Educator, professor, or teacher: which shall it be?
At best the title of teacher is suspect. I notice that on their passports and elsewhere, many of my academic colleagues put down their occupation as Professor. Anything to raise the tone: a professor is to a teacher what a cesspool technician is to a plumber. Anything to enlarge the scope: not long ago, I joined a club which described its membership as made up of Authors, Artists, and Amateurs — an excellent reason for joining. Conceive my disappointment when I found that the classifications had broken down and I was now entered as an Educator. Doubtless we shall have to keep the old pugilistic title of Professor, though I cannot think of Dante in Hell coming upon Brunetto Latini, and exclaiming, “Why, Professor!” But we can and must get rid of “Educator.” Imagine the daily predicament: someone asks, “What do you do?” — “I profess and I educate.” It is unspeakable and absurd.If you teach: What do you call yourself? What do you ask your students to call you?
Jacques Barzun, Teacher in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1945).
[“Cesspool technician” reminds me of Ed Norton’s self-description in a Honeymooners episode: “I’m an engineer in subterranean sanitation.” The club is no doubt the Century Association, “an association of over two thousand authors, artists, and amateurs of letters and the fine arts.“ Dante says to Brunetto Latini, “Siete voi qui, ser Brunetto?” [Ser Brunetto, are you here?] (Inferno XV.30). An explanation: “The title ser (the second element in messer, cf. French monsieur) placed before Brunetto Latini’s first name is a sign of respect, as is the use of in the Italian text of the formal pronoun voi”: Anthony Oldcorn, in the notes to Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the Inferno (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009). Jacques Barzun will be 104 on November 30. And if you’re wondering why it’s How to e-mail a professor: professor is the word I thought students would search for.]
Update, November 18: Just out, a biography by Michael Murray: Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind (Savannah: Frederic C. Beil, 2011).