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Very slowly, hesitantly, dare I say timidly, I’ve begun to reconcile myself to the notion that I want to be an academic. Academia is a career choice I have long deprecated: those who can do, do; those who cannot do, teach; those who cannot teach, supervise. Words to that effect I have said far too often to too many people in too many contexts. Pride might be my first obstacle.

My intent has always been to DO. Teaching is the province of those who have either already done, or cannot do. Neither category one occupied by me.

My view of my career path has always been: a few decades in practice as a barrister followed by a leisurely decent into academia as a low stress alternative, in which I could both indulge my intellectual side and do something more meaningful by contributing back to society through education.

At the same time. I have a very abstract view of the world, and I enjoy applying and deploying theoreretical perspectives. I live for ideas, innovative nifty ideas that lead to clever solutions. I love the difficult theory questions, I like lacunas, I love the nitty bit of detail that contradicts every other bit of information that we’ve been given so far and that no one can explain when pressed on why its there and what it means. I love the self righteousness that every theory of everything has, and the sense of relish in attacking and deconstructing an argument back down into the scrap heap from which it came.

It’s what’s behind my vindictive project to try and ask, in every class, one question that the teacher cannot answer. Initially it was born out of frustration at Emma Ford, but its grown, evolved, matured into something that I use as a tool in its own right. It’s had mixed results so far, but the point is that I’m trying to probe the very outliers of knowledge, and I enjoy doing this in some sort of very intellectual exercise of pushing back the limits of knowledge. To reach the boundaries of everything that is knowable by any human being is also at the core of my approach to life.

And I’m also pretty sure at this stage that I want to do a PhD ( or a LLD / SJD ), just to satisfy my search for more knowledge, and maybe to keep the real world at bay. I’m not sure about that last reason, I think it may be a factor, but in a sense I’m not averse to finding ‘real’ work. I just don’t want to. I want to keep learning, keep exploring and probably ascend into boffin-hood.

It’s a very seductive path, very tempting, but I’m not sure that I want it regardless of how much I think I’d like it. And that really is a devils choice.



  1. my humble experience suggests that working in the real world, for even a limited time, gives you a much better perspective (and appreciation) for academia. if you’re not a hundred percent sure (and even if you are), live in the real world a bit.

    from a student’s perspective, i would say that all my profs who have that ‘worldly’ experience are the ones whom i learn more from.

  2. Already went through that debate myself. Strangely enough, this situation reminds me of not wanting to turn off the hot shower on a freezing day. Granted in your case there’s no harm in keeping the tap running, but I can tell you I’ll shut it off the first chance I have. Guess I just like torturing myself. 🙂

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