People I meet want to tell me about their vacations in Spain or Mexico. If you are in Comp Lit they will ask you “What do you compare?”

  5. Z

    Actually, people you meet probably ask you whether you have heard of Lorca. I know this because it is one of the most common questions I get.

    But, B’s? This guy got a D in a writing class but would not recognize there was anything wrong with the paper. This was why he could not see it was a fair grade.

  6. My friends from my undergrad days at an Ivy have similar blind spots. Because they are intelligent and culturally aware, they look back on their college educations and think they can intuit what professors’ lives are like (and this is to say nothing of the differences between professors’ lives at our Ivy in the 80’s and professors’ lives at other schools now).

    If anything, this phenomenon is even worse for those of us teaching high school–everyone thinks they know what your life is like because they spent four years in high school.

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