Liberal Arts Conceit Proves Expensive

One of the things that annoyed me while doing my sojourn in the “Arts” part of liberal arts was the competition among grad students and professors to affect an otherworldly mien. Knowing nothing about the rest of the world was considered a badge of pride and proof of one’s commitment to your craft. It has long been this way, and C. P. Snow famously lamented the Two Worlds of academia, in which scientists had a basic understanding of the arts (they know who Shakespeare and Faulkner were, they know the difference between a novel and a short story) but liberal arts types would wear their ignorance of other matters on their sleeves (they may know who Einstein was, but are pretty fuzzy on Heisenberg–ha–and couldn’t tell an atom from a molecule if their life depended on it). They would look down on me for my interest in things outside music.

Another affectation was for mundane tasks to be beneath them. Much like dandied country gentlemen of 19th century England, skill at business was a lowering of social status while ruinous debt was a regrettable but understandable part of life. So, too, could professors not be bothered to learn to use a computer or know anything mechanical not directly connected to their art.

So it gives me a bit of shadenfreude to see three officials in the English Language Institute of the University of South Florida lose their steady paychecks because donation checks were carelessly stashed around the office. Checks dating back ten years. The ones that fund their salaries.

Or did, before they were fired.

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