Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I want to be the Gordon Ramsay of Academia

Unemployment is delightful for television watching. After all the hours of reality shows, I've come to an earth-shattering conclusion: I want to be the Gordon Ramsay of Academia.

The man has so many shows, and they are all built around his cult of personality. It's a very abusive personality, but that's why he's making a ridiculous amount of money. He tells it like it is. No sugar coating. "You'll kill someone." "This is terrible." "Piss off!"

There are some hilarious one-liners like "This looks like King Kong's *&%ing condom!" Let's be honest folks, the audience can tell when something doesn't look pretty. One of his more popular shows, Hell's Kitchen, is based upon people getting screamed at for not being perfect.

Why isn't college more like this?

People eat these shows up. In addition to our glorious former "footballer," we have the likes of Simon Cowell, Donald Trump, and Abby Lee Miller. All of them tell it like it is and how it isn't up to professional standards. Sure, they rant and rave and scream and berate and belittle. But people love to watch them do it.

Aren't we supposed to be upholding professional standards? I'm not advocating becoming a verbally abusive tyrant (although, if I do become one, may I please have my own show?), but I am saying that students should appreciate how we tell them what the rest of the world will when they finally have to start doing things for a boss.

I've had classes where I wished I could "fire" students. Get out of this class. Go now. Stop wasting my time and yours. If I were the Gordon Ramsay of Academia, I would do that. Come back next season if you're serious.

Getting to my 2pm class was "hard"? Wait until you have to show up 40 hours a week. Starting at 8am. You couldn't find the time to write a one page paper? Do you think your boss will keep you around if you can't bang out a memo?

Well, I'm sending off another batch of job applications tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going back to watching Gordon Ramsay scream at people for not meeting his standards. A woman can dream, can't she?


  1. Preach it, sister! I'm with you. I'd love that reality show.

    You touch upon a problem with evaluating faculty. "...I am saying that students should appreciate how we tell them what the rest of the world will when they finally have to start doing things for a boss."

    Those who do make it through college will appreciate us making them work. That does me no good unless dozens of alumni come back to tell the dean how much I helped them. At the end of the semester, they are pissed that I held them to a (increasingly low) standard. That's what appears on the evaluation.

  2. You don't have to scream to be a fearsome figure. John Houseman's character in "The Paper Chase" (both the movie and TV program) had his students thoroughly cowed with his low-key delivery. And I used to fear exacting profs myself.

    I had an English prof, who was also the faculty advisor on a literary magazine to which I contributed. He told me in front of a class that since he had read my work if he thought that I hadn't put forth full effort on a class assignment he'd fail it. At that age (18) I pretty much ignored the compliment and thought, "What a (jerk)." I wasn't smart enough to realize he was wanting me to do my best.

    Perhaps my opening statement was wrong. Considering the snowflakes' level of engagement, you may have to scream at them to get their attention. It's sad that you have to come up with ways to trick them into reading the assignment. That, or use the carrot-and-stick method. If the carrot doesn't work, use the stick.

    "You are like the jackass. You perform well, but it is first necessary to get your attention."

  3. I've also toyed with the idea of giving feedback like Tyra Banks: "you've got to take this paper to the next level." "you've given me UHH, but what I want is UHH-UHH." What a time saver!

    1. "Guuuurl, this thesis statement is just not giving me 'FIERCE.' I need fierce!"

    2. In this paper I asked you to give me "pretty-ugly" you just gave me "ugly-ugly"

  4. "You ARE the Weakest Link. Goodbye!"

  5. I think those shows are popular because viewers get a vicarious thrill out of seeing others get screamed at and put down. Plus, the "screamies" or rather victims, are on the show for reasons more than just learning stuff. There's a lot of strong egos getting thrown around, too.

    Our snowflakes would go crying to the Dean and then we would be in the office getting the Ramsey treatment.. Unfortunately.

    1. At the place I used to teach at, I was often accused of "abusing" and "intimidating" my students but I was never given any further details. I brought that up with the last dean I had to answer to and was told point-blank that it had to be kept secret lest I "get even" with the student(s) in question.

      So much for having the right to face one's accuser and being allowed to explain one's actions.

    2. "Intimidating" simply means that you know more about the subject matter than they do.

    3. It wasn't just that. I was told that having my students address me as "Doctor" was considered "intimidating". Apparently, they would be afraid to ask me questions and, thereby, not learn anything. In addition, plaques of my degrees (which my alma mater's alumni association offered for sale) on the walls of my office, as well as my Mensa membership certificate, were also considered impediments to learning.

      The whole thing became completely ridiculous when I was threatened with disciplinary action if I persisted in being addressed by my title, one which had been properly granted by the university on behalf of the regional government. Along with the title came rights and privileges, among which, presumably, was being addressed accordingly.

      What was absurd about it was for students who, allegedly, were cowed into silence, they were certainly free with their threats to have me sacked, both in writing and in person.

  6. I'm halfway there. A student had handed in a paper 2 days late (on a Wed instead of a Mon), and yesterday at the end of class she came up to me (first time she'd ever ventured from the back of the lecture hall...) and asked if she could only get a 1 day penalty as "I was done the paper on Tuesday, but there was no class that day." I looked at her, and in as restrained a voice as possible said "No. That just doesn't cut it." She blinked hard, the moments passed, and she was probably evaluating the look in my eyes when she realized it was best to walk away without further complaint ... at the rate that student asshattery is wearing me down, I have little doubt that in a couple more years I'll have the scorn and bite to my voice to match how I'm feeling...

  7. Yeah, I love me some Gordo, but here's a sad reality for those of you who've seen only his US-incarnation: whilst always muddy-mouthed, his tirades on his various British shows were far more likely on BEHALF of good and right, rather than AGAINST the "donkey-planked". Oh, he will ever tell you if you're on to kill someone, but he will also rise to your side as a stalwart champion if you are unduly challenged. And he started out that way here, as well...but we Amurricans love blood and sweat and tears--o! how we love our tears!--and so his producers directed him toward pointed attack. I'll spend ten hours with him over at BBC America before I will give him one on Fox.

  8. I like Poopiehead's response to that student. Rock on, PP!

    I don't yell, but I'm also pretty tough on the kids. They seem to like it. Well, some of them - I think most of the ones who don't drop at the first opportunity. Of course, that's part of my approach, how I get 'em psyched up.

    First day of class, I tell them that classes in my area are just generally hard, certainly harder than a lot of the other stuff in the humanities. I tell them that majors in our area do very well on graduate school entrance exams, better than most other majors. I tell them that the class will require a lot of reading, and that the reading will be more demanding of them than most of their other classes. I express my confidence in them, but I also remind them of how much more effort my class will take than they are used to giving.

    Now, whether any of that is true or not is beside the point. It scares the holy hell out of them, but it also gets them jazzed up. It makes them feel like real scholars, which is sometimes needed where I teach. When they get something right, or get a good grade on a paper, they get excited. Hell, it even helps out when they get not so good grades - one semester, I had a kid who was pretty bright but just not that disciplined, and s/he turned in a paper that got a C+, though with a little more attention to detail, it could have easily been a high B. I talked to her about it, to give her an idea of how to do better next paper, and she was all ears - hell, she was excited. Finally, I asked why she seemed so jazzed about this, and she said she was just 'really pumped' at the idea of getting a B on her next paper, "especially in THIS class!" She went on to say how getting a B in some of her other classes wouldn't really be anything to be excited about, but how she felt that getting a B in my class would be an accomplishment.

    I know she's a rarity, and exception to how the kids often look at things, but I felt pretty good about it. Being demanding can really work. It doesn't always, but it can.

  9. Replies
    1. The neighbors have complained a wee bit too much for that. ;-)

  10. It's not really about the screaming... It's about being able to tell students the truth about their work and their behavior and the consequences when either or both do not measure up.

    And too many instructors are not allowed to do that.

    And "allowed" is the proper term there.

    Tenure and/or secure employment afford some in the profession the ability to do that, but not everyone has one of those.

    1. Nope. You're not allowed to tell the truth about the real world to them because it might discourage them, if they ever believe you to begin with.

  11. Gordon scares me because I can't always figure out where the anger is coming from so it appears irrational. I get that people are incompetent sometimes and see what caused the shouting; other times, he just starts screaming for no reason and I wonder if he's going to have some kind of embolism on national TV. Then again, I think in academia, we always have a reason for our anger.

  12. Recent words from my Chair on behalf of students who complained to hir about me:

    --"You were unduly harsh" (after confiscating material that had explicitly - in writing - banned from the classroom)

    --"You have been assigning too many academic integrity violations" (like, there's a quota, no matter how dishonestly the little darlings are behaving?)

    --"You should have given the student another day or two; insisting on the deadline was unreasonable" (this was after a student missed an ALREADY-EXTENDED deadline for materials to finish up an INCOMPLETE that I granted under pressure)

    --" " (after forwarding a complimentary, thankful email from a last semester's student.)

    --" " (after forwarding a complimentary, thankful email from a student now in the workforce, telling me that he/she is doing employee training BASED ON MY METHODS)

    --" " (hir comment about my involved, time-consuming effort to have a student under medically-ordered bedrest to Skype into class)

    Who has the energy to scream?

    1. It sounds like your chair and my last department head might be the same person. The latter was like that towards me for similar reasons and then he wondered why I ended up with a lousy attitude about my students and what I was doing.