The unbelievable arrogance of academics

I just posted this response into another thread. My rant will begin after but am pasting it here since it has some background:

I went to grad school. I taught at a college for 5 years. I now work in industry. Now industry has some big egos and some assholes but is nothing, I mean nothing, like academia.

Academia mostly disgusts me and I take pleasure when I hear them complain about low salaries. Many people in academia are arrogant beyond belief.

One story was about when some guy shot his master…er…advising professor and killed him since he failed to get his masters degree after 7 years. It so happened that the professor he shot hadn’t completed his PH.D. A professor in the class I was in ranted and raved about this for several minutes. He was outraged that the man only received 10 years in prison. He wondered that if killing a Ph.D. would only get you 10 years then killing someone with a masters degree would only get you 3 and a B.A. only 1 year or so. I thought he was joking but it became evident that he was serious. Finally I raised my hand and said “No. They are both human beings and would be treated the same under the law”. He looked at me and it took several seconds for what I said to dawn on him and then he realized he looked silly.

PEOPLE IN ACADEMIA ACTUALLY THINK LIKE THIS! If you don’t have a Ph.D you are a fourth rate human being, if that. If you do, then it depends what school you attended. If not prestigious then you are a third rate human being.

What also gets me is that everyone is so judgemental about everything. When I was in Math grad school, I remember not considering Social Science a real science or even academic. Stupid of me. Academia is soooooo into grouping people in heirarchies and disregarding inherent value in the person. Yes, their are arrogant asses in industry but a pale flicker of light to academia. I hate to generalize but I usually don’t like most academics I meet even today.

Blink, (ex-academic)


I work as a statistician for a customer satisfaction advising company. I have done this for five years and have seen the end product of our work and it works! I have healthy respect for stats especially after seeing the kind of hits it can take and still give effective, clear results.

Now, about 2 months ago we had an industry ‘seminar’ where we could all get together and pow-wow. For some reason, the local, big university’s Math department thought it would be good for their grad students to attend. Well, there was probably 50-60 of us and about 25 of them showed. Were they quiet, respectful? This rant is for them:

You stupid, dumbass, useless monkey shit slimes! This meeting was for us so sit down so shut the fuck up! What is your experience, hmmmm? Have you worked on $325,000 projects for major corporations? Have you produced dramatic, measurable results that the company CEO has sent you a personal letter thanking you for your help? Have you useless, tax-money sucking turds done anything that anyone besides yourself gave a shit about?

I loved the look on one of your faces when you found out what I made. You even had the nerve to exclaim, OUT LOUD TO ME, how unfair you thought it was. “But you only have a masters degree” “I am going to a more prestigious university” “You guys don’t know what your doing, you aren’t doing it right”. Sure you think its unfair that I’m being paid over twice what you’ll be making next year when you have your Ph.D. and a faculty position but what do you really do? I help companies help people better and therefore they make more money and have happier customers. You suck taxpayer money away while you sit on your fat ass being amazed why you aren’t paid more. I do while you critisize without helping. If someone needs something done, will they come to me with my track record of success or to wonderfully smart you that has done squat and can only critique.

Get your collective waste of monkey asses out of here. You weren’t invited, not wanted and let the real men and women get things done while you go waste your life. Meanwhile, when I get my next paycheck/bonus, I’ll think of you and laugh.

P.S. First Pit post. I know some people hate it when people say that but figure you ought to know.

What? I can’t be arrogant?

Well, that takes all the fun out of being educated.

“There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Teddy Roosevelt (I think)

(Not a slam against statistics. I just think the quote is cool.)

He definitely said that.

Thats why I am having so much trouble selecting a college. I want an actual reason to go to college. And yet considering that I am currently looking at programming there is almost no reason for me to go to college. People say “If you just tried you could go to places like Harvard or MIT” and no one has ever given me a reason to go to those places. The best reason I have ever seen is “people wont hire you without a college degree” to which I point out some of the best companies out there requiring a high school degree or none at all.

Well, we’re not all like that. Not that I am a PhD yet, but when I am one, I won’t buy into the values you’re talking about. Those types sure do exist though, and I have plenty of my own anecdotes I could share.

Fuck off, peasant.


My FIL has TWO PhDs (Org Behavior and Business Strategy) and the one time he made it out into the real world he failed miserably. Yet he still sees fit to criticize my husband. It’s unbelieveable.

Let me tell you a story:

When my husband was 12, he was being paid to mow the lawn for his father and his Dad wanted to make it a “learning experience” for him, so he had to run it like a real business. The negotiating got heated and when my husband went too far, his father outsourced him. Mr Duhnym retaliated by striking against his father, picketing in front of their house. I kid you not.

My husband has hundreds of stories like this all illustrating the kind of “Skinner Box” my husband was raised in. It’s really quite pitiful.

His dad thinks he did a good job as a father because his son is now sucessful. The worst part in that he thinks because he “trained” him to be a good businessman that he can STILL teach him more, not knowing or even suspecting that his own creation has made him obsolete.

Yes, my husband still has a lot to learn, but someone that hasn’t stepped off of a campus for 20 years isn’t going to be the one to teach it to him.

[sub]Wow, that felt kinda good. If only I could say that to his face.[/sub]

As opposed to under a SueDuhnym? :smiley:

As for me, I’ll admit to feeling inadequate on more than one occasion, with my failed (so far) attempt at getting a bachelor’s degree. But the truth is that academia in general is so far removed from the real world that it only interacts in certain interfaces. Occasionally some spurt of academic prejudice will ooze into general usage (such as the idea that an experienced self-taught programmer needs to get the “piece of paper” (or sheepskin) to be employable), but it’s not really that prevalent. The average person looks at these arrogant PhDs as ivory tower invalids who probably couldn’t function if they were plonked into the average developer’s or executive’s or support worker’s chair.


Sue Duhnym - He outsourced having his lawn mowed? His son picketed? That is the funniest story I have ever heard. (I am sorry, but that sounds like a fun family to me.)

Thank goodness I decided not to get my PhD. I was really good at school. It is a lot more fun then work. But, I really couldn’t justify needing another degree so I got a job instead.

Oh yeah… I have a particular hatred for one professor, the head of the Japanese language department at my school. She is an arrogant bitch. She actually posted her resume on her bulletin board, including a citation of her 5.0 GPA since grade school.
I had occasion to tangle with her on the occasion of returning from summer school in Japan, where I’d just completed an intensive 4th year Japanese class. About 3 hours after I got off the plane, while I was sound asleep, I received a phone call from her saying that I better show up in about 2 hours for the placement test or I wouldn’t be allowed to enter 4th year classes here at home. I took the test, and I knew that this was NOT a prerequisite for entering the class I wanted, the test was solely a way for her to gather data for her next statistical research paper. So I didn’t really give a damn about performing on the test, I just winged it. So a few days later, I am called to her office. She tells me that I did poorly on the test and now I was going to repeat 2nd year. I said I had just got off the plane, I had jet lag when I took the test, and I was half-asleep, and I don’t care what her statistical analysis of the results said, I was going to take 4th year whether she liked it or not, I had already passed a 4th year level and I was fully eligible to take it again at my local school. She said, “I won’t stop you, but I won’t be responsible for the results.”
So I took 4th year, I had the best teacher I ever met, I worked harder than I ever did, and I got an A. I happened to bump into the dept. head shortly after receiving my grade, and I told her I got an A. She said, “your teacher was just being kind to you.” GODDAMM arrogant bitch! She not only insulted ME, but she insulted my TEACHER too. I earned that grade, and the teacher would NOT have given me that grade if I hadn’t earned it. She impugned my teacher’s integrity as well as mine.

She posted her resume (or more accurately, her vitae)? Nice.

That reminded me of my husband’s last serious girlfriend before he met moi. She was (like me) a doctoral student. When he took her to meet his parents, she managed to work into the conversation what her SAT scores had been. SAT scores! In dinner conversation! When she was in her thirties! Yes, more than a decade after she took them!

I think that one of the problems is that academe is an area where a good mind can get you credentials even when your social skills are nonexistent or your ego is malformed or your personal hygiene is highly questionable. In a lot of other professional realms, problems like that will keep you from getting very far. In academe, you can still excel (unfortunately). While I don’t think that necessarily attracts more assholes or nutjobs to the field of higher education, it does mean that the nutjobs and assholes can rise higher than you’d find in other fields. And hyperarrogance doesn’t get cut down to size.

Computer programming, incidentally, appears to be another area where they all they care about is your coding skills.

Hoo boy, this is one of my favorite subjects to rant (ask anyone who knows me IRL… :smiley: of course, they’re mostly grad students, too!) I just finished my master’s degree in December. I should have graduated in May, 2000. The master’s program I was in was designed to be completed in two years, and I was right on track. Until…

I ran into the professor from hell. You know the type: he’s had a few books published, he’s a full professor, he thinks he’s God’s gift to the field. He was my writing seminar professor, and he seemed determined to trip me up. It’s a looooong story, but basically: he assigned me a near-impossible topic to research because HE wanted to write about it and use MY research to do so. This necessitated his totally trashing (in front of the class) my research and paper, so that I would not get any ideas of publishing/presenting my paper (thereby undercutting his own future work). So that’s a bit sleazy, but what really chapped me was…

the fact that I had to take the French reading exam on a certain date (the only date it was offered) in order to be able to take my comps on schedule. No exam, no comps; no comps, no thesis; no thesis, no graduate on time. Of course, the exam was scheduled to be offered during the time I had this professor for class. He wouldn’t allow me to miss class. The French dept. adamantly refused to allow me to take the exam any other time. End result? I came within a hair of failing this asshole’s class, even though I wrote a paper that all my classmates and two other professors thought was quite good, and I missed the French exam, which put me a semester behind.

Now I have my degree and a job that I like, I find rewarding and stimulating, and pays decently, yet my former professors/colleagues at school think I’m wasting my potential by not getting my Ph.D. Apparently I should :rolleyes: be giddy with desire to enter the world of academia full-time, in order to halfheartedly teach (I hated teaching as a TA) and to research and write bloated articles on increasingly esoteric and politicized aspects of history. Thanks anyway!

I have to agree with Zumba The Cat. That is one of the funniest stories I have heard as well. I am just imagining him chanting labor slogans by himself.

Reminds me of my friend in elementary school. His mother was a psychology professor in college, so he was constantly subjected to whatever theory happened to be in vogue with Psych Dept. She has a degree in psychology, so of course she new how to raise a son better than most people. Man, you couldn’t find a more messed up kid.

I have to agree with you wholeheartedly BlinkingDuck. The worst is when you get involved in a debate with an academic.

1)They always throw out their credentials. What? Just because you have a Masters in something, your dumb-ass theory is now valid? No, you’re an idiot. If you happen to have a Masters, you’re just an educated idiot.

2)Everything operates in vacuum. Man they love to come up with some dumbass theory to solve the worlds problem, when they don’t have a clue how the ‘real’ world works. And they always aim so high too. We can solve racism if only… We can end all wars if only…

Okay. My mother’s husband started working for IBM in the late sixties. He has some college but never finished his degree, I’m not sure what it was in. There was NO SUCH THING as a degree in computer science at this point, remember. Hell, he was one of the people contributing to the stuff that would eventually comprise one. This man has had email since 1974. He can make a genuine claim of being one of the people who built what became the internet. He has a good thirty-five (or so) years of unbelievably valuable experience with computers.

So, earlier this spring, he was pursuing various job offers, having had it with his then-current job. There was one where he would have had it…but guess what they required. A fucking DEGREE. He ended up with a pretty good new job, but it’s a lateral move in the company. He can’t get promoted until he gets a degree.

Did I mention that he has been working with computers since the sixties? What the fuck is this? Does experience count for nothing? A degree that’s only really good for a few years is better than DECADES of experience? This has us all mystified.

Whoa, there, jayjay; that’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with. Read again what you wrote; I assume you realize that generalizations are always bad? I’ll agree that academia tends to focus on projects that aren’t of immediate use in industry; Hell, that’s one of the reasons I’m not an academic right now. However, the idea that academics in general are some alternate species that just cannot function outside of their ivory tower enclaves is, well, silly, to put it mildly.

I’ve no doubt that there are some professors who are “ivory tower invalids,” but a number of academics that I’ve met do some consulting on the side in industrial settings, and are (apparently) pretty successful. Neither arrogance nor inability to function in an industrial workplace environment nor ignorance of non-academic priorities is a prerequisite for a faculty position. In fact, I’d argue, the posetion of these traits is the exception rather than the rule.


Read the post you responded to more closely…I said that the average person looks at these arrogant PhDs as…. That’s not a statement of fact, but of perception. And it’s widespread, even if it isn’t deserved in most cases. The arrogant academics, of whom the thread is about, do usually deserve this opprobium, but the fact is that to “Joe Average” there is a mix of contempt and respect for the holder of a postgraduate degree. The contempt shows in the glee that coworkers betray when they tell a particularly juicy piece of internet “look what this supposedly intelligent PhD did…” gossip.

I’m not saying all academics or all PhDs are arrogant incompetents. I’m saying the general public perception is that they are. I know a number of Dopers are PhDs. I would never generalize incompetence over such a range.


Oh, :stuck_out_tongue: on vB code…

jayjay (who is obviously not a programmer)

Fair enough, jayjay, I see where you’re coming from. However, in my own defense, I was responding more to the “But the truth is…” sentence (which implies a statement of fact) than your “The average person…” sentence (which implies an opinion). And, of course, in my first reply, “posetion” should be “possession”. I have no idea how four esses transposed into an ess and a tee, but there you have it.

I have attended something like 200 credit hours at one university or another in the last 22 years. I have had professors that were useless as teats on a boar, and professors who were inspired, and taught me far more than the subject matter offered.

With no exception the inspired teachers taught part time, after the end of their day job in industry. Could it be that I related to them better because I work in the real world? probably. On the other hand, I had a teacher who would hand me printouts of the actual homework assignment (intro to computers- I could have taught the class) because all that REALLY mattered to him was, how well can you type?(you guessed it, tenured academic).

But you’ve missed the REAL trouble with all of this
You pay a lot of money to go to school. You are taught by people who have no experience in the real world, for the most part. You have to do all the work of satisfying an “Ivory tower” type who by definition has seen and heard it all, and is pretty much disinterested in you. If you can’t learn what the professor is trying to teach, because he can’t express himself, because he can’t speak your language well enough to be understood, because his notes and syllabus are illegible and useless to you, you have NO RECOURSE. If you fail because of these things, it’s YOUR FAULT and THAT’S IT. If Sears treated you like this, they’d be out of business in about ten minutes. And “Institutions of higher learning” are immune to criticism.

I have never completed a degree, I simply take classes in fields which interest me or are useful to me.

I do well for myself financially, I work for a company in the real world where knowledge, experience, and ability count for more than sheephide, and in that respect I’m very lucky. If I had to go get a degree I’d probably be bringing an uzi to class every day.

Apologies to any real, dedicated, decent teachers out there. You know who you are and you know I’m not talking about you.


To me it seems that almost everybody has an arrogant outlook in some way. Some are less obvious about it, and a very few seem to lack any sort of arrogance. In my experience, the athletes looked down on the Intellectuals, the Intellectuals looked down on… well everybody. Ok, so its jaded(I realize I’m generalizing here, but for the sake of easier conversation Ill refrain from going into further detail). I just think its human nature to have to feel better than people. (I even know people who act all pious and such because they don’t look down on anybody, which of course makes them look down at you)