Pazite se razočaranih otrok akademikov, ki bi radi spreminjali svet

Kaj imajo skupnega Emmanuel Macron, Benjamin Netanyahu, Justin Trudeau, Pete Buttigieg, Yoon Suk-yeol, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Changpeng Zhao, Sam Bankman-Fried, Kanye West, Volodymyr Zelensky …? Vsi so otroci akademikov. Ob domači kuhinjski mizi so se nalezli idej staršev. Večinoma so liberalci, navajeni, da ne obstajajo absolutne resnice, ker se “resnica” skreše v težkih debatah. Razen nekaterih, ki so vrednostno zašli ali pa konsekventno implementirajo ideje svojih staršev, kot denimo Natanyahu.

Zanimivi sta še dve kruti resnici. Prva je, da so otroci akademikov nekako skeptični do učinkovitosti širjenja idej svojih staršev, ker je doseg teh idej izjemno majhen, saj akademski članek prebere nekaj deset ljudi, v zelo dobrem primeru nekaj sto, v najboljšem in zelo redkem primeru pa nekaj tisoč ljudi. (Jaz imam srečo, da je abstract mojega najbolj branega akademskega članka (registrirano) prebralo nekaj čez 4,700 ljudi, članek je downladalo nekaj čez 1,700 ljudi, citiralo pa ga je 535 ljudi. Kar je za akademske standarde dovolj, da prideš med top 10% najbolj citiranih. Toda članke na mojem blogu, in to v majhni Sloveniji, dnevno prebere več ljudi, kot se je akademskim kolegom globalno zdelo vredno downladati moj najbolj brani akademski članek. Pa sem med 10% najbolj citiranih ekonomistov na svetu). Zato se otroci akademskih staršev običajno raje odločijo za kakšen bolj praktičen poklic oziroma za širitev teh idej prek implementacije v praksi. Denimo v politiki.

Druga kruta resnica pa je, da je akademski poklic vedno manj cenjen in da so profesorji relativno bedno plačani glede na ostale poklice in glede na prejšnje čase. Zato se njihovi otroci spreminjajo v jezne potomce lumpen-intelektualcev, ki zares želijo spremeniti ta “krivični svet”. Zato se pazite otrok akademikov!

Our pathway to power works something like this. You grow up in a house where ideas are taken seriously. Most of your education happens at the kitchen table; school is considered a mere irritation, because professors tend to regard schoolteachers as inferior versions of professors. The child, especially if male, acquires intellectual overconfidence. If even mum or dad can understand ideas, how hard can it be?

Then you have to choose a career. In our era, academia was losing its appeal. Academics’ relative pay probably peaked a century ago, when German professors in the Weimar Republic were one-percenters. Our parents had offices on linoleum corridors with peeling walls and came home every evening (or sometimes lunchtime) moaning about university bureaucrats.

More fundamentally, their work seemed a waste of brainpower. Macron’s neurologist dad, for instance, studies cats’ sneezes. Bankman-Fried’s father, a law professor at Stanford, once wrote: “I had spent my first 10 years as an academic happily writing the kind of scholarship that no one reads except other academics.

When I was young and vaguely considering academia, a friend doing a PhD showed me a paper in an historical journal titled something like, Oxen in the American Civil War. He asked, “How many people do you think will read this?” “Nine?” I guessed. “Zero,” he said. No wonder Obama only briefly taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, while Macron chucked his agreed visiting fellowship at the London School of Economics to become a minister.

The professor’s son, who often grows up in a small, dull university town, yearns to impact the big world. Indoctrinated to revere ideas, we rarely try climbing corporate ladders. But we sense that the complicated ideas our parents banged on about would have more effect if translated into ordinary people’s language. That’s why many of us become intellectual popularisers: Malcolm Gladwell, Nate Silver, Noam Chomsky, Ken Burns and, in politics, Obama and Blair. I’ll half-count David Attenborough, son of a college principal.

Netanyahu has spent his political career implementing some of his father’s ideas. The historian Benzion Netanyahu, who lived to 102, argued in his controversial magnum opus that the Spanish Inquisition hunted Jews based strictly on their race, even if they had genuinely converted to Christianity. His son, too, sees an unceasing, uncompromising threat to Jewish survival that requires Israel’s hard-right turn.

But ideologically speaking, Netanyahu, Kanye and former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev are exceptions. Most professors’ children absorbed the liberal ideas of our parents’ academic generation. We’re comfortable with the self-doubt inherent in liberalism. Think of Macron’s habit of making an assertion, then instantly arguing against it: en même temps, at the same time . ..

The next generation of professors’ kids will probably carry a different ideology. Academia has shifted leftwards. Whereas liberals value discussion, leftwingers feel a duty to take sides. And professors continue to slide down the class ladder: British academic salaries dropped about a fifth from 2009 through 2019, after which pensions were slashed. Academics today are an increasingly angry lumpen-intelligentsia. The next revolution is brewing in a child’s bedroom in some dingy off-campus apartment.

Vir: Simon Kuper, Financial Times

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