I am back from New York, and as I anticipated, the opportunity to spend several hours teaching a group of bright undergraduates and graduate students has restored my equanimity. This morning, while waiting At LaGuardia for my flight home, I had a chance to read through the many comments to my last two posts. I am extremely grateful to the expressions of support, which mean a great deal to me.
A particular comment, by one of the anonymati, caught my eye. Here it is:
Bob is not about to shut down this pulpit - every so often he likes to threaten to do so, in order that we will all tell him how much we adore him. Patterns, people: learn to recognize them.
To which the only possible response is, Well duh! [Or is it doh? I am never sure.] The comment is presented as a snarky revelation, and yet nothing could be more obvious. I take it this particular Anonymous is not an actor or a musician or a professional athlete or a university professor, or indeed anyone else who thrives on the applause of the crowd. I have just spent several weeks following the U. S. Open tennis tournament on TV, and again and again I watched ferociously competitive players encouraging the crowd to cheer as a way of keeping their energy up.
Why on earth does Anonymous suppose I write a daily blog? Not for the money, Lord knows, and at eighty-five, with my career more than a decade behind me, it is not in hopes of professional advancement. As for such immortality as I may achieve, I leave that to my books.
Who among the academics in my readership will deny eagerly reading student evaluations to see what they say? Almost seventy years ago, when I was an undergraduate, there were no official student evaluations, but at Harvard, the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, each semester issued the Crimson Unofficial Guide in which it reproduced, unedited and utterly unbalanced, undergraduate opinions of their professors. Senior members of the Harvard faculty scorned such ephemera as infra dignitatem, but on the day that the Guide came out, they could be spotted slinking to the kiosk in the middle of Harvard Square to buy a copy. I particularly recall the scathing pans recorded every term of a senior Government professor and Big Deal, William Yandell Elliott. As you might expect, it was young Instructors and Assistant Professors who tended to get the most favorable reviews.
So, Anonymous and others, if from time to time, wearing my heart on my sleeve, I encourage the crowd to cheer, do not be surprised.
Now, as the preacher says in a Black church, can I get an Amen?