September 04, 2006
THE JOY OF FLEX: Tom Lutz writes on the real benefit of a professorial lifestyle:
It isnít the pay scale, which, with a few lucky exceptions, offers the lowest years-of-education-to-income ratio possible. It isnít really the work itself, either. Yes, teaching and research are rewarding, but we face as much drudgery as in any professional job. Once youíve read 10,000 freshman essays, youíve read them all.
But we academics do have something few others possess in this postindustrial world: control over our own time. All the surveys point to this as the most common factor in job satisfaction. The jobs in which decisions are made and the pace set by machines provide the least satisfaction, while those, like mine, that foster at least the illusion of control provide the most.
My first year as a law professor, I noticed that I was actually working more hours than when I was practicing law at a big firm. But it felt much less stressful, because I had much more control over what I was doing, when. As I've noticed before, I think that sort of control is also part of the appeal of self-emplyment and cottage industry.
UPDATE: Reader Craig Mason writes: "Regarding your post on 'The Joy of Flex'--I like a quote from my grad school advisor about being an academic: 'The best part of being a professor is that you get to work whatever 70 hours a week that you want.'"
That's about right. But that's huge.