A Jackass in a Bowtie

I am a pompous jackass.

I came to that realization tonight in class. I’m that student. You know who I’m talking about. I’m that guy: the guy who’s obnoxiously trying to show everybody up with his expert opinions on the subject matter; the guy who raises his hand and volunteers when no one else does; the guy who finds fault in everything you say just so he can disagree with you; the guy who just talks and talks and doesn’t care if he looks stupid doing it. And oddly enough, I’m severely unapologetic about it.

To be fair, there are some reasons why I feel like I’ve earned this particular distinction.

First off, we all know that no one pursues a doctorate in higher education unless he or she is a complete and utter loser. It just doesn’t happen otherwise. No one in their right mind would subject themselves to the kind of painful torture associated with jumping through flaming hoops just so they can add the magic “Ph.D” or “Ed.D” on their business card. Thus, this fact alone proves that doctoral students—particularly those in higher education—deserve to be humored rather than taken seriously. We have no lives, so pity us and let us talk without rolling your eyes.

Second, when you’re in a class with a mixed population of undergrads, master’s, and doctoral students, there’s a certain unspoken protocol of behavior expected of the “elders.” It involves getting up with the help of our wobbly canes and gingerly starting every statement with, “When I was a freshman…” Extra points are awarded if you raise your fist in indignation and mention that you had to walk barefoot uphill in the snow to go to school.

Finally, we just like to hear ourselves talk and sound intelligent in front of everyone. Most other doctoral students will deny this, but there’s a certain amount of pleasure derived from the fact that we’ve been there, done that, have the t-shirt, and the rash. It’s not anything personal, but it’s the same reason why senior faculty lord it over assistant professors. The battle scars and the hours and hours of reading, writing, and citing sources APA-style garner a certain sense of entitlement.

So, just humor us. We’re not really all that arrogant (well, at least some of us aren’t), and we like to throw back pints like anyone. Every time we make a comment in class, just nod patronizingly and say, “Yes, grandpa, that’s right.”

On a side note, I’m resolved to expand on my pompousness by starting to wear bowties. A co-worker of mine at the Department of Education made the astute observation that very few people can pull off the bowtie—and that I was one of those people. And because I have no sense of shame nor decency, I totally agree. I’ll be sure to take pictures of my new look to share with everyone.


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