Professor Emeritus

Professor Emeritus Sidney Mintz

I looked up the definition of Professor Emeritus, and learned:

pro·fes·sor  (pr-fsr)

n.

1.

a. A college or university teacher.

b. A teacher or instructor.

2. One who professes.

This is what I like to do.

Sidney W. Mintz is a professor emeritus, department of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. He is 90 years old. I recently heard him speak to a wildly enthusiastic audience in a large auditorium at Williams College. He spoke about bears.

He said:

“If you take a bear from China and put him in a zoo in Seattle, that bear will continue to walk like a bear, talk like a bear and eat only the foods that bears eat.

If you take a little boy from China and bring him to Seattle, he will immediately change his language and his diet. He will grow nearly an inch taller and die sooner than if he had stayed in his native land. It’s the same thing with girls.

When you look at a particular country, whether it is France or Uganda, you see distinctive patterns for eating, and you can use those patterns as a way of grasping how that society is divided up. Every society divides children from adults and feeds them differently. Hence food is an instrument of social distinction, and a tool for understanding as much.

Things that we learn when we are young persist in our memories and we may hold them with affection. The foods of our childhood are associated with those who cared for us. Such memories are burned into the practices of daily life. What is more, one society may judge another society’s behavior, including its foods and ways of eating, as quite irrational. Such judgments are usually reciprocated! Societies with what we consider all sorts of irrational beliefs may think the same of us, yet function quite well.”

This is a fine example of emeritus professionalism.