It is my unfortunate observation, after my countless decades of dedicated teaching, that today’s student, be he at the graduate or undergraduate level, is distinctly “modern” (one hesitates to say “grievously ambitious”) in his approach to the discipline of linguistics. These young would-be scholars, steeped in the corporal mayhem that passes for culture today, lack the steadfastness and rigidity of soul necessary to fully absorb the canon of linguistic thought. Each seems to believe that knowledge is simply his for the taking, rather than a prestigious gift bestowed by one’s intellectual predecessors. The modern student seems possessed of a churlish wakefulness in the classroom, leading many an otherwise promising student into ruin as he picks peevishly at nits in the fabric of knowledge before him, digging up useless modernisms, desecrating the grave site of linguistic tradition with his endless demands.
I, personally, have honed my lectures through years of steadfast repetition, preserving meticulously the spirit of my esteemed intellectual predecessors, only to be interrupted in my discourse by students waving brightly colored squares of plastic crying out in outraged perplexity at my simplest statements about the languages of Siam, Gran Columbia and Abyssinia. I have tried selflessly to fill their reluctant minds with mysteries such as the complex and inaccessible Linear B.
I have told them, that if they were to study with diligence, one of their own number might even decipher this mystery someday.
Under my tutelage, they have copied down facts about the 1,700 lexical roots for “snow” in exotic Yupic, delved into the unchanging perfection of the ethereal Lingua Latina, and even, as I appealed somewhat shamelessly to their pride, studied the place of their own Anglus as the most widely-spoken language ever known. But, at each attempt, I am thwarted by some button-pushing scalawag who says he has just groogled the underwebs (or some such schoolboy nonsense), and he believes me to be in error.
I have not stopped even at the canon: I have, reaching boldly forward into the modern mysteries of thought, given them a taste of the intriguing new philosophies from young Freddy Skinner, insights which I overheard myself personally from Freddy’s own brother-in-law’s barber’s second cousin’s podiatrist. And yet this, too, they disdain, citing some Eastern philosopher of politics whose work, to my knowledge, has not even once appeared in the pages of Speculative Grammarian.
Now, I ask you: how do we maintain any kind of coherent academic tradition under these ghastly circumstances?
I am but a shade of the great linguists who have gone before me, but Truly, I tell you: there is a reason we call our field of study a “discipline”. We need young scholars whose ovine openness to learning will make them our worthy successors in this most noble endeavor, not malcontents who twitter about our hallowed halls “editing one another’s wikis,” reading, drawing their own conclusions, and otherwise disturbing the well-deserved rest of the well-tenured.