Beaver Cleaver speaking:
“Wouldn’t it be nice if a guy could stay in school and hide from the world, like teachers do?”Beaver asks that question in the Leave It to Beaver episode “The All-Night Party” (May 30, 1963). Wally tells his brother that he is “way off-base.” But then there’s a scene in John Williams’s novel Stoner (1965) in which graduate student and instructor David Masters describes what he calls “the true nature of the University”:
“It is an asylum or — what do they call them now? — a rest home, for the infirm, the aged, the discontent, and the otherwise incompetent. Look at the three of us — we are the University. The stranger would not know that we have so much in common, but we know, don’t we? We know well. . . .I think that the sense of academic life as a refuge, a monastery of sorts, was once real, though it may not have been voiced with David Masters’s frankness. I can think of several professors from my undergraduate experience who would have been lost in the so-called real world. But the sense of refuge, if ever it was real, is long gone. Careerism rules.
“It’s for us that the University exists, for the dispossessed of the world; not for the students, not for the selfless pursuit of knowledge, not for any of the reasons that you hear.”
Stoner is available as a New York Review Books reprint (2003). It’s an extraordinary novel.
A related post
A teaching thought (From a Williams interview)