The Whine of Disgruntled Academics

A cursory glance over Herb Childress’s screed in the most recent The Chronicle Review reveals him to be little more than another jaded professional, still muttering over his unrequited dreams of academic tenure in a now-villainous American college system.

The whole piece is rather unflattering and self-serving. It reads as one more Marxist screenplay starring the Kafkaesque suffering of yet another paper victim, as evidenced by Mr. Childress’s decision to assume a series of non-teaching careers in academia simply to remain alongside the faculty “who had somehow passed through the gates that had closed in the face of [his] pleas” and into “heaven” to which the author so desperately had “ached” for “membership.” Upon highlighting his wife’s prolific resume, herself former college faculty who, too, experienced hardships, Mr. Childress mourns more the “collegiality [she] offered to deaf ears and turned shoulders” than he celebrates her “outstanding course evaluations and devoted students.” And his self-described nervous breakdown in his 40s had apparently stemmed from his admitted “grief of not finding a home in higher ed,” despite his doing just that for a brief period as post-doctorate instructor. He even goes so far as to self-identify as a refugee “from a nation that would not have” him upon his exiting the academic stage.

But it is Mr. Childress’s temerity to fault Americans en masse for his obsolescence that fully caricaturizes him as the local, yelling-at-the-nighttime-sky old-timer who seethes fire and brimstone to anyone within earshot or eyesight. This one-man production broods terribly from the onset, blaming Americans’ insatiable appetite for all things innovative for having somehow hastened his departure. Through a litany of criticisms masquerading as genuine inquiries, Mr. Childress dispenses serious timeworn contempt:

How did we discard the idea of college faculty? That is, how did we decide to systematically eliminate an entire class of professionals…? How did we come to decide that college teachers didn’t deserve job security, didn’t deserve health insurance, didn’t deserve to make more than convenience-store clerks?

He fumbles through various livelihoods that “we” Americans have collectively bled dry before discarding to the fringes of Mr. Childress’s bitter universe, where lay the masses of obsolete general practitioners, cab drivers, newspaper and magazine writers, auto mechanics, and bookkeepers, suspended in the heavy, dank air of conspiracy overhanging a swift but shallow undercurrent of anti-capitalism. “We” engineer innovation misanthropically—we intentionally induce economic hardship and psychic suffering in others to impose dominion over them, or so it is told by any one of the increasingly number of adults who confuse sanctimonious whining with legitimate activism.

If ever there were more like-minded persons seeking a mascot who could brilliantly amplify their misdirected resentment and toxic entitlement, Mr. Childress appears available.

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Contrarian to the Common

Former college instructor with 17 total years’ experience split between the public two-year community college and public four-year state university. My commentaries address matters germane to higher education but also to broader social, political, cultural, and socioeconomic topics representative of the American public, if only to a slim minority. I value independent, critical thought free of blind allegiance, unfounded assumptions, and baldfaced censorship. I appreciate your time and the resulting fandom or spite that my musings might invite.

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