Oliver Lee wryly noted, in an online piece published yesterday (Sept 8), that:
Op-eds about the failings of higher education are like certain unmentionable body parts: Everybody’s got one.
Since he has shown us his, I’ll return the favor.
When I saw the url of the piece (“professor-quitting-job”), I heroically and gallantly resisted the urge to check his bio-blurb first so that I would know which job was being made available and whether it was one I’d be able to take off his hands.
So I read his article first. Before checking his bio-blurb to see what job he was leaving.
I will confess that little of it resonated with me. I couldn’t say he was wrong in any of his observations. But none of them seemed right, either.
On a second read, trying to find something I could engage positively, I found the exact moment he lost me: where he said, “Then it all began to fall apart.”
The series of unfortunate events he recounts next simply never amounted to anything remotely like “it all falling apart.”
The sum total of his complaints seemed to be that some people didn’t like him and that some of his students were unmotivated.
It was one massive shrug, this article–both for the one writing it and for all those reading it.
“Eh. This is boring. Imma do something else now.”
“Oh. Okay. Have fun.”
I almost think it better to ignore than to comment on this article, but it seems worth noting one small thing.
Anyone who engages in paid employment has to deal with people who are different than himself.
Anyone who has a job has to work with, for, and under flawed people.
I have flaws. Lots of them. Ones I have no intention of describing here, but I’m sure if you ask my colleagues they’ll be able to name a few. I’m sure there are loads of days my colleagues would rather do other things than work with me.
I’m actually having a hard time coming up with any outright jerks I’ve ever worked with–I seem to have successfully avoided the worst humanity has to offer–but all the people I’ve worked with have been some combination of good, bad, and morally-acceptable-but-slightly-bothersome-to-me. Mostly, in fact, I’ve worked with terrific people who don’t have nearly enough flaws or annoyances for me to spend much time at all grousing about them. I’ve discovered positive–sometimes overwhelmingly positive–traits about every single person I’ve worked with.
Sometimes, I’ve even discovered that people I disagree with are the ones who are in the right.
It is unreasonable to expect to work with near-constant affirmation from superiors, near-constant agreement from colleagues, and near-constant acquiescence from underlings.
There will be some some conflicts, some differences of opinion on matters that impact my job, even some times that the very students I’m helping think I’m making their lives miserable. Sometimes you just get a great big thumbs down at work.
I don’t blame Prof. Lee for leaving a job he doesn’t like. Good for him. More power to him. Hope he finds one he does.
I just hope he realizes that there will be some thumbs down at that job, too. I hope he realizes that his professional happiness may depend less on the profession than on his inclination to be happy in it.