Re: images of professors

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 14:00:16 -0400

On Tue, 9 Apr 1996, Robert Lawless wrote:
> > Does anyone find it strange that journalists always identify the unabomber
> > as
> > "an ex-professor," "a former University of California professor," "the
> > holder
> > of a Ph.D.," and variations on this theme? --Despite the fact that he did
> > this only for a few years some 30 years ago. Does this say something about
> > the media's image of the mad scientist, the eccentric academic, etc.?
> >

It's not just the media. I think it has something to do with the fact that
there is in the folk culture of the US a rather ambivalent attitude toward
academics with PhDs. On the one hand we are valued for the prize which we have
attained; on the other hand, we are dismissed as being uselessly theoretical or
at times suspected of being dangerous if something we have discovered runs
counter to the status quo. (I saw this in my own father, who was very proud that
his son had obtained a doctorate, albeit in something as weird as anthropology!
But, whenever I pointed out an anthropological perspective on one of his
favorite themes, such as the homeless-by-choice, he waved whatever I had to say
aside as mere "book learning.")

This ambivalence also shows up in the way our state legislature is trying to
tighten control over our activities here in Florida [the Banana Republic run by
Rednecks :-)]; if they get their way, we'll be punching in and out on a time
clock as we enter and leave the classroom, and all research will be done by the
Heritage Foundation. They value us, but...

The Unabomber is a great symbol for all those who think we should never be let
out of the asylum. And by the way, it's a durn good thing he didn't have a PhD
in ANTHROPOLOGY, don't you think?

Ronald Kephart
Dept of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL USA 32224-2645
Phone: (904) 646-2580