Monday, December 26, 2011

75. You can make more money as a schoolteacher.

Imagine that you and your friend Sally graduate from college this year on equal footing. You decide to enter a PhD program in English, and Sally decides to become an English teacher in Mississippi. It will take your friend one year to complete the requirements necessary for her to qualify for a teaching license, during which time she will teach under supervision and be paid based on her “bachelor’s degree status as a first year teacher.” According to the National Education Association, the average starting salary for a teacher in Mississippi is $30,090. Meanwhile, you will be one of the lucky graduate students to be given a teaching assistantship with an annual stipend of $15,000. Unlike your stipend, Sally’s salary will likely rise significantly over time; the average teacher salary in Mississippi is $44,498. However, for the sake of simplicity, let us assume that both your stipend and her salary are frozen at their starting levels and that you (miraculously) receive ten years of funding as a teaching assistant at Generic State University (see Reason 17). After ten years, Sally will have earned $150,000 more than you have. She will also have a decade of seniority in her profession and a secure job.

At the same time—assuming that you are in the 49 percent of those who manage to finish a PhD in the humanities within ten years (see Reason 46)—you will have just been cut loose from your program and set adrift on the bleak academic job market. Chances are that you won’t land a tenure-track position straight out of grad school but will have to spend a year (or two or five) teaching as an adjunct (see Reason 12). In that capacity, you might be paid as much as $4000 per class, which would amount to $24,000 if you teach six classes in a year. (Of course, you may be paying for your own health insurance.) If, somehow, you do eventually beat out the formidable competition for a tenure-track job in English, you will then have a job with an average starting salary of $51,204 (see Reason 23). At long last, you will have a bigger paycheck than your friend in Mississippi, but, unlike Sally, you won’t know if you’ll still have your job in five years because you’re now on the brutal tenure track (see Reason 71). In any event, it will be years before you catch up with her in earnings. Now imagine that Sally works in California, where the average starting salary for teachers is $41,181 and the average teacher salary is $68,093...



126 comments:

  1. wow, I've never thought of it like that. That's pretty startling. Not to mention that if Sally saves 5% of her salary in a 401(k) starting right away that head start will put her miles ahead of you if you start contributing 10 years later.

    Money isn't everything, but let's face it - it's important. When you're so enthralled with the Life of the Mind that you are overlooking minimum wake work and staying in hostels on conferences, something is wrong. I'll take my near 6 figure government job and get some good books from the library, and enjoy the Life of the Mind while living comfortably, taking some decent vacations, and hanging out with like-minded friends who aren't competing with me.

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  2. I got my degree in secondary education and often kick myself for not having at least worked a few years before going into grad school. And it will be rich irony if I end up teaching HS anyway, once I'm done with my PhD. You also don't mention other things that will make Sally "richer" over time, like having less student loan debt to repay (and making significant progress on repayment in 10 years), the ability to get loans or credit to buy a house or a car, and the equity you build over time. Really: grad school does not pay.

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  3. Let's see what happens when you combine those with phds and teaching high school. I went to a public school in NYC that proclaims itself as an "early college high school." The school employs phds as secondary school teachers, which is ironic because who would want to teach high school with a doctorate. I always wondered why people with such high education were teaching in a inner city public school. I've come to the conclusion that these people were washouts from the academic market who were not able to get a real job in academia and so had to lower themselves into teaching kids. Hey, at least it beats being exploited as an adjunct at NYU getting paid $900 per credit (roughly). I observed some pretty strange things when I was there like the downright arrogance of some of the phds (one obnoxious "professor" I disliked. Dude you're a high school teacher,if you were really that good you should be teaching at NYU philosophy not lower east side dump) and the horrible attrition since it was clear that most of them were not really interested in teaching HS as a career but rather as a temporary thing. Sorry rant over.

    I agree that money plays a huge part in this grad school problem and that there exist phds who teach public schools for the sake of higher income. I do have beef with wasted education though and in this particular case it just reinforces the stereotype that teaching public schools is like a fall-back plan. Note that in most school districts you are probably too expensive to hire because of your credentials. If you want to teach K-12 then a masters will suffice. The high school teachers with masters degrees are definitely getting a better deal.

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    1. In all fairness, though, the argument was not to teach H.S. after getting a PhD, but rather to teach H.S. instead of getting a PhD.

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  4. I know people are sick of STEM folk around here but just accept this as an intellectually honest statement about "opportunity cost" (to use the technical term about what is being stated above.)

    Unless you are exceptional, you can never make up the opportunity cost after getting a Masters' degree.

    This is as true for the STEM folk as it is for the Humanities folk. (in fact more so for STEM than Humanities.)

    Opportunity cost is real.

    Now, there happen to be exceptions, and (fortunately) I happen to be one of them but this is quite seriously the exception not the rule. (It was my serious academic credentials that got me a bailout 10+ years ago, and I was smart enough to capitalize on them.)

    I was lucky and I respect that. The average person has a snowball's chance in hell to hit that.

    If you're out there listening, hear it loud and clear.

    If you're out there and still in academia, ignore the "sunk cost" and look forward to what the future might bring you.

    I wish I had known half of this crap before I got into the morass of academia.

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    1. From my experience, you are correct, with one proviso - grad school can work out for people who are "exceptional" in the sense that they are attuned to the academic work. And such people are indeed the exception. They are not, from what I've seen, generally superior to others - rather, they enjoy (or at least are proficient at) writing recondite papers. That's about it. This is not to say people who prosper in the academia are inferior or anything like that. How do you measure a person's quality, anyway? In the academia it's all about pumping out papers. In "real life" there are things like moral codes, personal health, personal sophistication (meaning, among other things, being well-read - which is not the same as having read 500 recondite papers), and good parenting. And in our "free market"/ ultra-materialism society nothing spells "success" like the possession of wads of money.

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  5. The one - relatively minor - problem with this is that teaching isn't as secure as you might think.

    There is a possibility that Sally won't get a job immediately, or might have to move far away to where there is a relative shortage of teachers.

    I have relatives and friends who graduated and decided to get teaching qualifications, assuming it would at least be a secure job. Very few of them have full time teaching jobs and none of them are living where they want to live.

    I totally agree with the wider point, that almost any job (no matter how lowly it is in the eyes of academics) is better than grad school.

    I just want to caution people that teaching is not the slam dunk that a lot of the people I meet think it is. The same laws of supply and demand that govern higher education also apply to the lower levels - there are too many teachers and people who want to be teachers relative to the positions available.

    (And yes, this is an important topic to me. Why do you ask?)

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    1. Agree - and a teacher with a Master's degree will make more on the salary scale than a teacher with a Bachelor's. Besides, states require that teachers obtain a Master's degree or equivalent in order to maintain a certificate.

      Broadscale teacher lay-offs have threatened my own job as a teacher. Additionally, the market is flooded with people who want to teach after being laid off from the corporate world. After teaching for 10 years, I wish that I had a Master's degree so that my options for other employment were broader in the case that I do get laid off.

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  6. This is definitely one of the better points on this blog. Even if you are very good and do very well you are likely to be able to make more life time earnings following a non-academic path (unless you are in medicine). I could definitely have made more money in theory by going into the financial sector/business rather than being an economics professor. At this point in my career (17 years post PhD and recently promoted to full prof.) I have overtaken my friends who work for the federal government (earning $145k p.a.). But the early years I earned less and there was a year of unemployment between a couple of jobs. And I got my PhD in 4 years and was funded the whole way through. It could be worthwhile to sacrifice financial reward for pursuing a career that you will enjoy more but the worse the job prospects in your field the better you must be to pursue this path. Anyone who is anywhere near a borderline prospect for a PhD program shouldn't do it and they shouldn't do it either unless they are getting decent funding (nowadays something like $25k p.a. stipend). And you shouldn't go to low ranked programs. Unless you are rich of course or are willing to lose a pile of money and start an "alternative career" late.

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  7. One of my friends is a dedicated high school English teacher. He has a genuine care for the students, he loves literature, and he hasn't had a raise in three years due to the constraints on our city budget.

    In the classroom, he has to play the triple role of teaching, being a social worker, and being a policeman. High school teachers are on the front line defending our civilization against the uneducated masses. He deserves combat pay.

    I often tell him that when the next budget cutback happens (as it surely will in our little town), instead of laying off some more teachers or administrators, they should try kicking out some of the troublemaking students. That would increase the overall efficiency of the educational process by culling the herd to only those cattle who actually want to learn something.

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  8. 5:19: were you always this moronic, or is this a recent development, because that's pretty much the worst idea I've heard on this board.

    "High school teachers are on the front line defending our civilization."

    Please. He's a teacher. Some students are hard to handle because -- guess what? -- they have no interest in reading Wordsworth or Donne. Just do the best you can with these children and go home.

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  9. This is an especially good comparison because the hours don't even begin to compare.

    Schoolteachers get summers off. What do academics get? Brutal summers in which they're gunning to catch up on publishing and work.

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  10. You could make more money, but someone with a lot of intellectual fire would probably be much happier in academia, where he can be on the cutting edge of research and scholarship.

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  11. The irony of this entire situation is that the PhD. cohort tends to be far, far better at their chosen discipline than any high school teacher. Yet the high school teacher enjoys greater pay, job security, and a saner work-life balance. This is totally backwards to any normal profession. It would be like doctors earning much less than nurses, or a business analyst who does better than the actual executives in the company.

    Life is often a cake eating contest in which the prize is more cake. Be careful, however, that you are in the correct contest, and eating cake for the right reasons.

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  12. I don't like the way this article makes it seem as though it's a piece of cake to get a job as a public school teacher. Most school districts have a hiring freeze right now, and some have had brutal layoffs. And ironically, the more seniority you have, the more vulnerable you have to a layoff since those are the most expensive teachers for the district. Certainly the examples given- Mississippi and California- are not exactly brimming with education funding at the moment.

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  13. "I don't like the way this article makes it seem as though it's a piece of cake to get a job as a public school teacher."

    The difficulty of getting a job is independent of the point that this post is trying to make: that if you go to grad school, you're going to put your earning potential on hold.

    Indeed, this post could probably substitute any entry-level position for "teacher", and have the same effect--namely, you could be earning money, and saving it up, or you could go to graduate school and pile up debt.

    Besides, as difficult as it might be to become a teacher, is the training really all that more difficult than earning a doctorate? Is getting a teaching position really all that more difficult than becoming a tenured professor?

    Individually, each post may have its flaw, but taken together...they paint a very ugly picture, indeed.

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  14. That's a load of crap. I've encountered a far greater number of PhDs who are incompetent morons in my academic work than among my colleagues as a pre-college teacher. Not even close.

    "The irony of this entire situation is that the PhD. cohort tends to be far, far better at their chosen discipline than any high school teacher."

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  15. "Besides, as difficult as it might be to become a teacher, is the training really all that more difficult than earning a doctorate? Is getting a teaching position really all that more difficult than becoming a tenured professor?"

    Teacher-training (it is never called "teacher-education") is ridiculously easy. The program is a farce. Some classes in those programs deal with things like bulletin board design. The banality of teacher-training is degrading beyond the outer limits of the worst grad program. In grad school they don't pretend to be saving the world; the pretense there is that the lit crit and so on is important, but no reason is ever given. The education college is much worse than the study of the obvious; it is the study of things that do not exist. Virtually any Ph.D. program is more demanding than teacher-training.

    It is much, much easier to become a school teacher than a college professor. Much easier. But the problems of public schools are much, much worse than those of grad school. Grad school has all the problems listed on this blog, but with gang violence, drug use, harassing parents, bonehead politicians, and other things beyond counting.

    I've taught in the public schools and colleges. I've never been assaulted in a college. I've never been threatened. That happened to me in the schools. The students do not want to read Wordsworth or Donne. They do not want to read anything, or learn anything. Why shouuld they? Because they are forced, by law, to go school. Their parents are under the same legal threat. The schools are factories of delusion; public school denies reality to a much greater degree than grad school ever does. Grad schools want the students to believe they are special and will one day become professors. This delusion starts in the public schools, where everyone will graduate high school and go on to college.

    If you want to know why the colleges and grad schools are as they are, spend some time teaching in a public school. The toxins in higher education have seeped upward from the public schools. Don't like students as consumers? Dislike the pretensions of grad school? Loathe the mindless work that passes for learning? All of this begins down below.

    The post fails to point out that the same problem that affects college life, the oversupply of Ph.D.s, is substantially worse in the public schools. Many people go into public school teaching thinking it is a secure job. This is no longer true, and will get worse as the economy continues to stagnate.

    Do not go into teaching at any level. Get a job making something material. It is the only thing anyone in this country understands. Or values.

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  16. "The students do not want to read Wordsworth or Donne. They do not want to read anything, or learn anything. Why should they? Because they are forced, by law, to go school. Their parents are under the same legal threat."

    This could be clearer. My writing was bad. I mean to say that the public school students are resentful at being forced to go to school. Their parents are likewise resentful. So they do the only thing they can do: they refuse to learn. That's what I meant to say.

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  17. "The irony of this entire situation is that the PhD. cohort tends to be far, far better at their chosen discipline than any high school teacher.""

    Well, the people in my PhD cohort:

    1. Either give all students As in a shameless bid for high evals or
    2. Grade ridiculously hard, permanently sinking students' semester grades with one swipe of a red pen (and for stupid reasons)
    3. never read any of the assigned texts, just BS their way through
    4. rely on dogma and eschew critical thinking
    5. refuse to answer questions on the grounds that they are dumb
    6. alternate between shaming students and trying to sleep with them
    7. refuse to show up (to office hours, section, lecture)

    I don't think I ever had a teacher (high school, middle school) who was as crummy as these lackluster jerks. Ever.

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  18. @SocratesintheMarketplace:

    You said it all. Good work.

    A significant difference between teaching in high school and teaching undergraduates is the fact that some high school students resent the fact that they are forced to be there. Those students should be allowed to leave voluntarily. This would reduce the "combat role" that high school teachers must assume in order to maintain classroom discipline.

    My prediction is that, if given the freedom to choose their own destiny, many high students would exit the system early. Most of these early exit folks would need to seek gainful employment, so there would need to be simultaneous changes in the child labor laws along with the necessary changes in compulsory attendance laws.

    Some of the more hardheaded and anti-social types might have to be forced out (having lost their "right" to an education by their bad behavior), and many of these would, of course, continue in their anti-social ways and soon take up residence in the nearest convenient jail cell. But some would thrive in the private sector, and some might even find the "real world" kind of scary and might voluntarily crawl back into the warm and comfortable academic womb, perhaps with a more serious attitude.

    The end result for high school teachers is that the herd would be voluntarily culled of the disinterested and the anti-social. Only those students who choose to continue their education would be present in the classroom, and the entire system would enjoy many new efficiencies.

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  19. I'm not sure what world folks here are in, but all the same applies to the college kids my friends and I teach/TA as to the high school kids described in various posts above. The single exception is that I don't know anyone who has been physically assaulted, but we do get threatened, in a variety of ways, and even though students have the ability to cut class easily, many still show up (usually in a bid for "participation points," which I loathe and only assign to please the misguided profs who think that's good pedagogy). Clearly a large portion of the college kids resent being there: they come in late, slouch down, glower, mutter epithets about you (prof/TA) audibly, argue every point (whether it be grading or ideas presented in class), challenge you publicly. Even the relatively well-behaved ones appear to invest little to no effort to disguise the boredom they feel, or their faces openly display derision, revulsion, condescension.

    The only upside to this, and it's bittersweet, is that even though the older grad students like myself have to endure these little twits, so do the young grad students who make up the older part of the millennial generation. So the same TA who refuses to show up to the TA meeting you drove two hours to attend, or shows up late then talks the whole time or plays on her cellphone, smirking all the while, now has to deal with the same shitty behavior from her/his own students.

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  20. I hated school as a high school student, I still do, and here are some of the reasons why:

    1. The curriculum is worthless. Why should I be forced to study subjects such as American History, Literature, and Sociology? When will I ever possibly need to know about Aaron Burr? Conversely, why didn't I have a single course in finance, the legal system, or running a household? Accounting? Sales? Now, you can make the argument that history courses are "teaching you to think critically," but that is rarely the case in PRACTICE. In practice, history courses are often taught in ways that just reinforce dogma, by teachers who couldn't care less.

    2. Many of the teachers are plodding mediocrities, at best. When I think back to my high school teachers, many of them subscribed to the maxim that "those who can't, teach." I remember English teachers who had bad grammar; history teachers who were just glorified babysitters; and biology teachers who knew how to get out the microscopes and that was it.

    3. Hormones. Like it or not, we are biologically driven to procreate and enjoy life, not learn some drivel foisted on us by the system.

    IF YOUR STUDENTS AIN'T LEARNING, IT'S partially YOUR FAULT. Step up and make plays. Show them why they should be learning.

    And, please, don't become jaded. It's almost part of the adult world for people to become jaded, no matter what industries they are in. Salesman get jaded about their techniques and numbers; lawyers get jaded about courthouses and judges and clients; doctors get jaded about how much they're really helping people. The worst person in the world is a jaded teacher.

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  21. I tried to make sense of your jumbled mess of a post, but I felt compelled to take a break to procreate. Ah, urges relieved! That feels better. Now, where were we? Oh, right. Crazytown.

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  22. I'd like to take a moment to defend history against the claim that it's useless--or rather, I'm going to rail against complaining that learning "useless" things is a waste of time. History, Literature, Mathematics, even Physics and Chemistry are all useless: what we learn in those disciplines aren't likely to be used anywhere. Of these (and other disciplines), mathematics is the most likely to be used somewhere--although it's also most likely to be attacked as "useless". Even so, these disciplines provide uses for some people, which is why they are so valuable.

    Having said that, however, I am NOT going to defend the idea that these subjects should be forced on students--and public schools do such a lovely job at sucking the life out of these subjects, to boot. To this end, I would encourage everyone to read "A Mathematician's Lament", by John Lockhart. What he says about mathematics can be applied to other disciplines.

    While I was in high school, I developed a strong desire to home-school my children. Reading from John Taylor Gatto's "An Underground History of Education" a couple of years ago, however, convinced me that the claim that we need public schools is a lie, and that, left to their own devices, children *will* learn, and they will do a far more thorough job at it than any teacher, armed with any curriculum.

    So, at a minimum, I would propose that we end mandatory schooling. And while we're at it, we should drastically reform child labor laws, because many of those children are going to want to learn on the job!

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  23. So your idea for educational reform is to decrease the amount of education people receive? Oh wait, I forgot about reason #1.

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  24. No, 9:24, the STEM folks have been very clear:
    We don't simply end mandatory schooling, but some of these kids should be siphoned into early work experiences and/or incarceration. It's quite simple if you look at it rationally, in between lapses to satisfy your hormone-driven procreative urges.

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  25. "We don't simply end mandatory schooling, but some of these kids should be siphoned into early work experiences and/or incarceration."

    While I can see why you would get this from STEM Doctor, if this is what you took from my comment, then my comment was clearly as "clear as mud". I don't think anyone should be "sophoned off" into anything. Rather, we should be free to pursue whatever education experiences we want, even from a young age, rather than forced into the Official Education Experiences that Bureaucrats think we should have.

    And that includes the possibility of internships, and other opportunities for work.

    Indeed, in looking back at my own childhood, I wish I had more opportunities to work, and that my parents had pushed me to find those opportunities--especially during the summer. But then again, the way child labor laws are structured, the Government has done a LOT to prevent such activities from happening.

    As an example, I happen to know a family near where I live, whose children run a small bakery business. I'm not sure exactly how old the children are, but I think the oldest is about fourteen, and the youngest about ten.

    As for incarceration, I said nothing of it. In fact, I am opposed to our prisons and jails, the way they are currently structured now. They do little to help individuals become better; the structure of prison life has nothing do with the outside world. Which, come to think of it, is one of the things that's wrong with schools.

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  26. My great-grandfather began coal mining at the age of nine with only a third grade education. His life amounted to toiling away in unbearable conditions until he died from respiratory problems.

    Yes there are a lot of problems with the public school system but let's face it, our education system allows more opportunities today than generations before mandatory schooling.

    My friend is a teacher at a public school in a very poor south Chicago neighborhood. Many of those kids have hardly any support from their families at home and even depend on such things as the free breakfast and lunch. Some may argue that this is glorified babysitting, but for some these kids the school setting is the only form of structure in their lives. While my friend's school faces a variety of social problems, I think it's beneficial to have a public school system there to rescue as many children from a pattern of anti-social behaviors and poverty.

    We absolutely could use reforms in our public school system, but to throw out mandatory education is to deny the only opportunity of social advancement for many.

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  27. "My great-grandfather began coal mining at the age of nine with only a third grade education. His life amounted to toiling away in unbearable conditions until he died from respiratory problems."

    Sounds like graduate students/adjuncts, only replace "respiratory problems" with "depression". :-)

    I don't see how education is going to fix this. We're still going to need coal--only now, you need a high school diploma to dig for it. And some people are going to enjoy this "toiling away", too. One of my favorite movies is "October Sky", and I really liked the message it presented: pursue your dreams, get educated, and you can stay out of the coal mine. It wasn't until I watched the Special Features, though, that I discovered a little bit of back story: that the main character's father was self-educated, but because he didn't have a diploma, he didn't get promoted--and that his father loved coal mining, and he wanted his son to get an education, so that his son could get the promotions that he never got.

    "While my friend's school faces a variety of social problems, I think it's beneficial to have a public school system there to rescue as many children from a pattern of anti-social behaviors and poverty."

    The sad reality is that many of these schools that provide "structure" also provide the structure to keep these children from actually doing anything with their lives. If school weren't mandatory, then those who wanted to be there would be able to learn, while those who didn't--those who wanted to become drug dealers, or just get on with their lives, or whatever--could do that, too, without dragging the other kids down with them.

    Ultimately, you cannot force someone to have "opportunity of social advancement". The best you can do, is provide opportunities--and I doubt that public schools are up to that task.

    Come to think of it, what does all this have to do with the topic at hand? Oh, yeah: If you decide to get involved in this public education mess, you get paid better, and have less debt, than if you continued on to graduate school. And, surprisingly, it may even be less neurotic at times, too!

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  28. "I don't see how education is going to fix this. We're still going to need coal--only now, you need a high school diploma to dig for it. And some people are going to enjoy this 'toiling away', too."

    Germany has set up a system where students are given the "choice" to chose an apprentice-driven educational path at an early age. Depending on their test scores and family wishes, they are directed to a certain system by age 10. You may be shocked to hear this, but many children who have parents that graduated from university go on to postsecondary education, where as very few children who did not have parents go on to postsecondary education (including the now third-generation "immigrants")make it into the university-track system. The point isn't that we'll always need coal-miners, but that the children who grew up in coal-mining towns with coal-mining parents shouldn't face coal-mining as their only option. Homer Hickam sparked an interest in STEM and was (fortunately) taken under his teacher's wing late in high school. Were K-12 education not mandatory, his life may have turned out very differently.

    I've worked in low-income schools, and the same can be said for students I've had to privilege to work with. Some that went on to college had criminal records and/or were student-parents. Were K-12 education not mandatory they would likely be in a very different place as well. You say that public schools aren't up to the task of providing opportunities. I think that public schools must continue to do more to provide these opportunities, but they're doing much more for youth in the community than the land-grant university that I go to.

    I personally think that the idea of letting people "just get on with their lives" as drug dealers is disgustingly elitist and incredibly diluted. So please, Episilon Given, don't ever try to be a public school teacher.

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  29. A few comments.

    First, please, let us have no red herrings about children working in coal mines. Children do not labor they we they did in the nineteenth century for the same reasons adults do not: labor saving technology has made much unskilled labor obsolete. No one here wants to go back to those days, so let us not waste time arguing such things.

    Second, children can do all kinds of work at a younger age, say, fourteen. If teenagers can sit in a classroom forty hours a week they can sit in front of a computer doing phone work for the same amount of time. Many of them would prefer it, as they have no appetite for intellectual work and they could make money that would relieve their families' poverty.This would ease the demand for public schools to double as social service centers.

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  30. Oh, one more thing: could my fellow posters please come up with some names? If you are all so lazy that all you use is "anonymous" then your thoughts are not worth examining. You could call yourselves things like "Adam" or "Eve", for crying out loud. Something!

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  31. Third, I would not make arguments about the usefulness of certain types of knowledge. I once read of an engineer who raised a sunken ship by pumping it full of ping-pong balls. Where did he get the idea? From a Donald Duck comic book. The knowledge we find useful can come from anywhere and its usefulness may come up at any time. Furthermore, knowledge and education are two different things, just as intelligence and education are two different things.

    Fourth, the idea that the public schools "provide opportunity" is a dangerous and unexamined premise, not a conclusion. For one thing, nothing is free. Time and money spent on "pubilc schools" is an opportunity cost; what is spent on that cannot be spent on other things. For example, instead of spending money warehousing huge numbers of children in school we could use one-third of that money as an incentive to private businesses to hire and train teenagers. We cannot do this if we continue to squander money on public schools (which is very different from public education).

    Furthermore, the ills that one of the posters pointed out above (drug dealers, single moms, etc) are not prevented by the public schools--they are caused by the public schools. Large numbers of naive and ignorant children are concentrated in one area, where it makes it efficient for predatory types; for them a public school is a target-rich environment. This targets are also suspectible to peer pressure, which the schools aggravate with their pseudo-pedagogy. On top of this, the schools belittle the life of the mind in favor of things like sports, value clarification, and so on. Once you take away a child's ability to reason and substitute in its place the urge to instantly gratify the irrational desires of the animal self, the child is helpless.

    I will close this section by observing that using the public schools as places to promote one social vision over another defeats the purpose of a school, which is to teach young minds solid and substantial things. Preaching instead that they should "just say no to drugs" or "don't say gay!" is counterproductive. Enforced worship in state-sanctioned churches were just as counter-productive for the same reason: you cannot make people believe against their wills.

    Fifth, surly undergrads. I get them too, as I now teach at a college. They learned this behavior in the public schools, where they were taught that there are only opinions, not learned judgements, and that one opinion is as good as another. They instinctually know this is false, but they seize on it as a way of fighting back. I have found that if you put up challenging material to the students, material that you have mastered, their opposition vanishes. They hunger and thirst for education, and once they know you are not just another high school drone, they respond. They resent college as an extension of high school. Show them it is not and their attitudes change.

    The last thing to discuss is incarceration. If we abolish the public schools we will actualy reduce incarceration. To begin with, the gangs will not have easy recruiting grounds. Also, the children can then be shown something more productive than sitting in a chair, learning nothing. Best of all, we end the schools as prisons. Let any educationist ramble long enough and he will start to justify the schools on the grounds that if the children are let out they will become criminals. In other words, public schools are places of preventative detention. End that and the gross amount of incarceration will go down.

    On a closing note, I'll take being threatened by some undergrad with an appeal to the dean than trying to take a knife off a kid who is six foot six. I've had both, and the former is preferable to the latter.

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  32. "disgustingly elitist and incredibly diluted."

    I'm unsure how many commenters on here are real academics (current & former grad students or profs) versus wannabes or pretenders. Either way, I'm still shocked when someone (at least implicitly) on this site substitutes "diluted" for "deluded." These are the kinds of hapless undergrad goofs that initially made me howl with laughter and now lead me to believe that no amount of teaching will take the stupid out of the kids.

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  33. haha--I'm my own worst enemy--serves me right for snarking--bad edit--meant to delete text in parentheses.

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  34. I wrote: " If you are all so lazy that all you use is "anonymous" then your thoughts are not worth examining"

    On more mature reflection I admit this is rude. What I am asking is some greater diffentiation in names so it is easier to identify posts. It is difficult if you are all "anonymous".

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  35. It's not always as bad as the post indicates (e.g. PhD in engineering over english) but it is wonderful to see the argument here for the first time. I love teaching, I quit my PhD, and usually teach in universities. I get annoyed at the egos among fellow university teachers, who of course see themselves as primarily researchers even if they have no idea what they are researching. Plus there's the pressure from them to get a PhD pronto. I might as well teach high school for a change.
    There are cool things about being in elite academia, but it's nice to think about the costs and seek sweeter deals. Thanks.

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  36. re: the objections to posting as "anonymous" (on this thread and previous ones):

    we're not being "rude," we're not flouting "etiquette," we're being...anonymous. picking a screen name erodes anonymity for a variety of reasons, including that it makes it easier for someone to connect the dots between posts (Oh...Poster X says here s/he's in psychology, there that s/he's 250 miles from a major metro center on the east coast, and over here that s/he's concerned about Topic Y, wonder if it's Fred?). I'd think that academics would be smart enough to read for authorial voice, but even if you don't think that the comments evince sufficient style to distinguish individual authors, who cares? it's the ideas that are important, not the individual posters. if the blogger doesn't care whether we establish screen names (and is even hands-off enough to tolerate the presence of trolls), why should you??

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  37. T: most of the work in high schools is incarceration. There isn't much teaching going on there. One thing about public school is that it isn't a 'sweeter deal'.

    Anon: I think your reasoning is a bit paranoid; do you really think Big Brother is reading this? But then again, Big Brother maybe IS reading this. It's hard to say in this modern world. But if you, or other posters, are afraid of Big Brother, you can always post using different names; for example you can use the name of American presidents; there are 40-odd of them. You could also use the names of Roman emperors. Or the kings of France. Or famous authors. Or people you don't like. You've got lots of ways of dodging identification.

    I ask that the posters use something other than "anonymous" because when I am scrolling through dozens of posts looking for some nice point to respond to, it makes it much easier to find a single post. I don't have the time or the patience to seek the "authorial voice" of one particular poster. If you or anyone else wants to make this easier, the use of a pseudonym helps a lot.

    While we are on the subject, what makes you think that "authorial voice" is any less revealing than a pseudonym? Big Brother is clever about that too.

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  38. @Anonymous (11:10PM) who said:

    "never read any of the assigned texts, just BS their way through"

    How about, "only skims assignments". I could not tell you how many times I have had to correct a professor when it is obvious their comments / mark either does not reflect a reading of the source material, or of my paper! It is incredibly frustrating to receive marks based on the reality that either my professor is inundated with work and rushes the grading process, or simply doesn't care.

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  39. "Anon: I think your reasoning is a bit paranoid; do you really think Big Brother is reading this? But then again, Big Brother maybe IS reading this. It's hard to say in this modern world. But if you, or other posters, are afraid of Big Brother, you can always post using different names; for example you can use the name of American presidents; there are 40-odd of them. You could also use the names of Roman emperors. Or the kings of France. Or famous authors. Or people you don't like. You've got lots of ways of dodging identification."

    Another brilliant comment which fails to address the actual argument it seeks to debunk. I'm not creatively challenged; I can think up a clever, fun pseudonym. But a pseudonym makes it easier to piece together information ACROSS DIFFERENT POSTS which then compromises anonymity. And I'm not afraid of "Big Brother"--apparently that's your paranoia. Grad students and profs in my program gossip and malign each other like crazy. If you bitch about your program, and someone figures out it's you--well, that's not so good, is it? I can spot a Lawyer Guy post miles away, because he's divulged enough info already that I've pieced it together across posts. Even when he changed his tone, the content is still there. It doesn't require any special effort to do this--just plain old reading. But it would be even easier to do this with a pseudonym.

    FYI, and admittedly this was accomplished without piecing together info across posts, a trustworthy friend of mine just emailed me saying, "This is your comment, isn't it?" S/he was right.

    And as for your argument about pseudonyms making it easier for you to comment--that's silly. Again, if an argument moves you in either direction, comment. You don't need a pseudonym to do that. If what you're looking for is identities rather than substantive arguments, it sounds much more like you're looking for someone to attack, than seeking "some nice point to respond to."

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  40. top grad student packages in Canada are actually more (or nearly as) lucrative than teaching jobs. My package this year was 45,000 dollars for my labour history PhD. The canadian goverment also hands out thousands of awards worth over 105,000 dollars over three years in addition to what your school funds

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  41. @ STEM doctor: thanks for the kind words.

    "Adam"--I've got a story for you. An acquaintance of mine was writing his M.A. thesis. It was late at night and he was exhausted. Too tired to look up a citation, he wrote (look up the f---ing page number) and left that in his text. Naturally he did not correct the entry. The thesis was printed, bound, and sent to his board. Standing in the hallway, waiting for his turn for his oral defense, he happened to hit on the very page with that 'citation'. In a panic he tried to think of an excuse to postpone. Then the door opened and he got ushered in. After half-an-hour they gave him his M.A. Later, when getting loaded with the other newly-minted M.A. students, he realized that all the questions he was asked came from the first half of the thesis, and the offending words were three-quarters of the way in. None of his professors had bother to read the second half of his work.

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  42. Anon writes:
    "Grad students and profs in my program gossip and malign each other like crazy. If you bitch about your program, and someone figures out it's you--well, that's not so good, is it? I can spot a Lawyer Guy post miles away, because he's divulged enough info already that I've pieced it together across posts. Even when he changed his tone, the content is still there. It doesn't require any special effort to do this--just plain old reading. But it would be even easier to do this with a pseudonym.

    FYI, and admittedly this was accomplished without piecing together info across posts, a trustworthy friend of mine just emailed me saying, "This is your comment, isn't it?" S/he was right."

    Your second paragraph refutes your first paragraph.

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  43. "Your second paragraph refutes your first paragraph."

    I anticipated that critique--that's why I included the phrase, "and admittedly this was accomplished without piecing together info across posts." I'll help you out--if a friend can pick out an identity from a single post (and it was a fairly benign one, not, in my opinion, very revealing), why couldn't a stranger piece together considerably more information over more posts?

    I'll reiterate my closing:
    "And as for your argument about pseudonyms making it easier for you to comment--that's silly. Again, if an argument moves you in either direction, comment. You don't need a pseudonym to do that. If what you're looking for is identities rather than substantive arguments, it sounds much more like you're looking for someone to attack, than seeking "some nice point to respond to."

    See? My lack of a pseudonym hasn't hindered you at all in attacking me. You're doing just fine as things are.

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  44. Anon 12:43 notes the high PhD stipends in Canada, which jives with my impression that it's better to do a PhD outside of the USA. For some backward reason, American PhDs may be more prestigious right now, but the time and trouble it takes to complete one is insane compared to European (and apparently Canadian) options.

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  45. "See? My lack of a pseudonym hasn't hindered you at all in attacking me. You're doing just fine as things are."

    I'm not attacking you; simply pointing out that your facts refute your claim rather than support it.

    I wrote:

    "What I am asking is some greater diffentiation in names so it is easier to identify posts. It is difficult if you are all 'anonymous'."

    If you cannot accept that I am acting in good faith then nothing I say will matter.

    Finally, your reasoning is still refuted. As your trustworthy friend story shows, posting as "anonynmous" will not help if someone knows you and can reconize your 'authorial voice'. But if you are not known, even if a reader can detect the same mind behind the writing, lack of a real name will frustrate attempts to find the real author. Pseudonyms are just as effective as "anonymous".

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  46. Thanks for the mansplaining, Socrates, but all the same, I think I'll leave the adoption of grandiose pseudonyms to you. I know you like to have the last word so you can bask in the illusion that you've buried me with your "irrefutable" logic, so I'll sign off now and allow you to beat your chest by yourself. Perhaps you'll even get some strokes from the hordes of former anonymous posters that you've converted with your dazzling reasoning (offered in good faith, of course).

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  47. This reason points to a reality that is lost on most middle-class people with academic aspirations.

    It's hard for them to wrap their brains around the fact that their high school math teachers who eat tuna sandwiches in the teacher's lounge and drive beat-up cars to work every day could possibly be living more comfortably than someone with "professor" in their job title.

    It does not compute.

    In their minds, professors are in the upper middle class, drive European cars, live in the nice part of town, hobnob with other people who "matter," vacation abroad, have season tickets to the ballet, etc.

    Even grad students buried up to their eyeballs in their dissertations cling to this idea. They almost have to believe it to keep them going.

    When reality sets in, and you find yourself envying your old teachers with their tuna sandwiches (on whom you once looked with a certain measure of contempt), you realize how hoodwinked you've been.

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  48. "Even grad students buried up to their eyeballs in their dissertations cling to this idea. They almost have to believe it to keep them going."

    This is so true. They'd rather cling to that idea (a faint hope at best) rather than face reality. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a professor who is any better.

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  49. For those of you living in CA (and going to state schools), you can look up faculty salaries by visiting the Sacramento Bee website (state employees' salaries are a matter of record). You can see who's eating tuna and who's really a big fish. Especially fun for looking up the salaries of all the dogmatic, fist pounding tenured Marxists. Some of them write about the impending "revolution" from a pretty bourgeouis (I actually don't give a fuck that I misspelled it--hope to never hear that stupid word again soon) perspective. You can also see just how "competitive" the salary for that job your didn't get actually is, and how profs who've been in the game for a decade can still get stalled out at $60,000.

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  50. I don't think grad students think about making student loan payments into their 50's and 60's either. It's kind of pathetic.

    A teacher might have to pay back undergrad loans, but s/he can have them paid back before a grad student has even quit borrowing.

    When you look at it that way, the math is even worse than the original post suggests, and most grad students have a lot of student loan debt.

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  51. "Too tired to look up a citation, he wrote (look up the f---ing page number) and left that in his text. Naturally he did not correct the entry. The thesis was printed, bound, and sent to his board...he realized that all the questions he was asked came from the first half of the thesis, and the offending words were three-quarters of the way in. None of his professors had bother to read the second half of his work."

    This is a great anecdote for several reasons:

    1. It's common practice. One of the profs at my school was boasting to a mentee that s/he hadn't read another mentee's diss draft until 20 minutes before the defense. Grad students aren't getting what they're paying for (mentorship, guidance). It's unfair and unethical, and profs who do this aren't earning their salaries.

    2. In the abstract, it's a good comeuppance. I'm not saying that this particular friend deserved to have their work ignored like that, but TAs fail to read a) the coursework for the classes they TA and b) their students' work all the time. Some brag about it. Not surprising that some of these lazy jerks continue the practice once they get T-T jobs. It just means that the last generation of lazy jerks is passing it down to the next generation of lazy jerks...

    3. Unless you're NOT one of those lazy jerks, in which case, see #1.

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  52. Just read this quote from Freeman Dyson in a movie review:

    "In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class.…I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher…."

    http://takimag.com/article/the_boss_wears_pumps/print#ixzz1iWnpCX3N

    That reminded me of this post. I don't think that things are much different today, because "academic" types still look down on "commercial" types. (Academics look down on teachers, too.) The irony is that nowadays a lot of the academics have to look down on people from below, because they're living on less than working-class incomes.

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  53. @9:27, This is absolutely true. Many grad students I know don't want to think of the debt they're accruing and actively avoid it. Their future selves will hate them for it.

    Recently I was talking to a bright eyed younger grad student about someone in the program who gave up a full time job working numbers with a firm in a big city (who by the way still moonlights for them and makes more than her TA package doing it!). I asked why on earth this person would do that and got the reply that it was for love of the material. Sometimes I may be a bit forward, so I said that was ridiculous and you can love literature on the moon you don't have to learn to write the articles your adviser thinks are worthwhile to love literature. This didn't work so I went deeper, having read this post, and started to talk about how much money it's actually costing in loans and opportunities missed (even assuming a relatively small salary) to go to grad school. I said that even if it does pay off, it will never be enough to dig out of that hole being at least 8 years behind (if you're lucky). The conversation abruptly ended.

    It's sobering to think about money after convincing yourself that you're going to skirt that challenge and snag a job for life. That's a mighty carrot to dangle, and it's no surprise people (including my former self) chase after it. It is the dream of opting out of the cycle of birth and death that is the rat race of getting a job, keeping one, maintaining or learning new skills to remain attractive to an employer, etc. Not having to deal with these things is quite a prize, but it is also the carrot that feeds the delusions many have about pursuing academic life. This is another one of the secret reasons, which of course have nothing at all to do with the so-called life of the mind (as if that dead horse needs to be beaten yet again!), that are the basis of academia.

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  54. About the illusion of professors having money, something to consider is the fact that even though they rarely have nice cars, there can be other perks that don't show up in the form of conspicuous consumption. Research funds can be used to buy yourself as many books as you want, a new computer, an iPad, trips abroad to study (and of course have fun on the side), etc. That's why you see so many professors whose clothes look like they would have given out years ago if they weren't constructed like woolen tanks in the form of big baggy jackets or dresses that seem to be composed of endless reams of material, who are always abroad and have huge libraries and top of the line computers. I've seen it all over. So while the car might not be there, the perception of wealth is understandable because they are wealthy when it comes to travel, books, and ipads. Also, some of them have very nice homes (the top profs that is).

    They aren't rich in money, but they are rich in research funds. If you like travel and whatever else you can fit under the umbrella of research (most of your life of course!), you can have it if you can get the funds. And I'm talking research in English here, to be clear.

    So from a humble grad student's perspective, especially one not at all savvy in the ways of the world or seeking an escape from it for whatever reason (some of the reasons are very reasonable too), these people do look rich. It's the bourgeois version of being hood rich in a lot of ways.

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  55. @Socrates ... (8:33 PM)

    Funny you should mention that; the other day I had a professor give me a stern warning for messing up a citation. It turns out I had written the wrong page number down: I was one page off. For some reason I copied the number of the page on the left, rather than the right. I suspect a combination of writing late at night, and proof reading very early in the morning, was the source of my mistake. I was accosted for not carefully reading my material, of supplying a random page number. One wonders how I ever managed to get the dozens of other citations jotted down correctly...

    ...Although I am glad this professor pays attention.

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  56. @JML 3:11: It is true that some profs get some nice perks that they appreciate (like free books) that other people might not, and some nice perks (like travel opportunities) that anyone would appreciate.

    It is also true that there are professors with six-figure salaries who actually do live in big houses in the nice part of town and drive fancy cars. A lot of them don't do much to earn their nice lifestyles.

    Unfortunately, those are the people who create the image that so many of us have of professors. For the most part, they are remnants of another age, but there are a few posh schools that can still afford to overpay their faculty.

    The problem is that only a small (and shrinking) group of people in academia live like that. The huge majority of us will not even come close to that kind of a living standard.

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  57. "None of his professors had bother to read the second half of his work."

    I think this happens more than any professor would admit. I am convinced that one of my four examiners at my defence did not read any of it.

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  58. "The problem is that only a small (and shrinking) group of people in academia live like that. The huge majority of us will not even come close to that kind of a living standard."

    Exactly. And part of this problem is that many of the grad students who will get jobs will have advisers that live this way because many of the people who get decent jobs will come from schools with professors that have these perks. Those grad students will very likely not get jobs that come with perks like this, but the perception that professors live this way will remain strong because of the few that live this way, who will live on in the memory of their students no matter what job they end up getting. Professors in my program throw very nice parties, and treat their grad students fairly lavishly at them. This will not be forgotten, and will continue to feed the perception that this is what academic life is like because everybody wants badly for it to be like this for them and they've in fact seen it. It's a vicious cycle that will one day cycle itself out, but for now it feeds some of the more problematic underpinnings of an ideology that keeps grad students chasing the dream. And this despite what the actual reality is. But it's easy to spite that reality when you're looking in the other direction.

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  59. @ Adam and Dr. Who and anonymous:

    Glad you liked the story. Here's the follow-up. When I was a grad student this story made the rounds of the PhD candidates, as the offender was now one of them. One cheeky PhD candidate put in his dissertation "If one of you reads this far, I'll buy you a beer." Out of five professors not one got a free beer.

    I try to check my students' citations, but it is a task. So many students, so many papers, so many citations. I only check them if there is some egregious fault. But I always read the texts--unless the paper is an obvious failure, then there is no point in going on.

    Earlier our blogger had a reason about declining standards. Maybe the standards were hopelessly inflated to begin with, and what is happening now is a good correction towards reality.

    Wait--strike that. There is no reality in graduate school.

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  60. No one should be required to go into debt to be a public school teacher. Sixty years ago in many states a prospective public school teacher only needed two years of college. Today it is five years (four for the bachelor's and another year for the teaching certificate).

    Americans love pointless credentials. That's got to be one of the biggest problems in American schools today.

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  61. "One cheeky PhD candidate put in his dissertation 'If one of you reads this far, I'll buy you a beer.' Out of five professors not one got a free beer."

    This sounds highly apocryphal. It may be true (though I'm inclined to doubt you), but you can't generalize about all advisers from this. I would never even think of doing something like this, and I've told my adviser that I'm not going on the market. Even after announcing that, I'm still pushed to produce high quality work and my adviser, who is very very busy with multiple book projects, reads every word I write on multiple drafts of each of my chapters. Here's a tip: if you're going to a grad school where you've got jokers who don't even care to read your work, that's not par for the course. You're being screwed even more than anyone else.

    There are a lot of worthless people in academia. But there are also a lot of people who really care about what they're doing. Even my outside reader makes sure to have coffee with me to check up on my work. I'm not saying every place is like this, but not every place is full of people who are the kind of ethically bankrupt nihilsts you seem to be portraying with these anecdotes. Many academics, part of a cruel and seriously broken system as they are, actually care about what they're doing.

    And keep in mind that I'm saying this as somebody who's opting out. But I have a lot of good friends who are professors and who are aware of the things we talk about here and who work really hard to be good teachers as well as scholars, and my advisers have been solid (even those I do not care for personally).

    Socratesinthemarketplace (is there another more pretentious name imaginable? sorry for that but you should know it's true), there's reality then there's cynicism gone wild. It's too bad you went to a program like that, and it's too bad for anybody else in that position. But that's no reason to generalize so cartoonishly like this. There are many honest people in this profession, notwithstanding their impotence or even their willful ignorance of the structural problems faced by the rest of the academic world, but these people are not hard to find.

    Oh and "Americans love pointless credentials"? For someone who wants to go by the name of Socrates, you sure are a sucker for pointless generalizations. Socrates was certainly a rabble rouser, and at times a sarcastic prick, but he made good, sharp points too. You should work on the latter before stepping into the virtual agora and donning the cloak of ancient wisdom.

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  62. ^ whatev americans do love pointless credentials

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  63. The single biggest problem for people teaching in higher ed is job security. Unless you get tenure, there isn't any.

    To me, that has made teaching at the secondary school level a lot more attractive.

    Why have the higher ed unionization efforts missed the boat so badly on this?

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  64. REALIST:

    As an undergrad engineering major, I interned at a industrial research lab. My boss had a PhD and grumbled that all of the decisions about what he got to research were made by his boss, who had a MBA. That insight led me to earn my own MBA after engineering school.

    While I was in my MBA program, our economics professor was explaining to us the concept of opportunity cost. He mentioned that those students who pursued a PhD in economics would never make the same money as the MBA students. Which prompted me to ask in class, "So the Economic PhD's actually failed to understand economics". My comment did not endear me to him.

    Many of us working in industry have MS or MBA's that lead to well paying jobs across a wide assortment of careers. If you're not happy in your graduate program, take a look around you and see what opportunities may be awaiting you.

    I still enjoy hitting my public library weekly to read up on my interests in history, culture, politics, science, etc. It's more fun, because it's unrelated to my job.

    I now have a daughter in college, and what I told her was "If it's fun to do, they're not going to pay you much to do it."

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  65. @ JML

    Thanks for using a pseudonym.

    I think you are over-reading my post. I'm not trying to make serious points with those two anecdotes; I am trying to lighten the atmosphere a little. This is a pretty lugubrious place.

    The name is also a joke, but I gather it eludes you. It is pretty esoteric. There is a story that Socrates used to haunt the agora but never buy anything. Why, he was asked. "Because I marvel at all the things I do not wish to buy."

    Our situation is like that, only we are selling, not buying. It is hard to sell Socrates in the marketplace. No pretense is intended, rather a sad observation.

    Americans loving pointless credentials? You did read the earlier post by our blogger about the PhD in Hotel Management, right? Also, have you ever taught in the public schools? You speak about making sharp points; have you anything to say about my longer posts above about teaching in the public schools? If you spent time in the public schools, or knew anything at all about teacher certification, you would know that teacher certification is pointless and insulting, but it is endlessly touted by politicians and pseudo-academics alike.

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  66. I recently rethought our North American obsession with credentials when I saw this video about tribal people learning how to do dentistry in under two weeks.

    http://itecusa.org/i-dent-video.html

    Some people just have a natural ability to do things. Some countries don't seem to be so obsessed with the sheepskin on the wall.

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  67. I have to agree with the notion that Americans love pointless credentials, and I think it applies really well to teaching and education.

    To become a teacher, does anyone really *need* a teaching certificate? Does a certificate (or the classes taken in pursuit of one) provide tools or skills to teach more effectively? Can a teacher with a certificate necessarily help students more than one without?

    I venture to say that the answer to all these questions is NO. Back in my school days, I was able to help as a classmate -- without a teaching credential, without teaching experience, without even a college degree. I understood the material and had a knack for helping my fellow students understand it too.

    As with many other professions, it comes down to innate talent and ability. If you aren't a socialable "people person"; if you don't enjoy helping others learn and enjoy learning for its own sake; if you don't have an interest in helping the youth grow, then teaching is not for you. No certificate, credential or degree can give you all that. They can only give others the IMPRESSION that you can teach.

    What STEM Doctor says (5:19) about weeding out the cattle, I think, would be a great idea were we in an utopian world -- but if those cattle who didn't want more book learning went into trades, wouldn't they exacerbate the current unemployment problem we have? The older and more experienced would have to fight with the younger and newer for already hard-to-get crumbs.

    And as a once-potential grad student -- one who is attempting to clear out his bookshelves -- I have to say that free books aren't such a hot perk of being a professor. Gimme a (hopefully) secure job with MONEY, because MONEY talks. Books don't say much nowadays... though if asked they might plead, "Trade you my Foucault for your sandwich?"

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  68. Anon @ 10:34 AM noted: "What STEM Doctor says (5:19) about weeding out the cattle, I think, would be a great idea were we in an utopian world..."

    Don't worry, with regard to the "cattle", there do not appear to be any immediate plans to be selective about who goes to college.

    Get a load of this article, "DC Lawmakers Propose Requiring Students to Apply to College", at the link below.

    http://tinyurl.com/6pvxj9u

    The politicians are still operating under the delusion that everyone must go to college. If this actually happens, I'm sure that teaching those introductory composition courses is going to become even more of a thrill for the English graduate students.

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  69. Pointless Credentials: love your pseudonym. It gratifies my vanity.

    Anonymous: Too true, sir, too true, as they used to say in Victorian times. I got a desk copy from a publisher the other day. I went down and traded it a used book store. They gave me thirty bucks in trade! I can't wait for my next copy of Foucault. The great thing about money is that you can use it for anything. You can only trade books for other books.

    On the topic of credentials, I went to the drugstore to get some over-the-counter medicine for pretentiousness, and I saw the sign for the pharmacist that said she had a "PharmD". I asked her about it: it seems one can get a Doctorate in Pharmacy after two years of prerequistes followed by four years of Pharm school. No BS or MS needed.

    Hmmm, I thought. If one can do this for drugs, where mistakes have serious consequences, why not for other fields? Six years to a PharmD is rational compared to ten years for PhD.

    Then I thought: why a doctorate? Why not a PharmB or a PharmM? Does it really need to be a doctorate? In America, I think it does.

    STEM doc: the politicians strike again. Seeing as the DC public schools are so bad they are a national scandal, it does indeed portend bad things, as you note.

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  70. "What STEM Doctor says (5:19) about weeding out the cattle, I think, would be a great idea were we in an utopian world -- but if those cattle who didn't want more book learning went into trades, wouldn't they exacerbate the current unemployment problem we have?"

    I don't think so. If we cut out the unnecessary college students, then the cost of sustaining them in college would also go away, freeing up money for other things. I think we would see an expansion in manufacturing and the service industry, which would provide jobs for the new tradesmen.

    The real problem is finding jobs for the unemployed professors.

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  71. Wow, talk about bias and faulty logic:

    1.
    "Get a load of this article, "DC Lawmakers Propose Requiring Students to Apply to College", at the link below.

    http://tinyurl.com/6pvxj9u

    The politicians are still operating under the delusion that everyone must go to college."

    The very first sentence of the article begins: "Lawmakers in the nation's capital have floated a plan to require high school students to apply to college OR TRADE SCHOOL" (emphasis mine). Yes, they're touting school, but they are NOT requiring everyone to apply to college or even presuming that everyone should or must go.

    2.
    Anonymous: Too true, sir, too true, as they used to say in Victorian times. I got a desk copy from a publisher the other day. I went down and traded it a used book store. They gave me thirty bucks in trade! I can't wait for my next copy of Foucault. The great thing about money is that you can use it for anything. You can only trade books for other books.

    So you traded your desk copy for $30 and are using this as evidence that "You can only trade books for other books"?

    With reasoning like the above, it's no wonder the academy is in the shape it's in.

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  72. anonymous: I wrote 'thirty bucks in trade," not $30. I could only get books for the trade credit. With reading skill like yours no wonder the academy is in trouble.

    By the way, have you ever tried to sell or trade your grad school books? Try it, then you can complain about logic.

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  73. This is absolutely true. I chose to leave my PhD program after finishing my MA in order to pursue a full time teaching career at the high school level. My stress and anxiety levels have decreased dramatically as a result!

    Others have suggested in the comments section here that only those who "washed out" of graduate school or were not top tier academics would choose to teach high school. I just wanted to say something to counter this sentiment. I was very successful in graduate school. In fact, I completed my MA ahead of schedule and already had my dissertation/field work proposal basically completed and my adviser (and other committee members) were very excited about my prospects.

    However, I realized that if I were to continue on to pursue my PhD I would eventually be forced to deal with a lot of the issues discussed in this blog. Specifically, upon graduating I would most likely find myself searching desperately for any adjunct/visiting positions I could find, all the while struggling to support my now almost 30 year old self, having never had a "real" full time job.

    As someone who chose to pursue a PhD out of a love of my field and a desire to teach, I realized that I would probably be just as happy and successful (if not more so) teaching high school students on a daily basis and possibly adjuncting at community colleges, which you only really need an MA to do.

    Furthermore, I disagree with the idea that teaching at a University level is necessarily more rigorous academically. Sure, you have a bit more freedom (although that may soon be changing in SUNY schools) but I can assure you that the students themselves are not always dramatically brighter or more involved at the undergraduate level. Not to mention the fact that you truly have to be a master of a large quantity of information, and you have to be constantly on your toes, when teaching high school students.

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    Replies
    1. I really feel that I would benefit from getting in touch with you, but I didn't see an email on your blog or twitter page. Pity. I'm thinking of jumping from the PhD ship myself and exploring my options, including secondary ed. It sounds like that was a very fulfilling choice for you. I'm getting so much conflicting advice from well-meaning people--current advisor, former advisor, colleagues in all areas of teaching, family...I'm asea. I'm leaning towards secondary ed because the job market is so incredibly abysmal for history PhDs. I'm also 35. I'd really like a secure job before I'm 40, which will not happen if I stay in academia. Hell, I still have to write a dissertation!

      Delete
  74. @Socratesinthemarketplace, O thaumasie, I'm sorry I didn't pick up on your allusion that so brilliantly eluded me. And I'm glad that's not pretension on your part. As a person that by most people's standards is intimately familiar with Plato, I'm just disgraced not to have picked up on that allusion. [I was imitating Socrates' trademark sarcasm there, but it probably eluded you!]

    Actually, it's a bit amazing to me that you think that's not pretentious and that you're lightening things up here. You must be a lot of fun at parties.

    Oh and let's take your little "Americans love pointless credentials" generalization to its logical conclusion. Everybody loves them. That may be why the number of foreign students studying in the US goes up and up every year, serving as a major cash cow for departments (both in the sciences and humanities). Every year there are international students who come here, pay for MAs in English or get Phd's in Material Sciences or Sociology, etc., then they leave with their pointless credentials. Here's an article, old as it is, that testifies to this huge phenomenon in higher education you seem to know nothing about: http://chronicle.com/article/Number-of-Foreign-Students-/49142/.

    Also, since you appear to be a teacher of some sort, I wonder if you allow your students to trade in baseless claims with a tone of condescending superiority that haven't merited by the quality of their statements? With all your talk of refutation and logic, you might want to want to lighten up yourself too, and remember that the fact of arguing about your claims doesn't make them any more important just by virtue of the argumentation. Just like some of the academics we love to hate, argument for argument's sake doesn't provide a warrant for what you're saying. There's got to be something behind it too... As a wise person once said: "With reasoning like the above, it's no wonder the academy is in the shape it's in."

    Now enough about you!

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  75. And onto discussion of the topic at hand!

    STEM Doctor said: "The politicians are still operating under the delusion that everyone must go to college. If this actually happens, I'm sure that teaching those introductory composition courses is going to become even more of a thrill for the English graduate students."

    This is the reason I think it's worth considering that education may be the next bubble. Ceaseless promotion by politicians, a majority of people blindly believing in the value of a thing, lack of regulation (mainly when it comes to loans, and especially about for profit schools): all these things scream bubble. In many ways, education is starting more and more to look like housing. The ease of getting a high dollar loan for something (a degree) with hopelessly over-inflated value looks a whole lot like the ease of getting a subprime mortgage in the housing market of say 2006.

    I often wonder what would happen if the bubble burst? Would there be a bailout (education is a huge industry these days) to prop up this failing system? Or would the University actually change in some fundamental way? Only time will tell I guess.

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  76. JML, if you will trouble yourself to read the original post about "pointless credentials," you will see it is about public school teacher certification, not graduate programs. Your entire argument is a straw man.

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  77. A straw man? Ok I'll grant you that, O Socratidion, even though it makes no sense (what about your proposal for a PharmB? what might that have to do the teacher certification focus which I have distorted with my straw man argument?).

    But what about the rest of the things I said? Perhaps it might gratify your vanity yet again to deign to refute them with your logic?

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  78. Witness the argument between Socrates and JML and you sadly get a pretty good idea of what academia has become - not search for meaning or truth (inside both know that the essence is long lost) but simply some intellectual prestige obtained through splitting hairs and witty formulations.

    Life of the mind?

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  79. Is a silly little comments board squabble really a representation of "what academia has become"? That's seems more than a bit overblown. I don't think either one of us is trying to be serious with these comments (though I am serious about my comment @8:04am, to give you an example of what a serious comment from me looks like for comparison's sake).

    You can find the life of the mind anywhere you want to find it, with the exception of an internet comments section...

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  80. JML

    This is a serious comment. That is not. A dichotomy. No, a false dilemma. O thee great logician (catch the irony?). Anywhere but on internet comments section (witty eh?). My comment at 12.46 refuted the second paragraph of 11.04. No, it didn't, since it was meant ironically, hence a non sequitur. My bla bla beats your bla bla. Etc.

    Yawn.

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  81. To spell it out: the meaning of my post was obvious - academic discourse has become a lot about form over substance not unlike the argumentation in here - and you respond by arguing about proportion between internet and academia, what is serious and not and top it off with patronizing wit for good measure - and in doing so favoring form over substance. Don't you see how ridiculous it is?

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  82. @12:35, Here's the substance: 'Is a silly little comments board squabble really a representation of "what academia has become"?' That's my substantial question. The rest of it is window dressing.

    So to spell it out, do you really think that an internet comments section to a blog post is representative of academic discourse? Because it's not, and to say that it is is pretty ridiculous. Even generalizing about "academic discourse" as if it is one monolithic thing is ridiculous. Tell me on why you think anonymous posts, on the comments section of a blog, between two people who for all you know may not even actually be academics, is a great representation of the decline of academic discourse? There's no academic discourse even going on here (maybe we're referring to two different things when we talk about "academic discourse"?). So tell me what substance there is in your analogy between these comments and academic discourse. (Or don't because afterall who cares!)

    You can't see a difference between two posts, one where I talk about the real and problematic possibility of an education bubble and one where I engage in what I thought was a harmless little internet argument? I actually find that hard to believe. And what do you actually think about the possibility of an education bubble? It's too bad when all the stupid posts get the attention, and people seem to pretend like the posts where you actually try to talk about stuff are ignored.

    Really, the wit is all just for fun. I don't know you and you don't know me, so why take such offense to it? I didn't mean to hurt you, but I also don't think its a crime to be a bit exuberant in silly arguments in a blog's comments section.

    As a snarky side note (I just can't resist!), I'll suggest that you will want to stay away from the comments section of political websites, food forums, Gawker (or any Gawker run site for that matter), etc. Things can get pretty raucous on those sites and if you think these comments are ridiculous and highly representative of some big decline, I shudder to think what you'll find there. Nothing less than the end of the world, I'm sure.

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  83. I'm curious.

    How many individual voices are heard in the comments section of this blog.

    I think I detect about 6 to 8 unique "authorial voices" in this echo chamber.

    Anybody else care to hazard a guess as to the total number of us who comment here?

    It is amazing how many comments we generate per blog posting given our small numbers. When Reason #76 is posted (hopefully soon), I resolve to keep my posts to the point.

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  84. JML

    I didn't say your argumentation was representative of academic discourse, I said it was vacuous like academic discourse.

    For the wit, I don't take offense, nor I am as impressed by it as you are. I find it in the same category as your red herrings about great representations, monolithic things, etc - it's characteristic of intellectual posturing and
    it tells me a lot more about you than me.

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  85. JML

    In addition: I'm not saying that you never had any valuable comments, I wasn't meaning to comment on you as a person at all. I just found it ironic that an argument on a blog with this theme would end up with intellectual pettiness. It's like people on an blog against gun violence would start to threat each other with physical harm (such internet threats would not be representative of gun violence but that's beside the point).

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  86. I love this blog, but sheesh, some of you would make it a lot less annoying for the rest of us if you stayed on topic.

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  87. "I love this blog, but sheesh, some of you would make it a lot less annoying for the rest of us if you stayed on topic."

    TITCR

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  88. Ok 5:14, here's the thing. I'll grant you your ex post facto revision that you were saying it was "like" academic discourse and not "representative" of it, whatever that means. Talk about hair-splitting. One might go so far as to suggest that your argument here is muc like the shell game of semantics some academics play.

    Nevertheless, here's the thing. You say: "I'm not saying that you never had any valuable comments, I wasn't meaning to comment on you as a person at all. I just found it ironic that an argument on a blog with this theme would end up with intellectual pettiness." And I don't see how why a person can't play a little game on the internet, putting on as I did a voice of intentional mockery of the pretension that I accused Socrates of. If you compare the serious posts I wrote with those, you will clearly see the difference. And yet for some reason you deny there is a distinction between a mocking post and one that tries to stay on topic and asks a question I think is important. Why? You seem to think that all posts must be equally serious, and if they are not they are some indication of decadence. Is it that whenever somebody uses intellectual wit (even if at somebody else's expense), and uses obscure references to Plato, s/he can't be at all playful? I'm not allowed to joke using references to Socrates? The intellect is not a hammer: you can do lots of things with it. Many of those things, when it comes down to it, are trivial but fun anyway. Some of the things we do with the intellect may be serious, and announce themselves as serious. What is difficult for you to understand about this? Do my mocking posts have value? Who cares! They're not written to be valuable. And one of the advantages to using a pseudonym here is so that, for better or worse, people can read your posts together to compare them. I've been posting on this blog for a while, and while I'm sure some people may think my persona in these posts is a prick, they also know that I can be serious too. That's why I ask you to compare different posts, even though you refuse to acknowledge that one post may be more or less serious than another.

    It's easy to retreat into hair-splitting and use of irony as an abnegation of any definable personal stake (don't mind me, "I just found it ironic..."). These are in fact the things that have hurt academic discourse for real. Everybody does it, not just you and not just academics. It becomes a problem when it becomes a habit, as it has for some people working in academia.

    And I'm being serious in this post, not putting on an overblown voice in a mocking way. I was just fighting fire with fire when it came to Socratesinthemarket by being more pretentious and over the top than s/he was for no other reason than that I can. But I'm not doing that now, just for the record. I hope you'd at least acknowledge the difference in tone here.

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  89. STEM Doctor said: "Anybody else care to hazard a guess as to the total number of us who comment here?"

    I've wondered this myself. The anonymity of this blog is a good thing, but can have bad consequences too. It's easy to let yourself go down the rabbit hole when there are no strings attached (see for example my comments here...)

    "It is amazing how many comments we generate per blog posting given our small numbers. When Reason #76 is posted (hopefully soon), I resolve to keep my posts to the point."

    Good point and I'm making the same resolution. No matter how ridiculous or intentionally provocative something is, if it's not on point I won't comment.

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  90. STEM doc: I think your count is about right. I too will try to stay on topic.

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  91. How nerds hook up:

    What's your major? Do you like like stuff and stuff? Do you want to go steady?

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  92. I am too old for hooking up, unless it is to an IV drip. I am curious to know how her grad work translated to public school.

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  93. JML

    I've no time for this and we're messing up the comment section for everyone else. I think the meaning of my point was perfectly clear to everyone who doesn't have an ego to defend and that's the last thing I will say on this topic.

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  94. jesus, what a sausagefest.

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  95. Let's not bring Jesus into this. He might get mad at us and take away our tenure.

    So here's a question: should anyone give up teaching in college to teach in a high school? I can say from personal experience that the schools do need good, learned teachers. There's a moral good to be done there.

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  96. "should anyone give up teaching in college to teach in a high school?"

    Nice to see an "on topic" question.

    I think if you have a steady (i.e., tenured) job teaching in college, it would be foolish to leave it for the uncertainties of the public school system.

    If you are an adjunct professor, well then, the grass may indeed be greener in the public school system. However, you better bone up on your knowledge of child (and criminal) psychology as you will now be in what is essentially a "retail" teaching position. The herd of cattle in front of your lectern will be a random sampling of the general public. The herd will be unimpressed with your pointless credentials. The herd will not have been pre-thinned by filters such as tuition and the SAT (as weak as such filters are). My guess is that it will be a painful transition.

    One of my former students worked very hard in college to get her secondary education credentials for teaching science in high school. She went straight from the hallowed halls of our refined liberal arts college directly into an inner city high school. I caught up with her after about a decade. She told me she was very proud to have endured one full year in the awful public school environment before abandoning the career path for which she had so carefully prepared for her four years in college. Food for thought.

    In my opinion, there is more pleasure in doing stuff rather than teaching stuff. The private sector is the place to do stuff. I wouldn't go back to my cushy higher-ed job after tasting the thrill of doing real stuff in the private sector. And as for teaching high school, not a chance.

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  97. I think the key for postacademics is, and I don't mean to sound blaming here, but, do your career research. Talk to current and former professionals in the field. Figure out if the field is trending upwards or downwards. Figure out what your days will really be like. Speaking personally (and I suspect for many others), a failure to spend sufficient time and effort doing the aforementioned contributed to me making this gawdawful mistake in the first place. In other words, don't repeat your mistakes. Don't rush into a field all dreamy-eyed, blinded by an idealized version of the profession.

    Case in point: I'm looking for transitional jobs with some relevance to counseling. Craig's List is full of those hourly behavioral therapist jobs--you know working with autistic kids to try to make 'em...less autisticky. Inside my head: "Well, working with kids might not be THAT bad, especially if it's temporary...Oh, what's this post on a therapists' discussion forum? Behavioral therapist jobs typically involve "toileting" work? Oh, and some of the kids are enthusiastic BITERS?" I snapped out of that delusion right quick and reminded myself that the reason I wanted to teach college is that I FUCKING HATE KIDS (and their meddling helicopter parents). The reason teaching college blows (at least one of many reasons) is that the students are still kids. The kids are only gonna get kidslier below college age. Hell no.

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  98. "Should anyone give up teaching in college to teach in a high school?"

    Not unless they simply want to work with younger kids. When I tell people I'm leaving academia, teaching school is the first thing they suggest because it seems closest to what they think I've been trained for (it's not really). But even though I like my students and they like me, I always find myself thinking at the end of a semester that I just don't want to work with kids anymore. High school's definitely not for me and this pretty much sums up why: "The reason teaching college blows (at least one of many reasons) is that the students are still kids."

    But, if you do like kids and don't mind teaching high school but don't want to do the virtuous "Teach for America" type of thing, you can get a job at a private high school. Not all high school is public, and not all of it requires that kind of in-the-trenches drudgery Socrates and STEM Doc are talking about. Private school is another option for the disaffected academic. They love phds and pay very well.

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  99. You are welcome, STEM doc. Anonymous, damn funny.

    I taught in public schools before I did the college professor thing. Both jobs have difficulties and trade-offs, but we all know that's the way life is. The one upside of public school teaching is that for every hack cranking out propaganda about the great virtues of the public schools there's another hack cutting down the public schools. As a consequence many people avoid wasting their lives in public school. But there is no one out there, except this blogger and few isolated souls, telling the truth about academic life.

    There's no panacea.

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  100. sorry, I did a test post above because I could not post a reply to anyone on the blog...

    First off, I thought that school was stupid from the very get go. I learned way better on my own. I quit public high school to be homeschooled. I got a GED in place of a high school diploma. I went on to grad school. To be fair, I am a STEM student. My worst subject is spelling, My best is Math. Left to my own devices as a child, I would have studied all of the time. My dream was to build my own library.


    As to the rest, I am fully planning on using my degree to teach at a high school. For the most part, I am studying as a STEM for my family, for my parents... left on my own, I would have studied English, gotten better at spelling and grammar. As it is, I spend all of my time reading lit books anyway…


    (and yes I have been told that going to grad school because my family wants me to is a bad idea…. However, this is what works for me)

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  101. re: JML and private school teaching

    They don't pay all that well (at least in general). Mean NYC private school salaries are well below mean salaries for public school teachers.

    I scaled back and then left a 16 year private school teaching career to earn a PhD and academic career. Big mistake.

    A good private school (and they are not all good) can be a wonderful, supportive and rewarding place to pursue the life of the mind. Better than any 'academic' institution that I have experienced.

    I'm planning to return to return in the fall.

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  102. @6:35 It probably depends on the kind of private school we're talking about. If we're talking the kind that just serves as an alternative to public school, the pay's probably low. If we're talking the kind that's got "academy" somewhere in its name and is run like a little college, the pay's pretty high. I was thinking of the latter and it didn't even occur to me to think of the kind I think you're talking about.

    "A good private school (and they are not all good) can be a wonderful, supportive and rewarding place to pursue the life of the mind. Better than any 'academic' institution that I have experienced." This is essentially what I've heard from friends who've gone to the "academy" style private school. The beginning pay is better than it is for the vast majority of asst prof jobs, even those at top state universities, and you get to teach literature (some of my friends are stuck with tenure track jobs where they have to teach comp, grammar, the occasional HEL class, and maybe lit if they're lucky once or twice a year). Compared to the kinds of jobs you're likely to be faced with at universities, private schools seem pretty decent.

    "I scaled back and then left a 16 year private school teaching career to earn a PhD and academic career. Big mistake." When you're looking at grad school, even if you know a lot about it, you never really know what the job market looks like and the kind of job you'll have. When I started to realize that I'd likely have to take a job who-knows-where teaching a 3-3 (if I'm lucky) and working to "write my way out," I said enough was enough. For someone who doesn't really enjoy writing or reading articles like myself, that job looks more like hell than anything. But who knew that's what it's actually like.

    Hopefully you're able to land back in that job. Or maybe even get a pay bump for the phd?

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  103. One advantage of private schools is that you can negotiate directly with the leaders for better salary. You can't do that with public schools. Students aren't the only ones treated like cattle by the public schools.

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  104. REALIST - "I now have a daughter in college, and what I told her was "If it's fun to do, they're not going to pay you much to do it."

    This is the exact advice I always give to any youngsters out there watching today's game.....don't pursue a "rockstar" job...i.e. don't do something that people would do for free if they didn't need the money. eg...professor, author, artist, creative this or that. Reason being is that there's already 1000 people out there trying to get the same job, and most of the ones who succeed "don't have to worry about money," unlike the 99% of us.

    The humanities are a really cool hobby...there should be more of it, society would be smarter. But as a career move????? F'ing disasterous imho.

    Anyhow, quit your painful hobbycult existence in academia, go learn a practical skill that people need, (rather than a self-indulgent hobby that no one even wants,) and find lots lots more happiness. Maybe become a diesel mechanic or an electrician....come to Western Australia and get a $200+k starting wage....you still get your 20+ weeks off a year to read the fanciest books imaginable. But there's so much more to life than reading books.

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  105. The example in #75 is unrealistic.

    First, thanks to budgetary problems at the state, county, and state level, budgets are being cut for education all the time. Oh look, you're two weeks away from getting tenure. Here's a pink slip for you.

    Second, new teachers tend to get laid off at an alarming rate - the teacher contracts all have seniority protection. So when it is time for job cuts and teachers are going out the door, guess who gets to go first? That's right, last hired, first fired.

    Third, because of hire/fire/hire/fire/hire/fire pattern of working for public schools, a person could work 20 years, and have their salary basically stuck at starting salary level. Maybe slightly increased due to cost of living, but not much more.

    Fourth, One is not likely to make it to 10 years. Tenure is even a slimmer chance.

    Fifth, don't count on your union. They're pushing for more benefits, more salary, more union dues. They will not accept a 10% pay cut to save everyone's jobs. So as a result your own union is working hard to make sure the new teachers (namely YOU) are out the door so that way the older teachers get to have a job.

    Sixth, private schools are even worse on this. People can't afford to send their kids to private schools so they yank their kids out, and the budget crunch is worse there.

    Seventh, if you complain about working as an adjunct, but you don't mention anything about working as a substitute teacher. $50-$70 a day if you are LUCKY to get that day's wages. You're not even guaranteed the DAY. They could cut you halfway through and you get half a day's wages.

    Eighth, teachers are not paid during the summer, so guess how many of them are flipping hamburgers or working part time jobs during that time? Ramen noodles are a luxury!

    Ninth, and what about the unemployed teachers? They're not even likely to find a job too! So if you're thinking "I'll just get a license and get a job" BZZZZZZT. You're competing against the hordes of unemployed teachers WITH EXPERIENCE AND LICENSES ALREADY. And they're known variables among the administration, so they are more likely than YOU to be hired.

    So the conclusion is obvious: You cannot make more money as a schoolteacher.

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  106. "The example in #75 is unrealistic."

    I was going to say this as well. The situation in K-12 land isn't much better than higher ed these days.

    It would be more appropriate to say "you can make more money as a nurse," an in-demand occupation. But then, you will probably wait at least 2 years on the wait-list for your RN program because of the nurse educator shortage. That is why newly minted RNs get jobs right out of school. You're probably looking at 6-7 years start to finish, a lot of that wait-time. Still shorter than 4 years of college, 4-6 years of the PhD, and 2-5 years of searching for a job.

    But the point is there's no shangri-la out there for most folks, which I think is the major weakness of this blog. It assumes there is.

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  107. Aaron, I have to disagree that this blog assumes there is a shangri-la out there. I think the point of this blog is to show that the constant propaganda barrage of the government and media ("get an education and you will get a better job") is just that, propaganda.

    As for getting a better job in the public schools: your chances are much better there than in PhD academia. And you only need a bachelor's and pointless credential, not a doctorate. The odds of employment are better and the school debt is much less.

    One more thing Aaron: I taught in community college for years. It is even worse there. Higher academia has all the faults listed in this blog; community college has the same problem with worse students and even worse administration. I read that you are thinking about community college. You will hate that even more.

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  108. "has the same problem with worse students and even worse administration."

    I get that from a lot of the lifers.

    It seems a better fit for me because I don't really like the research part. Which again prompts me to ask why a PhD is necessary for a comm. college instructor? But I do love my subject and want to teach it. I've looked into doing it at the high school level, the jobs are not plentiful there either and there is a different pile of b.s. To make myself more attractive, I would almost surely have to coach, which would become my primary occupation. At this point that means practically getting another bachelor's degree, a 2 year proposition at best, for something I really don't want to do.

    "the constant propaganda barrage of the government and media ("get an education and you will get a better job") is just that, propaganda."

    Yes something needs to be done about this, because it's clearly not true. It seems to me that if you simply stick with any job you've got, within 5-10 years you'll have moved into some kind of leadership position and make approximately what a college graduate can expect. Ie: I could have stayed working at Sonic Drive-In, the job I had as a high school senior. If I followed the career path of my manager, I'd have been managing a store by age 27-28, possibly a regional director by mid to late 30s.

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  109. I too went into community college teaching because I thought tenture-track research was both a waste of time and a long-shot gamble. I found out to my sorrow that community colleges are awful places to work. There are no full-time positions. Those that do exist pay less than public school teaching. Adjunct pay is horrible and there are no benefits. On top of all this a PhD is treated no differently than an MA. Finally you have to listen to endless lies from the administration about how much they love you and respect you.

    It's just another system of exploitation. If you go into it, Aaron, I wish you a lot of luck. A lot.

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    1. "There are no full-time positions."

      There are some. I've applied for 4 and have 23 more on my list. Those are ones that do not require a phd, with one that opens up more. Of course I expect to get no interviews because I'm probably competing against Stanford PhDs with an MA.

      "Those that do exist pay less than public school teaching."

      This only applies to small towns from what I've seen, where the public schools also pay less. Big city public schools pay > small community colleges, but it looks like the the public school pay is pretty similar in most locales.

      Of course, that brings up the question of what advanced degrees are worth, since you can teach with a Bachelors + useless credential (discussed on this thread). This needs to be looked at from a policy perspective.

      "Adjunct pay is horrible and there are no benefits."

      Indeed. Really makes you wonder what education is worth at all, if that's how much colleges value it.

      "Finally you have to listen to endless lies from the administration about how much they love you and respect you." "It's just another system of exploitation."

      How is this different from anywhere else? Everywhere I've ever worked, no one really gave a damn when I quit. You're replaceable everywhere, and I've felt exploited pretty much everywhere. But then, I think you've had a better private sector experience than I have.

      Thanks for wishing me luck.

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  110. How is it different? If you go to work for Wal-Mart, they make you swallow the party line that Wal-Mart is great. The community colleges and univerisities want you to believe they are saving the world. Its got a nauseating quality all its own.

    You are welcome to the luck. You will need it.

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    1. You know, I did work for Wal-Mart, and yes they do. Talk about nauseating....

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  111. Yeah, but there's a certain purity to selling material goods. The buyer can handlethem and make an informed decision. How can anyone make an informed decision about college? There's no objective standard. On top of that everyone in academia thinks their work is priceless and necessary. I doubt anyone at Wal-Mart thinks the world will end if they don't move some car tires or the latest shipment of lawn furniture.

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  112. "Yeah, but there's a certain purity to selling material goods."

    Is there really? It didn't make me feel much better about myself when I was promoted from the person who stocked shampoo bottles to the person who ordered and then decided how and where to stock shampoo bottles. Sales is the biggest sham there is. All you do is lie.

    It makes me feel a little better when some kid tells me they learned something they didn't know before, even though the pay is about the same as ordering and planning the shampoo display. Actually less, because I got bonuses based on the sales and more if I was able to cut my associates' hours at the same time.

    "everyone in academia thinks their work is priceless and necessary"

    I know quite a few who know what they write doesn't matter, no one will read it, and those who do won't care, but will argue against it just because they need to write something. But that's the game.

    What saddens me is that the labor practices of Wal-Mart are increasingly being copied by academia.

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  113. Every job sucks, I agree. There is a satisfaction in helping someone think better. It's rather like trading in one problem for another. The new problem seems better until the varnish wears off and you start feeling the splinters.

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  114. Here's what I don't get: academia, like any occupational field, is a competition. Some people will win the competition, and others will lose it, but a PhD only qualifies one to compete; there is no injustice in not being guaranteed a favorable position afterward because another PhD claimed it. I finished grad school in the social sciences in a little less than 7 years and came out making 70k in an area with a low cost of living, so while the markets are particularly tough for new PhDs across disciplines, this idea that one is predestined to suffer through life as an adjunct and never get a stable job is mythology. Incidentally, yes, I landed on the tenure track straight out of grad school, so it is doable, at least in social sciences.

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  115. This is partially off track. I graduated with an MA and became a teacher. I paid to teach my first year. No one paid me. And, while I am starting with a $45,000 salary, once everything is deducted from it I net $2300/mo. which isn't much at all. And I buy my own supplies (paper, dry-erase markers, etc.) so my real earnings are lower. And, I work 10 hours a day and on weekends, so if you factor that in I am not making much per hour at all.

    You also don't get a secure position as a teacher. You may have missed the pink slip crisis - well, it's real. I just got pink slipped last week. We have teachers at my school who have taught for 10 years at the same school and get pink slipped every year. The only reason they still teach at the same school the next year is because it's considered a terrible school, so no one wants to bump them out. Teachers' jobs are often at the mercy of other teachers with more seniority, which I understand happens in grad school as well. I have no idea if I'll be teaching next year, and frankly, the thought scares me.

    Yes, if absolutely everything goes your way and you are very lucky, you'll make more money as a schoolteacher - but honestly, with my MA in history (which I got in 2 years at $5000/yr.) I would make about twice as much money working in the private sector as I make working in teaching, more if you count my net instead of my gross. There are jobs outside of academia for folks with MAs in history. I teach because I want to - and because I can afford to. It's not the better bet or the safe, secure, better-paid position that you made it out to be.

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  116. yeah but can I possibly convince you how much being a high school teacher sucks

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  117. Thing is, if you are only focused and worried about money then you will never be a great teacher. Teaching is a passion that comes from the heart to inspire the youth and future generations. My recommendation is if you want to teach high school or lower level then just obtain a bachelor's and prevent going into college loans and debt to actually be able to live a decent and feasible life at around a 40k annually average lifestyle while doing what you love. A master's and higher is just additional tittle and prestige, but with no additional personal satisfaction the older the students you receive to teach because time is everything; The earlier you teach somebody the earlier they can make the difference and the earlier you can become a part of that difference.

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