Tuesday, February 03, 2015

I think I am an intellectual. Yet, I don't ask for more money?

If it is February, well, it means that I am done with taxes.  Yes, I am!  It also means that discussions begin, in the loudest possible tones, on how to use those tax monies.

Which is why it was no surprise to read an email earlier today, from the "comrades," that it is time to lobby the legislators.
Your salary, your benefits, your retirement, your class size, and your teaching load are all at stake.
Why do they keep providing me with fodder for my blog, when my plate is already overflowing with the topics I want to understand and write about?  At this rate, I will never get to string theory! ;)

That sentence in the email is debatable at so many levels.  If the true goal is to educate students, then do have conclusive evidence that a class size of, say, ten, is better than a class size of forty?  How about fifty?  What is the appropriate salary for a faculty?  How do we measure faculty productivity in teaching in order to relate it to the compensation?  What is an appropriate teaching load?  Why not more?  Why not less?  All these are merely about that one sentence, and the email had a lot more.

Of course, I didn't reply to that email.  Why should I when I have experienced over the years the "disdain" the "comrades" have for my ideas and opinions!

The claim that we intellectuals deserve to be paid more always reminds of me a classic essay that I read a long time ago.  I bet the "comrades" will go further berserk when I quote, ready for this?, Robert Nozick.  In a wonderful essay, polemical no doubt, Nozick wrote there:
Intellectuals now expect to be the most highly valued people in a society, those with the most prestige and power, those with the greatest rewards. Intellectuals feel entitled to this. But, by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals.
Faculty, how much ever pretentious they might be as intellectuals, feel entitled to high earnings, and power, and prestige.
Why then do contemporary intellectuals feel entitled to the highest rewards their society has to offer and resentful when they do not receive this? Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution “to each according to his merit or value.”
Imagine me telling this to the "comrades."  I won't be alive to blog after, and you will miss my posts ;)

Ironically, a couple of weeks ago, during a class discussion when students remarked about happiness and incomes, I reminded them that high incomes don't guarantee higher levels of happiness.  I told them that if the empirical studies are correct, then I am now earning pretty much the income when happiness apparently peaks.  "No wonder I am always kidding around and sharing horrible groaners" I told them.

Anyway, I went about my business.  I closed the door at the noon hour and had my favorite lunch from home.  You know, the whole grilled ciabatta routine.  Today, I even included thinly sliced red onions.  Boy was it yummy!  The honeycrisp apple was even yummier.

I opened the door to go brush my teeth.  And there it was in the box right outside my office door:



You think I really care for more salary and benefits at this point?  And, if that was my goal in life, you think I would have ditched electrical engineering?

I am one richly paid educator.  Thank you!

A note here, a chocolate bar there, and I am all set.  This term is already a success.

4 comments:

Anne in Salem said...

Payment beyond all measure. Well-earned, I am sure. Once you have retired and need to cull your accumulated reams of paper, I assume these treasures will be spared the recycling heap.

Narayanaswamy S. said...

awesome

Ramesh said...

A brilliant post full of deep insights. Very true that capitalism does not reward professions according to "perceived importance" to society. I have always been troubled by this. Another profession I have lots of sympathy for in terms of poor wages is nursing.

You are truly one of a kind - a wise man who has his priorities right and with great understanding and clarity. Very impressed.

The lobbying for tax breaks is a virus that afflicts all. Billionaires do the same. It takes a special man such as Warren Buffet to say he should be paying more.

But still, a raise wouldn't be so bad :):)

Sriram Khé said...

Thanks!

Yes, the rewards system in a capitalist economy works in its own way. When it comes to teaching or the arts, well, we get into it knowing that it is not money that attracts us--ideally, we do it knowing there is no money in those because that is who we are. Will a tad more money help? Of course yes ...

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