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Published:June 2nd, 2010 22:42 EST

Blessed are The Professors Who Know How Expensive College Is

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

Blessed are the professors who do not require students to care for and feed their egos. Doubly blessed are the professors who remember students and their parents are getting buried in debt. Triply blessed are the professors who remember that some students are no good at sucking up and some are no good at taking tests.


Professors who need emotional support from their students and exhibitionistic students make a perfect marriage with awful consequences for others. For this reason, I urge students who have no will to dominate a class, no gift for kissing ass, not to attend colleges remarkable for their celebrity professors. Celebrities require celebration. Students require an education. The worst editors I ever knew were the ones most successful at acquiring followings.

My mind turned to these thoughts after my wife and I plunked down some money to hear a local horticulturist speak to a group of gardeners. The hour was blanketed by the same kind of people who give you no quarter on the street, shout into their cellphones, pretend you don`t exist while trying to impress you, and otherwise strut their need for attention. Wherever they are is their stage. They are the very sound of one hand clapping.

We walked out. We`re old, so we`re intolerant of such showoffs at the same time we`re more tolerant of most other human foibles.

I remembered my painful years at Columbia. I fondly remembered those professors who themselves had no taste for sycophancy. They were few and I will be grateful to them forever. Thank God I encountered few Navy officers who exhibited a fondness for suck-ups. Indeed I found a uniform distaste for them, the Navy having to perform in crisis and having learned the hard way that showoffs blow it under duress.

It`s hard to ignore the eager beavers who capture center stage. They`re like actors who despise ensembles. The professors are flattered and regard these showoffs as proof their classes are engaging students. I think it shows as much immaturity among such professors as it does among such students, because reticence, restraint and reserve are virtues and ought to be respected. In some quarters they`re considered refinements.

Granted some students must be drawn out, engaged, encouraged, but don`t count on celebrity professors who bask in attention to rise to this task. They`re too busy drawing themselves out. They should be reminded on a daily basis that they are the precarious stars of a culture that has decided education should be too expensive for the masses. A self-destructive society, in other words.

Search the web and you will find a great deal about the rising costs of education but precious little in the way of creative ideas about financing education. It is a crisis that will one day come upon us like the oil-spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and we will look around incredulously for people to blame. There cannot be a fair society without good higher education for everyone.

The more expensive education gets, the more we ought to ask if benefits to the students are keeping pace. I think it likely the academic hot shots may not be giving them half as much as many a humble professor, associate and instructor in our community colleges. We should be ashamed of putting higher education out of the reach of most young people. But a society that measures success in dollars inevitably wears such shame as a badge of honor. We should be just as ashamed that some of our legislators are thinking of putting the Internet out of the reach of the ordinary citizen

And beyond such considerations is the simple question of whether we should be teaching students that pampering and buttering up is commendable in a democratic society, albeit one that is getting less democratic by the moment. 

See also: CampusBookRentals Launches Web Site That Saves College Students ...


Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latte first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.

Del`s book, Far From Algiers   New review of Far from Algiers
Artists Hill, Literal Latte fiction first prize
Djelloul Marbrook Blog
His mother`s art:   His aunt`s art: