Robert Marks.org

HOME | FAQS home


What are Some Interesting Quotes About Professors and the Acadamy?



"Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God."

Thomas Sowell




"Too often what are called 'educated' people are simply people who have been sheltered from reality for years in ivy-covered buildings. Those whose whole careers spent in ivy-covered buildings, insulated by tenure, can remain adolescents golden retirement years."

Thomas Sowell




"Ninety percent of [contemporary philosophers] see their principle task as that of beating religon out of men's heads.  ... We are far from being able to provide scientific basis for the theological world view."

Kurt Gödel

Logical Dilemmas: The Life and Work of Kurt Godel by John W. Dawson Jr..



"The institutional vanity and intellectual slovenliness of America's campus-based intelligentsia have made academia more peripheral to civic life than at any time since the 19th century."

George Will




"The people who are scariest to me are the people who don't even know enough to realize how little they know."

Thomas Sowell




“A professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep”

W. H. Auden




"Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important. Some confuse that feeling with idealism."

Thomas Sowell.




"We can trust our doctors to be professional, to minister equally to their patients without regard to their political or religious beliefs. But we can no longer trust our professors to do the same."

David Horowitz




"Intellectuals may like to think of themselves as people who 'speak truth to power' but too often they are people who speak lies to gain power."

Thomas Sowell




"Wise people created civilization over the centuries and clever people are dismantling it today. You can see it happening just by channel surfing on TV or hear it in rap music or read it in the pompous nonsense of academics and judges."

Thomas Sowell




"ACADEME n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

ACADEMY n. [from ACADEME] A modern school where football is taught."

Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"




"Some of the most vocal critics of the way things are being done are people who have done nothing themselves, and whose only contributions to society are their complaints and moral exhibitionism."

Thomas Sowell




"It is amazing how many people think that they can answer an argument by attributing bad motives to those who disagree with them. Using this kind of reasoning, you can believe or not believe anything about anything, without having to bother to deal with facts or logic."

Thomas Sowell




"Instead of educating students, these professors are trying to indoctrinate them."

David Horowitz




"Students can graduate from even the most prestigious colleges and universities wholly unaware that there are not simply different opinions about particular issues but a whole comprehensive framework of ideas and analysis through which those issues can be seen in a way that leads to very different conclusions from the ones their professors have taught or insinuated."

Thomas Sowell




"As someone who has worked both in private industry and in academia, whenever I hear about academics wanting to teach ethics ... I want to puke."

Thomas Sowell




"The most frequent complaint I hear from college students is that professors inject their leftist political comments into their courses even when they have nothing to do with the subject."

Phyllis Schlafly




"One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people's motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans-- anything except reason."

Thomas Sowell




"Culture is an instrument wielded by professors to manufacture professors, who when their turn comes will manufacture professors."

Simone Veil




"A poll of university professors found that 94% of the respondents thought that they were better at their jobs than their average colleague"

U.S. News & World Report 16, Dec 1996




"Although I am ready to defend what I have said, many people expect me to defend what others have attributed to me."

Thomas Sowell




"The lopsided attitudes of college professors pose a serious challenge to learning because students are so susceptible to becoming lopsided sheep".

Suzanne Fields




Q: What's the difference between God and a Professor?

A: God doesn't think He's a Professor.





"An officer who's afraid to risk his reputation seldom makes much of a reputation. It's the same with us [professors]. If we really want to find things out, we have to risk making mistakes. And I'm a lot more interested in finding things out than I am in my reputation."

H. Beam Piper, "Omnilingual," in "Where Do We Go from Here?" ed. Isaac Asimov.




"My lack of political acumen, coupled with my perverse inclination to side occasionally with my enemies, my inattention to the details of political machination, and my failures of short-term memory made me, my colleagues thought, the perfect compromise candidate for the temporary chair of our hopelessly divided department. How much harm could I do in a year?"

Richard Russo, "Straight Man"




"Madame Lacouture, a sharp-faced, peremptory woman in a mannish suit, reminded him of a dozen academic department-head secretaries he had known (and trembled before). He had often wondered if it was an international type, perhaps genetically determined, transcending all cultural barriers."

Aaron Elkins, "Skeleton Dance."



"The question inevitably arises, if everybody is always in meetings, who is doing the actual work? Darned if I know, but I do know this: if you're always in meetings, it isn't you."

Dough Hurd, "How To Do Business Meetings," in "Overpacking Disease, Telling Your Child about Nordstrom, and Other Traumas of Adulthood."



"[She] reports that [the company] recently donated fifty million dollars to a major U.S. teaching hospital, plus salaries and expenses for three top clinicians and six research assistants. Corruption of university Common Room affiliations is even easier: professorial chairs, biotech labs, research foundations, etc. 'Unbought scientific opinion is increasingly hard to find.'"

John Le Carre, "The Constant Gardener"



"He remembered his own panic at the realization that the days of the parental safety net were numbered, that in ascending the stage to receive his diploma he was also taking steps to assume sole responsibility for his actions, of cooking his own meals, washing his own clothes, making his own bed, paying his own rent. He was lucky, [...] which put him one up on many classmates who were still dithering between majoring in philosophy and electrical engineering."

Dana Stabenow, "Midnight Come Again"



"Ultimately I did get my sabbatical. [...] I studied [the Wisteria vines'] growth patterns. I could not determine which direction they had chosen to climb their subjects. I apologize for that. But I am not alone. I join the massive ranks of nearly all educators, who, at the end of their teaching careers, think back across the decades and reflect on how many they have failed for not remembering those things that are no longer considered true."

Daniel Hinckley, "Wisteria," Heronswood Nursery catalog, 2004.



"It is not the sale of my soul that troubles me: I have sold it too often to care about that. I have sold it for a professorship. I have sold it for an income. [...] What is all human conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles?"

G. Bernard Shaw, "Major Barbara"



"To succeed as an [academic] manager, you have to be a heroic live coward. You display a convincing veneer of intent to define and face the issue. Your real purpose is to sharply focus the issue so that you can skillfully evade it."

M.B. Ettinger, "The Pragmatism and Pitfalls of Dynamic Procrastination."



"My position has been that our department is so deeply divided, that we have grown so contemptuous of each other over the years, that the sole purpose of bringing in a new chair from the outside was to prevent any of us from assuming the reigns of power. We're looking not so much for a chair as for a blood sacrifice."

Richard Russo, "Straight Man"



"Having not read university writing in years, [he] smiled in amusement. He'd forgotten that tendency of the academician to voice his pronouncements with such egregious pomposity."

--- Elizabeth George, "For the Sake of Elena."




"-'You know the damnedest things.'

"'I,' he said with dignity, 'am a full professor. My mind is replete with scholarly arcana, some of which, I can safely say, are even more useless than that.' "

Aaron Elkins, "Curses."




"I studied the great philosophers - So Crates, Plateau. You learn the important things in Philosophy. Like, if you study Geology, which is all facts, as soon as you get out of school you forget it all, because it's all numbers and things. But with Philosophy you remember just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life. You study all the important ethical questions, like, "Is it OK to yell 'Movie!' in crowded firehouse?""

Steve Martin, "The Wit and Wisdom of Steve Martin," in The Idler, issue 34 (Winter 2004), pp. 42-45.




"Many people are so preoccupied with the notion that their own knowledge exceeds the average knowledge of millions of other people that they overlook the more important fact that their knowledge is not even one-tenth of the total knowledge of those millions."

Thomas Sowell



"The University, which used to be a collection of baronies, has got to start operating as a whole [...]. There are certain changes we all agree on [...] but, you see, restructuring is a convenient excuse for carrying out long-planned hanky-panky."

Amanda Cross, "Poetic Justice"




"If you need the truth, then he's a moral coward and an intellectual bully. Like most academic men, he's terrified of new ideas or anything that challenges what he was taught."

Anne Perry, "Brunswick Gardens."




"Many years before, when he had nervously turned in the first draft of his dissertation to his doctoral committee members, [his thesis advisor] had penciled in some comments across the title page: 'Very inventive. Considering the lack of data, the inconclusive results, and the ambiguous statistical analysis, you did a wonderful job. Not everyone can make two hundred pages from nothing. I predict you'll go far.'"

Aaron Elkins, "Curses"




"Young people err through ignorance; but older people err through oblivion to dramatic but simple truths, learned and forgotten a hundred times. The ignorance of the young has the inviting vacancy of the outdoors; but the oblivion of the old is a noxious void behind a sneer of wisdom."

Robert Grudin, "Time and the Art of Living."




"Today a prospective employer may ignore your resume and simply Google you. Now you're at the mercy of what other people and what various computer algorithms think of you. All those carefully prepared exaggerations on your resume are put in a certain perspective. Which version of your life, after all, is the truth?"

Robert W. Lucky, "Who Are You?," Reflections, IEEE Spectrum Magazine, May 2007.




"Marshall's comportment as a teacher was equally distinctive. Terrified of being at a loss for words, he wrote out his lectures which, sauced with redundancy, seasoned with non sequitur and served up at metronomic pace in a pained nasal monotone, induced narcosis in all who heard them."

Robert Grudin, "Book"




"Spend your department's budget as if it were your own."

Richard A. Moran, "Never Confuse a Memo with Reality."




"I know that customarily English departments in universities, without knowing what they're doing, teach dread of the engineering department, the physics department, and the chemistry department. And this fear, I think, is carried over into criticism. Most of our critics are products of English departments and are very suspicious of anyone who takes in interest in technology."

--- Kurt Vonnegut, "A Man Without A Country."




"Your day is spent matching people and jobs and opportunities, shoring up sagging egos, and trying to guide destiny with no better tools than a couple of sweaty hands on the purse strings. [...] You keep your people so busy with planning documents, reports and justifications that only the most rugged, the most dedicated, and the most egocentric manage to smuggle some constructive effort into their day. These guys are the willful leaders of tomorrow. You know damn-well that they're great because they have managed to get something done in spite of your leadership."

M.B. Ettinger, "Standard Methods for the Mediocre Science Manager." Ann Arbor Science Publishers, 1969.




"A little further down the management chain, there is often a belief that the thinking of great thoughts is not allowed -- that this is something reserved exclusively for upper management. This is truly unfortunate, inasmuch as these people are often the ones with the freshest ideas and the time, energy, and intellect to pursue them. Moreover, the upper managers, whom the lower-level managers believe are spending their time thinking great thoughts, are doing nothing of the kind."

Robert W. Lucky, "Great Thoughts," IEEE Spectrum Magazine, Jan. 2007.




"In a university you cannot get rid of a tenured professor without an unholy row, and though academics love bickering they hate rows. It was widely agreed that the only way to get rid of Urky would be to murder him, and though the Dean may have toyed with that idea, he did not want to be caught. Anyhow, Urky was not a bad scholar. It was simply that he was intolerable, and for some reason that is never accepted as an excuse for getting rid of anybody. So Urky became a Distinguished Professor with light duties, a devoted secretary, and few students."

Robertson Davies, "The Rebel Angels."




"As to our universities, I've come to the conclusion that they are elitist where they should be egalitarian and egalitarian where they should be elitist. We admit only a tiny proportion of the age group as students and give them a very labour-intensive education (elitist), but we pretend that all universities and all university teachers are equal and must therefore have the same funding and a common payscale, with automatic tenure (egalitarian)."

David Lodge, "Nice Work."




"He soon settled on Professor Grossmann, a truly big man at the university. Grossmann was in charge of several government contracts, spent a great deal of time consulting, and attended numerous committee meetings in Washington. He was a professor with little time for the technical details of the work of his graduate students, all of whom were supported by his government contracts. Sharp was particularly pleased that Grossmann would be too busy to come into the laboratory where he might learn how inept Sharp really was."

Archibald Putt, "Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat."




No one is more determined to maintain an ideological monopoly than those academics who talk most about “diversity” in a physical sense.

Thomas Sowell




Some full professors could more accurately be described as empty professors.

Thomas Sowell




What is called an educated person is often someone who has had a dangerously superficial exposure to a wide spectrum of subjects.

Thomas Sowell




Students can graduate from even the most prestigious colleges and universities wholly unaware that there are not simply different opinions about particular issues but a whole comprehensive framework of ideas and analysis through which those issues can be seen in a way that leads to very different conclusions from the ones their professors have taught or insinuated.

Thomas Sowell




Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.

Thomas Sowell




Some people’s jobs will allow them to be important only by being a pain.

Thomas Sowell




Even parents who complain about low academic standards in the schools seem not to understand that academic achievement is not the real priority of today’s educators. Classroom brainwashing is the goal, though it is expressed in prettier and more pious words than this.

Thomas Sowell




"Thesis abstracts are, with a very few exceptions, the least credible and most horrifying productions of imaginative literature."

Robertson Davies, "Revelation from A Smoky Fire," in "High Spirits."




"Baylor has apparently decided to sink back into its diminished role as a not terribly distinguished regional school. President Sloan is gone, the new high-profile faculty are demoralized and sniffing around for positions at better-known schools, energetic programs like the Intelligent Design institute have been chased away, and the bright young professors are having their academic careers ruined by a school that lured them to campus with the promises of the 2012 plan and now is simply embarrassed by them."

Joseph Bottum of First Things




"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand."

--- Archibald Putt, "Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat."


Acknowledgements: Many of these quotes are swiped from Mani Soma who circulated a weekly "For Your Reading Pleasure" email.