It is funny how many prof’s and students forget this wee detail, but it is true. At the end of the day, you as the student are there to LEARN and to achieve YOUR goals. The job of your instructors is to GUIDE you and show you how to be a better and more rigorous thinker. Sadly, in the real world in order to get through Grad school you are going to be kissing a lot of professor ass because, well, they got sh*t on all through grad school and so now its your turn. Yea, that sucks. If you are an undergrad? There are a lot of great profs out there that love to work with undergrads (including the authors of this blog), but there are plenty of others that see you as a pain in the ass that must be endured to get to what they care about: Yes, harassing grad students and showing them who’s boss. Look, they know a LOT more about the topic area than you. They should, that is their job. But they are not required to be smarter: they are not the source of all wisdom, major or minor. They know a lot about their obscure area of study, but they may well know -zero- about the particular historical fetish you have.
But you students are not off the hook on this deal either. You often show up in the office expecting the ultimate final answer to everything from next weeks quiz to that you should do about that rash you got during a drunken hook-up with an indeterminate number of people over spring break. (And why? WHY? do you insist on showing us the afore-mentioned rash… we believe you, we really do.) Look, your Prof’s are just as screwed up as you, maybe more so because their “eccentricities” are considered typical or even arty (read: behavior that would never be tolerated anywhere outside of a university setting with tenure). The main difference is they have done most of the screw-ups you have and survived them and thus roll their eyes that you are so wrapped around the axle about it. You really do have to take control of your education. It is not a Happy Meal where you get to say “I’ll take the number 5″ and its all dealt with. Well, OK, you can… but you are really wasting a lot of opportunity. Don’t look for Gods, Guru’s or even a mentor, look to LEARN and demand your teachers TEACH. Oddly, if you do that… mentors suddenly show up.
I suggest both students and instructors take my personal hiring philosophy into play. I always want to hire someone much smarter than myself… much smarter. Why? Because I am pretty damned lazy. My life goal is to be able to walk into the office and say: “Wow, I would love to help with this project, but I’m not as smart as you, so I have to go watch a movie and maybe take a nap.” I live to be the tottering former expert that is well past his prime and keeps getting paid scads of cash out of tradition.
And if you, young student, keep following your dreams you can reach mine, and thats what is important that end of the day, my dreams, isn’t it?