Monday, May 11, 2009

Dear Business School: Get Over Yourself

In order to keep my head above water financially, I work at the business library at Columbia University. It's an ok job - pays well, unionized, absurdly easy "hard" days - really, it's pretty much as dreamy a dream job as you could ask for for part-time work.

The biggest downfall, however, is the sheer amount of douchiness you have to put up with from already-privileged business students who (by the very nature of their "graduate degree") are not the smartest, and who are about as douchy a population as you will find outside of the fraternity world. Put simply, business students (at least at Columbia) are some of the whiniest, laziest, most condescending, most assumed-air-of-privilege people you will ever meet. And the school does everything to foster this. The dean and professors are simply the academic world version of their students - immature, selfish, self-centered, and believing that everything should go their way as they are the only arbiters of anything "important" in this world.

There are literally hundreds of examples I have of this, but one that has particularly irked me today. When you walk into the building, there are tv screens broadcasting BloombergTV (of course), and motivational mottos that convey a sense of the school's sense of superiority about itself. I noticed a new one while walking into work today, spurred no doubt by the recent economic troubles. Behind an image of professionals in some building in downtown Manhattan, it read: "If change doesn't affect the way you teach business, you're teaching history."

Now, I know what they're trying to say here; they're trying to convey that their teaching and courses are up to date even in these volatile times. However, you already get the sense of stupid and false superiority here. I don't expect deep historiographical knowledge of these people, but the patent absurdity of the idea that teaching history is something that is "dead" to change should be self-evident to anybody who has a functioning brain and not an MBA. Indeed, the most basic tenent of history is "change over time," and in that regard, teaching history in some ways isn't much different than the kind of course the business school is claiming to teach (only historians don't have nearly the same degree of hyper-inflated sense of self-importance that business faculty do, and historians generally don't foolishly try to accurately predict what will happen next or rely on ridiculous models that presume a "natural" force that is completely independent of human cultural influences).

Of course, this certainly isn't the first or last case of the business school putting on airs of superiority over any other field or graduate degree. Still, despite the overall conditions of the job, it definitely helps me look forward to teaching college freshmen, and I never thought there'd be anything that could make me actively look forward to that.