Friday, November 8, 2013

drunk weekend thirsty

The pressure to lower the bar is relentless.
Higher education is a joke.
Our administrators embarrass us.
Our colleagues are fucktards.
Our students, they make us grieve.
And yet . . . .

Have you ever had a student for whom you could not raise the bar high enough?  Perhaps a student who jumped through hamster hoops that you hadn't even known existed?  A student whose presence made you feel like yourself and yet also made the scales fall from your eyes?

Q.  Have you?

A. ____________________________________________
            Be honest, dammit.


  1. Thank God Cal is dead, or might as well be, Bubba, because he would NEVER let a "drunk weekend" thirsty be posted, especially on a Friday. Good God, man, do you imagine I'm asleep at the wheel here?

    Actually, Cal likes you, so he may not have fixed the post until the wee hours of Saturday morning when you'd be face down in a pillow, but fix it he would have.

    Me, well my heart is open and wide, and I'm going to let it go.

    As for me, I have such a student this semester. It's like looking into the sun after sleeping in a ditch for too long. I haven't fully processed what it means. I know it will soon be over, and I'm sorry for it.


    1. And if you sometimes happen to wake up . . . in the green grass of a ditch, . . . your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
      ask the wind,
      the wave,
      the star,
      the bird,
      the clock,
      ask everything that flees,
      everything that groans
      or rolls
      or sings,
      everything that speaks,
      ask what time it is;
      and the wind,
      the wave,
      the star,
      the bird,
      the clock
      will answer you:
      "Time to get drunk!" . . .


  2. yes, once. his senior thesis was phenomenal. absolutely publishable, but not - because the topic would be a lightning rod for a 2LT infantryman to have his name attached to. didn't win any internal awards because it was too long. I'm still sort of peeved by that one.

  3. I don't recall a student surpassing me intellectually in hamsterfurology. However, I have been surprised and awed by the emotional gymnastics of which some students have been capable.

  4. I had one a few years ago at a SLAC. While he didn't surpass me intellectually in the course, he likely did about five minutes after graduation. This young man was SMART and interesting and POLITE. He borrowed a book from me, a book on hamster sexology from about 1900, written in awful, stilted English. I managed to get through two or three chapters- he read the whole thing in one night and showed up the next day eager to discuss it, He was also not a keener. He didn't get the grades he could have because he could focus on the stuff he found interesting and get Bs without studying on the rest. He took a year off and worked for the Skeptical Inquirer and was by far the most interesting student I ever had.

  5. This students sat in the back row in the corner and just stared at me during my lectures. He never took one note. But when it came time to do problem sets in class, he aced everyone of them, so I knew he was paying attention. His exams were flawless. I was always fascinated with this students because he couldn't drive, and rode his bike to school. I think he was a savant. Absolute genius. I always wonder what happened to him.

  6. I haven't quite had any students like this, but I have had several students who have surprised me with their tenacity.

    I've had multiple students who have had brain injuries (one from an injury while at war, one from a burst artery in the brain, and one from what she described as a "freak accident") and were told by doctors that they could never succeed in school. But here they are, doing excellently in my class (much better than students with technically uninjured brains).

    And then I've had some international students who are doing excellently in class, despite learning in a non-native language and working multiple jobs to support themselves and pay the inflated international student tuition.

    And lastly, I volunteer to teach in a prison, and I am constantly surprised at how bright, hard-working, and congenial the students there are. Every one of them works a full-time job while in prison, lives in a small cell (built for one but shared among two), and lacks privacy or a quiet space to study. Some of them may never even get the opportunity to use their degrees, but they're still happy to have an education and to better themselves. They treat education as a gift and are truly excited to learn. If my students on the outside acted like that, they could achieve so much.

  7. Of course not, because I am so fucking awesome, lightning strikes as the clouds part before me. Yes, this is useful for an astronomer!

    Still, I often get students, mostly male physics majors, who try to challenge me for supremacy. They try, oh they do try. Harold Urey called this "the old gunfighter syndrome." The idea is that if the student can ask the professor a question that the professor can't answer, the student wins the prestige held by the professor. Urey said it was annoying, but at least it got students doing interesting work.

    As I tell students, if you get into a Ph.D. program in astronomy or astrophysics, I guarantee that you will meet people smarter than you are. It happened to me, but I got over it. I quickly realized that smarts are useful, but they're not all there is to this game. Very smart people disturbingly often are superficial: they think they know things that they don't really know. Einstein was wonderful at examining unexamined assumptions; so was Socrates. Persistence, tenacity, and the ability to see a project through to completion are also at least as important as smarts. A willingness to put in long hours also helps. And of course, NONE are more VICIOUS than me, and everyone goddamn well knows it.

    (Please note: this comment may not be entirely serious.)

  8. Yup. A towering intellect, who had transferred in from a conservatory to the school at which I was adjuncting for pennies. He grew up to be a poet.

  9. Yes: he came to us already a full-fledged academic, a national merit scholar who, for personal reasons (a girlfriend), came to our sad little SLAC. He spent four years amassing three degrees and went straight into a fully-funded PhD program that pays him to take courses from them. In my classes, he was gracious, contributed meaningfully, and likely learned two things from each class.

  10. I did. She's currently changing the world from her base in The Hub. I've had a couple more come close. About one every seven years or so. Out of hundreds. I live for these students.