11/23/2020 07:34

An education or a degree

I was reading a book review this morning whose subject volume seems to have encompassed the reality of theology professors retreating into the seminary so as to avoid the church. That makes sense to me; I remember a professor who retreated into the university School of Education in order to escape the high schools to which he was sending us. I also remember a first grade teacher who I think retreated into the elementary school in order to avoid the world of grown ups. This is not a narrow phenomenon.

I ocntinued that line of thought into my own life and work experience. I too have worked inside schools but for me they were less safe retreats and more traumatic challenge. When last I left education as a profession I sidestepped into the obscurity of a large non-profit organization. (It should have been, I've often said, the ideal job for me. Alas for the paranoid schizophrenia, a management condition which I was not and am not qualified to diagnose.)

I have heard that some nations allow misfit intellectuals to retreat into the civil service. That is also something I understand and have participated in. In our society the civil service option is not a systematic option; it works if you can find the right team within which to embed yourself, but the civil service in the United States is fractured, mobile, evolving, and buffeted by waves of political storms.

Once early in my career I worked behind the double fences of academia and civil service as administrative staff at a public university. That was a long time ago; it was at the beginning of my being an employee. I remember that time as a time of growth and formative experiences but the metaphoric glass walls did provide some of the stability and safety one might desire in a safe retreat from the stormy world. (I was young; safety was not my priority at the time.)

That double fenced, academic and civil service employer had another attribute that I remember more often, a kind of self-absorption only available to universities: A requirement for employment as a computer programmer was that the candidate have either relevant training or a college degree. They did not seem to be aware of the obvious inference an aspiring employee might draw as to the relevance of a college education.

That brings me back around to the point of beginning. The seeming safety of the theological seminary is based, like the employment of programmers at the university, on self-absorptive chasing one's own tail. The work of granting degrees or the work of writing theology can seem to define the whole of the actual reality game if enough of your near neighbors are also obsessed with play inside the same small scope.

Yet we should not be too judgemental. Some can be grand players in the small game and they are less to be despised than others who play vainly with empty moves across the whole board.