Saturday, June 25, 2005

academia: a vignette

After my second year of university, I spent the summer working in a research lab. My friend Tom was doing the same, but instead of sharing an office with other undergrads he shared the office of his supervisor's post-doc Bill. Bill was a curmudgeon-in-training. His favourite rant was about how academia is exploitative and unjust, and he had all these elaborate stories to tell about professors who made their careers out of stealing the research of their students. It was entertaining enough, in its repetitive way, but we generally managed to avoid eating lunch with him.

Well, one day we ran into Bill and he was just glowing. He spontaneously started telling us about how academia is really the only possible career choice for a smart person, because it's the only true meritocracy around. He went on in this vein for several minutes, then floated off, his feet barely touching the ground.

I looked at Tom. I didn't even have to ask the question. He said, "Yeah, Bill just won an award."

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