Lamenting the Loss of the Weird

A lovely piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education laments the loss of the weird in universities, specifically that professors, especially humanities professors, have lost their ability to be weird. Certainly the image of campus life conjured up by my older professors when I was in school was far different than the life we lead now. Jacques Berlinerblau, the author, lays the blame at an unfortunate convergence of the proliferation of administrators, the corporatization of universities, and political correctness. I think he mostly has it right. The thing I lament is the increasing infantilization of students: it’s not that corporate universities see them as consumers to be placated, it’s that the modern university — which is not yet mercenarily corporate nor is it any longer pedagogically a university — cannot pre-masticate its material enough, to its own mind, to make it palatable to students. And, even worse, the time spent pre-masticating material means that one teaches a whole lot less.

This will be a foreign sentiment to my friends and colleagues at universities and colleges further up the pecking order, and I can only wish for them that this particular wave exhausts itself here, lower on the shore, where there is also the combined impulse to fault the professoriate for it and lay the lash on more sternly. (Again, there is talk of increased teaching loads.)