Academics: Still Totally Lame

By Sean Carroll | September 24, 2007 5:10 pm

And Deirdre McCloskey wins the award for most ostentatious lameness. Not that I have anything really against Deirdre McCloskey; she’s an influential economist, a gifted writer, and has a compelling personal story to boot. But still.

Here’s the thing: the Chronicle of Higher Education asked a handful of academics to divulge their guilty pleasures. Seems like a potentially amusing parlor game, no? Well, as a moment’s reflection would reveal, no. Because you see, what could they possibly say? Most academics, for better or for worse, basically conform to the stereotype. They like reading books and teaching classes, not shooting up heroin or walking around in public dressed up in gender-inappropriate undergarments. (See, I don’t even know what would count as a respectable guilty pleasure.) And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t admit it. And if they did admit it, it certainly wouldn’t be in the pages of the Chronicle.

I was one of the people they asked, and I immediately felt bad that I couldn’t come up with a more salacious, or at least quirky and eccentric, guilty pleasure. I chose going to Vegas, a very unique and daring pastime that is shared by millions of people every week. I was sure that, once the roundup appeared in print, I would be shown up as the milquetoast I truly am, my pretensions to edgy hipness once again roundly flogged for the enjoyment of others.

But no. As it turns out, compared to my colleagues I’m some sort of cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Caligula. Get a load of some of these guilty pleasures: Sudoku. Riding a bike. And then, without hint of sarcasm: Landscape restoration. Gee, I hope your Mom never finds out about that.

But the award goes to Prof. McCloskey, who in a candid examination of the dark hedonistic corners of her soul, managed to include this sentence:

Nothing pleases me more than opening a new textbook.

Arrrgh! Stuff like that sets back the cause of academic non-geekiness for centuries!

The irony is, I totally know what she means.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia
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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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