The Life of the Mind:
"We’re very sorry, but academia will likely always include the teaching, committee meetings, shared governance, fights about office space, funding problems, and advising that get between us and the Great Thoughts. . . .The flip of this is also misery-inducing: That everything beyond the boundaries of the Ivory Tower is an intellectual wasteland full of busy work and ethically suspect agendas. In this story no one reads, public intellectualism is dead, and everyone is simply putting in their time until retirement. "--from
Good points all! Don't I know that my daily grind consisted of committee meeting after committee meeting, concern about whether courses would "make" or someone wouldn't get the short summer course they needed to fund their family vacation to Disneyworld or something. I actually didn't mind the committee meetings all that much when they were chaired by people who got in, kept the politics and feelings out of the discussion, and got us out in time for our next class or office hours. One thing that always got me, though, was how petty some of the in-fighting was, and how insecure some of the "excellent scholars" were. Got to see misogyny up close and personal more than a few times, but also saw how easily rumors were started and spread, many completely false, but some more true than the institution could ever admit.
The students are what kept me feeling so young, though. I enjoyed my interaction with them so much. Despite the fact that I got older and older, while they all stayed approximately the same age, I liked how they taught me so much about what was cool to say now, what was not, even if I never picked it up. When my own son and stepchildren were college age, it was interesting to see their world from other students' eyes.
But back to the "Life of the Mind:" I would like to think that I conveyed the possibility to them that EVERYWHERE in the work world, not just in college, the life of the mind is valued. One of my favorite theme-centered writing courses that I taught was the one on "public intellectuals." The most interesting phenomenon that I encountered was that, for about two thirds of the students, that phrase didn't completely register in the sense that I wanted it to. Instead, they would replace in their mind the idea of "someone to look up to," "today's heroes," or "inspiring adult role models." The idea of public intellectualism was lost on them. And yet, I learned a lot myself about some pretty amazing people. I still have the research material for the knowledge and insights I gained and the web pages they made on each person and want to translate it all into a paper still someday.
ARTICLE #1 in progress: Public Intellectualism and First-Year Writing Courses.