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academic attitudes and relationships

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Wed Nov 19 21:12:43 EST 1997


After thinking more about the "students' attitudes" threads, I realized that
it had touched another nerve in me that may have some relevance to
people who want to balance an academic career and a significant other
relationship.

My former boyfriend, who was a professor at a small, high-quality liberal arts
 college, made a lot of the points over a two year period that I've reacted to
 negatively when I've seen them on the newsgroup:  the idea that students
 are more interested in partying than studying, that they have "lost" their joy
 in learning, that they try to take advantage of professors and the system, that
 they view an education as a commodity, that they are only in it for grades
 and a high-paying job.  

	He would bring these complaints home, and from listening to him
 talk, I expected a completely different type of student than who I met when I
 either visited him at work, or when I later interviewed for a job at that same
 liberal arts college.  

	At the interview, I found motivated, nice, polite, intelligent students,
 some of whom were doing high-level undergraduate research in biology.  I 
found supportive professors who were experimenting, with joy and interest,
 with innovative teaching methods.  

	Obviously the school is trying to put its best foot forward when it is
 interviewing job candidates, but the reality was just so different from what
 he had led me to expect that the difference was really overwhelming to me.
 This was actually a really good college.  These were great students.  I
actually wanted this job.

	What I discovered I really didn't want was that relationship, so I said
 goodbye to both, and withdrew my application, with regret, before any
 decision had been made on me or the job.  I just didn't think I could start
that job as the relationship ended, even if it had been offered to me.

	 I understand better now than I did then the need for venting, and a
newsgroup seems like a pretty good place for it, so I apologize for the snippy
tone with which I answered some people's postings.  But on the other hand,
 what I saw happening to him and some of his friends when they got too
 deeply into the "complain about the students' attitude" mindset was that it
 was a dead end for them, emotionally and intellectually.  It didn't lead to new vistas, or creativity, or opportunites for grace.  It didn't lead to a better
 relationship with the students, improved self-esteem, or creative solutions to
 the problems.  It sure didn't lead to happiness or job satisfaction.
And it was rather hellish on our personal relationship, which became a dumping
 ground for these sorts of complaints.  

	That kind of attitude difference was just another weird problem that
I never would have expected when I decided to become a scientist, and to try
to balance that with relationships.

Karen



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