Sucking Up To The Prof

Alan Jacobs offers a brief thought on the eager-to-please student:

I am suddenly thankful that I grew up in a family with absolutely no academic expectations, a family who treated my interest in going to college as a nearly incomprehensible eccentricity. Almost everything I've done in my intellectual life that I now value I did because I was unconcerned about the approval of any officially designated authorities.

I grew up in the same kind of environment. Neither of my parents attended college, and my own scholarship to Oxford was regarded as a weird kind of freak. My dad thought I was too nerdy for my own good some of the time; my mum was proud but not in any way pushy. I pushed myself. As for authority, well ... I have some self-evident issues, I guess. At high school, I revered some teachers but waged war on the headmaster. My dissertation on Oakeshott, to take an extreme example, is actually brutally critical of him at times - and yet he is the modern thinker I most revere, and I even sent it to him to read, before having the extraordinary chance of discussing it with him.

I revered his authority because I knew from reading him that he was only interested in the truth. Which is to say, he had no authority but his conscience and his mind. And it was that approval - and only that - that I craved.

I still feel the same way, as any boss I have ever had will testify.