An opinion on academia…

Being mired in academia can sometimes be exhausting. The constant rigid adherence to a 10-week timeline and flow of assignments and meetings form a bubble around those invested in education, so it sometimes is hard to remember that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t behave in this peculiar way.

While browsing the Special Collections for a (surprise) school project, it was then very funny and surprising to hear two of my favorite authors wryly discuss the pitfalls of education.

In a letter to Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany wrote about how professors in academia are likely to think of the world’s whole range of human intelligence as perfectly represented in the gap between their worst and best students. He explained that since these professors are surrounded with learning minds all day, they sometimes can get trapped in the mindset that the whole human race works on the same sliding scale. (Is there a ring of truth to that, Stabile? Hopefully in teaching FemSciFi this term your worldview is markedly more positive than some other terms.)

Delany, at the time of the letter’s writing in 1971, had taken some classes at City College of New York but had not yet become a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. He had also attended the semi-prestigious Bronx High School of Science, so Delany was no stranger to teachers and their (sometimes exasperated, sometimes optimistic) attitude towards students.


One response to “An opinion on academia…

  • cstabile

    More than a ring of truth, indeed, Austin. I have to constantly remind myself that something like 31 percent of people in the US go to college, 8 percent get Master’s degrees, and 3 percent get PhDs. So our best and worst undergraduate students represent substantially less than half the population. And our grad students are among a very elite group.

    Here’s a question for you archivists, though — where did Joanna Russ go to high school? Did she also go to the Bronx High School of Science? Could she have known Delany in high school? Worth adding to the Wikipedia site if anyone comes across this information.

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