On my way home yesterday, I thought about what sort of term I can describe myself given my exploits in academia, my lack of respect (at least in writing) for academic authority and my passion in exploring all different fields of knowledge. The term ‘Rogue Academic’ flashed in my mind, having recalled Steven Levitt described as the ‘Rogue Economist’ in Freakonomics. Aware that the term ‘rogue’ is negatively associated with any person, I looked up the term on Answers.com:
1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.
1. Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.
2. Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.
3. Operating outside normal or desirable controls.
I prefer to have the word as a noun and I guess the 3rd meaning best suits my intention of the description, the notion of a lack of vested interest (not entirely true though), the connotations of having no special [selfish] motives for inquiry beyond the cultivation of the mind. I spent the journey home thinking about why I want to know things. It took some time before I realized that I was fumbling for a justification for curiosity. It was something rather hard to define but it rarely serves as a motivation for the life work of a person – for me, it has been doing so and I hope that continues.
I continued to question my own motives for inquiry and other actions associated with my dealings with academia – I asked myself why I choose to do that economics essay that I have never ever attempted when presented another essay question which I wrote twice in class. I asked myself why would I even bother to clarify things outside the syllabus with my teachers. I often wonder why I respect teachers who show little respect for their bosses (it seems like they didn’t really deserved it); while I dislike those people who perform their duties (according to their Instruction Manuals) with little flaws. The answer it seems, point to my intense disfavour of convention, and abhorrence of those who goes by the book. In that sense, the 5th meaning of ‘rogue’ seems to fit into the picture in the figurative sense.
If I ever decide to put this term to describe myself in any scholarship application form, or personal statements, I wonder what those people will think.