Monday, October 17, 2011

70. It is unforgiving.

There are a few exceptional individuals for whom graduate school is a breeze, but the vast majority of grad students are regular people. In fact, most of them probably belong to a group described in 1903 by Harvard professor William James. In his prescient critique of graduate education, “The Ph.D. Octopus,” James identified those for whom an academic life is an end in itself. Because current standards are not what they were then (see Reason 5), the type of earnest-but-not-dazzlingly-brilliant student he described is now more likely to make it through graduate school (and even into an academic career) than would have been the case 100 years ago. Even so, graduate programs remain highly proficient (and efficient) at turning thousands of eager, hard-working people into “victims” who either drop out (see Reason 46), flounder for years (see Reason 4), or face underemployment (see Reason 14).

William James felt genuine sympathy for these graduate students, because he understood the seriousness of their situation. There is simply no obvious place to land if you stumble on the long, arduous road to an academic career. The term that he used to describe those left by the wayside was blunt: “social failures.” Remember that James had in mind the “failures” produced by graduate programs at Harvard; one can only imagine what he would say about those churned out by state universities. It is disheartening to consider what has not changed more than a century after James made his observations:

But there is a third class of persons who are genuinely, and in the most pathetic sense, the institution's victims. For this type of character the academic life may become, after a certain point, a virulent poison. Men without marked originality or native force, but fond of truth and especially of books and study, ambitious of reward and recognition, poor often, and needing a degree to get a teaching position… There are individuals of this sort for whom to pass one degree after another seems the limit of earthly aspiration. Your private advice does not discourage them. They will fail, and go away to recuperate, and then present themselves for another ordeal, and sometimes prolong the process into middle life. Or else, if they are less heroic morally they will accept the failure as a sentence of doom that they are not fit, and are broken-spirited men thereafter.
We of the university faculties are responsible for deliberately creating this new class of American social failures, and heavy is the responsibility. We advertise our "schools" and send out our degree-requirements, knowing well that aspirants of all sorts will be attracted… We dangle our three magic letters before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light. They come at a time when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent…
The more widespread becomes the popular belief that our diplomas are indispensable hall-marks to show the sterling metal of their holders, the more widespread these corruptions will become…

If only he knew.


 

179 comments:

  1. I cannot understand why any sane individual would pursue a doctorate, barring naivete or delusional prospects. Although I graduated with over a 4.0 in English and stunning recommendations (one professor even called me a "prodigy"), I quickly realized that investing further in my studies would only result in learning a useless trade for a crumbling university system. I could have been a superstar: the star professor in the department let me into his graduate course, I regularly earned A+s, and my essays received comments that would make anyone blush.

    But I declined another romp in the Ivory Tower in favor of practicing law. What does it say when the best student in the department declines to go further? Granted, law school is similarly problematic as a safety valve for otherwise unqualified liberal arts graduates -- I wouldn't have matriculated there, either, if I hadn't gotten into a top five school -- but at least today I can thank God for earning a salary that is enough to support myself and pay back my law school loans within two or three years.

    Another reason I can think of for this blog is financial independence. I'm only 24, and I would never want to ask my parents for another dollar. I also don't have to ask my serious girlfriend, with whom I cohabitate, for a single dollar. I am a rock onto myself. Isn't that what the liberal arts strive to teach us? To be independent? To think critically? Yet often what gets mistaken for true "independence" is some bullshit notion of free thinking, rather than emancipation from asking our parents to help out with the rent.

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    Replies
    1. A's are pretty easy to earn at Gibbs.

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    2. Someone else here has noticed how many of the blog posts and comments focus on status and what others think of you. Ideology about status is as distorted as ideology inculcated by academic cult-hood. Fuck 'em--such is the first step to mental emancipation.

      Your notion that thinking critically should lead to acting critically--that's what the kids who live on theory need to learn after dismantling (to a reasonable degree) social status. The lower order of animals can be content with a pecking order that they actually care about.

      You won't read this, but fuck 'em. Gibbs is okay. State flagships are okay. Ivy league is okay. We're still in the Enlightenment and surely you have never liked the smirk of a smug bitch whose soul lives in the dollar, not on it.

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    3. What institution did you attend that let you attain grades "over a 4.0"?

      It's fascinating that you claim to be such "a prodigy" while still using the word "cohabitate" for your relationship and claim to be "a rock unto [your]self." I assume they teach neither Donne nor Dante at the institution at which you so excelled. Enjoy being a lawyer... I hear that profession has no foibles at all.

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    4. Some institutions do allow values for "+" and "-" grades. Usually they assess these at +0.33 and -0.33 respectively. This allows for grades that can be as high as 4.33, and therefore allows for grade averages to exceed 4.0.

      My college (a highly-ranked "SLAC") had such a system. My university (a really lousy POS state university with unbelievable pretensions) did not until about a decade ago.

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  2. I agree with this, especially the last paragraph. I was in a similar situation (same grades, professors' comments, etc.) and am still trying to figure out what I want to do, but I do know that if I ever enter a graduate program, it will be after determining that I would remain financially independent, no matter what (I wouldn't ever count on working in an academic setting). My parents have been good to me - I was lucky that way - and I don't want to accept another dime from them. I certainly have no excuse to.

    By the way, I'm sure you are really a prodigy or whatever, but maybe you occasionally wondered (as I did) whether your professors really stood in awe of your intellectual achievements, or whether you just happened to think along the same lines....I was never sure if what seemed like a compliment to me was maybe more to do with my professor's ego than anything else. Not to undermine your accomplishments; I just think that you should always take this stuff with a grain of salt. I deeply respected my professors, and I went to a very good school, but I think it's natural to feel sort of wary about believing wholeheartedly in somebody else's opinion of your intellect or potential. From what I hear, graduate schools are flooded with applications from people like you and me - people who have been led to believe (true or not) that they're special in some way.

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  3. 7:40:

    Over the years since my graduation, I've occasionally thought about why I succeeded so much as an English undergraduate yet maintained a respectable, though mostly undistinguished, record at a top five law school:

    1. Application of theory -- As an undergraduate, I had the insight to try to apply theory to my paper like a serious academic. Unlike many of my classmates, who were conducting mediocre New Criticism-esque close readings of texts, I was trying to apply Lacan, Kristeva, Foucault, et al. I think that this made my papers seem sophisticated and "speak" to academics much more than those of my philistine peers.

    2. Interesting prose -- I really loved Terry Eagleton and I tried to emulate his prose style. Again, I think this made my papers stick out. Not many undergraduates pen a line like: "Joyce's prose denatures under the institutional pressure of the church, much like ice cream under bright lights, or a youth protest movement when a Radiohead concert is in the vicinity."

    3. Actually reading the texts -- this goes a surprisingly long way in comparison to many of my peers, who did not read the books because they were too busy interning or building a career aside from the Ivory Tower.

    None of these things qualify as "brilliant"; at best, they might qualify as imaginative, competent, or strategic. Therein lies the problem. In comparison to many undergraduates, even a competent, engaged student seems "brilliant."

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  4. Dear 7:16/7:51,

    It seems that you decided to comment on this blog in order to crow about how much smarter you are than many here who are languishing in doctoral programs ("I cannot understand why any sane individual would pursue a doctorate, barring naivete or delusional prospects."). We are apparently insane and/or delusional. Hmmm. Thanks for that.

    If I understand correctly, you have two many points:

    1. I am/was a truly exceptional student, labeled a "prodigy" by one prof, but nonetheless
    2. withdrew from academic pursuits and attended a top 5 professional program (law), which means that I actually have a chance at a career in law.

    Kudos on #2. Perhaps a bit tacky to crow about it here, but you did actually make a better choice than many of us.

    However, try not to take #1 too much to heart. Even if your profs lauded you. Most of THEM are delusional--it's a tactic of self-preservation. It's not simply that they do actually believe that what they are doing is useful, but that they tend to bend reality to conform to that view of the world. Those of us who grade (profs, adjuncts, TAs) read so much dreck over the years that we do latch on to anyone remotely close to the competent end of the spectrum. Encouraging you (or me, or anyone) to continue to graduate school reinforces profs' (mis)conception that what they are doing is worthwhile. They're discovering and mentoring new talent!

    As a TA, my job consists of two main activities: 1) lying to profs (because they don't want to hear that the students neither understand nor care about the material) and 2) lying to students, upgrading their work to please the delusional profs. So A+ really should be an A or A-, B should be C or C-, etc.

    As you mature, you'll find that no one really wants to read excerpts from your undergraduate papers, unless perhaps if you publish them in a scholarly or literary venue, and probably not even then. If the sample you provide is representative, you'd likely be accused of "writing like a journalist" if you'd gone to grad school. The ultimate goal is obfuscation.

    I do think you know this, as you hint at it in your second comment, but the mystery of how you could excel in undergrad but not at a top 5 law school (yes, we know, you had a respectable record) is easily solved. You excelled as an undergrad because most UGs are disengaged idiots marking time on their parents dime. There's no competition until you move up to grad or professional school, where all of your peers will have the attributes/accomplishments you describe (engaging theory, writing well, receiving praise, excellent grades) and more (publications--something you lack perhaps?).

    So congrats again on your promising future. Despite possessing the requisite talent (and hubris) for graduate study, you pursued a path that will likely pay off.

    Now pass the washcloth. I have to get your salt out of my wound.

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  5. "If I understand correctly, you have two many points:"

    I meant two MAIN points, obviously.

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  6. 9:32:

    Thank you for your insightful response to my posting. I'd just like to add a few comments:

    First of all, anyone who is considering law school should beware equally as much as grad students. Unless you get into a top school (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Chicago) or are somehow convinced that you can be a star at a lesser institution (a delusion as equally foolish as expecting to be the next Frederic Jameson), then you should probably not attend law school.

    That said, the legal market is still a veritable magical candyland is comparison to the non-existent graduate job market, but you have to be patient and willing to take out a reasonable amount of loans.

    Second, I would like to take umbrage with your dismissal of "disengaged idiots." This is exactly the type of hubris displayed by professors and TAs that frequently turned me off. You have to understand the undergrads are motivated, like any rational individual, by incentives. For the vast majority who don't plan to attend grad school, but rather to use their generic college degree in the working world, there is no reason to give a shit about your teaching (quite frankly). In this era of grade inflation, they could half-ass classes and still end up with a marketable GPA of, say, 3.6.

    Meanwhile, they get to enjoy four years of carefree existence while collecting internships and panties, instead of worrying over whatever b.s. paper you assigned about syllepsis in Dickens. Undergrads are smart enough to realize that you are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, not that Foucault is somehow relevant as you think.

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  7. @ 9:32 & 10:12

    Agreed. This guy has no idea how there is no competition in UG. As TA, I get so impressed at simplistic papers sometimes just because the 10 previous were such ****. Contrast effect I guess.

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  8. I think this is the biggest tragedy: Graduate School has no place for people who are different in any way.

    While I like trying to prove something new, that's never been proven before, I also enjoy studying mathematics regardless of how "new" it is, and telling people about what cool things I just learned! And while this is an important stepping stone in discovering and solving new problems, or inspiring others to find new problems, the emphasis on research demeans such an attitude.

    It's also sad that anyone who wants to do anything in academia pretty much must focus on research: if I just want to teach, there isn't as much of a place for me. In my case, I didn't even like teaching, but I loved all the times I could tutor other students one-on-one, or in small groups. If only there were room for "professors" who only held office hours, and spent time in the tutoring room! But that's work for undergraduates and first-year graduate students, not for "serious" professors.

    And, of course, there is little room in academia for those who acquire knowledge independent of degree.

    While Mathematics doesn't (yet) seem as hard-hit in the job market as the Humanities disciplines, there are certainly enough doctorates that I have absolutely no hope that things will be changing for the better in this regard!

    I am no longer in academia, and for the most part, I don't want to be--at least, not formally. I am currently trying to figure out how to research pure mathematics, tutor and apprenticeship others in math and making livings (perhaps up to a "doctorate" level), and feed my family.

    I want people to fall in love with math. I *don't* want them to believe the lie that Academia is the only way to pursue math!

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  9. 9:32:

    I take umbrage at the dismissal of undergrads as "disengaged idiots." This is exactly the attitude that lead me away from academia. Undergrads are not dumb. Rather, like any rational individual, they are motivated by incentives. In this era of grade inflation, they know that they can barely try and still maintain a marketable GPA of, say, 3.6. This is just fine for many of them, because they plan to enter the working world instead of pursuing some nebulous dream of a "life of the mind." A "B average" is fine for that purpose, although it obviously won't gain them admission into Harvard for a doctorate.

    For them, college serves as four carefree years of collecting internships and panties. They make a smart decision to focus their time on what counts -- networking, fun, and career building -- instead of what doesn't -- Foucault, your work as an expert of William Morris and Victorian tapestries, and whatever papers you assign to him.

    Undergrads are smarter, not dumber, than you.

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  10. "Undergrads are smarter, not dumber, than you." That's lovely. Thank you. I feel very enlightened to know that "rational" choice and grade inflation are to blame for my undergrads' stubborn refusal to follow even the simplest of directions (but to ask me constantly to reiterate them). I also was unaware that their virtual inability to construct or comprehend a basic argument was due to their preoccupiation with "networking." And that their reluctance to write intelligibly, well kids just wanna have (functionally illiterate) fun.

    If 10:55 is indeed my little lawyer friend, taking "umbrage" and not some other champion of undergrads, I'm surprised to hear that Foucault is irrelevant--wasn't the successful application of theory one of the practices that made you such a hit with the profs when you were an undergrad? And wasn't it you who alluded to your "philistine peers" ?

    Now why don't you go back to your law practice--perhaps you can defend a smart undergrad who accidentally collected the wrong pair of panties.

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  11. 11:28:

    If undergraduates are so incapable of constructing even the most basic of arguments, or writing intelligent prose, then how is it that many of them succeed in fields as diverse as medicine, law, and business, while you struggle in the depths of academia, fighting over table scraps with some of the smartest and best students?

    I don't mean to be combative. Think about it.

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  12. Don't hide behind "not trying to be combative." I call BS.

    What exactly is your point? If all these brilliant undergrads, aka your "philistine peers" are gettin' on with gettin' on, they aren't reading this and don't care a whit what their former TAs think of them. They don't require your defense, except perhaps in a courtroom.

    On the other hand, iIt appears that YOU are posting in order to gloat and put down graduate students who already feel quite bad enough about the predicament in which we find ourselves. You think we're naive and deluded? Swell, join the club. Now go march forward into that Bright Future of yours and leave us the fuck alone.

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  13. He’s an internet tough guy- so you know that whatever he writes, the opposite is probably true…

    And if he was really a successful lawyer, he wouldn’t have time to post on here… or a desire to…

    Fear not, he’s just as broken as the rest of us…

    And for the record, being a lawyer is really nothing to aspire to…

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  14. 1:49:

    Lawyers have a lot of time to procrastinate on briefs, discovery, motions, et cetera. I like posting here because it gives me a good feeling to know that I narrowly avoided getting exploited by a ruthless university system.

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    Replies
    1. Well it is coming across as bragging on yourself and putting down people you never have met. Well, good job. You succeeded. Now..bubye

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    2. Bahaha. The guy attacked a system, not any of you.

      Ha. Identitarian economics. Bahahahaha!

      The gist of this blog is that universities haven't, in essence, changed at all since their medieval inception. Students used to recite thousands of lines of Gaelic verse from memory. Or, later, submit to oral exams on Greek just to get a degree for crop irrigation. What has changed is the interpolation of democracy in an inherently aristocratic system. "Education" is not the wisdom any and every human being cultivates in order to survive. "Education" is blending theories with theories for fame, studying theories for perverse but still respectable pleasure, or proving to yourself you don't have to turn out like the rest of your family even if you eventually turn out worse.

      Now analyze the post-modernity of my scare quotes and what that entails for the culture industry.

      Pomp and farce, pomp and farce.

      At least the children of poor people have a chance of attending decent universities for free. They get a taste of success to bring back to their families before higher education is completely outsourced to the internet. Then people might actually get by on their wits and the dream of an educated democratic populace will eliminate hierarchy. 'Cause the Left is doing a piss-poor job of it if you, Laura, are representative of academia.

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  15. Prior to entering my PhD program (Biology; finished Sept. 2010; now a full-time adjunct),
    I completed a Masters degree in environmental science that was 'managed' (to use the term quite loosely) by an individual on an administrative line, who likeed to call herself (and insisted that her students call her) 'professor.' At about the time I started the program , she entered law school and was AWOL from anything having to do with the program. She completed her law degree, still has the same administrative position and now likes to call herself 'Dr.' She doesn't practice law and, in my estimation, never really had any intention of practicing law. She essentially went to law school so that she could upgrade her title. How pathetic is that? After I finished my (research-based) doctorate, she once stopped me in the hallway to ask how much I now liked being called 'Dr.' I told her that I don't really give a shit as long as I get a decent job out of it. And we all know how that's working out...

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  16. Wilfred M. McClay wrote a piece on the 100th anniversary of the publication of James's "PhD Octopus." When McClay was a grad student in the 1980s, he asked one of his senior professors what the hardest part of his job was. This was his answer (as McClay described it in his essay):

    ---

    "You know what is really terrible?" he asked, slowly raising his eyes to face mine intently. "It's watching what happens to young people when they come to graduate school. They arrive bright-eyed, eager, charming people of wide interests, who are so happy to find themselves in a place where ideas are talked about, and where they can meet people who have written the books they read in college."

    He paused for a moment, then continued, his voice tightening. "It is our job to break down that enthusiasm, to narrow them, to socialize them into an academic profession. To turn them into drudges." He reflected on what he had said, and gave a resigned shrug. "Sometimes it's the best ones that leave in the first or second years. Sometimes the ones who finish, and go into the profession, are the least interesting."

    ---

    The whole thing is worth reading:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/septemberweb-only/9-15-12.0.html

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  17. "I like posting here because it gives me a good feeling to know that I narrowly avoided getting exploited by a ruthless university system."

    This just gave me a super idea! You know all those law school scamblogs that have popped up, you know, the ones where current law students and JDs describe in agonizing detail how badly they feel about participating in a corrupt educational system that continues to rip thousands of bright, well-intentioned people off? Well, once upon a time I considered law school. Just think of how good I could feel trampling on all those folks' feelings by posting about how great my life is as a non-lawyer and how naive and deluded they are!

    @2:40--wonderful quote--thanks so much for posting.

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  18. 3:22:

    But . . . it's not. Even struggling lawyers have more earnings potential and better employment prospects than run-of-the-mill, or even above average, academics.

    I also agree with the scamblogs. Law School is a bad idea beyond the best five or six schools (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Chicago), much like academia is a bad idea if you intend to earn your PhD. from a generic state university.

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  19. "But . . . it's not. Even struggling lawyers have more earnings potential and better employment prospects than run-of-the-mill, or even above average, academics.

    I also agree with the scamblogs. Law School is a bad idea beyond the best five or six schools (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Chicago), much like academia is a bad idea if you intend to earn your PhD. from a generic state university."

    All of the above may be true. But you're still an insensitive clod. Congrats, you're next oafish reply can be the last word--I don't see any point in continuing. You've made it abundantly clear that nothing will deter you from pissing in our faces.

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  20. I realize that some of my comments have been blunt, but there's nothing factually untrue in any of them. Yes, I'm not particularly kind to academics, but the world hasn't been, either. I understand your frustration and anger, but until we argue with facts, an emotional appeal such as "pi**ing in our faces" isn't what this blog is trying to advance.

    Simply put, there's little future in academia. I found one, albeit cliche, way out of it. Many others have found similar ways: government, think tanks, and consulting are just a few examples.

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  21. Wow. I think the legal profession has now trumped the STEM profession for outright gloating on this blog.

    Lawyers are leeches on the productivity of others. Nice to see the profession is imploding somewhat these days.

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    Replies
    1. I wish I could give this comment a thumbs up. So I will.

      Thumbs up STEM Doctor

      Delete
  22. STEM Dr, have I told you before how very much I LOVE you?

    But perhaps it's best not to feed the troll any more at this point.

    A lively discussion about grad school and its foibles by those who have actually attended or are seriously considering attending in the future perhaps?

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  23. As someone who has considered both graduate school and law school-- and who has rejected both-- I have to say that I'm enjoying all the pissing going on here. As long as I don't get sprayed on, that is.

    (Disclosure: I was a rather studious UG, occasionally received compliments from profs like the first poster did, and seriously thought living "the life of the mind" would be awesome until my advisor destroyed my college / academic career and self-esteem. The b*tch. Better in college than in grad school, I suppose.)

    And I have to say that this Reason appears stronger to me than the others, simply because it's mentioned that someone has noted the plight of graduate students MORE THAN A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

    If graduate school wasn't a smart option then, what on earth makes people think it's a better predicament now?

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  24. Word, Anonymous 8:53. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that my adviser was the nicest woman in the whole world, I'd think you were me.*

    I will stick up for the undergrads who aren't the super-keenest students, though, given that no one really cares what your grades were like (unless they were TOTAL crap) except other schools. So unless you're applying to continue studying or to start teaching, and you desperately need that 4.0 or summa cum laude on your diploma, you may as well get a part-time job/internship, make some friends, etc.

    And I also know that some of the commenters here think that no one should read or comment except grad students or PhDs, but the heading does say, "This blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else" - not "This blog is a private pity party for graduate students (in the humanities)." I'm not sure if the young lawyer above is the best example, but people who didn't go to graduate school and found something fulfilling to do with their lives might be really good at reminding young people considering graduate school that their intellectual sides do not have to die because they didn't continue going to school.

    In any case, regardless of the mutual pissing that tends to go on in the comments here, this blog did play a large role in convincing me never to go after a PhD, so thanks. :)

    *Yeah, I know, that pronoun should be in nominative case, but that sounds pretentious, and I'm not in school anymore.

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  25. "I will stick up for the undergrads who aren't the super-keenest students, though, given that no one really cares what your grades were like (unless they were TOTAL crap) except other schools. So unless you're applying to continue studying or to start teaching, and you desperately need that 4.0 or summa cum laude on your diploma, you may as well get a part-time job/internship, make some friends, etc."

    Hi Eileen,

    I realize that you are suggesting that no one cares about grades in an institutional sense (prospective employers, etc.) I wish my students knew this. Because they care desperately about getting an A.* What they don't care about is earning that A, learning the course material, taking their classes seriously, being respectful. Honestly, I don't think most undergrads have any idea how they/they're peers come across. I'm sure you personally would have been a delight to have in class, but as someone who genuinely wants to help young people, I find it really depressing and disillusioning to be mocked, disrespected, and otherwise treated poorly every term that I teach.

    It's not that students don't care--if they simply didn't show up to class and took their lumps when it came to grading, that would be fine, and it would be the adult thing to do (make choices--> accept consequences). I personally don't believe in taking attendance or awarding points for "participation" in college (though my profs require that I force my students to submit to these infantilizing practices). Instead, UGs show up to class and disrupt it in a variety of ways, and/or no-show and then expect endless private tutorials ("Did I miss anything important today?"). They demand soft grading, the "right" to plagiarize, wheedle you endlessly in person and via email about grades and the "right answers." "Will you read my entire essay and give me all the answers so that I can incorporate all the changes and get an A?" "No, but I'll discuss the content and structure of your argument with you." They get a lot less interested, real quick.

    Yes, quality of work is depressing. College students should have writing and analytic skills that most of my little darlings lack. But it's the shenanigans that make it impossible to continue feeling optimistic about teaching young people. At my school at least, there simply aren't enough engaged, talented students (or even competent ones) to offset the many others who think, absurdly, that I'm charmed by their whining, or that I believe their lies, or that it's my job to re-lecture to them no matter how often they miss class or why.

    Along with my friends, I came to academia very passionate about teaching, thinking that people who voiced the kinds of views I express above were cynical jerks. We're not. We've been robbed of our idealism and good intentions by a generation of spoiled teenagers who treat professors and TAs like we're their lowly employees and we'd better bend to their whims or they're going to sick daddy on us.

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  26. 7:55:

    It's not your fault. You seem like a well-meaning and hard-working instructor, but for many young people today (myself included), college simply feels too distant from anything we expect to encounter in the real world. It's just a hoop to jump through. Do we really care about what Conrad intended to write in Heart of Darkness? No, of course not. But, unfortunately, the working world requires it to be a prerequisite to enter some sort of white collar employment.

    My suggestion is to tell your students about the practical application of the skills that you seek to teach them. But, sadly, most college instructors have never left the Ivory Tower for long enough to be able to make this argument sound credible.

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  27. 9:10:

    You sound like a reasonable soul. But here's the rub:

    I DO try to make my teaching applicable, as applicable as sociology can be. And my students don't seem to care that learning to read and understand arguments, construct their own, and write intelligibly (as you so obviously do), will be valuable in the future. They ignore (or fight) every comment and suggestion I make to improve their writing. Only a very few incorporate any kind of feedback I bother to give them. Learning to understand and engage popular discourses is light years beyond their interests. News, current events--forget it.

    I'd suggest both of these for UGs who have yet to attain the BA:

    1. If you want your BA to be applicable to the real world, major in business. Period. If you find yourself stuck in an English, or Art History, or Sociology class, not caring, ask yourself how you got there. If the answer is that mom and dad are paying and want you to go to school, grow a set of 'nads and just walk out until you actually know what you want to do with your life. Don't waste their money and your (and my) time. Or drop out and go the Steve Jobs route--sit in the back of the classes you're actually interested in for a year or so. Or do some minor research on a major you think will help you in the future--who teaches the classes at your Uni, what the courses are. Grab some syllabi and do a little reading in your spare time so you're conversant with the discipline's major concepts. Then simply lie on your resume and claim you got the BA. Most employers won't check. I personally know people who've pulled this off. Or take up an apprenticeship with a plumber. This is a serious suggestion. You may find yourself making much better money than if you'd gone the highly unstable white collar route.

    2. Put some effort into concealing your distaste and boredom while you're in class. If you're going to bother to show up at all, pretend it matters to you. Pretend you care. Don't roll your eyes, make faces or shitty comments, play games on your computer during lecture. Your instructors are facing you and can see everything you're doing. Don't assume that because we're not "busting" you we don't see and remember. If you want applicable, apply this: once you enter the work world, that shit has to stop. Try calling your boss a bitch under your breath or giving him the finger under your desk, or making rude comments, or slinking in late to every meeting with your ipod on full volume so everyone else can hear. Apply the social skills now that will prevent you from getting fired in the future. Because unless you are supremely privileged, there's lots of tedium and mindless tasks coming your way. Are you going to pout every time your boss hands you an assignment you don't like?

    In other words, if the only reason you're drifting about in college is that you're bored and privileged enough to have someone else foot the bill, consider either taking charge of your own life, or become genuinely interested in something. Your boredom shouldn't have to be my problem if you are a legal adult. Or go to the beach for 4 years and don't bug me about your grades. Grow up or get out.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. " Or drop out and go the Steve Jobs route--sit in the back of the classes you're actually interested in for a year or so."

      Problem is, since that time most institutions view this as lost income, and consequently it's prohibited. One can't even sit in on a CC class anymore.

      Delete
  28. Here's another reason:

    It's boring.

    While you may be super excited about whatever papers you have to write as an undergrad, the research process in grad school is more drawn out and rigorous to the point of tedium.

    ReplyDelete
  29. When I was in grad school 9 years ago, there was a guy in my program who had transferred from another state school after 2 or 3 years toward a PhD. Some of his credits transferred, and he was able to get his MA after 3 semesters at this state school. The profs in our program really didn't like him, and honestly he probably wasn't cut out for it. They cut his funding and let him come to the realization that his presence was no longer wanted.

    So what did he do? Went to a THIRD graduate program, at another state school. It's been an additional 7 years and he STILL doesn't have his freaking PhD. And the school isn't one of the best - there's almost no chance he'll end up with a tenure-track position, ever.

    Add to all this that he has a wife and two kids - I just don't get it. He's the kind of guy James is talking about - he's bright but he's just not right for graduate school. I just don't get why he keeps doing this to himself - he's hellbent on proving that he can do it, I guess.

    In contrast, in the 7 years since I left in a fit of depression/anxiety/realization that the emperor had no clothes, I landed a pretty decent government job, have gotten regular promotions, and am doing pretty alright. Life's not perfect, but I own a home, make a pretty good salary, and have enough money and free time to travel and enjoy myself a little. That's not too shabby.

    ReplyDelete
  30. @anon 10/17 7:51

    This kind of stuff:

    2. Interesting prose -- I really loved Terry Eagleton and I tried to emulate his prose style. Again, I think this made my papers stick out. Not many undergraduates pen a line like: "'Joyce's prose denatures under the institutional pressure of the church, much like ice cream under bright lights, or a youth protest movement when a Radiohead concert is in the vicinity.'"

    just makes you seem like an insufferable blowhard. Your prose reeks of trying too hard, and emulating someone else's style is just another way of saying "unoriginal."

    Get over yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  31. That's a great anecdote, 3:44. Congrats on quitting and claiming your new life.

    I'm still trying to work up the courage to just do it. If you don't mind me asking, what finally pushed you over the edge?

    ReplyDelete
  32. @4:03

    Honestly, the short answer is I kind of had a nervous breakdown.

    The long answer is that I was just sooooo stressed all the time and I didn't understand why, because I was doing well in my classes. But the professors were so ridiculous - any sign that you had a life outside of school, any interest in subjects outside the department, were seen a lack of committment by these people who expected to be worshipped. The other students were gossipy, cliquish and judgmental, some of them were sleeping with professors, the rest were alcoholics or anorexics or suffering from other mental health issues.

    My advisor probably suffered from borderline personality disorder but he was insane - I remember one time we had coauthored a paper (meaning I wrote it and he put his name on it) and he wanted to discuss it but he wasn't in his office at the time we had arranged. After waiting, I left. He stormed down to find me in my office and proceeded to scream at me for not waiting (I remember him screaming "I am your advisor - if I say jump, you say how high!")

    And then there was realizing that my chosen field, a social science which emphasized the "science" by trying to cram everything into a rigorous statistical analysis, was just total hooey. I had presented a paper at a conference I wasn't even sure I agreed with, but it was well-received because the regression analysis worked.

    So all of this basically led to a point were for a couple weeks I could barely function (probably coincided with my seasonal affective disorder) and I found myself constantly sobbing at home, not wanting to get out of bed, nervous, sick, etc.

    And like a light bulb it hit me: "I don't have to do this! I could walk away tomorrow and be just fine." And it was such a liberating thought that I felt 100% better immediately, and I walked into the program chair's office the next day and told him I was leaving at the end of the semester.

    I was shunned by the other students, who gossiped about me relentlessly, but I didn't really care. I spent the next month getting my stuff together, working out and getting back in shape, having beers with friends and undergrads outside the department, and just moving forward with my life.

    Look around at the students and professors in your program - are they happy? Do they seem well-adjusted? Do they seem like their work is fulfilling? Do they have work/life balance?

    Or are they petty, mean-spirited malcontents seething with jealousy at resentment? Are they mentally ill (seriously)? How are their marriages and families? Is this a life you actually want for yourself?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow my experience exactly! Cheers on moving forward. I am in the process of moving forward now, and it is definitely hard to realize, as you say, to see the emperor with no clothes.

      I know this is almost two years too late to be seen by you the author, but I just needed to thank you for your post. Cheers!

      Delete
  33. @4:03, if I can add one thing to my 4:15 comment, it's this:

    Leaving grad school made no discernible impact whatsoever on my employment prospects. I didn't even finish my MA, and probably the incomplete I took in one course got converted to an F. In 7 years, nobody has ever asked to see those transcripts. Maybe if I run for president it'll come up, but I think I'll be ok.

    I've also never regretted the decision. My mom kept harping on me about not finishing until I finally sat her down one day and explained that if I stayed I would have become a real danger to myself, and she finally got it.

    It can be hard to get into government service, but once you're in you're in. If you have strong researching skills (which you probably do), strong writing skills (which you probably do) and a language and/or other actual skills, there's a place for you. The federal government is filled with overeducated, eager young people who want to make a difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...and therein lies the problem. As Reagan said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.' "

      Delete
  34. @4:15/4:31

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It means a lot. It's great to hear from folks who left and lived. My situation sounds a lot like yours except 1. I'm older (early 40s), 2. I don't really have any marketable skills, even at the end of 5 years of (qualitative) social science study, and 3. my nervous breakdown has been spread out over years and years. I've probably been feeling bad for at least 4 years now. Crying jags, can't get out of bed, illness, crippling anxiety, dread, procrastination, the lot. For years.

    I've decided that I love writing, but hate research. Don't want to do it any more. I drag my feet, sometimes for years on research projects.

    The only saving grace is that I've got a home and a great marriage, and partner is financially secure. From what I can see, it's more than just about anyone in my department has. Am giving myself till the end of the calendar year to decide if I'm staying or going.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am only an undergrad. However, from working before I came to college, I KNOW from personal EXPERIENCE what stress can do to a person. I finally left the job that was causing this. It took me almost 2 years to recover from the damage the stress did to me. I ended up on medication and counseling.

      My advice is RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!!!!

      I cannot speak to you about grad school exactly, but I can speak to you about the symptoms you described because I had them too. That is how I can tell you, for your own health and stability
      RUN RUN RUN...!!!!

      Delete
  35. "And then there was realizing that my chosen field, a social science which emphasized the "science" by trying to cram everything into a rigorous statistical analysis, was just total hooey. I had presented a paper at a conference I wasn't even sure I agreed with, but it was well-received because the regression analysis worked."

    I can't help but ask--your former field is psych, right? That was my undergrad major, and I have to say that those people were major Aholes (not that the soc folks aren't--they are bigtime, just in different ways). I've been thinking about quitting soc and going back to school for psych, but probably just a counseling masters--something applied so I can make a difference. But if I do get up the stones to quit, I'm definitely going to take some time, do some writing, do some paraprofessional counseling, test the waters before jumping back in and deciding that another dumbass degree is the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  36. no - it was political science. You can read ALL about the trend of quantitative political science - barf. I had no idea what I was getting into. That's my own stupid fault for not doing more research, but I think undergrads just figure grad school is a more rigorous continuation of undergrad. I couldn't have been more wrong.

    @4:52 - Having a good marriage helps, a lot. You need someone from outside to give you a sanity check and provide some stability. I can't tell you what to do but I would recommend listening to the signals your body is sending you - it does not sound like a healthy environment and life's too short to put yourself through that. Alright, I guess I am telling you what to do, ha. Sorry.

    I love writing too :) I'm lucky I found a job where that's most of what I do.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Also, FWIW I really like the idea of doing counseling. You can actually help people in that field, and if that's something that inspires you it'll be a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning. You could even go into academic counseling or something to help people struggling like you are.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks, 5:31/5:42. Poly sci was my second choice, but you mentioned borderline personality disorder, so I hazarded a guess. I'm convinced that most of my field is a crock of shit and that journalists are doing the really important work while sociologists hide behind idiotic theory.

    No problem providing advice. It's the advice I give myself in my lucid moments--screw the sunk costs and save yourself, Self!

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  39. October 18, 2011 5:42 PM

    Barf. Counseling? All you have to do is hang a plaque and listen- and hope people pay you. You can do that now...

    Stop thinking that degrees and qualifications are the pathway to jobs. That's 90% your problem.

    This is america. Accept it or change it- just don't live in make believe land and cry about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You cannot charge for the counseling without the degree.

      I know a couple of people who went and got either LPC licence or MSW in counseling. They are doing just fine now with rewarding work and a paycheck.

      It wouldn't be for me, but I'm not going to tell someone else not to do it.

      Delete
  40. The Unforgiving System

    When a golfer heads into the professional circuit, it is understood that there will only be a few winners, and the system will not reward a loser. Ditto for any other professional sport. Coaches are dismissed without regret if they fail to produce a winning team. Players are cut from teams. Everyone accepts this as normal.

    When an aspiring actress heads to Hollywood, it is understood that the competition for a leading part in a film is fierce, and the unforgiving system that entices her to move to California is quite likely to reject her, leaving her to endlessly work a waitressing jobs in hopes of one day making the big time. Ditto for comedians on the comedy club circuit and songwriters heading to Nashville.

    Politicians play the same game, so do executives in highly competitive businesses.

    But all of the above characters willingly enter into a highly competitive system where they know the odds in advance and are willing to take the risk in hopes of the big payoff.

    In graduate school, "hitting the big time" or "winning it all" equates to landing a tenure-track position in a nice geographic location where coffee shops abound and there is a Whole Foods store around the corner.

    The problem with graduate school is that most of the players (students) enter the game not even knowing the rules or what it means to win. It is as if a weekend golfer who loves golf has suddenly stumbled into a PGA competition and thinks he is playing golf with a bunch of other people who also just enjoy playing golf. He doesn't know he is playing with people who are deadly serious about golf, dream about golf at night, divorce their spouses so they can play golf more often, and never stop thinking about golf.

    In the undergraduate world, there can theoretically be an infinite number of winners (if all of the undergraduates were to actually study and learn the material, they could all theoretically achieve an "A+" grade). Upon entering graduate school, the incoming student has unknowingly stumbled into a brutal, competitive environment akin to the PGA, the NFL, Hollywood, Nashville, DC or NY. There can only be a handful of winners.

    Eventually, some graduate students realize what is going on around them. Then, they come to blogs like this one to describe their experiences.

    Yes, graduate school is unforgiving. There is nothing wrong with a competitive, unforgiving system (the greatness and efficiency of the United States was built on such a system). But the system must be open and the players must know the rules in advance. Unfortunately, the propaganda associated with the graduate school admissions process is deceptive and fails to provide fair warning to the players in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  41. "It is as if a weekend golfer who loves golf has suddenly stumbled into a PGA competition and thinks he is playing golf with a bunch of other people who also just enjoy playing golf. He doesn't know he is playing with people who are deadly serious about golf, dream about golf at night, divorce their spouses so they can play golf more often, and never stop thinking about golf."

    This is the best, truest part of this analogy! Wonderfully, hilariously true! One of my "peers," like me, lives in Big Time City and commutes up to Shitstick U, 100 miles away. S/he often drives up in the cold wee hours around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m., and went on to mention that his/her truck doesn't have a working radio. "How do you do it?" I naively asked. "I think about capitalism."

    Boy did I walk into that one. I had no reply for that, except in my head: "You know what I think about when I drive up at 5:00 a.m.? What happens if I have to take an urgent shit when I drive through that 25 miles stretch of unpopulated two lane road, where there's not even any place to pull over?" I actually bring a spare pair of pants just in case.


    Oh, and 4:54--I just hung out my counseling shingle and you are my first client. Let's work on your anger issues and disordered personality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "What happens if I have to take an urgent shit when I drive through that 25 miles stretch of unpopulated two lane road, where there's not even any place to pull over?" I actually bring a spare pair of pants just in case."


      OMG that was so awesome. The best thing on this blog I've read so far.

      Delete
  42. What's interesting about the James quote, where he talks about those who just can't cut it, is that the things James would have thought necessary for say, an English professor, are no longer the signs of success. One hundred years ago, the academy was in relative infancy. There were no specializations in postcolonial, or commonweath anglophone, cosmopolitanism, or "world literature." These things have nothing to do with literature, and everything to do with critical literature that is largely not about books anymore. In the latter half of the 20th century, critics convinced themselves that there is no thing in itself. This was not merely theoretical, it was practical. Now, the books don't matter; only your engagement with the critical literature does.

    Don't be deluded into thinking that everybody here is from a program with no prospects of getting a tenure track job. That's not true of my program, even in these ridiculously difficult times. But the point is that it's not about the books like it was in James' day when command of the tradition, including Greek and Latin and medieval texts, was paramount. Now, it's about how well you play to the unusual audience of humanities professors (provided you're in a humanities program).

    So you think you are really smart. You're one of the few from undergrad that could understand something of Foucault (guess what me too!). Your advisors tell you you are awesome, and you get into a really good program. But then all too slowly, because your first years really are filled with learning and conversating with your cohort, you realize that it's not about the books that you love, or the languages that you've mastered and read in the original, or how dynamic of a teacher you are. It's about how you write articles that are just like the other articles, but with a little enough difference to make you stand out. It's not about a book and your reading of it, it's about hitting the archives and making a grand theoretical claim while talking about African newspapers from the '50s or an obscure medieval manuscript no one's heard of. That's the deception: that it's about books when it's not, that it's about teaching when it's not. And if you really have talent, you will swim through grad school easily, and it will take you even longer to realize that you don't like it.

    So don't be deceived: the ideology that hooks grad students into the life of the mind is airtight. It's perfect: it's about books, it's not about books; it's about teaching, it's not about teaching; it's about perfect freedom from worldly concerns like money, losing at job, etc, it's definitely not about perfect freedom. It's about the life of the mind, but it's not, it's about the Academic Life which is all about that next article, that next book, that next job you're trading up for.

    James saw that academia was intense in his day. It has bloomed into an endless field of flowers of evil. I imagine he'd be horrified to see what's become of "literature" in the academy.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I want to piggy back on that last comment about what grad school is or isn't and how going to school reveals and obscures these realities.

    It's been said here that the vast majority of instances of people joining grad school are for the intellectual involvement, for the "life of the mind."

    What I don't think most graduate students realize is that they were already living the life of the mind as high school or undergraduate students.

    Because the true life of the mind is not taking place in academia. It's taking place in each person's individual life, and among coffee shops and reading groups. For most graduate students, it was actually taking place when they first discovered a love of reading, when a high school teacher turned them on to a particular author or theme. That is the life of the mind.

    But a student is told that the life of the mind is in academia. So he goes off to graduate school to live among others he believes interested in his field. And it isn't what he thought it would be. It is not intellectually inspiring. It is not intellectually vigorous. If he is turned off enough, he may leave graduate school and seek a job elsewhere.

    If an intellectual hunger remains, he picks up reading again after leaving school. A trickle at first, then more. Within a year or two, he is back at reading a book every couple weeks. (If it's fiction, like the American classics, probably a book a week). He remembers what it is like to enjoy reading, to thirst for the next novel or intellectual treatise.

    And then, amidst the rest of the world not in academia, he begins to life a true life of the mind. Because a true life of the mind consists of finding people with real lives, with real relationships, who enjoy the same interests as you but who live among and want to change the world. He realizes that this is in fact the true life of the mind.

    -- It isn't typing away at the campus library until 10pm on a Friday night. It's checking again the tracking information for that Amazon package of the latest books you've ordered.

    -- It isn't trying to stuff every reference possible into a paper so that your works cited looks impressive. It's keeping a list of authors that your current favorite writer keeps quoting -- because you voluntarily want to check them out too.

    -- It isn't groaning when reading at a syllabus and contemplating how many worthless, irrelevant texts will be necessary to read. It's bugging friends and family about great books, how much you've enjoyed them and why they will too.

    -- It isn't paying to sit in a classroom and listen to the professor's theory about another guy's theory of the universe. It's meeting regularly, for free, at a coffee shop with people who love the same authors you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you ever come back and read this, I am asking an honest question. No, I am not in humanities. Heck, I'm not in grad school. But I am not dumping or pissing on anyone. This is an honest question for information.

      Why do you need so many references. Doesn't that just mean you are repeating what someone else said? I don't really understand what you do so maybe that is why I don't understand this. But wouldn't it make more sense to write something someone else hasn't and let them quote you?

      I hope I didn't make anyone feel badly.

      Delete
    2. (I'm not the same anonymous, but ...) The references are used to show that every statement of yours is grounded in work somebody else did, things somebody else proved. In practice, it's complete nonsense, because in most articles you can simply cherry-pick your references and quotes, take items out of context and so forth.

      We were literally told in our final year that when we write a paper, every paragraph has to have a reference to another work. By a professor. Literally, every paragraph you write, of an paper on minority rights in Upper Bunkum or a paper on the economic system of the Shush Nopansians, has to be referenced.

      This professor told us, in no uncertain terms, what a good social sciences paper should look like. A short, one paragraph introduction, where present your opening argument. Pages and pages of paragraphs referencing other works. And one paragraph where you show how your references support your argument.

      And this is worth a roll of toilet paper, how?

      Delete
  44. What a beautiful post, 10:09. I want to rediscover the pleasures you describe. Quite desperately.

    ReplyDelete
  45. 10:09 just states the obvious: if you do what you love for a "living," then it becomes your job. And all jobs have moments of boredom, politics, and intellectual distaste. Why anyone would think academia is an exception -- that's beyond me!

    I love the NFL, but I'm sure there would be aspects of coaching it, or playing in it, that would be rote and boring. How would I like to spend 30 hours a week in a weight room? Or in the film room, studying plays?

    The problem with prospective academics is maturity. If you go in expecting a "life of the mind," then you're deluded. But if you go in expecting a nice job that involves a lot of cogitation over higher-level theory, then maybe you'd dig it.

    ReplyDelete
  46. @ 11:05

    I completely agree that many commenters here are deluded.

    The major delusion I perceive on this blog, noticeable in most of the comments, is the idea that there is an exponentially better world outside academia. If you just take your degree to the job market, you'll secure a FT position with health insurance and paid vacations, paying upwards of 50K a year or more. Oh, and it will be something rewarding! Good effing luck with that.

    You think grad school is hard? So instead you want a job like I described in the private sector? Be prepared to submit hundreds, if not thousands, of online apps, which will take a year or so to do (my experience was that submitting 5 per 8-hour day was possible since you want to tailor them to match the employer). Out of every 100-200 you will get an interview, after about 1000-1200+ apps and maybe 5-10 interviews, you'll probably land a position, but you'd better be flexible, geographically and otherwise.

    Speaking for myself, adjuncting is preferable to the mind-numbing private sector jobs I've had, or the military experience I had before that, both of which paid more.

    I'm sorry the world did not live up to these disgruntled graduate students' expectations, but things are tough all over these days.

    I thought grad school was cake. Easy life. You get paid less, that's true, but the work is not that strenuous. I would be very cautious about willingly going into debt for it though. I made a little of that mistake, and wish now I had just worked an extra job and maybe taken another year to finish. Not crushing debt, but not peanuts.

    It is unforgiving? Sure. But then I worked at burger joints as a teenager where the manager fired those who couldn't keep up with the pace.

    ReplyDelete
  47. 11:46:

    Things aren't that bad, either. It's not that bad out there for working professionals who are talented and reasonably outgoing. The key is to do a few internships and to have a real profession (e.g., lawyer, accountant, banana boat salesman).

    ReplyDelete
  48. One reason I'm considering leaving academia is that the people are some of the biggest dicks I've ever met (or in this case read). And yes, I've spent ample time in the "real world."

    ReplyDelete
  49. "It's not that bad out there for working professionals who are talented and reasonably outgoing. The key is to do a few internships and to have a real profession (e.g., lawyer, accountant, banana boat salesman)."

    @ 11:53 Easier said than done. From what I hear, the legal profession isn't all it's cracked up to be, and I hear a lot of sob stories like grad school ones. Accountants seem to be doing alright. Sales job, expect to work 60+ hours/wk.

    I'll give an example. I recently helped organize my 10 year hs reunion. We had a class of about 420 so I had to track down most of them. About 75 or so have the kind of private or public sector job like I described. The next 100 or so are doing something that ranges from $15-35 hour, sometimes ft, sometimes pt; I fall in that group. Among that group, though, sometimes spouses had a better situation.

    The others are scraping by doing the best they can, many not living on their own, etc...

    Like I said, the real world's not all that. I'll take grad school.

    ReplyDelete
  50. CALLING RECENT PHD FOR A REBUTTAL--RECENT PHD--ARE YOU OUT THERE??
    --the Honey Badger

    ReplyDelete
  51. October 19, 2011 10:09 AM here:

    I don't think that many (or perhaps any) of the people who are suggesting that people considering academia look elsewhere will tell you that life in the private sector with a regular job is that great.

    In fact, it usually sucks. But, as this blog pointed out somewhere before, you are at least getting paid regularly to have a boring existence. Contrast that with going six figures in debt to have a boring existence. I know which one I prefer.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I cannot understand why this blog needs 100 reasons. Basically, when I try to make a decision, I follow what I call my grandma test. My grandma is a hard-working, practical woman. She's very frank. She worked for the IRS for many years, doing audits. If I went up to her and told her that I wanted to pursue grad school with a decent chance that I could earn (oh) about 60k in another 5 or 6 years and a high chance that I could earn maybe 20k while struggling as an adjunct, she would slap me hard and say, "Darn it, boy. You up to some tomfoolery!"

    This entire profession is a joke. If you need convincing, then you should go, because you're an impractical doofus.

    ReplyDelete
  53. "This entire profession is a joke. If you need convincing, then you should go, because you're an impractical doofus."

    So are you a dropout? graduate on the adjunct circuit? prospective? "THIS entire profession" implies insider status to me, but the rest of your post does not.

    ReplyDelete
  54. @12:57 "adjuncting is preferable to the mind-numbing private sector jobs I've had ... the real world's not all that. I'll take grad school."

    Go for it! You wanna adjunct? Have fun. I think I might have said something similar when I was 24 or 26 or -- damn, was I clueless and immature in my 20s! -- even 28. But now what I'd say is that you had the wrong private sector jobs. And the wrong attitude towards finding private sector jobs. During UG and for 2 years after, I worked in retail because I had not a clue how to find something different and didn't want to go into any of the other "professions" that had a specific path like law or medicine that I saw as the only alternative.

    However, after quitting adjuncting, what I've learned over these past 8 months working at my secretary job is that there are tons of bright, capable, hardworking people who are gainfully employed doing all sorts of things. And they don't have PhDs or MAs or JDs or anything. People my age have job titles like "national director," "managing editor," "executive vice president." They didn't start out in these jobs. They started out in generic jobs similar to mine and worked their way up over the past decade while I was toiling over my notes in the library until 3 in the morning or spending my weekends grading essays.

    I'd agree that the real world's not all that, but at least I don't feel exploited here. I don't have the greatest job -- it's a "just for now" kind of job, a transition out of academe. But there's a clear relationship between the work I do and what I'm paid, unlike when I was adjuncting. And there are boundaries between personal and professional life that academe does not respect. Fuck, I have weekendz now!!

    But I'm also talking about how academe tries to persuade you that because it's "the best job in the world," you should be willing to work essentially for nothing -- no job security, seriously terrible pay, no promotion potential no matter how good your work.

    Look, the real world is not all that, but most jobs/career paths do offer those things I listed above -- maybe not right away but over time. And you don't need to throw away 10 years of your life to have access to them, either.

    I'd be the last person to say I don't think there's value to a humanities education -- or to what you can do at the graduate level. I do actually believe there's value in this stuff. But I also believe the system has come to exploit the very people who are best at understanding this value and communicating it to the next generation. Personally, I want no part of that exploitation any longer.

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  55. And @STEM Doctor, you are a mostly sane and sensible voice here, but I don't buy the professional sports or Hollywood or politics analogy -- or for that matter, comparing careers in academe to careers in the arts. Why? In golf or theater or music, you're out for yourself. You're not serving institutional and societal ends by playing gigs or minor league tournaments (or whatever the golf equivalent of that is) while working a "day job" until you "make it" and become a sports hero/rockstar.

    More importantly, getting a tenure-track job is NOT like winning the lottery. Or a Grammy. Or the PGA. You are NOT a rockstar. Getting a tenure-track job means getting fairly compensated for teaching, publishing, serving on committees, and having an advanced degree that qualifies you to do these things. Adjuncts, in the humanities anyway, do the same work professors do and, once they earn their degrees, have the same credentials. It's called equal work for unequal pay. The only people who still claim academe is a meritocracy are those whose egos stand to benefit -- or who are out of touch with the degree of exploitation currently occurring.

    Maybe it's different in STEM fields ... But the most unforgiving thing I see about academe is the waste of talent and passion. What James says has an eerie ring of truth to it, especially for graduate students at the beginning stages, but we're living in a different time now. Adjunctification of the profession was not something James was dealing with. And it is the most unforgiving thing of all. Because, given the way things are going, once all the current rockstars and PGA finalists and lottery winners retire, there won't be anything left but adjuncts.

    What a fucken waste!

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  56. Reading between the lines of James's essay, I sense that although he is sympathetic and supportive of alternative "intelligence," he still believes that the intelligence of an academic is special.

    I mean he basically says that the people who are duped are unoriginal in their thoughts but must still be smart or they wouldn't have accepted them in the first place. Plus! he also states that the faculty go out of their way to be obstructive to the progress of that kind of person.

    He views this as a problem of admission to the program, which is a much larger problem now I think than the past since we need so many low wage adjuncts to teach.

    But notice he does not come to the conclusion that academia's standards are ridiculous, instead he says "well, not everyone should get a PhD." Isn't that kind of the same thing as saying "Not everyone is cut out for academia?" which we all agree is a horrible line that advisers use after you've wasted 7 years floundering probably because they were actively not helping you?

    Just because he feels sorry for us dum dums who were "duped" doesn't make me feel better. I'd much rather the whole academy take a hard long look at itself in the mirror and decide what it's there for.

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  57. @recent PhD:

    I was kind of sleepy this morning when I wrote that stuff. Perhaps I overstretched with some parts of the analogy. The main point I was trying to make is that graduate school sweeps in a new group of students each year, and each year, this new group has no real idea of the weird world into which they have been swept.

    I think the other folks (artists, atheletes, etc.) have a better idea of where they are heading. But, I could be wrong.

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  58. @ 4:20 recentPHD

    I agree with you on some points, but not overall.

    Exploitation? Sure. But again, I've been exploited in every job, so what's the difference?

    At least now I'm exploited doing something I like. I was in the army 6 years, 3 as a reservist, 3 on active duty serving in our never-ending, imperial wars. There was no relationship between my compensation and what I did there either, especially considering where I had to go and what I had to do.

    Then, like you, I worked retail in and out of undergrad actually moved up in it, but again, more exploitation, so I quit.

    So to me adjuncting is not all that bad. At the very least, I like it. That's GOT to be worth something. I really don't find grading, students' poor syntax, the lack of my own office, or whatever complaints that often appear on here all that onerous. It takes me one weekend to grade tests, which I give once a month. OMG, how awful. Also, I don't feel as under-appreciated as others here. The department seems to care - they know we are essential to their operations and the staff I deal with are all friendly.

    The system doesn't care, I know that. I wish I knew how to fix the systemic problems, but what I do know is that quitting is not a solution. That's capitulation, which seems to be what you advocate. Steps that would go a long way would be 1)abolition of the tenure system and 2) unionization of all faculty. Without the adjuncts the colleges would close - they teach 40-50% of the sections at my institutions. They allow themselves to be exploited.

    "but most jobs/career paths do offer those things I listed above -- maybe not right away but over time."

    If you've got the inside track to one, I'd like to know it. I'm glad you're a secretary now; I must have applied for at least two dozen jobs of that nature and never got a call.

    From where I sit, the "real" world is just as bad, only in different ways. What you call "adjunctification" is happening in almost every sector of the economy from what I can tell.

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  59. @ 4:20 recentPHD

    She thinks she's working a "just for now" job as a secretary.

    She thinks she'll move up to "national director", "managing editor", etc...

    People sit in those jobs forever just like profs... Moreover, there's always a million applicants for the one spot.

    But good luck to you. And don't forget to suck up and look pretty. That's they only way you'll move up in corp amer. You'll tell yourself that your phd matters and it'll give you a leg up- but inside you'll know the truth that people don't give a damn.

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  60. @Aaron G

    "I must have applied for at least two dozen jobs of that nature and never got a call."

    Doesn't sound to me like you're adjuncting JUST because you like it. Sounds like you tried to get out and couldn't and that yoo're now working hard to convine yourself of how good it is because you don't have an alternative.

    That's another reason the system is unforgiving. It makes people unwillingly complicit. Walking away isn't capitulating. Staying is because the system needs people like you to keep operating the way it does. If more people walked away, they'd have to offer better pay and benefits and job secruity. Unwilling complicity is the worst kind, and I offer my sympathies.

    Even if you are content with your adjunct job and your department appreciates you, that's not the case for the majority of adjuncts. If you don't feel exploited because they pay you enough to pay your bills and not take handouts from your family, that's great. If you can count on an appropriate number of courses every semester to make ends meet, that's great. But a great many adjuncts don't have those things. I left simply because I couldn't afford to support myself on the salary once I was no longer "still in school." Belittle it all you want, but my secretary job pays double what I was earning as an adjunct. Doing exactly the same job in a different environment (I'm at a nonprofit right now) would pay double again, more than a lot of tenured profs make.

    And no, I was not on any "inside track." I answered a Craigslist ad. Do I expect to become "managing editor," "national director," or "vice president" tomorrow? No. My point in mentioning those was that, unliie academe, in the nonacademic world there's rarely a clear path to a "good" job. You start somewhere, and you take advantage of opportunities when they come along. You meet people and make connections. You show what you can do. Sometimes you even create opportunities for yourself. That's how those people (and I am referring to real people) got where they are, not because they were on some fantasy inside track or because -- @anonymous 5:02 -- they "sucked up and looked pretty." (Seriously?? You've been watching too much Mad Men.)

    And I am under no delusions about the value of my PhD outside academe. Nobody gives a shit. What they care about is what you can do.

    Which brings me neatly back to the topic of this post. Yet another reason academe is unforgiving? Inside academe, nobody gives a shit about your credentials OR what you can do. You can be an outstanding teacher with a respectable publication record and great recommendations, and you might well still be stuck on the adjunct track for your entire career.

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  61. "I'd much rather the whole academy take a hard long look at itself in the mirror and decide what it's there for."

    That's the worst part. Admin and faculty know what they're doing. They admit the number of folks to each grad cohort that they'll need to fill TA and adjunct spots. Period. We're cheap labor. The tenured profs and secure admin folks don't give a shit that they're flooding the market and that we're all screwed on the back end. Why would they care? They got theirs.

    Except sometimes they don't. I'm close to a faculty member in my department (no, we're not fucking) who told me something ghastly. A lot of tenured profs used to pick up a summer school class for some extra cash in the summer. The only ones who still do are junior faculty who either a) have kids and really need any amount of extra money or b) don't have tenure yet and need to buy the good will. Do you know what this faculty member, TENURED, made for the summer class? $1500. Not even the $2-3000 mark we usually throw around for what an adjunct gets/term. This means that the tenured faculty member lectured (and I do mean lectured--no "now turn to your partner and discuss" group work BS or electronic babysitter--17 days (6 weeks X 3 days minus Labor Day), plus office hours and email haranging. That's shit.

    Now let me complicate this further. This tenured associate prof was trained by the #1 person in her/his subfield. There is no ambiguity about it--there is one person who is known as the ultimate "rock star" (sorry Recent Phd) in this field, and the faculty member at UWY (University of Wasted Years) was one of the top, if not the all time top students of this person. The UWY prof wasn't published in some BS online journal or something--published in the top J in our overall discipline, plenty of other pubs, honors, etc. And HAS to take the $1500--let's be honest, it's a stipend, not a salary--to teach a bunch of shitty, apathetic losers because this faculty member had the audacity to--gasp! have children.

    That's a broken, exploitative system. But even then, I don't get the impression that senior faculty care. Why should they? They got theirs...

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  62. Recent PhD!!

    I called and you came! Hooray!!

    I feel like the overall conversation has taken a saner, kinder turn, for which I'm grateful. I don't know why this site seems to attract so many mean gloaters ("well you're just stupid for falling for the grad school scam, you nitwit dupe!"), but it's become kind of a bummer.

    --The Honey Badger

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  63. 8:45:

    It attracts a lot of mean gloaters because many of us are glad we left academia for fields like law, but somewhere, in the back of our mind, we still wonder whether we could have hacked it. Anger is a sign of frustration, and frustration is often indicative of insecurity.

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  64. Remember to support your local occupation. They’re fighting for you. …and remember, “I got mine, so screw you, is a pretty crappy attitude.”

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    1. I don't know about "fighting for me." When I hear about them, mostly they're just fighting.

      Remember, "We want ours, so screw you," is also a crappy attitude.

      Delete
  65. In the mid-70s, my UG phil prof warned me not to go to grad school because there were no jobs. I started to believe him when I got a letter from the University to which I intended to apply giving me the same warning. So I did a hitch in uniform, qualified for the GI Bill, and went to Flyover State University Law School. FSU Law charged me a level of tuition roughly equal to the cost of daily coffee at Starbucks (which didn't yet exist). But even FSU Law warned me that the Flyover Bar might not be able to absorb very many more lawyers. I was okay; my career has been spent earning a middle class salary working for state government which I could afford to do since I owed virtually nothing for my education.

    Now, I'm seeing new J.D.s who owe Sallie Mae more than my modest mortgage. Salaries haven't kept up and jobs are getting very hard to find.

    Didn't anyone give these kids the clear warnings I received thirty years ago? If not, why not? Clearly the University system knew long ago that their grad students were going to have a very hard time. DO they just not care?

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  66. 9:03:

    Yes, for sure "Anger is a sign of frustration, and frustration is often indicative of insecurity." And so is the blatant sexism that crops up around here periodically. Really, 5:02, you assume I'm a "she" because I'm employed as a secretary? You think all secretaries are women? And women who get promoted do so because they "suck up and look pretty"? The MAN I replaced left because his WIFE got a senior executive position in another city and they were moving.

    I've got more to say, but I'll say it over at my own blog. I've spewed enough here for the time being.

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  67. "I started to believe him when I got a letter from the University to which I intended to apply giving me the same warning."

    I'm amazed by that. Good for them!

    My friend dropped out of a top humanities grad program and went to law school--either 2nd or 4th tier, depending on where you look. I think they gave her/him big bucks to attend, but there will still be loans. I worry.

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  68. "the blatant sexism that crops up around here periodically."

    seriously. thanks for writing what the rest of us were thinking.

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  69. Most, if not all, of these ills (both for JDs and for grad students) stem from a predictable and still largely unregulated source:

    No, it's not Wall Street.

    Rather, it's the contemporary university.

    Sometime in the last half-century, the university transformed itself from the bastion of the elite to an upper middle class institution to an unregulated monster that eats whatever it can and feels no empathy or pain. While university presidents ride around in Porsches and private jets, adjuncts struggle to make a liveable wage. While law school professors work 20 hours a week to publish in obscure law reviews and contribute nothing of value to the profession, their students struggle in a rough-and-tumble economic climate.

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  70. The only way to outsmart the contemporary university is to avoid playing by its rules. College costing too much? Get a scholarship at a state school. Law school tuition too expensive? Then don't go, or go to a lower-ranked school with a significant scholarship.

    However, many young people don't have the options of not playing by the university's rules. Like sailors drawn to enchanting music, they hear the kind calls of their professors in comparison to the cacophony of the working world and are drawn back to the university. Even those who choose to opt out are hopeless in a world that requires a college degree for even the most menial of jobs.

    Don't occupy Wall Street. Occupy NYU. Demand to know why your tuition keeps rising, even as the quality of education is diminished, even as adjuncts who barely understand the subject are forced to teach, even as hundreds of administrators position themselves for higher raises while complaining about endowments. College students, you have nothing to lose but your textbooks! Unshackle yourself from the awful universities and demand a real education.

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  71. @recent PHD

    Please don't misunderstand, I wasn't trying to belittle your secretary job. On the contrary, I'm glad you have it. Many are not so fortunate.

    I suppose it boils down to perspective and expectations. I came from a relatively poor background and barely graduated high school. Most of my friends are still languishing back in the neighborhood. Just getting into and graduating college puts me well into the top 10% of my peers. Compared to the average where I come from, I'm pretty successful even as an adjunct.

    Also, I never had any delusions of grandeur about what grad school in the humanities would do for me. I was always told: "there are no jobs," "enter at your own risk." I figured I'd take my chances. It got into a couple PhD programs last year, and University of Wisconsin sent me an acceptance letter (without funding) with the kind of disclaimer about the job market described in 9:36. I deferred acceptance at the other school I got into. I may start next fall...trying to decide.

    I'm always applying for jobs, so when I graduated undergrad I applied for anything and everything that wasn't retail or sales. I find the same situation with an MA as when I just had the BA. Adjunct jobs are what came, and I found it's not that bad, if I don't let myself hold unrealistic expectations. The Tenure Track job is a dream, and the adjunct job is a temporary thing. I know a lot of people who piece together part time or temp gigs in various sectors. It's the way our economy works now. The days of job security, longevity, and company/workplace loyalty are LONG gone.

    Teaching as a whole is declining rapidly in prestige, respect, and increasingly targeted for cuts by politicians. The value of education itself is increasingly under attack. Look at the way public school teachers are being treated now.

    Professors are caught up in that. At some point I think the house divided will not stand and the professorate will have to be mostly TT/FT, or mostly adjunct. It appears that the adjunct direction is winning or likely has already won.
    I predict in 10 years or less the ratio will be 4:1 adjunct:full time. The question is will the faculty continue to take that or will they fight for better conditions within that context?

    The economy sucks and it's getting worse. What's happening to the once well-paid, well-respected college professors is happening to a lot of once well-paid, well-regarded occupations. It's called capitalism, and that is an unforgiving system.

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    Replies
    1. What's happening to the world economy has very little to do with capitalism, and everything to do with government overreach, politics of the left, and oppressive taxation.

      When one spends all the money in the room, there is nothing left over for anyone. That includes education. If some loon spends government money on pre-kindergarten, illegal immigrant health services, politically correct renaming schemes, alternative energy, and scientifically questionable "environment" schemes, there is less money available for higher education. When health care costs escalate because of a bill that had to be passed "to find out what was in it," there is less money available for higher education.

      Every single "share the wealth" initiative that the Left has ever undertaken has created massive increases in the prices of the goods to be "shared."

      Universities now charge historically high tuition rates. Public institution funding *may* be declining as states are increasingly strapped. Yet administrative positions at universities have generally increased, and not infrequently administration jobs command high salaries and other benefits. This is not capitalism, it's bureaucratism.

      Delete
  72. ^I knew the poster was female because of the tone of the post. The reaction and response only solidifies my claim.

    And research has shown that traditionally “attractive” people do better in business, get more interviews, jobs, etc… Let’s stop pretending everything is equal and all is fair. Just ask Sheniqua.

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  73. "University of Wisconsin sent me an acceptance letter (without funding) with the kind of disclaimer about the job market described in 9:36."

    To Aaron or others:

    Would anyone who has received a letter with this type of There Really Aren't Any Jobs disclaimer feel comfortable posting a paragraph or even a few sentences so the rest of us can see what at least some departments are doing by way of truth in advertising these days? I'd be fascinated to know. It's the first I've heard of it.

    Aaron, if you already feel to exposed, please consider going to friend's computer and posting anonymously. I'm sure people here will be too classy to assume it's you...Am DYING to see!!

    ReplyDelete
  74. ACK. I meant "too exposed"--hate these kinds of typos--I feel like my shiteating undergrads are smirking at me.

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  75. @ 11:01

    I threw away the letter. I'm sorry. It was a short, 2-3 sentence paragraph in a two page letter that said something about the increasing scarcity of the jobs in the market for the degree I was seeking.

    My other acceptance letter didn't have that, but for that one I received funding. I wonder if they want to discourage people from self-funding their PhDs? I had more than one prospective advisor basically tell me that even if accepted, without funding I should consider it a rejection. This was not a majority, though.

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  76. Reason #71 not to go to grad school: the people you'll meet are probably going to be assholes? Because honestly, this comment thread pretty much illustrates why I left academia.

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  77. And this just in....

    "a Federal Reserve report shows that student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, mainly because students and workers are taking advantage of federal loan programs to build new careers.

    Outstanding student loans will exceed $1 trillion this year, while more than $100 billion was taken out in loans last year. The average loan was $4,963 last year, up 63 percent, adjusting for inflation, from a decade ago."

    This is mind boggling to me. Society has more in student loans than on credit cards? I thought credit cards and people being irresponsible with them were the root of all evil, right next to buying too much house anyway.

    Education is certainly the next big bubble to burst, assuming health care doesn't get there first.

    -M

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  78. Agreed, 6:21 -- you've just inspired me to write this, to the tune of "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow":

    Oh, the students in class are spiteful,
    And the papers they write are awful,
    And since we have to grade til we drop,
    Let it pop! Let it pop! Let it pop!

    The research we do is dreadful,
    And our advisors are clearly shite-ful,
    We have to ask "How high?" when they scream "Hop!", so
    Let it pop! Let it pop! Let it pop!

    It doesn't show signs of stopping,
    And adjuncting just barely helps us getting-by-ing,
    But as long as we have to deal with this slop,
    Let it pop! Let it pop! Let it pop!

    (I would've said "crap" instead of "slop," but methinks the off-rhyme is too jarring, no?)

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  79. I'm 9:36. Sorry, but one disclaimer happened thirty years ago and the other about 25 years ago. I didn't hang onto them.

    One thing strikes me now, though. When I got my J.D., Flyover State U. didn't view their law school as a profit center. Now, I think they do because tuition for the J.D. is many times higher than tuition for a Ph.D. Even public institutions are profit-making ventures these days, I guess.

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  80. 11:02: These "public" institutions are public mostly in name. Michigan and Virginia, for instance, have privatized their law schools.

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  81. @11:01 (Oct 20th)

    Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has a disclaimer on the English departments website. It says:

    "Be aware right up front that the job market for humanities PhDs is quite challenging — currently there are far more PhD graduates than there are teaching positions, and this ratio is not likely to improve in the near future. It's certainly not our intent to discourage anyone from pursuing English graduate studies, but it's important that those who do make this decision do so with a clear understanding of the pragmatic aspects of that choice."

    And Later:

    "Finally, by way of a "reality check" or a soul-searching of your dedication to graduate studies, you may wish to read Thomas H. Benton's 'Graduate School: Just Don't Go'"

    Glad to see that some schools are up front about the reality of the job market.

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  82. Wow, that's refreshing.

    Link:
    http://www.siue.edu/ENGLISH/Grad/grad_career.html

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  83. There's just no money in it. Why would anyone go into a field in which there's no money? "Love" of the subject is not a reason. I love writing short stories, but I don't try to do it as a career, because I know there's virtually no $ in it

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  84. "There's just no money in it. Why would anyone go into a field in which there's no money? "Love" of the subject is not a reason. I love writing short stories, but I don't try to do it as a career, because I know there's virtually no $ in it"

    Wow--another one of these posts. If your point is that gee whiz, grad students ain't so smart after all, many others have already made that point here. Apparently we're illogical, delusional and possess many other negative attributes which have led to our own downfall. Guess you're just much smarter than those of us who stupidly decided to teach your current or future kids.

    Now why don't you go on and write yourself a short story about a jerk who learns to take other people's feelings into consideration instead of gloating or rubbing salt in their wounds?

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  85. 8:43, you have my sympathies - honestly - and I am probably going to regret pointing this out, but it isn't like grad students who wind up unemployed are only affecting themselves/are the only ones who suffer. (Not that unemployment/terrible compensation is the only way in which you suffer.)

    I would really have liked to study English literature beyond undergrad (and I do study it, in my amateurish way), but I didn't want to risk being unemployed and dependent on other people - my parents, taxpayers, etc. - so I made a decision not to apply and instead started a 9-to-5. It was a very real sacrifice, and I don't regret it, but it occurred to me that I am now paying taxes into a system that supports all of the kids who made the decision I didn't feel I could make, including the kids who fail to get a job and wind up on food-stamps and unemployment checks. This isn't everybody, of course, but as a taxpayer I reserve the right to resent - just a little - anybody who didn't do their homework before deciding to enter graduate school.

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    Replies
    1. Let's see. In the 80's a lot of farmers in the south lost farms because of a disease that hit the crops. Those dumb people should have known better. Gosh, don't you just resent people like that?

      Around through the 90's in this area there was boeing plants and many people got work there. Then they closed down. OMG, those foolish people. Some of them went on food stamps. And a lot collected unemployment.

      Ooh, those people who worked at automobile plants. A lot of them are out of work now. OMG, some of them are on food stamps. Let's all resent them. They should have known better.

      Uh, there is an a**hat on a blog. Naw, don't bother resenting them, there are too many of them.

      Delete
  86. Well, thanks for providing yet another, only slightly more eloquent version of "grad students deserve all the bad things they have coming their way and more." I'm sorry if you feel you gave something up, but your taxes aren't paying my bills and your resentment isn't my problem. If you want to indulge your resentment, get pissed at the corporations and billionaires who pay no taxes, not someone who was once idealistic enough to believe that teaching the next generation of spoiled, ungrateful kids was worth a decade of study.

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  87. Two points in reply to the above comment:

    1) I don't think people know that this a decade-long commitment when they start grad school. That is one of the nasty surprises that comes later.

    2) I will take some salt in my wounds (especially if it's poured anonymously on the Internet) if it helps to convince other people not to make the mistake that I made by going to grad school. I don't mind hearing from those who have made better use of their lives than I have (so far), because I think we grad students can learn a lot from people on the Outside.

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  88. Hey, 2:28/8:43, here's a thought: if you resent having "salt rubbed in your wounds," don't read this blog. What do you expect?

    Also, it isn't like everyone goes to graduate school because of a selfless desire to devote their lives to cultivating young minds. For God's sake. It often seems to be a pretty self-involved desire to indulge one's own interests (no matter how socially irrelevant they are) and get paid for doing it. Why should that road be easy?

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  89. 9:36 again.

    Perhaps requiring a completed, thesis based Master's before admission to the Ph.D. would help? Force starry-eyed young Jane Austin scholars to really experience the graduate school process for two years before committing 8-10 years to a Ph.D. and they might get the hint without suffering the stigma of being a "quitter".

    Just a thought from an outsider; my degrees are "professional" not "academic".

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  90. "Hey, 2:28/8:43, here's a thought: if you resent having "salt rubbed in your wounds," don't read this blog. What do you expect? "

    The blogger describes the purpose of this blog thus:
    "his blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else. Its focus is on the humanities and social sciences."

    Nowhere does it say that the point of the blog is for assholes to beat up on grad students, or that grad students who visit the site are fully deserving of abuse.

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  91. 8:10: Listen, honey bunny, I'm sorry your adviser isn't here to coddle you, but a blog such as this one will inevitably involve trashing grad students. Otherwise, what would be the point? If you don't want to take the abuse, go read something else. There are plenty of places that will glorify your work.

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  92. The first comment stated it best:

    "I cannot understand why any sane individual would pursue a doctorate, barring naivete or delusional prospects."

    I hold an earned doctorate. I was naive, delusional and stupid. Now I'm an underemployed adjunct with little hope of obtaining a full-time faculty position. I deserve any and all abuse that you wish to pile on. Have at it...

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  93. "This isn't everybody, of course, but as a taxpayer I reserve the right to resent - just a little - anybody who didn't do their homework before deciding to enter graduate school."

    You've got to be shitting me. In what way do you as a taxpayer get screwed by grad students? You know what I resent, anybody who doesn't do their fucking homework before deciding to trash people for entering grad school.

    Answer this smart guy, what part of your taxes pays for people going to grad school. Is it the tuition remission and stipends we get as remuneration for teaching most of the students at our respective universities? That's called wages buddy. Is it the loans we take out so that we're not living in abject poverty? Those must be repaid with interest, and even bankruptcy will not absolve those loans, so they're going to be paid back.

    Look, I get it. People want to come on here and tell grad students what idiots they are for doing something they love doing and realizing all too late that the situation's fucked. When I decided to go to grad school, this blog didn't exist neither did Benton's articles or anybody else writing about this now. I was told that most people didn't make it and that it was tough, but that I would make it. Now imagine being told that, being very very talented at research and teaching, and going to a top school, then the crash hits and there are 40% reductions of already sparse jobs for a few years. Things change and your perspective changes. But it's not as if I looked at my prospects, saw that I'd make no money and that this profession was fucked, and decided to do it anyway "for love." Give me a fucking break. I'm just as pragmatic as all you holier-than-thou people who want to gloat because you chose to do something different. It's just that gradschool seemed like a good idea for someone like me at the time.

    Perhaps you could spend a little time imagining what that might be like, instead of reducing every thing down to a simple $=yes, no$=no, gradstudent=no$ therefore gradschool=no. It's a bit more complicated than that and everybody who wants to come to this site and say that grad students are stupid because they should have known have no idea what you're talking about and apparently have no wish to think about it. You look like fucking idiots, like the kind of people who think that foreign policy is just about guns (and whose is bigger) or that domestic politics is about taxes and nothing else. Either try and say something constructive, critical or not, or just don't bother saying anything.

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  94. " I deserve any and all abuse that you wish to pile on. Have at it..."

    But you don't. And neither does anyone else here. Most of us feel bad enough. Isn't being underemployed punishment enough? Just because we made choices that were less than optimal, or because it's the Internet and anonymous posters can get away with unbridled aggression without any negative consequences to themselves doesn't mean that we're deserving of being "trashed." If "anyone" deserves being trashed, it's the institutions and politics that brought us to this point.

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  95. @ 9:55:

    I am adding you to the list of people that I love.

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  96. "Listen, honey bunny, I'm sorry your adviser isn't here to coddle you, but a blog such as this one will inevitably involve trashing grad students. Otherwise, what would be the point? If you don't want to take the abuse, go read something else. There are plenty of places that will glorify your work."

    Hey hunny bunny, mind telling us why this blog must inevitably turn to trashing grad students? I don't see it following necessarily that a blog about why not to go to grad school must take that turn.

    Also could you tell us from the perspective of people such as yourself, who looked at grad school with such clarity of vision they decided it would be foolish to go, would want to visit a site designed to help people make a decision that was so easy for you only to trash them from the exalted perch of your own clairvoyant wisdom but offer nothing of it?

    It seems to me there might be another reason you specifically seek out a site like this only to trash grad students, and I can imagine all the petty motivations that would drive you to spend even an ounce of your very likely not-so-precious time here. But I won't pscyhologize you. So tell us, what is your purpose here if not to engage it a little cowardly internet bullying?

    Also, so many people have said they come out of reading these comments happy not to have gone to grad school because everybody there's an asshole. Well I think our little lawyer friend, taxpayer guy, and this fool who thinks its open season to troll this seriously useful website for no fucking reason have shown us that assholes abound all over. You don't have to go to grad school to find one; some of you can just look in the mirror.

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  97. I disagree... I pissed away 7 of my (and my spouse's) life for absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. I should get punched in the face.

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  98. 10:27: It's quite simple. When I was in law school, I got somewhat addicted to reading law school scamblogs. The combination of stress and anger over the university's fraudulent and deceptive practices allowed me to channel much of my frustration at life toward my alma mater. I even wrote a book about it that I've tried to get published.

    However, now that I'm an attorney, and reasonably satisfied with the trajectory of my life, I have to fill that void. But instead of finding a real issue to be angry about, I've just re-adjusted my focus to graduate school (my live-in girlfriend is studying toward a PhD. in Physics). Whenever I'm having a bad day, or frustrated by my comparatively low wages as a lawyer as a small practice, I just read this blog and think: gee, I do quite well.

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  99. "10:27: It's quite simple. When I was in law school, I got somewhat addicted to reading law school scamblogs. The combination of stress and anger over the university's fraudulent and deceptive practices allowed me to channel much of my frustration at life toward my alma mater. I even wrote a book about it that I've tried to get published."

    Boy that is quite simple. I'm sorry for being condescending toward you because, well, I'm sorry for you in general. After going to grad school, I've been able to recover the pretty lively intellectual life I used to have and I'm feeling happier and more productive than ever knowing that the things I love are even better outside of grad school (sorry if my happiness hurts your petty wish to feel better about your own unhappy self). Maybe you should think about why you need to post anonymously to blogs that you know nothing about in order to make yourself feel better, because that's pretty sad. I'm sure you know that too.

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  100. "Perhaps you could spend a little time imagining what that might be like, instead of reducing every thing down to a simple $=yes, no$=no, gradstudent=no$ therefore gradschool=no. It's a bit more complicated than that and everybody who wants to come to this site and say that grad students are stupid because they should have known have no idea what you're talking about and apparently have no wish to think about it. You look like fucking idiots, like the kind of people who think that foreign policy is just about guns (and whose is bigger) or that domestic politics is about taxes and nothing else. Either try and say something constructive, critical or not, or just don't bother saying anything."

    I hope you feel better...yikes. Obviously I did spend a lot of time thinking about what it would be like. That's why (as I said) I didn't do it! And I'm always going to wonder what it would have been like. Sorry to crash your pity party, dude.

    Of course everything isn't about money. I'm not in the best spot now - I make about $50 more per week than a person getting unemployment benefits where I live. But I'm not in debt. Bad financial decisions affect more than the people who make them. None of us live in a vacuum. Not ALL graduate students were idiots for deciding to pursue grad school - some of them are succeeding, and many others are willing to accept the consequences of possible failure, and there's something really admirable about that. But not all of them, and I do reserve the right to judge those people. I know some of them.

    Also, unless you are the moderator/owner of this blog (and I suspect you aren't), you don't have any right to stipulate what people can and cannot say. I think that what I was saying WAS constructive - it was a thought-through opinion, and I didn't say it expressly to piss anyone off - and I don't owe you or anyone else constructive commentary, anyway. I never said that I thought graduate students were stupid. I think the first poster on this thread was a bit pompous and unnecessarily inflammatory, but maybe you shouldn't take the comments of total strangers so much to heart. It's bad for your blood pressure.

    In fact, taking other people's views of your talents as gospel may be your biggest problem. "I was told that most people didn't make it and that it was tough, but that I would make it. Now imagine being told that, being very very talented at research and teaching, and going to a top school, then the crash hits and there are 40% reductions of already sparse jobs for a few years." I am TOTALLY sympathetic about the crash and reductions - that affected so many people, and it absolutely sucked - but many, many of us were patted on the head and told how brilliant we were, and yet didn't decide that that meant we were guaranteed success (or even a shot at it). Someone telling you you're going to make it isn't a good enough reason to feel cheated later when you don't. We're responsible for ourselves. It sounds like you know that, so sorry to beat you over the head/rub salt/etc., but come on.

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  101. I guess what I still don't understand is why anyone here feels the need to castigate anyone. If you're really mad at someone in your personal life, communicate it to them directly. Go for it--tell your friend how dumb you think s/he is for enrolling in grad school. See how that works out. Grad students, regardless of their reasons for staying, leaving, quitting, changing fields or professions, don't need to be scolded or shamed. We don't want it here any more than your friends and family want it.

    For those of you who say, "I did something dumb, I went to grad school, I deserve your abuse," you're entitled to speak for yourselves, but not for me, and not for many other folks here who want to have a more constructive conversation. I'm already reaping the rewards of my choices. I don't need your evaluation.

    And for those of you who contend that you have a "right" to post here, to post what you like, regardless of your actual personal experience with grad school, a right to post your disparagements, vent, judge and the like, think about what you sound like. A little like the lone white guy who demands inclusion in the student of color support group, the only straight couple kissing in the center of the dance floor of the town's only gay club. Sure, the blogger appears to have a pretty lax policy with regards to posting here, but that doesn't mean that you couldn't, and shouldn't show some class, courtesy, compassion, and restraint.

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  102. @1:31 Sorry for lumping your comments in with everyone else's, but coming to a site like this to be resentful towards people who made a different decision than you is not really constructive. I'm not sure how you think it is. Maybe you could tell us. Moderator or not (I'm not), just like you think it's fair to judge people for going to grad school, I'm going to judge your comments here and I've judged them to be unhelpful because you have no idea what you're talking about. Just because you were in an English dept for undergrad and considered grad school doesn't mean you know anything about it.

    I'm sure I'm going take on the chin for saying these things, but everybody here seems to think that everybody whose praised is praised equally and that everybody who goes to grad school is so praised.

    So let's get this straight, there's being "patted on the head" and there's being groomed to go into a profession. Perhaps you experienced the latter, but maybe you didn't. Professors seek to identify and directly encourage some students to go into the profession. There are not a lot of them, but every once in a while they come along and are treated better than being merely patted on the head. They are invited to cocktail parties and other grad student functions, everybody in the department knows of them even if they hadn't had them in class, they are encouraged to take grad classes, they are told that they are just like the professors they look up to, and when they doubt going into the profession, professors seek to allay those doubts. I've seen this happen at two institutions, and neither of those universities were small. So maybe you were patted on the head, or maybe you were courted even during undergrad as one of the next wave of professors. Not everybody that is encouraged to go to grad school experiences this, but some do. I've experienced it myself and I've seen happen to others. This is just to clarify that not all grad students are delusional fools who didn't think far enough ahead and have no cares in the world until they're buried under mountains of debt. Some are groomed from early on to go into what appears to be a viable profession for a select few. And when they get to grad school, even in the humanities, they are given much more money than their peers. When this is you, it seems like grad school is a meritocracy, because you're the prime example. Seeing people go on the job market can be enough to disabuse some of that idea, but it can be insidiously tenacious for others who very well might succeed and pass down their success story to the next undergrad they try to recruit. That's the vicious cycle.

    This doesn't mean there's anyone to blame but myself for going down this road, but I have no regrets and no animosity for anybody in this profession. They're just doing their job, and one of their job's is to recruit undergrads and really encourage a few of them. So no pity party here, sorry to confound your expectations.

    So again, it's not about this blog being a pity party. In fact, it's about highlighting what sucks about this career path. So if you don't really know much about that career path, I'm asking you what it is that you really have to add here. That's the question I'm asking.

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  103. To continue...

    As for my brusque tone here, it's not about having salt rubbed into my wounds. I can rub enough salt into my own wounds thanks and somebody who knows nothing about going to grad school because they were smart enough to resist all the patting on the head that drive people to go or because they decided to become a lawyer and take out all their frustration anonymously on the internet has nothing to beat me over the head with. But what I am saying is that this is a really great blog and a good community of commentors that have a lot to say about what grad school is like. And if something like this existed years ago before I went to grad school, I might have thought differently. So the reason I judge your comments harshly and point out that you have no idea what you're talking about is so the next person who might happen to read these comments might think for a second about whether they know what they're talking about for the mere fact that they considered grad school and realize that in fact they don't have very much to contribute except for the fact that grad school sucks and the grad students are suckers who harm the people around them and apparently cost you some phantom tax money (still waiting to here that explained too).

    So to conclude, why would you want to come onto a site like this and fill it not with any real knowledge and advice about grad school and the profession as a whole, but with silly talk about how grad students are the new welfare queens (that's your taxes argument there, magnified for your viewing pleasure) and your vain imaginings about what grad school and an academic career was like even though you only ever considered going since you were nicely patted on the head? I'm glad you were so rarely wise about that patting business to take it and quit while you were ahead, so us suckers could spend tons of money indulging ourselves only to get this measly pity party (there's a t-shirt line somewhere in that sentence).

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  104. "And for those of you who contend that you have a "right" to post here, to post what you like, regardless of your actual personal experience with grad school, a right to post your disparagements, vent, judge and the like, think about what you sound like. A little like the lone white guy who demands inclusion in the student of color support group, the only straight couple kissing in the center of the dance floor of the town's only gay club. Sure, the blogger appears to have a pretty lax policy with regards to posting here, but that doesn't mean that you couldn't, and shouldn't show some class, courtesy, compassion, and restraint."

    Very nicely put. Much better than a charged up rant (my own).

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  105. Let me get this straight: the only people who should be allowed to criticize anyone for going to graduate school are the people who have actually gone? My personal knowledge of it is 1) having fairly in-depth conversations with professors about what it would be like, 2) being taught by TAs in college and observing/talking to them about their experiences, and 3) working for an academic book publisher, which basically means working with professors and recent grads on a daily basis. That probably won't qualify me for the right to my opinions in your eyes, but since your contributions to this post seem largely to consist of going on rants about other people, I can't really say I see what you're contributing, either.

    I will say that I think your point about the grooming is a good one. In those cases, it's understandable that someone might enter this profession with an unfair disadvantage, and I do feel genuinely sorry for anyone in such a situation who ends up getting screwed. I'm sure that that amount of ego-stroking would be difficult to look past, but I'm also sure that not all - or even most - grad students are subjected to it.

    I never said or implied that "grad students are the new welfare queens" (whatever that means). I never said you had all the necessary information to make an informed career choice, either - how could I? I can't presume to know as much about you as you presume to know about me. I said that SOME grad students choose to indulge an intellectual interest based on professorial ego-stroking and end up being more of a burden on society than anything else. Not all of them. SOME of them. I think I've stated this several times. You either can't get it or don't want to. I think there are many, many problems with our society, and I feel that the behavior I've seen in some of my grad student friends (though they're far from the only ones) contributes to them. That is not to say that all grad students who don't get jobs end up on welfare, or that every single one of them is to blame if they do. My opinion is simply that it is irresponsible to enter a profession with so few prospects without knowing what you're doing and being prepared to be responsible for yourself if it doesn't work out.

    If you ever start showing class, courtesy, compassion, and restraint, I will, too.

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  106. Oops sorry the "welfare queen" reference is maybe too old for you. The reference it to a certain type of stereotyping that Reagan indulged in during a presidential campaign and that has become a popular and insidious touchstone for people to think about domestic politics, in my opinion to this country's detriment.

    As for the rest of it, why would you come to this site with such a negative view, saying you resented grad students as a taxpayer and expect a good reaction. You're good at hedging your statements; you learned something in undergrad. But that doesn't mean you aren't partaking of the same kind of stereotyping of grad students and a certain delight in attacking them that apparently many others are enough addicted to to continue to come to this site and troll people who are having a conversation about grad school. Yes, perhaps you have more insight than the average joe, but you don't know it all. Lording your taxpayer status over people and telling them you resent thing is a little more than provocative.

    So don't be surprised when someone calls your bluff and asks you to account for some questions. You can come on this site to jab at grad students with your resentment, and you know a little more about them than they about you. So I'm asking you to clarify a few things about what you've said, and you've answered none of my questions.

    Anyway, let's just end this little thread of conversation. I've asked questions, you haven't answered them. I'm sorry you feel resentment toward grad students, but that resentment should really be directed somewhere else by all rights (since grad students have nothing to do with your taxes, and if you are upset with your grad student friends that's between you and them).

    The trolling of this site to pad one's own superiority complex or emotional state is really the issue here.

    So anyway, sorry if you were offended by anything I said. Yet I still think what I said merits some attention. A career in the humanities is simply too weird to imagine. That's what this blog's about and that's something that some people on this site don't quite understand.

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  107. I do think what you said merits attention, and I agree that this should end. And I'm sorry, too, that I offended you. But I do have a few last questions:

    1) How do you "lord" taxpayer status? I wasn't aware that it was some sort of elite position I could hold over someone's head. If it's any consolation, I make less than $32k per year, so I'm a pretty small fish. No one goes into academic publishing for the money.

    2) How did you determine that this was a blog about "how a career in the humanities is simply too weird too imagine?" I thought it was a list of reasons why people shouldn't go to graduate school in the humanities or social sciences. I don't see the point of coming here to say that grad students are stupid, but it isn't trolling to say that it can be (these days) an irresponsible career choice. I agree that people shouldn't come here to say nasty things, but there's no point in whitewashing anything, either.

    3)Which of your questions didn't I answer? I did actually mean to - oops. I tend to get carried away. I thought I did answer your question about what experience I have that is relevant to graduate school/a career in the humanities, in as much detail as I really want to go into online.

    I suspect that if I feel resentment, it has more to do with the fact that I didn't feel I could responsibly pursue a higher degree in English lit, and that resentment certainly isn't directed at grad students - more at the higher education system as a whole. The point about welfare was intended as an aside, though I maintain that it is a relevant point. I don't think that pointing it out is trolling, though it is certainly provocative. You could have countered in any number of ways that do not include comparing me to someone who goes to war based on whose guns are bigger...but you didn't.

    Anyway, you're right. This is going nowhere. I hope you will believe me when I say that the majority of my comments in this forum are not scathing remarks about other people's major life choices.

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  108. @7:18 We agree on the most important thing: going to grad school's not a great idea, not merely because it's irresponsible (that's one reason) but also because the institution is broken. That's the major issue here: the institution is broken because 75% of people teaching in higher education are not tenured, but are adjuncts or grad students. That's the core reason that things are fucked.

    And look, I get that you have some interest in advanced degrees in the humanities. Many people do and rightfully so: the idea of making a career out of teaching at a high level is very attractive. It's the same attraction that led many of us to go to grad school and I'm not surprised you'd be attracted to it too (why else would a person hang out at a grad student website about why not to go to grad school?). And I can tell you that sometimes teaching is the best thing in the world, but in the end it's not about that.

    It's clear that you want to hedge and say that you don't mean to attack all grad students while at the same time you voice your resentment about grad students. There's a bit of a contradiction there, but who doesn't contradict themselves? I do think you mean no harm, but really when it comes down to it you've either been to grad school or you haven't. And resenting grad students is not a great way to further a conversation about why it sucks to be a grad student. Doing that, you could be an entry in this blog. Listening to what people have to say and respecting that, however it may seem, would be better since after all you don't know much about grad school outside of what you thought when you were a senior and what you're friends might have told you.

    And also, grad school is too weird to imagine. What I mean by that is, you can't imagine what it's like no matter how hard you try. That's, as I see it, a crucial thing to warn people about and that's the point of this blog.

    So anyway, you're clearly a reasonable person and I don't think you mean to attack people intentionally. But you have to understand that in things like this that, as I maintain, are too weird to imagine, sometimes your own resentment is going to be resented and there are some people who are not going to let that pass, grad student or otherwise.

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  109. 9:36 here, again.

    Wow. The posts from Ph.D.s currently unemployed are very disturbing to read, not because the posters demonstrate how the system cheated them, though that's bad I agree, but because of the frequent expressions of self-loathing. I am not a mental health person but this sounds like a problem that can be dealt with.

    Look, doctors: Maybe getting a Humanities Ph.D. was a long, expensive, grueling process that you regret going through. But believe me, you all are NOT worthless human beings!

    -You are all very, very smart.
    -You are not afraid of doing lots of hard work.
    -You do not demand immediate gratification.
    -You have monumental self-discipline.

    These are the characteristics of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, not failures and deadbeats.

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    1. However, neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates were terribly patient people. They probably would have been constitutionally incapable of successfully completing a graduate program, even a lowly masters, and in fact neither had the patience to make it through college.

      As to whether this was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing with respect to your own value system, you yourself have to be the judge of that.

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  110. So I've been trying to follow this conversation (as well as I can when almost nobody wants to put any sort of name on his/her posts - seriously, just a made-up name and URL if you really don't want people to know who you are would make this so much easier), and I think you both have points. Yes, graduate school is alluring to good students, especially students in the humanities. I wasn't the hardest working undergrad or the one with the best grades, but pretty much every professor ever asked me if I was interested in graduate school, and pretty much every person from home was totally shell-shocked when I told them, "No, I'm done with formal education unless I get a job that offers to pay for it and then promote me afterward." And that's today, when my professors tweet the "So You Want to Go to Grad School" video and it's not a big secret that graduate school isn't a safe bet (I'm 22 for those of you who don't stalk my comments obsessively). So I understand how people could be sucked in, and I'm still interested in hearing about what that life is like.

    That having been said, there is a part of me that does get annoyed with people who go and then, say, complain that the government is no longer allowing them to defer interest on their student loans. But I get annoyed with everyone who buys things s/he doesn't need and can't afford and then expects the government to help pick up the tab. (It's not the same as the welfare queen argument. Almost nobody on welfare actually chose to be on welfare, and jobs can take time to find. Everybody in graduate school chose to be in graduate school, and - though it may be psychologically difficult - graduate school is technically easy to quit.)

    And I do think that a couple of the commenters on this blog need to grow a thicker skin. No, you shouldn't be subjected to vicious personal attacks by anonymous internet people - nobody should (but we all are!). But neither do you get to complain that not everyone who reads this blog is a graduate student or a PhD in a field in the humanities or social sciences. Nor do you get to complain that a commenter on a blog filled with reasons why graduate school is a bad idea might occasionally claim that you made a poor choice in deciding to go to graduate school.

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  111. "But believe me, you all are NOT worthless human beings!"

    There is a lot of self-loathing. I feel it has to do with the general degradation of ANY element of the educational profession in American culture over the last 10-15 years.

    Welfare queens, deadbeats, irresponsible, poor choices, etc... - that language is directed toward educators at all levels today. The very value of it is becoming more and more questioned by society. It's quite sad. We seem to have forgotten what education is for. Everyone wants it to be apprenticeship/ training now. Universities were never originally meant to provide that. Employers used to provide that.

    Amazing how the arguments here become political in nature and seem to split along the lamentable red/blue lines of personal vs. societal responsibility.

    The educational system is indeed broken at all levels including higher ed - but I would argue that it's a function of the larger economic system being f***ed up. That is why you see colleges and universities using business practices that would make my old retail sector corporate bosses envious. If only they could get the kind of competence for a low price that colleges get with adjuncts.

    As an MA adjunct, I'm amazed at my colleagues' qualifications. PhD's from Florida State, University of Texas, Brown, Temple, etc... Very good schools. All doing the same thing I do for maybe $100 a month more b/c of their PhD. It's quite depressing and I don't blame them at all for their depression.

    Wish I knew the answer to fixing the problem.

    I haven't made a final decision, but from my experience as an adjunct for 1.5 years and reading blogs like this and articles like Benton's, I'm really reconsidering going for a PhD. I don't want to be 4-7 years older, $30K deeper in debt, and have no better employment prospects than right now.

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  112. It's not really about having a thick skin or not, it's about people coming to this blog to bruise grad students because they feel some sort of vague resentment or who quite simply will admit that they come here to contrast their lives with other people here to make themselves feel better. These people come here because it's easy to find somebody to blame for something. That's not really constructive. The point is not that everybody who comes here and comments should be a grad student; nobody ever said that. The point is that there should be a level of respect that is lacking in some commentors who want to vent their resentment or troll these comments.

    Pointing out that someone made a poor choice going to grad school is meaningless to people who already know that. So much so, that it doesn't really need to be said; if somebody's commenting here they already know that. So what's the point? The above comments show that the point is that some people come here to belittle others to make themselves feel better. So they are going to get back what they give.

    And yes, there are grad students who don't have a clue and who buy things with loan money that they really can't afford. There are grad students who stupidly believe themselves to be God's gift to the humanities and who are insufferable asses. But if you have problems with that, bring it up with those people. Don't crash a conversation about the difficulty of an academic career to do it. I'm pretty sure that's as clear as it gets and that's the problem with some people in these comments.

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  113. "I haven't made a final decision, but from my experience as an adjunct for 1.5 years and reading blogs like this and articles like Benton's, I'm really reconsidering going for a PhD. I don't want to be 4-7 years older, $30K deeper in debt, and have no better employment prospects than right now."

    I'm in the exact same boat. I just can't come up with a single good reason to stay. It only seems like vanity. I'd probably be out an additional $60,000 for the doctorate--at a minimum. I could get a counseling degree at a private school for that and actually have a shot at a meaningful career...

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  114. The hours of a graduate student are just too crazy. I work as an attorney. Over the last two weeks, my logs say that I worked 115 hours. This sounds like a lot, but, in reality, I was almost always in the office by 8:30 and out by 7:30 or 8. And I worked a few hours on Sunday (e.g., 3 to 8 P.M.).

    Meanwhile, my live-in girlfriend, a doctoral candidate in Physics, works from 8:30 to 6 in her lab, then comes home to study from 7 to 12 or read research! Her hours are basically all day, everyday. While I'm chilling on the couch, watching the Saints batter the Colts, or playing Xbox 360 with my drinking buddies, or working on my book of short stories, she's studying her heart out. She literally has no life outside of Physics.

    And this lifestyle of hers will probably continue indefinitely, as she wants to be a professor.

    I would leave her, but the sex is great, and she's a wonderful partner!

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  115. Works out for you, buddy. B*%ch leaves you alone while you watch the game, and the sex is great because, as everyone knows, physicists understand friction.

    But no, seriously, anyone smart enough to go for a PhD in anything, much less physics, would be too smart to date someone like you. That would just be TOO unforgiving. I suspect an undergrad with a crush on his physics TA who doesn't know he is alive, but I'm sure I will be corrected.

    Fellow commenters, remember that on the internet the things people say about themselves may have nothing to do with who they are in real life. There are people who enter conversations that have nothing to do with them and to which they have nothing to contribute for the sole purpose of saying exactly the things that will get other participants riled up and off-topic.

    The best way to discourage trolls is not to engage with them. You might try once or twice, but when that doesn't work, you just ignore them. Eventually, they get bored and go away.

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  116. "The best way to discourage trolls is not to engage with them. You might try once or twice, but when that doesn't work, you just ignore them. Eventually, they get bored and go away."

    This is sound advice.

    But I really don't appreciate you calling lawyer-guy's (possibly imaginary) girlfriend, "B*%ch," even if he doesn't seem to have an immense amount of respect for her. No thanks--I'll pass on the misogyny.

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  117. No offense intended. A mockery of the misogynistic point-of-view being expressed in those comments. That is all.

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  118. But I really don't appreciate you calling lawyer-guy's (possibly imaginary) girlfriend, "B*%ch," even if he doesn't seem to have an immense amount of respect for her. No thanks--I'll pass on the misogyny.

    Excuse me, everyone who has a JD or MBA all talks like that, biitch.

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  119. This sort of moronic holier-than-thou attitude explains a lot of why academia is so irrelevant. In the real world, people don't gripe about how gender is actually performative, or how a commonly used word is actually degrading to half of our population. People aren't humorless hipsters who think that language dictates the world. Instead, they're willing to let much of this slide in favor of humor and goodwill toward everyone, even those who think their significant other should be in the kitchen.

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  120. ^and look at the state of things within this country and worldwide...

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  121. 8:04: way to be uptight. And look at the state of things within academia, lol! Truly, academics have established a veritable wonderland! Everyone there is made to feel welcome and finally liberated from the awful outside world!

    NOT. Instead they've just replaced one hegemony with another that is arguably more constrictive and repressive. Look at how dissent was handled by the Bolsheviks in the early stages of the Russian Revolution for further edification. Liberals are the worst oppressors. At least conservatives are upfront about their oppression.

    There's a fun world out there if you'd stop hitting the books and check it out . . . .

    It reminds me of a classic interview that Ali G did with Naomi Wolf. Wolf = uptight, angry, easy to provoke. Ali G = hilarious, witty, fun to be around.

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  122. "Look at how dissent was handled by the Bolsheviks in the early stages of the Russian Revolution for further edification. Liberals are the worst oppressors."

    I bet you didn't do well in history class if you conflated Bolsheviks - a specific Russian political faction in the early 20th century - and "liberals" - a blanket term that used to imply advocacy for free market economics, and still does everywhere but the U.S. Political opponents of the New Deal in the 1930s distorted the meaning of the word, so now it's a demagogic tool. That's how you used it.

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  123. Aaron G: throughout the 20th century, the left (or liberals) generally got pwnd in governance. Their governments are some of the worst and most oppressive the world has ever seen. Cambodia, Russia, North Korea, Cuba -- these are all examples of what happens when the left takes over and tries to impose its b.s.

    Also, thanks for assuming I didn't "do well in history class." That's a typical academic move -- insult the intelligence of the non-academic as an argumentative move.

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  124. THE TROLL HAS ADMITTED TO BEING A NON-ACADEMIC. JUST HANGING OUT, BEING PROVOCATIVE TO STIR US UP. HIS ARGUMENTS ARE TOO RIDICULOUS TO WARRANT FURTHER ATTENTION, SO LET'S PLEASE IGNORE THE TROLL. LET'S BUILD A CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION AMONGST CURRENT, FORMER, AND PROSPECTIVE GRAD STUDENTS.

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  125. 9:18, you said exactly what I was just about to post. Fellow current, former, and prospective grad students, as tempting as it is, don't take the bait. Trolls deliberately say things targeted to raise your blood pressure. This is a great blog, but we've long since lost any serious discussion of the original post about grad school being unforgiving. Arguing with a trolls about gender and politics? That's EXACTLY what they want. Those conversations go around and around and around and never get anywhere.

    Personally, I wish 100 Reasons would moderate a little more (there were at least 2 particularly nasty comments upthread that appeared and then disappeared), but if s/he won't, it's up to us. We can do better, no?

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  126. Not every non-academic or non-current/former/prospective graduate student is a troll. (And not every graduate student who posts here ISN'T one.)

    Some of us considered graduate school and opted not to apply or go, and some of us are considering sending or have sent kids to be educated by graduate students/people who have been graduate students. I don't think that we have any less right to post here than current/former/prospective grad students, especially when the discussion is about wider social or political issues that affect EVERYONE. And I don't see why an art history or English literature PhD would necessarily know anything more than I do about American economics or totalitarian regimes.

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  127. "This blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else. Its focus is on the humanities and social sciences."

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  128. 9:18: I am not an academic, I am a lawyer. But as I've posted countless times in this thread, I was a star student at the undergraduate level yet decided not to attend grad school. However, I remain interested in grad school and its issues because my serious girlfriend and my best friend are both working on doctorates. I think that I have equally a good, if not better, perspective on grad school as someone who is intimately close to it yet an outsider who can comment on it from a "real world" perspective.

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  129. @10:38 - I think comments like these are what tend to make the PhDs/PhD candidates who read this blog so mad...their perspectives are no less "real world" than yours, after all.

    Though I do think that people who are in some way affected by graduate students or academia (either as parents or significant others of grad students), or people for whom academia was always a really alluring but seemingly unattainable career trajectory, do have a right to post here as well.

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  130. I showed great promise as an artist when I was younger and broke my art teacher's heart when I moved on to other endeavors. Now I am married to a professional artist. I think that I have equally a good, if not better, perspective on an art career as someone who is intimately close to it yet an outsider who can comment on it from a "real world" perspective.

    Just curious, do any non-trolls have any idea how many distinct trolls we're dealing with here? I was thinking three, but now I'm not so sure if perhaps #1 is also #2 or #3.

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  131. "Apparently we're illogical, delusional and possess many other negative attributes which have led to our own downfall. Guess you're just much smarter than those of us who stupidly decided to teach your current or future kids."

    This describes me somewhat. I was delusional--I believed I wanted to be a professor--and I certainly didn't investigate the job market before I went in. Admittedly, I think the job market is better for STEM people (recall that I'm a mathematician), for several reasons: A year after I graduated, I applied for a teaching position, and I got an interview! I had a computer science minor to fall back on. Technically, there are theoretically jobs out there that need mathematicians (or so I'm told--I haven't yet found any). There may be other reasons, but I can't think of them right now.

    And I was stupid: I went into graduate school having no idea what the market was going to look like. When (around the time I started teaching) I decided I probably didn't want to be a professor after all, I still forged ahead to get my PhD--but I made no attempt to figure out what I wanted to do afterward. Heck, when I started graduate school, I just took classes--and I had no idea what I needed to do to graduate! I learned about "prelim tests" and other things mostly from rumors, and I even took one or two of these tests before I understood what it took to study for them.

    So, yeah, I made some boneheaded decisions. And, to think: whenever I tell someone I have a PhD in math, people say "Wow! I wish I could be as smart as you!"

    Perhaps the stupidest decision I made was to get student loans. I wouldn't go so far as to call recipients "welfare queens", but I pity those who take them. (So yes, I live with a lot of self-pity.) The government makes student loans easy, and then spouts on how "knowledge is power", and how we'd be better off if we get as much education as we can. Thus, people like me are convinced "I can get through school: I just need to take out these loans." Colleges are convinced they can push tuition to skyrocketing levels. And so many people are convinced that this is the right way to go, that we end up with a glut of educated people, who now can't leverage their newly-earned education.

    It's a classic illustration of "Austrian Economic" bubble theory: governments force artificially low interest rates, and everyone believes that NOW is the time to do business, which causes inflation, until everyone realizes they made a mistake, which then causes unemployment.

    And just think: one day, when I was an undergraduate, I even worked out this "student loan" cycle--at least, enough to understand how it causes rises in tuition--but I *still* fell for it!

    I hope more people will learn from my mistakes, and not act so impulsively or stupidly.

    And I wish everyone could learn this one lesson: Everything the Government touches, withers away, and often dies--and if it doesn't die, it's often because Government is propping it up--but it will never regain its former glory.

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  132. 10:48:

    First, everyone has a right to post here. The views of people who dislike academics are valuable because they offer a perspective that may not be valid, but certainly exists in the real world.

    And if people are getting mad at what I'm saying, then it suggests that there's a grain of truth to it. If I said something that was absurdly off-the-mark, then people wouldn't bother to respond at all. Clearly, I'm hitting a nerve.

    Finally, academia is not the real world not in the sense that it's not somehow "real," but in the sense that it's work that is (usually) devoid of imminent practical application. When I work on a case, I have usually spoken to the client and the opposing counsel, and I know that there will be practical implications for my client if we prevail, lose, or settle. That's not true of legal academics writing, in the abstract, about plaintiff's side litigation.

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  133. @10:51, I don't know how many distinct ones there are (it's not worth my time or yours to try to count), but we know there is at least one bona fide troll and a few others who may or may not be deliberately trying to stir things up but remain stubbornly clueless about why a lot of us find their presence annoyingly intrusive.

    I don't really have too much of a problem with the stubbornly clueless per se. I don't think people should waste much time responding to them, either, but if they're legitimately trying to participate in the conversation, whether they're the intended audience for the blog or not, it seems fair enough.

    Trolls, on the other hand, have nothing of value to contribute to a conversation -- as people have repeatedly pointed out to our troll upthread. However, as you can see, there is no point in pointing this out to a troll. The goal of a troll is to "hit a nerve," but don't be fooled into thinking that just because something hits a nerve for you that there's anything of substance to it. In the "real world," people overreact to irrelevant nonsense all the time. The best way to handle trolls, once you recognize what you're dealing with, is to ignore them, no matter how much they piss you off.

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  134. 12:01: Your post is everything that is wrong with academia. When you hear what you don't want to hear, you just turn the person off.

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  135. For anyone that doesn't recognize what's going on here:

    "According to Tom Postmes, a professor of social and organisational psychology at the universities of Exeter and Groningen, Netherlands, and the author of Individuality and the Group, who has studied online behavior for 20 years, 'Trolls aspire to violence, to the level of trouble they can cause in an environment. They want it to kick off. They want to promote antipathetic emotions of disgust and outrage, which morbidly gives them a sense of pleasure.' "

    And "Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group's common interests and concerns; the [bloggers], if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group."

    Some moderation might be helpful here ... This is not about academia. Just how the Internet works ... In fact, academia, far from turning off what it doesn't want to hear, is normally very tolerant of free speech, which is what makes a blog written and read by people who care about academia and its values, at least on some level, vulnerable to the "harassment [that] often arises in spaces known for their freedom, lack of censure, and experimental nature." What we're seeing here is how "free speech may lead to tolerance of trolling behavior, complicating the bloggers' efforts to maintain an open, yet supportive discussion area."

    There's a whole art form to it, apparently, and because of the strong emotions a lot of people have surrounding their experiences with academia, we're vulnerable.

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  136. Who is to say what is "intrusive" or which comments are genuine contributions and which aren't? Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I think the owner of this blog is the only one who has any right to dictate these things, and s/he has yet to moderate in any visible way.

    I'm all for civil discussion regardless of who is posting or why, but I don't think you can characterize someone as a troll merely because you disagree with him/her or feel insulted, or because s/he doesn't share your life experience.

    Also, when people discuss things, they hit nerves. Sometimes by making legitimate points, and sometimes just by being obnoxious or insulting. Managing to get a rise out of someone has no bearing on whether what you said was true. People react to injustice as well as to painful truth.

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  137. "This blog is an attempt to offer those considering graduate school some good reasons to do something else. Its focus is on the humanities and social sciences."

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  138. Just returned from a major meeting of a STEM oriented professional group.

    The word I heard was that graduate enrollment in my particular STEM subject was way up this past year.

    The presumptive reason is that all of the undergraduates are stalling for time, hoping the economy gets better while they are in graduate school.

    Not a good reason to go.

    Let's hope their self-esteems survive the unforgiving barriers that await them.

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  139. In my role as a private sector employer, I constantly seek to expand my business, not to enrich myself, but to employ the maximum number of productive people that I can.

    The rate of growth of my business is limited by a few factors:

    1) The number of hours per day that I am able to wholeheartedly devote to my business.

    2) My competitors.

    3) Government regulation.

    I can control #1, I can defeat #2, but I can do very little about #3 as long as a large majority of my fellow Americans believe that regulations somehow improve productivity.

    Regarding the remark made above (9:20 PM) that private sector employers think "giving you a job is like a form of welfare", the main problem with that remark is the use of the verb "give".

    We don't "give" jobs. We "create" jobs. We create jobs by devoting our energies to delivering useful products to a customer.

    If, despite barriers posed by #1 through #3 above, we are somehow successful in creating a new job, then the paycheck that goes along with that job is "earned" by a person who has the ability to to do that job.

    One thing I can absolutely say about a good employer is s/he never, never, never, ever "gives" a job or a paycheck to somebody.

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  140. @5:17 - Bravo! This was very well said. Some people simply do not understand the distinction between having a right to happiness and having a right to the pursuit of happiness.

    Though I wonder how outsourcing work to countries where lower wages can be paid and fewer ethical standards observed factors in? You may not be doing that, but plenty of employers are.

    Anyway, if this discussion turns into a capitalist vs. socialist debate or something of that ilk, the previous troll problem is going to look like a game of pat-a-cake.

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  141. "Though I wonder how outsourcing work to countries where lower wages can be paid and fewer ethical standards observed factors in? You may not be doing that, but plenty of employers are."

    I'm inclined to think that Point 3 that STEM Doctor made sort-of absorbs this.

    We have this silly notion that all regulation is good, and that not following the strictest of regulations is bad. I'd like to think that if STEM Doctor just relocated his business to another state, or even another city, to avoid excessive taxes or regulations, then no one would complain--or at least fewer people would complain, because, hey, he's employing Americans!

    I'm also annoyed at this notion that we had best hire only Americans, because only American jobs matter. There's always going to be plenty of work here in America to do, even if I'm personally not yet trained in the work that needs to be done.

    For that matter, that $0.30/hr wage may seem ridiculous to us, but to someone in a different country, that person has a comfortable living wage!

    I have sometimes wondered if it would be worthwhile to move to a third-world country because of this reason. I don't do it, in part because I have family here; and in part, because working at $0.30/hr might afford me a good living there, but would make it difficult to save up enough to come back to America if I ever had a reason to come back; and it part, because, while I see freedom being destroyed in America, it's still bit worse in other countries.

    That, and I'd have to become fluent in a new language first. (Barely reading French won't cut it, although it may give me a "head start" in a French-speaking country.)

    If these comments add fuel to the spark of a "capitalist vs. socialist" debate, I apologize in advance. :-)

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  142. "I'm also annoyed at this notion that we had best hire only Americans, because only American jobs matter. There's always going to be plenty of work here in America to do, even if I'm personally not yet trained in the work that needs to be done."

    I forgot to add: And not only that, but those workers in other countries have as much right to make a living, and to seek the best for themselves and their families, as any American. And providing work for such people to do is a step in that direction! (As it is for anyone.)

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    1. But what your addled analysis fails to tell you is that there isn't "always going to be plenty of work here in America to do." Participation in the labor force has gone down 04% in absolute terms over the last six years - it hasn't remained steady. Part-time jobs are for many the "new norm." Broad unemployment measures are up, long-term unemployment is up, and an unprecedented number - at least since the Great Depression - are discouraged from seeking employment. There may be "plenty of work to do," but much of it is not compensated, or is compensated badly, or is simply not being done because *the economic incentives to get it done are not in place.*

      While I would argue "those workers in other countries have as much right to make a living, and to seek the best for themselves and their families, as any American," America's immigration policies ensure that those workers do so here in America rather than in their countries of origin, and America's job-shipping policies ensure that still other workers do so, under conditions (e.g. different wage conditions, under different legal conditions, and under different tax regimes) that ensure the displacement of American labor in the same fields of endeavor. This is having consequences far beyond those envisioned, most of which have not been beneficial, but have been incredibly destructive.

      As for your "moving to a third-world country," take it from someone who has had that experience, there are not many other nations that tolerate immigrants coming in and taking up anything but temporary work, or establishing businesses that cannot in some way be foreclosed on. These nations (unlike the US) do not allow "paths to citizenship" even when they may turn the occasional blind eye towards long-term residency when it is deemed beneficial (e.g. retirees on fixed incomes from retirement programs *in their home nations,* self-employed individuals deriving the majority of their income from abroad, or individuals providing perceived necessary services that cannot be sourced internally). These other nations do understand that immigration and job-shipping are much more zero-sum games for national employment than the US propaganda machine would like us to believe.

      Delete
  143. "I can control #1, I can defeat #2, but I can do very little about #3 as long as a large majority of my fellow Americans believe that regulations somehow improve productivity."

    This is a blog about graduate school, not right wing vs. left wing bullshit, which I would indeed classify as trolling. But I'll go ahead and play your game.

    Please specify what regulations are particularly onerous for you in your "job creation?"

    At least graduate school in history taught me why some business regulations are needed. Also, it taught me that there are always people who complain about restrictions on their business operations, so their complaints alone should not determine the efficacy of the regulation. For every regulation throughout history there were complaints.

    Max Blanck and Isaac Harris complained when the state of New York wrote laws that said they could not lock the doors to their factory floor, even though doing that resulted in the deaths of 146 of their employees when fire broke out in 1911. They didn't want to pay for fire safety measures either, and were still locking the doors to their factories years later saying they had a "safe lock."

    Same thing with food safety. The pure food and drug act was passed in 1906, but most people don't know it could have been passed 20 years earlier, but was held up in the senate because certain senators were lobbied by meatpacking and other food industries who argued that the introduction of cleanliness regulation would severely impact their profitability and therefore jobs. I could go on with more modern examples if you cared, but I presume you don't....

    Today no one would question fire safety or food cleanliness. But they had to be fought for, pushed for, and they need to be checked regularly.

    Reading what you wrote makes me a little happier about my grad school experience. At least it helps me see through bullshit buzzwords like what you've offered. It's all been said before about any regulation you can imagine.

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  144. "This is a blog about graduate school, not right wing vs. left wing bullshit, which I would indeed classify as trolling. But I'll go ahead and play your game."

    Wow. Way to have it both ways.

    You don't think political/economic discussions have a place on this blog? Really? When so many of the strongest reasons for deciding not to pursue a graduate degree have to do with low wages and extremely poor employment prospects? These are issues that are affecting the whole country, and as higher education is itself a business of sorts, how could you think discussing employment could be irrelevant? Of course differing worldviews - right and left - are going to enter into it. The issue of individual vs. social responsibility is deeply relevant to this blog.

    Also, I really hope you aren't the person who has been going on and on about trolling on this site, because I don't see how the last paragraph of the above post is much less inflammatory and sanctimonious than lawyer guy's initial comments.

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  145. Higher education *is* a business, and the continual daftness of otherwise intelligent humanities grad students to this point is what ensures their misery. Your university wants to make money off you; they don't really care what you know about 19th century labor laws, but, rather, whether you can attract funding to their university and top students based on the perception of that knowledge.

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  146. As a former humanities grad student (and current disgruntled job hunter), I have read the first 70 Reasons thus far (including comments) with avid interest. I feel any insights or personal accounts I could give would just be repeating points that have already been mentioned. But I would like to comment on the structure of the Reasons.

    “100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School” is a punchy title, and both the main postings and the comments section contain some excellent observations. But it seems that some Reasons are so closely related to each other that they could/should be lumped together as one. For instance I’d say that the following Reasons are essentially reformulations of the same general idea of a stifling hierarchy.

    23. There is a pecking order
    52. Your adviser’s pedigree counts
    67. There is a star system

    It might be more accurate to think of it not in terms of distinct reasons, but in terms of broader categories: financial risks, potential for missed life opportunities, negligible work-returns ratio, and so on. If someone has already made this observation, I apologize for missing it.

    That said, I do not regret my decision to go to grad school. Now enough blog reading. Back to the job hunt.

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  147. First, an apology for (almost) starting a capitalist vs socialist side discussion. I went off topic and should be ashamed of myself.

    Regarding the collapsing of many of the reasons suggested at 7:54 PM, I must agree that there is some redundancy in the list of 100 reasons.

    While the origins of this blog are somewhat mysterious to me, I've always assumed that some very intelligent person is using this blog as an inexpensive way to generate some fairly complex content for some kind of future book release (or perhaps even a graduate dissertation in a humanities program...that would be ironic indeed).

    Such a future book or dissertation might be truncated to only "15 Reasons Not to Go to Graduate School", with the blog owner only including the most representative 15 categories of discussion from this blog.

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  148. "You don't think political/economic discussions have a place on this blog? Really? When so many of the strongest reasons for deciding not to pursue a graduate degree have to do with low wages and extremely poor employment prospects?"

    I agree that worldview comes into play, I just object to crass generalizations.

    Perhaps I should have said "republican vs. democratic bullshit" instead, since my main problem was the introduction of "government regulations" and especially the phrase "job creator" into the discussion. To me, those are meaningless buzzwords that developed around the time Barack Obama was inaugurated. I can't recall the phrase "job creator" being used before then. There were similar meaningless buzzwords that surrounded President Bush and appear throughout various political eras. Ie: "Egghead" to describe Adlai Stevenson. Or "liberal," for that matter - which was used as a buzzword by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's opponents. "Climate Change" is a left wing one. There are a bunch of them.

    They are loaded phrases designed to inflame by opening up a pandora's box of associations and emotions. Since most of us have some post-bac education here, it would be nice if loaded phrases were defined.

    What I think all this grad school talk ultimately boils down to is one's thoughts on the value of knowledge. I don't think this is a right/left, republican/democratic thing.

    Is knowledge intrinsically valuable or is its value derived from its practical applications in the current or soon-to-be economic context?

    It fascinates me because all this mirrors the education debate writ large. Do we want education or do we want job training? If what we want is job training, then really, we can do that a LOT cheaper and faster. The educational system could simply copy the military's training system which is highly efficient and trains people for even the most technical jobs in a year or so.

    If what we want is education - then there has to be room for the humanities, although I would agree with everyone here that the system is broken. PhD education is a big broken part of it.

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  149. For one, you really shouldn't need a PhD to teach college. I really don't understand why every single professor should need to publish. A master's should be fine, at least to teach freshman and sophomore level courses.

    Universities used to work that way, and not that long ago. PhDs used to be the stars - there were several in the departments and they would do the publishing. Master's people would do the teaching. Somehow the system developed into a disaster.

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  150. Aaron G, that is exactly the point that William James was making a hundred+ years ago. If you haven't read the whole "Ph.D. Octopus," it's worth reading. It's depressing to think that someone could have written the same thing today (if it had mentioned women).

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  151. Aaron G: you make an excellent, sensible point. The other problem is the sheer amount of overpublishing that the current system causes. It's getting too hard to keep up.

    Honestly, I think a better title for this blog would be: at least one or two good reasons to go to grad school, because I sure as hell don't see 100 in its favor.

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  152. And I can tell there are heavy censorship on this blog as well.'

    I posted a couple of comments regarding Occupy Wall Street, along with why National Socialism is good for higher education. Both got deleted.

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    1. Yes, National Socialism did so much for Germany's higher education system, while it was in power.

      The best part was burning all those books at the party rallies.

      Delete
  153. James (not William)October 31, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Actually some things have changed since James's time - I was surprised that the English teacher in question was actually expected to get a Ph.D. in the truest sense - in philosophy. Also, the article seems to imply that more theses were actually rejected in those days - as opposed to today when people tend to just sort of drift away from programs if things aren't going well.

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  154. I am a recent humanities PhD from an excellent public university. I have a full-time, renewable lecturer position in my field and am trying again this year for a tenure-track job. I take my teaching seriously and I take my research seriously, and despite many periods of frustration and exhaustion, I liked grad school. I strongly object to the notion that has been a theme in these comments and among the general public that a PhD does not prepare you for anything "useful". It does prepare you to be an academic, which means in my field to teach undergraduate students to write well, to read for structure and organization, to synthesize arguments, and to understand and articulate how theories are applied. Regardless of the field to which they are applied and in which they learned them, these are skills that most successful professionals need. I taught in a similar position to my current one between my master's and doctoral programs, and can say without a doubt that I do a better job now not only because I have more experience, but because I have a much better grasp on the content of my field, and am an expert in its theoretical foundations. The most irritating fallacy of the "useless" argument, is that being an academic is not a real job. We do work, and we earn money in exchange for our work. The myth of the life of the mind helps to depress our wages because "thinking" is seen less and less as valuable work in our culture. However, part of our work is performing research so we are the most up to date on what discussions are happening in our field, and can incorporate that knowledge into our classes, refining our presentation of the essential skills we are teaching.

    Most people, and even many if not most graduate students, should not be career academics. Most people don't enjoy the work and don't find it worth the time and effort necessary to invest in it to be successful. Even when they are successful graduate students, most people are not/ would not be that good at balancing all the aspects of the job necessary to be a good professor, and the prospects of a good position are poor due to a glut of qualified applicants. It is a life that suits very few people; until I either land a tenure-track job or give up the search, I won't know--even with my PhD in hand--whether it is for me. But it is not because academic work is useless. I do agree with the posters who have pointed out that that applicants to grad school need a much clearer picture of what academic work entails. They need to understand what the likely job market looks like and what kind of accomplishments they will need to succeed on it, and they should not enter a grad program, and certainly not accrue debt, until they understand the risks. They also need to understand what the job after graduate school entails, and whether they are prepared to figure out a way to balance a healthy life with the demands of their jobs before they enter grad school. And they need to have an exit strategy if they discover, like many of us, that they don't want a career doing academic work.

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  155. 1. Those of you without noms de cyber, please adopt one. It’s very difficult trying to figure out which “anon” one is reading at any given moment;

    2. Most of the people commenting here claim not to think much of academia, yet they virtually all use horrid barbarisms of the pc academic world, such as “s/he,” even when speaking about a specific individual. Such barbarisms are meant to enslave their users. There was a time when I too lived in the Valley of the He/She Monsters;

    3. Why all the profanity? Cussing plus He/She Monsters means double the barbarity, which is hardly evidence of a love of the life of the mind;

    4. Though academia is still run largely by whites, they are viciously racist against most whites, particularly against white, heterosexual men, in their ideology, hiring, and increasingly, admissions decisions, and yet I never hear anyone complain about that at this blog. Indeed, many of the biggest complainers brag about their fluency in academia’s ruling, anti-intellectual ideology (e.g., Foucault), without ever connecting the dots;

    5. That first poster, the one who bragged about his brilliance, while asserting “I am a rock onto [sic] myself,” talked about his financial independence and bright future, but also said that he’s “only 24 years old.” That means that he’s not a lawyer who has paid off his law school loans “within two or three years.” He’s either a lousy law student, or just graduated, and is cramming for the law boards, or just took them. The young fool has accomplished bupkis, and earned nothing;

    6. As Harvey Silverglate has reported, there’s tons of well-paying, full-time work in college administrations, typically in student life, with more jobs being created all the time. All you need, in order to qualify, is to be black, Hispanic, feminist, and/or homosexual, and rigidly toe the racial-socialist political line; and

    7. I hope more undergrads will consider spending the money they would have otherwise spent on or borrowed for grad school on low-overhead small and micro businesses. I say undergrads, because most recovering grad students are as poor as church mice, but if you’ve managed to hold onto a little something, have at it! I tried and failed, but then, I was as vain and impractical about my business, as I was about grad school.

    http://nicholasstixuncensored.blogspot.com/

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  156. well, that wasn't vitriolic at all. nonetheless, I do agree with his/her #5. Sheeeeeeeet, muthafuckah.

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  157. @November 7, 2011 11:15 PM

    "7. I hope more undergrads will consider spending the money they would have otherwise spent on or borrowed for grad school on low-overhead small and micro businesses. I say undergrads, because most recovering grad students are as poor as church mice, but if you’ve managed to hold onto a little something, have at it! I tried and failed, but then, I was as vain and impractical about my business, as I was about grad school."

    THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I DID, I TOOK OUT STUDENT LOANS TO SUPPORT MY OPTION TRADING BUSINESS. AND IT WORKS VERY WELL! THANKS FOR THE ADVICE!

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