Sunday, January 16, 2011

Confessions of A Jaded Grad Student - The World of Academia

I probably won't gain many friends with this post. In fact, I'll probably get some disgruntled, annoyed comments or rebuttals on the complaints I have below. But frankly, I would rather have these comments hit the spot than have this behaviour continue without some kind of rebuke. Also, note this post's lack of an apologetic disclaimer. It was intentional.

This isn't the first time I've complained about pretentious academics. See: Complaint 1 and Complaint 2. It wasn't until recently, however, that I realized these complaints are moot. They're useless. Despite my hopes that attitudes can change, they don't. And so, I've decided to give up hoping. Why hang on to my idealistic conceptions of open-minded, kind academics when, really, there are too many who are otherwise?

I entered the world of academia with the hope that what I experienced this past summer (see blog posts linked above) were rare occurrences. That the irritatingly self-righteous individuals I met above were a minority among more open-minded, humble individuals I could learn from.

But I was wrong. And in retrospect, I should have seen it coming. I've come to realize that when people *know* things, they automatically think that their perspectives are the only way others should think. Now, I'd like to point out that I don't want to generalize these comments to all disciplines or to every single academic out there. Instead, I'd like to express my frustrations about behaviour that I see way too much of. It actually sickens me to see how many people hold themselves up on a pedestal when it comes to matters they think they're "experts" on.

There's nothing wrong with knowing things. With being intelligent. With having great ideas. In fact, I'm in awe of you and your knowledge. But there is something wrong with being self-righteous about your intelligence.

If there is anything this blog post would like to convey, it's this. No matter how high your GPA is, no matter how intelligent you think you are, you have no right to make fun of other individuals' political inclinations or opinions. You have no right to believe your way is the only way. Because if it was, we'd already know what world peace looks like. You have no right to roll your eyes at people you think are below you. You have no right to snipe about people you don't identify with. You have no right to provide backhanded insults on perspectives your disapprove of. You have no right to be disrespectful to people whose perspectives you don't share. You have no right to stop listening to people who you don't agree with. Here's a thought. How about listening to what people have to say for a change? Because while you may think that your own political perspectives are OMGTHEONLYWAYTOSAVETHEWORLD, here's a reality check. Even if you are the most brilliant mind in the world, no one will work with you if you behave like a close-minded, insulting, insensitive academic. Whatever happened to respectful academic discourse?

I've seen too much of this behaviour among those in academia, even during my time at UofT. And it's disheartening. And after hearing some of these people's comments, I actually want to puke.

How about a piece of humble pie, yea? And while this title dubs me as a jaded grad student, I'll end here on a positive note. I know academics can be good, kind, accepting people. I've met individuals here at Queen's who I've come to love, to adore, to call my friends. But there are others who don't understand this lesson: It isn't just about your ideas. It's about the type of person you are. Kindness and the ability to work well with other people is also important in your quest to learn about our world. How about excercising more of that positive behaviour?

On second thought, I take back my admission (above) to stop hoping. Instead, I'll leave you all with this last message of hope. Call me naive, but I'll hang on to the hope that we can learn from each other in a respectful, kind manner. That we can continue on with respectful, peaceful academic discourse free of negative sniping and backhanded insults. Because really, isn't that the ideal we're all hoping for?

"Intelligence should be like underwear. Everyone should have it, but no one should be showing it off."

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