I get asked that a lot, re: my academic “career,” such as it was. The short answer is: It wasn’t fun anymore.
Academia was never my main gig. I had a “real” job throughout that paid the bills, but since that “real” job was ad libitum I could teach a regular schedule — I wasn’t confined to night classes, adult education, etc. (though I taught those; over the years I’ve taught pretty much everything that doesn’t require math). I taught because I love teaching, because it’s socially necessary, and because it was an interesting insight into the upcoming generation(s).
None of those are true anymore.
It’s not that kids today are mal-educated, woefully ignorant, and wouldn’t know serious academic work if it bit them on the ass. Those are all true, of course, but that’s the way it has always been — I have no doubt Plato said the same thing about Aristotle (and Socrates no doubt said it about Plato). In my experience, the rueful phrase “back when I was in college” first escapes your lips approximately 36 hours into graduate school.
It’s not the quantity of ignorance, then, but the quality. Generation Snowflake really are New Soviet Men. If you’ve read about life under Stalin, especially, you’ll know what I’m talking about — at once invincibly self-righteous and cringingly subservient, modern students come across like junior volunteer commissars. If they don’t already know it, it’s by definition not worth knowing… and you’re an asshole — to be avoided, undermined, ignored, or (very, very grudgingly) tolerated, as the situation dictates — for trying to make them “learn” something new.
They’re not sociopaths, exactly, but that’s close enough to what they are that we’ll go with it. For instance: They have no problem asking you to move due dates, even for big things like midterm exams, if it inconveniences them. And just them — the rest of the class should still have to take the exam on Friday; it’s just that she, Suzy Snowflake, has a big sorority function that weekend that she really needs to prepare for, so she should be allowed to take it Monday. Nor do they have a problem with lying on spec, just to see if you’ll bite. Tell Suzy no, she still has to take the exam on Friday like everyone else, and there’s a decent chance you’ll be getting a “dead Grandma” email from her over the weekend — my Grandma died suddenly this Friday, I had to go home for the funeral, I’m so broken up, I’m free to take the makeup exam on Monday.
No, I’m not joking, and yes, you can check Suzy Snowflake’s social media and find pictures of her downing shots at the big sorority do Saturday night. And yes, she knows those pictures are out there; Generation Snowflake regards the concept of “online privacy” like your cat thinks about calculus. It’s just that hey, maybe you won’t check. Worth a shot, right? If anyone should be upset it’s her, for making her feel bad by doubting her story. She’ll saunter into class on Monday like nothing happened…. because to her, nothing did. She threw a Hail Mary, it got intercepted, oh well, what’s new in the Netflix queue?
Faced with that, any attempt at education is like King Canute ordering back the tides. It’s excruciatingly pointless, and that’s why I quit. Life’s too short to spend raging against the inevitable.