Wednesday, November 10, 2004

meet the professor

This is the professor. Let's call him Michael, because that is his name. Michael arrived at work today in his team's home uniform: olive green sport jacket, long-sleeved black t-shirt, dark jeans, dark socks, and bright new Nikes. Michael positions class chairs in a circle "because this way we're all on equal footing," but still conveniently positions himself at the front of the classroom.

Michael likes to talk. More than that, he likes to hear himself talk. His head, swollen with his own wit and brilliance, bobbles on a wiry neck as he expostulates on whatever he feels like, no matter how obtuse the subject or how many references he knows his subjects (those subjected to him) won't follow. His eyes, narrowed to slits to remind his loyal subjects that he knows what they are thinking, quickly shift left and right to gauge the reaction to a joke he just told. Laughter means the star-struck children love him. No laughter means the mindless peons don't share his sophisticated sense of humor.

Michael is a master of Spin. Today, because he forgot to coordinate appropriately, Michael will turn 90 minutes of wasted class time into "a really great opportunity for you guys." He will deign to answer our questions, touching our foreheads with his wand of knowledge, dispensing advice that must be taken in with knowing nods and smiling agreement. He will pepper his responses with references to his own brilliant career--published books, community work, academic service on a full buffet of committees--because he is his own favorite subject. Of course in the wild this type of preening display is meant to either draw in potential mates or ward off potential rivals, but for Michael it is all in the name of helping students. Michael is a cultivator, and what he hopes to cultivate is a generation of academics who see their world as he sees his: not heliocentric, but academiocentric. In his world view, the Ivory Tower of higher education both holds all the cards and claims to be abstaining from the game.

Michael is a pontificating, posturing, puffed-up preacher of self-love, self-aggrandizement, and self-satisfaction, all wrapped up with a pseudo-scientific seal of sincerity. He is right because he says he is right.

And he's here to teach me a lesson.

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