The thing that has disillusioned me about academia more than anything else:
Attending high-level “workshop” classes full of what are supposedly some of the very best Ph.D. candidates the world has to offer and watching twenty-five out of thirty make fools of themselves by vocally discussing an argument that they obviously didn’t understand or read closely in the first place. More importantly, repeatedly watching the five people who do follow the thrust and form of the argument, and the professor, who also does, say nothing in the face of a vocal discussion — among excited pedantic twenty-somethings — that is founded on such utter misunderstanding. More importantly still, those rare occasions on which either the prof or one of the clear-headed students actually decides to step into the maelstrom and try to rectify the misunderstanding/misreading, only to be either essentially yelled down by the vocal group, to be lured into descending into irrelevant minutae, or to be unable to effectively master the mechanical aspects of verbal communication necessery to clarify the argument for those who are lost.
You can do more good writing books from outside the academy, whether monographs or novels, and you can do more good attending protests, events and party meetings. These “thinkers” are all thinking to themselves; they aren’t really listening to, or understanding, one another at all.