Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Egotistical Pyramid.

You'll recall that I discussed labels yesterday. In the academic world, there exists a bizarre pecking order, based on labels. The saying goes something like this:

Mathematicians laugh at physicists.
Physicists laugh at chemists.
Chemists laugh at biologists.
Everyone laughs at those in the humanities.

I've never really understood why there exist such a strange judgment system in academia. Is a mathematician really that far removed from a philosopher? Of course not. Leibniz, the father of integral and differential calculus, was also a renowned philosopher.

Moreover, I'm so tired of hearing people with PhDs refer to themselves and insist that others call them "doctor." Listen, we don't normally refer to people by their working titles. "Oh, there goes Mailman Bob" or "Hi, I'm Lawyer Sue. " It's as if some people with higher degrees think they've had the queen's sword tapped on their shoulders.

In academia, such egotistical thought runs rampant. I often hear people talk down to the janitors and mistreat administrative assistants, all because they think their education entitles them to that. They believe that they sit atop the pyramid of knowledge and success. How wrong they are.

The best lesson my father ever taught me was respect. Respect everyone equally, regardless of their job title, wealth, power or lack thereof. When I was young we had dropped off our family car to the mechanic. As my father and I left the shop, I referred to all mechanics as "morons." I was 7 years old and I still can feel the slap I got on the back of my head. "Don't ever call someone that," he said, "I worked as a janitor all through graduate school to keep our family fed. We give our car to these people because they have skills and abilities we don't. Son, you can learn something from everyone. Never judge a person like that ever again."

These days I wish I could dole out a collective slap on the back of the head to every person out there that thinks they're better than someone else, just because of money, power or education.

Do you have to deal with this sort of thing in your workplace or personal life?

7 Comments:

Blogger Teri said...

I agree with you 100% as I stated in my comment to you about what pisses you off more than anything. People who think they are better than you are, annoy me to no end. Now that I am teaching I do not have that problem at my school, but when I use to work at the Bellagio it was all over the place. The "big-wigs" of the company walked around like they were Gods and so much better than you becuase they had a nice title to go with their name and inflated salary. The thing that really made me mad was the fact they were making a 6 digit salary for walking around and doing nothing, while grunts like me did all their work. OK I guess you get me point about that it happens everywhere.

A side note is that my sister-in- law who has her Ph.D and teaches chemistry refuses to be called Dr.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Davydgrey said...

I still like the classics:

B.S. -- Degree in 'bull-shit'
M.S. -- Higher Degree in 'more shit'
Ph. D. -- Ultimate degree - Piled higher and deeper

4:38 PM  
Blogger LoraLoo said...

While I was in college I worked as a secretary and ran into this all the time. Since I graduated and moved to the IT department, these are the same people who can't open their email or shut the computer down properly.

4:49 PM  
Blogger The Disgruntled Chemist said...

I see this all the time, since I'm a grad student. I got my undergrad degree in biochemistry, but I went into a joint Physics/Physical Chem. program because I thought it'd be interesting.

Within a few weeks, it was fairly common knowledge that I was "that grad student" who all the professors expected to flunk out within a couple of quarters, just because I had a biochem background.

I'd hate to know what they would have thought if they knew I worked as a construction worker, shelf stocker and food server during college!

Assuming I manage to finish my Ph.D., I'll be with teri's sister in law and won't let anyone call me "doctor". I may be many kinds of asshole, but I'm not a pretentious asshole.

6:07 PM  
Blogger thc said...

Vavoom: Anytime you need another slap on the back of the head, I'm there for ya' buddy.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Yes, I do have to deal with this type of behavior in a high school setting. Here’s one thing I’ve heard:

To teach math, you really have to know something. To teach social studies, you only have to memorize something.

So, since I’m a social studies teacher, I guess my in-depth knowledge of the Holocaust is useless? Like you, I've wondered why people have these "I'm above you" kinds of attitudes.

But, is it only academia that we see this hierarchy, or is it simply a part of our culture that is pervasive in all parts of our society?

10:56 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

Great post. Yes, the social phenomenon of tooting one's own horn didn't start with the puffer fish. Since I deal with a lot of people each day, I find it absurdly funny when someone calls the hotel and (we are forced to use their last name twice in conversation) they correct one of our dispatchers by adding Dr. to the last name. So when I get to the room, I purposely say Mr.

If I really wanted to, I could call myself a musicologist and an authority on 80's music. But I don't promote myself like that. I find something creepy about useless self-importance.

1:47 AM  

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