This was a scholarly interaction, and it took place at a large state institution. Say anything you want about how this was a fifty year old man, flattered that a seventeen year old blonde who wasn’t even in his class, came to ask about his book. It was still a scholarly interaction on all sides. From it, I learned that a scholar will answer your questions seriously, no matter who you are. To put it a little differently, a scholar assumes that others might also be scholars.I'm giving a little bit of context for this aphorism, because I wanted to show the experience out of which it arose, a visit by the blogger as college student to a professor's office. The entire series of posts is worth reading, since the theme is "what is a scholar?"
I make this assumption myself: others may also be scholars. They aren't necessarily so, but they may be. Any serious, sincerely asked question deserves a serious scholarly answer, whether the questioner is 17 or 85, an academic or a civilian. I answer questions by random strangers who email me all the time.
Teaching, I assume my students are scholars, or could be. By this I mean that they deserve the benefit of having a scholar as their teacher, someone, himself, involved in learning. At least for those four (or five or six) years of undergraduate education, the student is a researcher, a scholar.
The assumption can backfire when students, or even colleagues, do not see themselves this way. So the question, which I have been grappling with while reading and commenting on this other blog, is, what gets in the way of our being scholars? What blocks that energy, that identity?
A lot of what I blog about here is academia 101. In other words, things you should know by around the end of Freshman year in college, if not before. How to formulate a thesis / a critical problem. How to write a good term paper / article. The question that I need to consider, however, is why college professors become alienated from their scholarly identity?