AHA Today sent me to this article at Inside Higher Ed from a distressed college professor who’s leaving the profession:
Higher education for too many undergraduates at too many liberal arts colleges has become a puffy sofa nestled with down pillows. For a few bucks and in a few hours, students can take a test and learn that they are language disabled, or mathematically disabled, or for a few bucks more, both. Students increasingly ask me during advising sessions if a class is tough or hard, or if the professor assigns a lot of reading, because they need to “lighten their load.” “I want to take a class with Professor So-And-So. I have a lot on my mind, and I don’t want to stress out.” “Don’t worry,” I say, “you won’t.”
This comfy zone of mediocrity extends beyond the classroom. “Student life” largely serves to debilitate the notion of a genuine, deliberative, academic community. Rather than fuel cerebral discussions with activities for the mind, resident advisors and their adult supervisors plan activities that redefine anti-intellectualism. There is Sensitivity Day, Tolerance Day, and Wear [insert color here] Day, and a host of other events that are aimed at “inspiring.” Dorm life is supposed to be cool, fun and engaging. For me, it was simply a place to sleep.
And what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Un-coddle them then! But apparently that’s not the only group people at this college that this person has a problem with:
Intellectual sparring (dare I use the term) about ideas – among students and faculty – has been replaced by one-sided, partisan drivel (for example, Obama = admirable. McCain = terrible and, for the record, I will be voting for Obama). While it would be easy to blame a liberal bias among faculty for this groupthink, it should be noted that this simple world of good and bad pervades the world around us. On radio, television and the Internet, ideological pundits scream at one another with vitriol and fervor. My partisan colleagues are universally National Public Radio listeners. They do not hear the other side, so it is easy to demonize the other side. Their students are listening, and sadly think of conservatism in its many forms as horrific. Worse still, they now conflate liberal passion and advocacy with justice, and by default, analytic rigor and reason. They do not weigh evidence, or take note of pro, cons, costs or benefits. Doing so would be to admit that there are merits to positions they do not hold. To acknowledge that their ideology is imperfect is the first step towards compromise, or in their overused, precious phrase, “selling out.”
This is about the only part of the essay that is at all self-reflective:
I have learned after almost 20 years that I am woefully ill-suited for today’s classroom.
I always hate it when people suggest I don’t have a real job, but this person could probably use one. It’ll be an education for them. They’ll learn that outside of academia nobody gets to pick their colleagues, and if they complain about their customers they’ll eventually go out of business. [I hate that term when used in the context of higher education, but I can't think of anything else that would be the "real world" equivalent of students.]
Furthermore, assuming we’re talking about tenured or tenure-track faculty, nobody anywhere gets our kind of job security. Indeed, with a recession/depression coming up fast, I’d think now is the absolute worst time in the last 20+ years to switch careers.
To put it briefly as possible: The killer rabbit is guarding the exit to the cave of academia, not its entrance. Don’t complain that it’s dark and damp in here because when you go outside you’re going to get mauled.