Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I Get Paid to Teach Aristotle

I only have the energy to write a small post today. I spent a great deal of time musing today on my life and the fortune that I have. I am doing exactly what I love; I have meaningful work. I have loving relationships, and I have the respect of my colleagues. I forgot these simple facts for several months. I was drowning in my fear of debt, much of it which I didn't really create. I started to fear that I should give up my "self-indulgent" work as a Philosophy professor, grow up, and earn enough money to live like a "grown up." But then it dawned on me that I have no desire to emulate the vacuous and meaningless values of a society hell bent on making money for the sake of making money.

I watch many of my family members work as many hours as 19th century farmers did, and for what purpose? So they can buy things they don't need to stimulate them, because ultimately they feel nothing inside. My brother has reminded me of my fortune so many times, and I lost sight of it. And, today, I remembered. I am one of the lucky human beings who has managed to create a life that is governed by what truly matters and not what I think I need to earn social approval.

I worry so much for the future of my career. I can't help but notice the pressures upon Academia to turn itself more fully into a commodity. Some of that pressure reasonably comes from parents who have to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to send their children to college. But the effect that the commodification of education has on the profession of teaching and the pursuit of learning is painful. College administrators work us to death, squeeze as much of our youthful energy to "cut costs." Students believe they can demand us to work even more: to teach even more classes and give them even more of their time since they are paying for it. We are being turned into a disgruntled, overworked labor force, which of course dumbs down the quality of our courses and our passion for teaching.

But, today, I will remember that I still have a much richer life (even if it put me and my significant other in debt) because I am a teacher. I get paid to talk about Aristotle or Simone de Beauvoir. I am constantly surrounded by art, lectures, intelligent conversation and smart students.