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10 FICTIONAL PROFESSORS WHO GIVE ACADEMICS A BAD NAME

I was going through this blog http://www.onlinecolleges.net and saw post which I thought should share with you. It’s a fun read for sure.

Blog Courtesy- Jamie Hall from http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2012/06/12/10-fictional-professors-who-give-academics-a-bad-name/

10 FICTIONAL PROFESSORS WHO GIVE ACADEMICS A BAD NAME

 

There are many stereotypes that surround professors and academic types: they’re absent-minded, socially awkward, inaccessible to students, pompous and pretentious, or just plain rude. While these stereotypes are by and large incredibly inaccurate, television, movies, and books have latched onto these ideas and created some characters who, despite often being quite funny or interesting, aren’t exactly flattering depictions of those who work in academia. Here are just a few of the fictional professors out there, both from present day and years past, who help give academics a bad name.

  1. Professor James Moriarty:

    Take a look at the super-villains in any modern-day comic book. A huge number of them are professors, scientists, or super geniuses (or all three). While today the brilliant super-villain is pretty common, the idea gained traction decades earlier. One such example is in the classic Sherlock Holmes series. Sherlock Holmes’ arch-nemesis was the brilliant but quite thoroughly evil Professor Moriarty. Described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the “Napoleon of crime,” Moriarty started his career as a professor at a small university, a prodigy by all accounts, but his love of crime held him back from a legitimate career and he would soon leave his professorship to begin building an enormous crime ring. While you might have trouble thinking of a professor-turned-criminal-mastermind in real life (though there are some less extreme examples out there), TV, movies, and books make it seem like universities and research labs are full of socially frustrated evil geniuses just waiting to strike.

  2. Dr. Gregory House:

    The show House was created around the idea that its main character, Dr. Gregory House, is a diagnostic savant, capable of puzzling out the rarest of conditions and treating them with ease, saving lives left and right. That alone is pretty awesome and would make him a fascinating professor to work with, but because this is a TV show on Fox, House is also a complete and total sociopath and narcissist who seems to take great joy in mistreating the interns assigned to work with him, dehumanizing them so far that he only refers to them by a number rather than their names. House is just one of a number of TV doctors (Dr. Perry Cox from Scrubs also comes to mind) in teaching hospitals who treat their medical students, who are supposed to be getting instruction on how to be great doctors, mind you, as though they’re dumber and more annoying to take around a hospital than a pile of particularly dumb and annoying rocks. Despite how entertaining watching him berate these students might be on TV, the reality is that working with someone so grating, cruel, and sometimes morally abhorrent probably wouldn’t be the best experience for medical or any kind of students.

  3. Professor Brainerd:

    Perhaps one of the most persistent stereotypes about professors is that many of them are absent-minded, so caught up in their own intellectual bubble that they can’t complete simple everyday tasks. While there are undoubtedly some professors out there that could be accurately described as absent-minded (Albert Einstein comes to mind), in reality, being especially absent-minded isn’t especially conducive to being a good teacher or putting out top-notch research. But that hasn’t stopped these types of characters from showing up in popular movies and literature. Take Professor Brainerd for example. In a movie called The Absent-Minded Professor, you can’t really expect the main character to be super with it, but still, missing your own wedding (multiple times) is pretty bad, even if you do come up with Flubber. If someone did that in real life, you’d likely have serious concerns about their mental health and well-being. Professor Brainerd is just one of literally dozens of professors in popular media that fit the bill for being ridiculously absent-minded, including Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, Doc Brown from Back to the Future, and Professor Calculus from Tin Tin.

  4. Henry Higgins:

    Henry Higgins may be a character in one of the most beloved musicals of all time, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving academia a good name. The very premise of the play and later film adaptation — that Higgins bets he can train a simple Cockney flower seller to pass as a duchess — is questionable social experimentation at best, even with a somewhat willing, though largely ignorant participant. Higgins is arrogant and quickly loses interest, even when his experimentation could have serious consequences for his young charge Eliza (whom he often forgets even exists). Not to mention that his behavior is frequently infantile and despite being a highly educated man, he throws tantrums and acts out violently toward others, despite regarding similar behavior in others as much beneath him. The arrogance and frequent outbursts of Higgins, in addition to his willingness to conduct social experiments without regard to their long-term consequences, don’t exactly make Higgins an exemplar for the intellectual class.

  5. Sheldon Cooper:

    There’s no question that The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper has a brilliant mind, but he is lacking in social skills, doesn’t get most humor, and generally is pretty weak in understanding how to empathize with others. These traits, combined with his general attitude of superiority, make it pretty hard for him to do any real teaching in the classroom (or out of it for that matter). While Sheldon’s research may be top-notch, the show frequently lampoons his lack of teaching ability, mostly because he just can’t seem to dumb anything down enough for others to understand it. This has made it impossible for him to explain physics concepts to his neighbor Penny or for him to relate to or teach any of his presumably quite intelligent students.

  6. Senor Ben Chang:

    Before Community’s Senor Chang was demoted to being a school security guard for not actually having any teaching qualifications, he was a Spanish professor at Greendale Community College. Egomaniacal Chang was hard on his students, with rigorous grading and strict penalties for wasting time, but his often grating persona made him enemies among the faculty and among students. While he’d certainly be an interesting Spanish teacher, his instability would make it hard to really focus on learning a new language. While fictional, Chang embodies the suspicions many students have about their quirkier professors, questioning whether or not they really have the qualifications to impart a college education on anyone, even in Spanish 101.

  7. Bernard Berkman:

    In the film The Squid and the Whale, novelist and English professor Bernard Berkman is a once-great writer who is now slowly sliding out of the limelight. His wife, however, is just starting to see some success with her own work, something that the professor just can’t stomach, believing her to be well below his own intellect and ability. Even worse, after separating from his wife, he tries to start up an affair with one of his students, ignoring the obvious emotional distress of his two young sons. Berkman embodies many stereotypes people hold about academics. He is arrogant, self-centered, unwilling to acknowledge the talents of others, and often just plain pompous and condescending. While his character may accurately describe more than a few big-headed academics out there, he goes above and beyond in giving all professors (and writers) a bad name.

  8. Grady Tripp:

    Similar in many ways to Bernard Berkman, Michael Chabon’s lead character in the novel (and later movie) Wonder Boys is struggling with his work, as his life collapses all around him. Tripp, who was based on a real-life professor Chabon had while at the University of Pittsburgh, has been plugging away on a novel that despite spanning thousands of pages, he just can’t seem to finish. He spends his free time smoking marijuana, is having an affair with the school’s chancellor, and embarks on some questionable friendships with students. In short, he’s a mess and his personal life frequently distracts him from being available as a professor. Frustrated, unhappy, and wallowing in his own misery, Tripp paints a poor picture of academic life.

  9. Dr. Pangloss:

    At first glance, Dr. Pangloss might appear to be a positive force in Voltaire’s novellaCandide. Yet, in reality, the French satire is making a mockery of the esteemed doctor’s ideals, which exist somewhat divorced from reality. The esteemed philosopher and teacher Pangloss indoctrinates his protege, Candide, with Leibnizian optimism, making the young man believe that the world is a kind and happy place under the mantra, “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” Yet Candide’s illusions are shattered as he witnesses firsthand many of the hardships that come along with human life, prompting him to take a much more pragmatic approach to happiness and optimism. Pangloss isn’t swayed by the terrible experiences he has, however, stating “I still hold to my original opinions, because, after all, I’m a philosopher, and it wouldn’t be proper for me to recant, since Leibniz cannot be wrong, and since pre-established harmony is the most beautiful thing in the world, along with the plenum and subtle matter.” Pangloss is emblematic of one of the main complaints many have with academics, whose ideas and ideals don’t always seem practical, logical, or based in the realities of everyday life.

  10. Professor Frink:

    It’s almost unfair to take a serious look at a character who was so clearly created to entertain, but Professor Frink is such an obvious play on a number of stereotypes about erudite but socially awkward academics that it’s impossible not to. This Simpsons character shows up time and time again, showcasing bizarre and sometimes ill thought-out inventions. He’s also got a little bit (or more than a little bit) of a mad scientist vibe going on and many of his inventions and ideas make situations worse than they were before he started meddling. He’s based far more in fiction than in reality and is more funny than damning to academia, but still, few would see the gibberish-spewing, disaster prone, and socially awkward Frink as anyone desirable to emulate.

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