Ben (14): Dad, how many classes are you teaching now?
Ben: You lazy bum!
Yes, he understands about search committee work, endless meetings, graduate exams, constant writing projects and papers to prepare for, guest lectures, occasional piano work, and so on—not mentioning running him to music lessons, soccer practices and games, and study sessions. He sees his mother constantly doing editing work (correspondence, editing, so much else) for her musicology journal. He was simply, for pure pleasure, “tickling a sleeping dragon” (in the immortal words of J. K. Rowling). Of course, the end result was a wrestling match, and two destroyed dignities, which was the original goal.
He lives with this, and whether his future holds 25-hour days of similar activity or a completely different direction will be his decision. (Of course, I say this with all due piety and earnestness but still think I can make it for him!) But he understands—he knows exactly what our lives involve, the fires that motivate us, and why we live like this.
How many members of University Boards of Trustees, state commissions on higher education, or national boards of same have the slightest clue? I once heard about a conversation with a New Jersey legislator (I think; for that matter it could have been apocryphal), in which a professor was asked by a pol about his load.
Prof: Nine hours.
Legislator: Well, it’s a long day, but at least it’s easy work.
As I say: perhaps apocryphal, but all too indicative of what most people think about the higher education endeavor. I’m trying to get beyond “rage” to “wonder.”
After that, presumably, come “dull, anaesthetized acceptance” and “administration.”