August 17, 2017

“Only a tenured professor could write a book like this.”


“I think we strain out all the good pedagogical impulses in those ten years, and I would point to the isolation in particular. I went to graduate school twice—I have two doctorates—so I think I know of what I speak. That experience was so incredibly alienating. To me it’s funny in retrospect, but the amount of time I didn’t spend with any other human being clearly left a mark on psyche and my ability to communicate. It nullified, it nuked whatever emotional intelligence I might have possessed—which apparently wasn’t much—when I went to grad school.”

So the great Jacques BerlinerblauGirls exegete, Grumpy Old Man of American higher ed, and author of Campus Confidential: How College Works, Or Doesn’t, for Professors, Parents, and Students—recently summarized the graduate school experience through which the vast majority of those who educate our college students must pass. Jacques was speaking to Leonard Lopate on New York’s WNYC radio, and their conversation covered a lot of ground — tenure, massification, the value of professors who piss everyone off, and much more. Give it a listen right here:

And if you want to see an American intellectual seriously in his element—like, octopus-returned-to-the-ocean in his element—you should check out Jacques’s recent interview with Chris Martin of Heterodox Academy, a group of professors concerned about the lack of viewpoint diversity in American academia. He’s the first interviewer to ask a particular question Jacques has clearly been waiting for, and they talk, among other things, about the differences between campus liberals and campus leftists, with particular sensitivity to how those differences are playing out post-Charlottesville:

“I don’t necessarily want a right-wing or left-wing professor…. I want a professor whose political views are either inscrutable—you do not know what their politics are—or completely unpredictable. And the reason that that happens is that when they enter the classroom, they’re not thinking red-blue, Democrat-Republican. They’re thinking, ‘I’m a student of symbolic interactionism, and symbolic interactionism teaches me, and this is how I approach it….’  That’s what I love about college, that we don’t think in these stark political terms. We come with these ancient disciplinary traditions, and that’s what guides us to come to occasionally political conclusions…. Step one for rectifying the problem is, yeah, to get more conservative folks of goodwill and good conscience into the academy, absolutely. But my bigger dilemma is, that’s not really what I’m after. I’m not after cookie-cutter diversity. I want a faculty of nutcases. I love them — like, brilliant nutcases.”

You can watch the whole interview right here:






Campus Confidential is on sale today. Buy your copy here, or at your neighborhood independent bookstore.