Professor, by name

The most important thing I do on the first day of class is to ask students to call me by my first name. Not “professor”, and especially not “sir”. I like being called by my first name (not my last), and my ego does not need the boost from the title.

Despite being explicit and clear in stating my wishes, most students do not comply. Could it be that it is too much trouble to remember my name? I doubt that. Mostly, I think the force of societal courtesy prevents an adaption to a more informal interaction.

Now, I am not very good at remembering anyone’s name (faces I am good at). Maybe I can be excused for I have many more students than students have professors. But by the end of term, I know most, especially by first name. And I definitely remember students who call me by my first name. All this is a pretty unconscious process. Reciprocity seems to work in some strange way, though I cannot put my finger on the reason.

So what good is the “professor” nomenclature? Is it to show respect? Why is it at all necessary? Is a student’s respect for the professor necessary for learning? May be. I think a professor’s respect for the student is just as necessary. Given that mutual respect exists, then is the formality at all required? I think not.

Especially today, I think formality has become habitual and somewhat meaningless. Formality is like a false positive – respect is shown when in fact, none may exist.

Formality is also political – correctness that is imposed for reciprocal gain, not for its true intrinsic value. What you see is not what you get.

I like my first name, it is mine. More than my last name which is my family’s. More than my title, which is that of my guild. Not my qualifications, which are just human capital, already spent.

So, call me, on anything, but call ME.


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