Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If I Ran the Ivory Tower

Over on her blog, my friend Dr. J took up the challenge of the National Association of Scholars to come up with Seussian style suggestions for the academy, a la Seuss's if I ran the circus. I had more fun with this challenge then I've had in academia in quite some time. So here's the result:

If I Ran the Ivory Tower

Let's start with students.
They're just too many
Of 'em lurking around.
How can any
work get done, 'midst the lecturing and grading,
The office hours and re-writes
flirting and dating?
And some things there are that have to get done.
The work that we do is not just for fun.
like the work of Doctor Agatha McDoozledorts
Our Chief Deconstructor of weather reports.

Not to mention the work of J.G. Pont-Santinita
Who writes on the word "the" in the novel Lolita.
Such work really matters!
It matters a lot!
And that's why some of our kids have just got
to leave the Ivory Tower, to the Real World bound!
They won't hardly miss us,
And we'll soon have found
That with so much more time on our hands for our thinking,
we can get our thinking done and have time left for drinking.
We’ll drink all we can at Van Blunderbuss Tavern,
prized for fabulous floorspace, a real spacious cavern
With space for professors and students, many now ex.
And the rules are much laxer on ex-student sex.

But how to decide which kids have got to go?
It isn't that hard.
As you and I both know
The grade curve is up!
A veritable bubble.
In a bubble such as this there shouldn't be trouble
in keeping a 4.0. If you can't then goodbye.
We're sorry if you object.
But please tell us why
We should give a second-chance to a kid like Scott Zenny,
For whom a second chance is two chances too many.

Now, on to titles.
We think that they’re great.
But the titles we have are at best second rate.
Assistants, Associates, at Oxford the Dons.
You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I suppress yawns.
Why not Duchesses of Physics? Sultans of Math?
Most Humane of the Humanists Horton McGrath?
Why, I know a certain Sasha O’Shale,
She has written three books on the psyches of snails
And been rewarded for these efforts with an endowed chair.
But I think we can say that she doesn’t really care
For her mollusky subjects like she used to
And I think what she needs is a rank that is new.
Her work is top-notch!
Don’t get me wrong.
But I fear that we might have heard her swan-song
Unless books four and five could give her the hopes
Of being named Supreme Pontificator of All That is Gross!

As health-care pushes the age of profs higher
We’ll have to rethink what we call the retired.
Right now “emeritus” covers too much terrain;
It’s fine for seventy, but it seems rather plain
When applied to some of our most ancient codgers
Who’ve become campus dining rooms permanent lodgers.
At ninety years old they should be declared
“Emerituser” –-
But the best name of all should be spared:
“Emeritustest” is what we’ll call the hundred plus geezers,
the aged, decrepit, the final breath wheezers.
(One such old gent hasn’t missed a meeting in 35 years.
The key to this fabulous feat is –- the chap barely hears.)

The emeritustest of all emeriti
suggested this improvement –-not I.
His name is Vaclav Meciarvert,
the very first Slav that they let into Harvard.
He was also first to prove beyond doubt
That Euclid’s robe was worn inside out
And geometry was Euclid’s final attempt
To figure out which way his arms and legs went.

So that covers the high ranks.
Now for the lows.
Neither Lecturer nor Instructor really quite shows
Just how far below the tenure-track elite
Are the adjuncts and one-years we pick off the street.
In one early post they got close with “Lecturer B”
But we won’t have gone low enough ‘til the letter Z.
There’s also the matter of those spousal hires
Like the poor dumb husband of Gertrude P. Griers,
The world’s most distinguished decliner of pig-Latin nouns.
He writes utter drivel on rodeo clowns
And their sex lives. But he gets called the same
As you and I do, though his work is quite lame.
But now, on the cocktail circle, he’ll have to resort
To his brand new moniker: Professor-Consort.

Last, there’s the matter of those research grants.
We think lots of worthy projects don’t get the chance
To do important work just because it is unique.
Unique work can’t be repeated; it doesn’t make you a freak.
But right now we require someone else to be
Able to duplicate the results that you’ve seen.
Take the work of non-freakish Smarty le Shope.
Inventor of the world’s only Micro-Macro-Ma-scope.
Le Shope has seen much much more than just simple quarks:
He’s seen antiptons, claptoms and scarks.
But most amazing of all is the Mini Casound.
Which is the tiniest life-form that we’ve ever found
With the very odd habit of flying into rage
Whenever it hears the songs of that rascal John Cage.
Smarty would be happy to show all funders how
To see these things.
But his machine is broken right now.
He’d love to fix it, and with enough cash could recover.
Who knows what other things Smarty alone can discover?

With these simple steps, oh the rewards that you’ll reap!
And just so you know my consulting fees are quite cheap.


Ashley said...

Hi Ideas Man. This is Ashley Thorne at the National Association of Scholars. We like your "If I Ran the Zoo" piece and were wondering if you'll permit us to post it as an independent article on the NAS website. (www.nas.org)Can you email me and let me know?


DOCTOR J said...

Good one, Ideas Man! But I can't tell, when you say so-and-so's research "matters a lot!", whether or not you are saying that tongue in cheek?

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Is this pay-back for my question about the poop?

I guess it depends on the quality of the work. If someone writes well on the article "the" in Lolita, then I suppose it matters --- (I dunno --- does Russian have a definite article --- maybe something about how Nabokov's use of the "the" expresses his experience of foreignness in his new homeland...)

Malissa said...

You write very well.

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Thank you.