Doctor Sardonicus in the Urinal

Rufus F.

Rufus is a likeable curmudgeon. He has a PhD in History, sang for a decade in a punk band, and recently moved to NYC after nearly two decades in Canada. He wrote the book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (2021).

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25 Responses

  1. Pat Cahalan says:

    > If they turn in their homework,
    > I’ll validate their parking.

    This is the most heartstoppingly brilliant takedown of today’s University I’ve ever read.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      Thanks! There is a long tradition in our department of jokes about Mall University, mostly among the graduate students.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Rufus, yr tickling takedown of Mall University is only ace.

        Dunno about the driveby vs. the Roman church as the preserver of Western Civilization, tho. Post-Constantine [c. 300 CE] , religion and society were synonymous, no less where Islam grew to its Golden Age and outpaced the West [600-1000 CE].

        But it was at the collapse of the Muslim world as the world’s most polished civilization—returning to fideism—that Christendom promptly picked up the ball they dropped: Aristotle, science itself. It’s an interesting story.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Tom, I love ya, but sometimes you can be a bit sensitive. I meant no swipe at the Church there- not at all- just a mild swipe at an old school of history writing that tended to avoid discussions of (and downplay) all other social institutions and practices in that time period, particularly the ones that didn’t leave behind any texts. I recognize that, without the Church, there’s a great deal of cultural knowledge that would have been lost in the Medieval period; also that it was at the center of that society for over a thousand years.

          But, as someone who is fascinated with how the average person will create and maintain order if at all possible (a topic that still is not very important to historians who tend to focus on the dissenters), I’m a bit skeptical of an older school of history wherein there was the Church and its scribes who left us behind gorgeous texts during that time, and then there were all those illiterates who were doing nothing whatsoever to maintain order. When the only people who show up in a historical record are monks and people who end up in court for committing crimes, historians find it easy to argue that everyone in the time period was either clergy or a criminal. I think that there are dozens of quotidian practices and beliefs that hold together civilizations, even in the worst times.Report

  2. I do what I can to make them feel like junior scholars, because they are, and mostly we just laugh together about those clueless business degree administrators whose insincere pandering to their “customer base” (and, let’s be honest, basic greed) so often stands out at a university like a bathing suit at a funeral. What the students really want is lower tuition.

    And yet, we all want what we can get. The desire for lower tuition does not necessarily equal “greed,” but are we (i.e., humanities/social science/history people) like you and me any better? Maybe we want truth and justice and and a life of spiritual fulfillment, but we also want to eat and to have a roof over our heads. I don’t see how that’s much different fro what the business majors want.Report

    • Oh, no, I’m not down on the students- merely the administrators; and really there I’m more down on their business models. But, trust me: university admins are way past the point of worrying about where their next meal is coming from.Report

  3. greginak says:

    +1 for the bad movie reference BTW.Report

  4. MFarmer says:

    There’s a better way.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to MFarmer says:

      Oh, there are several. I’m guessing that academia will have to figure out a few by the end of the decade. As it is now, I often have the sensation of working at Enron a year before the crash.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

      I would like to be able to pay someone like you to teach me a subject in a coffee shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then get credit for having gained the knowledge — small learning units all over with real knowledge as the only criteria for success. It seems to me that univerisities are not fit for the Internet/Information Age.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to MFarmer says:

        I’ve been working periodically with a local anarchist group that’s trying to do something like that called the “Free School”. We’d be offering courses at all levels meeting regularly at a friendly restaurant and meeting space, and people would only have to buy their books. The real problem is credits. The universities have a monopoly on accreditation. I’ve asked people several times why we couldn’t found a new university that eliminated all of the unnecessary administrative structure and needless overhead, had professors handle certain administrative tasks themselves, and basically operate for a fraction of the average tuition. Trust me- it’s very possible to cut tuition rates way, way down. The answer I’ve always gotten from people is that the universities will immediately declare your degrees worthless. Of course, at some point, what’s going to tip over the apple cart is when companies declare that their new hires don’t need to have college degrees at all because they can do their own training!Report

        • MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

          This is good to hear — yes, if universities fight to be exclusive in this age, they will lose.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to MFarmer says:

            It’s sort of up to corporate America. They’re like a very exclusive club that all the young people want to get into and we’re like the bouncers, and they don’t get access until they get the piece of paper from us. Until that changes, universities will do as they wish. But, when the companies figure out that they can hire a particularly bright high school valedictorian and train him in house, we’re fished. Admittedly, when that happens, I’ll be the first one fired, while the Executive Director of Student Happiness will be the last one to go.Report

            • MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

              Fortunately, I never had worry about Corporation or Universities — I just did my own thing in business, then took a ten year hiatus to “give back” to society working with addicts, then back to another buisiness — spent two years in college and decided I liked the autodidactic path better. My only regret is that I could’ve been a good brain surgeon and richer by now. I registered rather high on a comprehensive IQ test given by a psychologist in Virginia, and he told me I did well on my self-learning path — but like you say, I don’t have a degree and that matters to a lot of people.Report

  5. Christopher Carr says:

    This post reminds me of a recent Gawker column I read: (really funny, but kind of unintentionally ironic coming from Gawker.)

    Highlight line: “It’s much better to look back one day and be embarrassed about your AdBusters subscription than it is to look down, at your desk, in a marketing agency, where you work, thanks to your enthusiasm as a Campus Brand Ambassador.”Report

    • Thanks, that’s pretty funny. Man, people used to take a stand against the Man, back in the revolutionary 90s! Dennis Rodman is probably rolling in his king sized bed right now.

      The thing I wonder about is credit cards. Back when I started grad school (the 1970s or so), they had these people signing the students up for credit cards at the school bookstore and outside of the football games. It was a far cry from when I was a young child and it was actually hard to get a credit card. But I seriously assume they’re not still doing that.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Rufus F. says:

        My first day on campus in 2002, they were handing out ten-dollar bills in exchange for signing up for a credit card. I signed up for like eight and then just cut them up and threw them away when they came in the mail.

        My first day on campus in 2011 there wasn’t anybody hawking credit cards. Granted, different school; the new one is a little less money-hungry than the old one, but still, it probably has more to do with everybody being so ridiculously risk-averse nowadays.Report