Monday, September 9, 2013

91. Downward mobility is the norm.

The term "downward mobility" describes the phenomenon of falling into a social class lower than the one into which you were born. If you go to graduate school, it is quite possible that you will experience this kind of economic downward mobility (see Reason 85). But there is another kind of downward mobility that you will almost certainly experience if you survive graduate school and land a teaching position: academic downward mobility. As a general rule, when you complete a PhD, you can only expect to be hired by institutions that are less prestigious than the university at which you earned your doctorate. That is why the prestige of your graduate program is so important. In academe, prestige is the coin of the realm. The more prestigious your degree, the more options you have on the academic job market (see Reason 3 and Point 2).

While you are suffering through the poverty, loneliness, and indignity of graduate school, it can be hard to imagine an academic environment worse than the one in which you already find yourself (see Reason 50). Of course, if you have the good fortune of being hired for a faculty position, you'll likely have a better paycheck than you had in grad school. However, it's just as likely that your new institution (where you may spend the rest of your career) will have lower standards, a greater number of ill-prepared students, fewer resources, and less name recognition than the university at which you completed your graduate work. That last item (name recognition) may sound trivial, but in a business in which prestige is so important, the status of your institution can strongly influence both your sense of self-worth (see Reason 25) and your quality of life. Moreover, your professional identity becomes closely associated with the institution at which you work. For almost every graduate student contemplating an academic career, there is a real sense in which the view forward is a view downward. There are people with Harvard PhDs teaching in Lubbock, Bakersfield, and Tuscaloosa (see Reason 16). Where might a PhD take you?



417 comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes!! Again, so true. Virtually all of the senior, tenured faculty at the public R1 where I was a doctoral student had degrees from more highly ranked universities. We were ranked just a notch or so below the top tier, so our faculty was mostly comprised of embittered Ph.D.'s from Harvard, Chicago, Yale, Columbia, and the like. My cohort, at least those among them who have actually found any kind of credible employment, have ended up at lower-tier state universities or very obscure, ill-funded small colleges. And it goes downwards from there. Most of the faculty I knew were immensely frustrated at the specter of having to teach students whom they perceived as being of a caliber inferior to that of their former classmates.

    As for the overall downward mobility...the other Reasons have it dead to rights, but allow me the luxury of yet another anecdote. Early in my graduate school career, before attending the R1, I attended at a decidedly inferior large urban state university where I eventually got an M.A. before moving to the aforementioned R1 for the doctorate. One evening, perhaps five months after starting the M.A., I was sitting at downtown bar one evening (I know, scandalous). A very attractive Englishwoman about my age was flirting with me. (As a white, heterosexual, looks-biased Eurocentric male, I was very enthusiatic about this.) After about half an hour, she asked me what I did, and, naively, I said, "I'm a graduate student in history at - - - University." She recoiled from me as though I had leprosy. I should have learned my lesson right there...but like most grad students I was cowardly and afraid of the real world, so I struggled for another five years before finally giving up the ghost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Embittered is the word. Not too many grad students at Harvard daydream about spending the rest of their lives (building their careers, raising their kids, growing old) in places like Tuscaloosa. Not too many grad students ANYWHERE do.

      Realistically, though, you've got to be at the top of your game to get a job at an R1 like Alabama. Not too long ago, Ivy Leaguers would have turned up their noses at the thought of working at places like that. Now they're almost the only ones with a chance of getting a job there.

      It's the people who start out in the BEST positions who end up in Tuscaloosa these days. Ivy Leaguers are grabbing up a big share of the positions at small colleges, too. Jobs at third-tier universities and community colleges are the best that most Ph.D.'s can hope for, and those aren't the places that anybody daydreams about in grad school.

      From the top down, most of the people who get faculty jobs end up somewhere worse than they expected to end up. That includes people who think they have realistic expectations. It's no surprise that there's smoldering bitterness everywhere in academia.

      Delete
    2. "those aren't the places that anybody daydreams about in grad school."

      Yes, I sense this all the time when I'm on hiring committees at my CC. Many interviewees clearly think they're slumming it. Sometimes I sympathize because I know they had greater ambitions, but lately I've just gotten really tired of it.

      "smoldering bitterness everywhere in academia."

      When I worked as an adjunct, the professor in charge of adjunct evaluations had this HUGE chip on her shoulder because she worked at a CC but her husband had a position at the R1 in the city. She took her bitterness out on all of us.

      Delete
  2. Well that depends... Yes departments (humanities)of little known or thought of colleges are littered with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and UCLA grads.
    If your career does not land you back into academia and you get to be somewhere else, government, do-gooder non-profits, think-tanks, or industry, then maybe things are looking up.
    I'm more than a decade out of grad school and live in an area where you can't swing a dead whatever without hitting someone who has some grad school experience. Yes, if your career plan is to become a tenured so-in-so at some college you are in for a world of hurt. But if you have something more practical in mind, well, the you have a chance, and maybe when you retire (or semi-retire) you'll feel good about being an adjunct prof at the local community college. Because at that point you don't care. At that point PT teaching at BumFrack Jr Comm College is way more prestigious than sitting around watching judge shows all day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mari, there is nothing remotely "prestigious" about adjuncting at a community college, especially if you're doing it as a "hobby" in retirement (and pushing somebody else out of the job who needs it a lot more than you do).

      Delete
    2. "Yes, if your career plan is to become a tenured so-in-so at some college you are in for a world of hurt."

      ...and that would be 95 percent of people in Ph.D. programs.

      Delete
  3. This strikes me as one of the weaker arguments against entering a doctoral program. If your entire reason for entering grad school is to be a full professor at an Ivy League university, you are likely to be very disappointed in life because you have unrealistic expectations along the lines of expecting to be a point guard in the NBA.

    Now, for the full professors at high-prestige institutions, it's criminal not to advise students that they need to look at the range of possible jobs. Back in the Dark Ages (around 1988), my advisor told me I could not expect to get a job, necessarily, in a history department, let alone a history department at a research university. Based on my interests and skill at the time, we talked about other options post-degree and built a program out of the collection of options. But I did not walk into my program thinking I was going to replace my advisor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sherman, that's very true. If one professor teaches a class of 25 students, heaven help those students if more than one of them wants to become a professor.

      Delete
    2. I wish I had an adviser like yours, I have had nothing but sunshine blown up my ass, which I have found out through experience was all bullshit.

      Delete
    3. Sherman, despite your experience, the full ugliness of the situation for current grad students does not seem to be clear to you.

      This year, there were half a million fewer college students than there were last year:
      http://tinyurl.com/k6exg2u

      At the VERY SAME TIME, enrollment in humanities Ph.D. programs went UP almost 8 percent:
      http://tinyurl.com/og9ojsw

      This isn't about grad students with starry-eyed ideas about teaching in the Ivy League. We're in a situation in which new Ph.D.'s are fighting each other for jobs at the bottom of the teaching barrel all over the country.

      There are NOT ENOUGH JOBS at any level of higher education for all of these Ph.D.'s, so the people with the "best" degrees are getting pushed into teaching jobs farther and farther down the ladder, which pushes everybody else with "lesser" degrees down the ladder even farther.

      It ain't pretty at the bottom of the Ivory Tower, but we're socialized to be "grateful" for every kind of underpaid, no-benefits, inner-city or remote-wilderness adjunct gig we can fight our way into.

      Delete
    4. Anon @ 11:07

      I used to teach in a post-secondary institution. One reason I got out of there was because I got tired of the crapola I had to put up with. That ranged from students who were scarcely literate and could barely manage junior high mathematics to educational philosophies and doctrines which were nothing more than, as a certain newspaper columnist called them, "fads and magic beans".

      As well, the institution took great pride in making sure that its teaching staff were the lowest paid in the region. One year, a survey showed it was second from the bottom. We resumed our "proper" place soon after that.

      I got tired of having a good education and, effectively, wasting it as there was no possibility of ever making use of it there. Sadly, that dump was the only place where I could find a job.

      I've been out of the game for some time and I don't regret leaving.

      Delete
    5. I feel your pain...(not sarcastic, just to be clear). The complete ignorance and willful anti-intellectualism of my students -- and colleagues -- during my grad years depressed me terribly. Irrationally I kept hoping for a breakthrough or even a turnaround. Most of my students did not possess the vocabulary of a reasonably inquisitive seventh-grader. One illiterate essay after another crossed my desk, and into the bargain I had to endure the drivel of a female colleague who perceived her role to be a "nurturing" one. Never mind that her students could not write a single coherent sentence or could not locate Paris, France or Washington D.C. on a world map. (We gave them multiple shots at it.) The professor for whom we worked forced us to use his one magnum opus, a dreary, mediocre monograph he had published in the early 1970s.

      Looking back on it ten to twelve years later, I am astonished at myself for putting up with all of that drivel and humiliation so long...I was suckered in by visions of the life of the mind!

      Delete
    6. Anon @ 6:12:

      You were being closed-minded and looked at it the wrong way. What you were seeing was genius in action.

      You were seeing language evolve before your very eyes! They weren't misspelling words--they were exploring "alternate" ways of writing them. Grammar was undergoing a metamorphosis in your very presence! Students were "exploring" new ways of expression. They were developing new forms of mathematics! Imagine demonstrating something that had escaped the notice of scholars for centuries: 1 + 1 can indeed equal 29!

      OK OK, I was being sarcastic, but I did hear arguments like that while I was teaching. In particular, the language-is-always-evolving nonsense was used to justify why the students couldn't write a comprehensible sentence if their next pub crawl depended on it. By correcting them, I was being rigid and inflexible and an all-round SOB.

      The only reason I stayed as long as I did was for a paycheque.

      Delete
    7. Quite correct. Until reading this blog, and a few others like it (though this one is king by far), I frequently doubted my own sanity. Can one million be wrong? Absolutely -- in fact, they usually are.

      Delete
  4. Downward mobility? It's more like ZERO mobility. That extends well beyond academia, too. When I graduated (M.S. w/thesis) a few months ago, I told everyone who asked about my future plans, "I don't want to go on to a PhD program right now. I want to go out and find a research assistant/associate position and just WORK for a while." Basically, I needed to see if all the schooling that consumed my childhood and adult life thus far had turned me into a worthwhile member of society. One month, 20 applications and zero callbacks later, I was reminded of one of my colleagues' replies to that statement: "well, good luck with that, but you should know that job prospects are virtually nonexistent for us (STEM!!!) right now."

    Granted, I graduated about two months following the sequester, so all the government positions my advisers suggested had been cryogenically frozen until a later date. Still, the only people who are currently contacting higher-level grads in my field are 1) non-profits (usually for volunteers), 2) parents, wondering if/how we are still alive, and 3) ever so often, other academics, asking "how the job search is going" (read: whether we've had enough of what seems like criminal neglect on the part of the free market and regret disparaging our comparatively cozy cocoons in the university).

    Part of me wants to ask "what the hell are all these degree programs even here for if they don't make you employable?" but it isn't entirely academia's fault that educated people can't find work right now. Sure, as a millennial I can say it was wrong of higher-ed institutions to flood our high schools with the go-to-college-and-all-your-problems-will-go-away-forever myth, and then tell undergrads that "More school can't possibly hurt now can it?" and "The world is a scary place right now. Why not hang out here a little longer?" This has only exacerbated the too-many-people-for-too-few-jobs problem in the public and private sectors. Nonetheless, there's a problem with employers as well: they either only hire people with "prior" experience" (i.e. NOT recent graduates) or they only want graduates with EXACTLY the right qualifications. Importantly, neither universities nor employers see this as a problem. Universities have to make money, and to to so they need the most students possible. Employers have to make money, too, and they need workers that they can train and compensate efficiently; right now, that only loosely includes freshly-minted graduates since there is a steady stream of laid-off professionals and people are just not retiring as early as they'd hoped. What happens, though, if these trends continue too long? Will M.S./PhD's be forced to seek employment far outside their chosen fields, starting from square one? Will they even be allowed to do that much, given the "over-qualification" concern? Will undergraduates take that as an omen and forgo graduate school, thus unknowingly denying themselves the "prior experience" required for ENTRY into their chosen fields? What about high school students considering college? How far back will it go?

    Yes, there is a trend of downward mobility in academia, but the no-one-from-THAT-background-with-THAT-little-experience-could-ever-make-it-here mindset that causes the phenomenon exists in the private world too. Maybe that feeling is justified, and maybe not, but I think it spells disaster for the youth in this country, and the educational system, if job prospects for graduates don't increase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Universities have to make money, and to to so they need the most students possible. Employers have to make money, too, and they need workers that they can train and compensate efficiently"

      lol talk about salting yourself for the slaughter. Everyone needs to make money. I'm sure I could make a killing by killing....but that wouldn't be very ethical, would it?

      Employers are making money by offering subpar wages to those with the most credentials and/or experience. Universities are making money by perpetuating the myth of gainful employment by obtaining their degrees. Both methods are terribly unethical and should not be excused in any way.

      I agree that the current trend spells disaster for our youth and I fear for the future of the educational system.

      Delete
    2. Well, I certainly didn't intend to characterize false advertising or underpayment as ethical practices. Still, they are currently running rampant because ethics tends to take a back seat to the "free-market capitalist" ideal in the business world (in which the main players of higher education are fully entrenched). My point was that the negative aspects of one problem (charging money for a degree that implicitly promises a job and an effective price floor for future employment but delivers neither) can't be contextualized without the other (failing to adequately compensate/employ qualified but highly indentured graduates due to the influx of recent layoffs). The idea that wages for college graduates or otherwise-qualified people are "sub-par" relates to the financial/ opportunity costs required to secure a given position. This is similar to the recent financial bubble: you can't understand the housing collapse without the financial collapse.

      Downward mobility is certainly a drawback of graduate school, but many people knowingly accept it without much pause (I did). NO mobility, graduating and being completely unable to find work for many months, the situation many of us are currently in, is a giant red flag for the rest of the country, particularly those considering some form of higher education. The minute that prospective students and employers converge on the same line of thinking (college is a waste of time that won't land you a job at X), college becomes public enemy #1. If there's one thing I know about young Americans, it's that after two wars and and a recession, they want/need something to rise up against, so being able to call yourself an activist by NOT going to college is going to be a pretty contagious idea. Thus, the worst case academic bubble scenario is 1) admission rates decline in response to lack of job prospects, 2) lack of tuition money results in layoffs, 3) layoffs deter more graduate students from applying, decreasing research output/university prestige, back to 1). Eventually, but far too late, employers will catch on to what's happening, when they're missing entire cohorts of potential applicants and the market price for skilled labor starts to exceed the budget of small businesses.

      When you look at it that way, what employers and schools are doing to college students isn't just unethical, it's self-destructive behavior.

      Delete
    3. I like that theory, but it fails to take into account the continuing replacement of human labor--including the mental variety--with machine labor.

      The end point of the scenario where 75-90% of people are considered economically worthless is not the restructuring of society to provide sustenance to them; rather, it is their full replacement by computer, and then their extinction.

      If that sounds farfetched, consider how rapidly African peoples have been being downsized over the past few decades. The governments, universities, and corporations who have created the African genocides are not going to balk at shutting the tower walls and letting the domestic serfs starve, either.

      Delete
    4. Get real. Those 75-90% aren't going to lay down and die, cheerfully. If it comes to that, there's going to be violence and insurrection. You may recall that Communists and all manner of other fringe groups got a lot of attention in the '30s?

      Delete
    5. When it does "come to that," it will come so gradually that it won't be much of a shock. Walked around Detroit, lately? Millions are Excess populations in rural China, India, and Africa are being starved and slaughtered at a rate that should make you cry, even though this is just yet another stupid internet argument.

      Even if all you see is America, there are millions of homeless and hungry, there are one in five kids living with "food insecurity," and they're not rebelling. Nor are the millions more in prison (with plenty of new prisons being built). The process is ongoing.

      Each year, a few more people will die and disappear, a few more prisoners will get locked up, a few other prisoners will be "released" on work contracts, and a few more once-middle-class professions will vanish. Everyone will take just one tiny step down the ladder. By the time the last million is as homeless, cold, and hungry as the first million, is it then that we'll see "insurrection"?

      I'd like to think that things would change long before that. Given how much we apparently care about the Congolese, though, it doesn't seem like anyone will be there to speak for us when we're the last ones getting swept outside.

      Delete
    6. High Arka, your pessimism and armchair theories are why nobody wants to talk to grad students.

      Delete
    7. I have a friend that I went to graduate school with who won the academic lottery and is now in a TT-position at a Big 10 university. The rumor at the high level administration there is that you'll see enrollment declines put a couple "real" universities (not for-profits or obscure private colleges, but actual big name public land-grant schools) into bankruptcy. That will finally cause a shake-up in the way things are done.

      Delete
    8. Anon4:58

      It is bound to happen if enrollment is low enough for long enough, but things are already "shaking up" and not to the benefit of universities. Most of the new media coverage I read/watch now is aimed at exposing the lack of financial value in a college degree and the emerging importance of online open courseware.

      I truly feel sorry for some of the institutions of higher learning right now. Not the ones that spend huge sums of tuition money on extravagant sports arenas, charge exorbitant commissions on incoming grant money, and still cut tuition waivers due to "lack of funding," mind you. These days, though, if a school actually spends its income solely on bettering the academic experience of it's students, it probably won't compete with those that espouse the former model.
      There are two reasons for this: 1) students expect a "well-rounded college experience" out of higher-learning institutions for the price they pay, and 2) rigorous academic training takes a back seat to on-paper credentials, "practical/relevant experience" and institutional prestige in the job market. Practical experience is becoming especially important since, with the large supply of already-trained layoffs, many employers can apparently relinquish their obligation to train new hires.

      College, I believe, was originally intended to be a refuge for those interested in the pursuit and advancement of knowledge, essentially "learning for learning's sake." Along the line, it became perceived as an enjoyable but difficult form of societal hazing, the completion of which made one irresistible to employers. While the latter image was certainly cultivated in part via marketing by prominent institutions, it has created an expectation of "plug-and-play" graduates by employers that colleges weren't designed to deliver.

      Sadly, this is probably turning many academic departments into glorified, and egregiously expensive vocational training facilities (albeit slowly) rather than rigorous higher-learning institutions, and even that appears to be a losing strategy, now that the MOOC conversation is gaining momentum in the public sphere. Ultimately, I don't think the traditional college will go extinct, but it will likely resume its function as a bastion for esoteric, theoretical disciplines, and its role as in outsourcing industry training will have to be greatly diminished.

      Delete
    9. Wait until WWIII and you will see the evil zionist money hoarding elites being handed their first and last defeat by the gentiles

      Delete
  5. I'm a doctoral student from Europe and I have very little knowledge of the american university system. Do PhD students receive full fundings from the university or they normally pay tuition fees? And what is the average amount of tuition?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tuition, but not fees; where I went, anyway. I was a M.S. student (STEM) and, at first, tuition was waived for me as well. Then the University changed it's policy due to cutbacks. I can't speak to average tuition as I went to a relatively cheap school, but I think it's in the neighborhood of 2-5K per semester for state schools (in-state).

      Delete
    2. If you don't get fully funded, they don't actually want you.

      Delete
    3. Eileen is absolutely right. If a graduate program is not funding you, then they clearly don't want you and you should definitely NOT go there.

      In my program, we receive a full tuition waiver, health insurance, and a stipend. We're required to teach 1 class a semester though. There's a limited number of Research Assistantships and Fellowships but most people end up with a Teaching Assistantship. My school charges about 1k-2k per graduate CREDIT. Keep in mind that I also attend an overpriced private school.

      Delete
    4. @Eileen & Anon9:06

      I'm not going to disagree, but the situation is a little different when you are a FULL YEAR into your program and the university suddenly decides that the tuition waivers for teaching assistantships no longer apply to Master's students. My funding situation started out roughly the same as most doctoral packages (tuition waiver, stipend, medical/dental if needed), which was why I chose to attend graduate school in the first place. Fortunately, I had a wonderful adviser who was willing to cover my tuition during the last year of my program; many of my peers were not as lucky, but they stuck with it anyway because they loved their research. I'm the kind of person who finishes what I start, so if it came down to it, I probably would have paid my own way as well, but I would have been pretty bitter about it, and I certainly would not have entered the program knowing the school's current funding situation (though others did).

      So yes, if a school offers you a graduate position sans funding, it can be taken as an indication that you are not really wanted/needed, but even implied funding situations can change for the worse, so be mindful of that as well when considering this country's grad school cost.

      Delete
    5. Do you know why they would even offer you a chance at grad school without funding? It seems unreasonable to me for a school to expect a student to attend their phd program with no funding. But I had a school do that very thing....

      Delete
    6. Because, jeverett, people will (and do) take them up on the offer. As long as there's a demand for enrollment on the student side, they can charge/deny anything that prospective grad students are willing to put up with.

      Delete
    7. They need warm bodies to justify the higher level courses that the faculty want to teach.

      It's a bit of a pyramid, to justify every faculty member you need x number of graduate students. To justify each enrolled graduate student you need x number of intro classes to be filled for them to teach.

      The very nice lady who runs the program I used to adjunct for would ask me to encourage students to major in the field to increase our number of students and thus continue to justify the need for her job. It's not sinister per se, but I felt it was morally dubious to hoodwink young kids into my field when I was broke and miserable myself.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous @ 3:38:

      The person in your last paragraph sounds a lot like my first grad supervisor. He saw grad students as not just cheap labour but his personal employees, as if he paid them out of his own pocket (yeah, right).

      He had a tactic for hanging onto his master's students. He used the sly "if you stay for xxx more years, you could have a Ph. D." to tempt them to continue. Unfortunately, a few of them were suckered.

      Delete
  6. Everything is downwardly mobile. Why not at least make it all funnier by having a PhD first?

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Of course, if you have the good fortune of being hired for a faculty position, you'll likely have a better paycheck than you had in grad school."

    This isn't always true. In my department, the adjuncts get paid less than the grad students do and the grad students don't even make that much money to begin with.

    I'm in a mid-ranked program right now and most of our PhD graduates end up working at community colleges.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that bad? At least they have jobs.

      Delete
    2. "At least they have jobs."

      This is what management likes to say when they create crappy, low-paying jobs without livable wages.

      An adjunct getting paid less than a grad student is an outrage.

      Delete
    3. Worse yet, if one complains about how lousy the job is, the response is often: "What's the matter? Don't we pay you enough?"

      Delete
  8. Yawn on this one. If you enter grad school expecting to land a job in one of the top (say) 15% of institutions, you are confused on too many levels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But if you win a Nobel prize, you can have all the upward mobility you want. When you get to Harvard or wherever, you'll find the entitlement there to be FEROCIOUS, but at least if you tell your subordinates to memorize something, they can do it.

      Not being so fortunate myself, it does suck to have to teach mainly to people whose SAT scores were much lower than mine, particularly since so many of them want to become astronomers like me. The job market in astronomy absolutely stinks and has done so since the fall of 1969, just after Apollo 11. My students are going to have to struggle harder than I did, and my experience wasn't exactly a picnic. Can't they think of something else to do, that might do the world some real good? If not, I tell them anyway that any job in the world will make more money for less effort than astronomy. Not a one of them ever listens, since at age 18-22, they all think they're going to be in the top third/fifth/seventh/1%/whatever.

      One consolation is that astronomy is very cool. Another is that I'm at a university with large first-generation college student population, as well as recent immigrant population among our students. A great way to keep from getting too cynical is to go to a graduation ceremony. Every year, there is at least one student bedecked with honors that were actually deserved and on the way to medical school with the stated intention of doing the area some good, who thanks Mom, who only ever was able to get a 3rd-grade education and worked as a hotel maid and sacrificed---and she cries. And I can always teach physics to engineers, although too many of them are shockingly innumerate: it scares me.

      Delete
  9. The insistence on intellectual standards and merit and all that is great on the one hand, on the other hand it just shows the same spirit of heartless competition which, when you reach the outside world, will gut and grill you.

    You think its cool to become a ruthless competition engine with your peers, based on who can do more calculus, or think analytically.

    When you get outside, you face a world whose economic movers-and-shakers have been ruthlessly competing amongst themselves: people more motivated, more cold, and more ready to cut up themselves and others. They are at the top of the various pyramids that exist. They also only care about "excellence". They do not have all the baggage that comes with an overactive mind.

    And who do they despise? You, essentially. For the idealism, the intellectual adventures you've been on, the airy-fairy thought-based approach to life, which clearly to them is a dog-eat-dog brawl.

    So in a sense, those who took up arms in the great intellectual-competition, upon leaving Academe, are attacked and bitten by the same snake they nurtured.

    Just as much as you don't care about those inferior students, the business world looks down on and doesn't give a rats ass about you.

    Thats one way in which our societal ideals of 'excellence' are code-words to cover the heartless nature of our actual approach. So be it. If we could prevent the development of free energy for 20+ years, we can do almost anything to make things harder on ourselves.

    I think this world needs to become *more* hardcore, people need to work *harder*, and just *man up* and finally then we'll "make it". yeah, sure. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caring about "those inferior students" is a lot harder than not caring about them, but professors take both approaches to dealing with the hand their dealt. For some profs, not letting themselves care is the only way to get through the day without losing their sanity.

      Delete
  10. This makes me sad for all the people in my phd program currently, everyone thinks this is a good school it's a private research school in the top 50 (closer to 50 than 1) i should be able to get a job right? Well maybe if you want to live in wyoming or north dakota. I talked to my professor recently about this and they said the message is be competitive. No thanks, that and no funding, I think I quit.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, this is mostly true. I thought everyone knew this, that you tend to be most competitive at one level below where you went to grad school.

    You do have to be willing to move to "wyoming or north dakota."

    I work as a ft faculty at a medium-sized community college on the west coast. From my experience on hiring committees, this reason is mostly true and there is also a floor for the downward mobility that might lead to zero mobility. Most of our faculty hires are from 2nd and 3rd tier graduate programs.

    A big problem is that new PhDs from higher tiered schools often have one or more of these problems - 1) they are too focused on their research (it will never be important again if you take the job here), 2) falsely overconfident in their ability to communicate the basics of their discipline to disadvantaged students, which shows when they epically fail their teaching demonstrations, and 3) are plain arrogant, thinking they are already "too good" for us and indicate they see us as a stepping stone in their career. Ie: we recently hired a graduate from Northern Illinois over one from USC because of the arrogance issue which came out in the interview.

    Ironically, it probably won't be a stepping stone, since most universities at the 2nd tier or above will look negatively at community college experience, full-time or part-time. Once you take a CC faculty job, any upward mobility will be either as faculty for another CC, a 3rd/4th tier university, or CC administration.

    Same counts for adjuncts. Adjuncting won't hurt you with us, but from my experience on the job market, it's a killer for R1 searches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For that matter, so is working in one's discipline at any time between finishing one's bachelor's degree and a doctorate.

      Somehow, post-secondary institutions have acquired a distaste for people who actually work for a living. Maybe it's because working and practicing what one has learned is seen as "vocational", something that academics prefer to avoid at all costs. So, for example, if someone with a geology degree actually works in, say, the mining industry for a few years and then returns to university for grad studies, the chances for a faculty position upon graduation less than if that person studied all the way through.

      Somehow, a professor with first-hand practical knowledge of his or her discipline is anathema, or at least it is nowadays.

      Delete
    2. The assumption probably is that such a person is not committed enough to research.

      Delete
    3. Well I guess I'll buy a puffy jacket then.

      Delete
    4. Anon @ 7:57 am:

      That's also a reason, the argument being that "if you were any good, you wouldn't have to....". My answer to that is if one was any good in one's discipline, they'd practice it for a while before returning for grad studies.

      One of my former neighbours was a school teacher and still is one, I think. She got her Ph. D. in education and, many years ago, she told me that nobody in her department was allowed to go into grad studies without having taught for a while.

      Many disciplines used to do it that way a long time ago.

      Delete
    5. There should be a requirement to work two years in the real world before going to graduate school. It would solve so many of the problems discussed on this blog.

      One way it would solve them is that once people got out into the real world for a few years and got on with their lives, they would never want to go back to graduate school.

      Delete
    6. STEM Doctor:

      There's sort of a rule of thumb that if one wants to start grad studies after working for a while, one should do it in less than 5 years. Any longer than that and one might have taken on certain obligations which would make becoming a student again a difficult prospect.

      Delete
    7. Yes, those other obligations (sometimes called "real life") will indeed preclude somebody from going back to graduate school. That was my point, and for most people, that would be a better choice.

      Also, two years in the real world would be sufficient for one to learn what is (and isn't) going to be important in the real world. This knowledge could help a person in graduate school not to waste so much time gazing at their academic navel, worrying about what their peers think, etc., and getting on with the business of getting their PhD credential and getting back into the real world as soon as possible.

      Delete
    8. I think you may be overstating the benefits of 'two years in the real world' - which like as not will be marked by unemployment, underemployment, and unrelated employment, unless the student in question is connected. Not to mention ballooning living costs and increasing debt in addition to repayment of student loans - all of which tends to militate against returning for additional education.

      ***

      "Also, two years in the real world would be sufficient for one to learn what is (and isn't) going to be important in the real world."

      Hardly. How many politicians do you know? Most of these people are 'real world successes' but many can't balance a checkbook or identify national threats correctly on a map.

      Delete
    9. Anon @ 10:22

      Have you ever worked in industry? I have and spent several years there. If one doesn't learn things quickly, one is out of a job because if one can't do one's job, the boss will find someone who will.

      Spending 2 years in the real world is more than an education in itself.

      Delete
  12. And if you think the job market is bad now, universities and colleges are complaining about the lack of qualified people, so they're applying for H1B visas for faculty and staff.

    Each year, on April 1, (April Fool's day, this is not a joke unfortunately) 100,000 new jobs open up and you are not allowed to apply for them, because they are for H1B visa holders only.

    This is not the free market. This is government interfering with the free market by forcing us to compete with third world labor. If the H1B visas and L1 visas were not in the equation, you stand a chance of competing and getting a job. That's how the real free market works - you can retool and get a job somewhere else. Can't be a buggy whip maker? Go back to school, learn something else and get a different job.

    Can't do that now. Third world labor preferred over you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think that has happened yet in my country, but I've long been suspicious why many new professors just happen to be from elsewhere. Aren't there any smart and educated people here?


      As for re-training, the place I used to teach at always delighted in economic downturns. One way it sold itself was the claim that people could always go there to upgrade or otherwise add to their qualifications, thereby making them more employable. However, it didn't care one jot whether those who attended for that purpose were ever able to get jobs with their new credentials.

      Delete
    2. My comment was about the USA.

      And yes, there are many smart and educated people in the USA. But they are not willing to work 100 hour weeks for salary, so they immediately cry like babies saying there's a shortage of good talent so let's get the H1Bs here.

      Then they work the poor H1B's to the bone.

      That's how it works in the non-academic fields. In Academia, they will get a H1B, work him or her for 6 years to death, deny tenure, back to India they go. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Meanwhile they benefit from all the teaching (teaching 10 classes) and research (whatever they can do if they're able to get some sleep)

      Delete
    3. I trust your comment about those "smart and educated people in the USA" was sarcastic. I know of no academic who worked 100 hour weeks.

      On the other hand, it isn't better in industry. I worked for a number of companies before I became a post-secondary teacher. Typically at any one of them, I'd put in a lot of long hours (often for lousy pay) because I need to keep that job. It didn't do me much good as I'd soon be out the door for any number of reasons, most often layoff.

      After a while, I wised up and did only what was required of me as, obviously, going the extra mile and working those long hours didn't make any difference as to whether or not I'd get canned.

      What really burned me in those situations was that those who usually were the ones who kept their jobs did so because they were chummy with the boss. Talent and effort had little to do with it. (Kind of like grad school, isn't it?)

      Delete
    4. Actually I am not being sarcastic. Many universities and colleges are having serious budget cuts. As a result faculty carry more courses. One college has their Department Head teaching 4 courses in addition to his regular management responsibilities. During the day he's doing his management responsibilities, at night he teaches 4 night courses. 7am to 10pm were his daily hours. I went to two other schools, and saw similar things there.

      Maybe you never knew of any academic who don't work ridiculous hours. Fine. The budget cuts haven't hit those schools yet. But they will.

      And you're right, industry is worse. They love to hire people on salary and work them to death. You don't want to be worked to death? Fine, we'll replace you with an H1B visa holder who will be.

      You're right about the cronyism in industry. Also happens in academia and government too.

      Delete
    5. PhD Accounting:

      Anonymous 5:56 pm here. Now that I've been out of the post-secondary system for a number of years, I must say that academics are a whiny lot.

      Much of the misery that those that I knew claimed they are subjected to were largely imaginary. At the place where I used to teach, one division was notorious for its teaching staff working the come-late-leave-early shift. When they got a new dean nearly 20 years ago, he tightened up on that and I'm sure he became quite unpopular as a result.

      I don't recall any of my grad supervisors ever working long hours. They may have come in an hour or so early and, perhaps, left a bit later than most of their colleagues, but I don't think that any of them were in their labs until midnight on a regular basis. For them, tenure became a license to loaf and to be well-paid for it. If there was anyone, however, who worked long hours, it would have been their grad students.

      Another thing I noticed among academics is a lack of creativity and imagination. I remember how my Ph. D. supervisor moaned incessantly about a chronic shortage of grant money, but was it really so bad? What did he actually need that cash for? It turned out that he figured he always had to buy the latest, newest, and shiniest equipment for his experiments. He behaved as if data obtained using hardware that was less than a year or two old was invalid.

      Now here was someone who had a doctorate and didn't seem to have enough brains to figure out how to cobble something together from older or surplus equipment and get it to work for his research. By comparison, I rebuilt a number of "road kill" computers that other people in my apartment building abandoned. I took the machines apart, cleaned and reassembled them, added whatever parts were missing, and got them running again--almost as good as new. Yet Dr. High-and-mighty Supervisor looked down on me for having a practical background and for having worked in industry. Go figure.

      Academics, on the whole, figure that they are entitled to play and that they have the right to have someone else pay for it. No wonder they like tenure so much. Imagine spending your working day thinking about, say, Coleslawvanian unicorns, doing so on someone else's nickel, and not necessarily have anything to show for it. What's not to like about a gig like that?

      I applaud government measures that put an end to that. Academics have to learn to made do with that they've been given, just like the rest of us. They want the general public to believe that they are better than everyone else by virtue of education plus being among those who can qualify for a job for life. Now they have to prove it. The cornucopia is nearly empty.

      Delete
    6. Anon 1:31, you are very right the entitlement of academics. Especially about the unicorns!

      You can see this firsthand when you ask the practicality of a major in 13th Century English Literature: "I should be able to study what I want!"

      Yes you should be able to study what you want....if you're paying for it. Otherwise, do we really need heavily funded facilities where people theorize about the most mundane, impractical subjects without any connection to current society? It sounds selfish to me.

      Good! You finished your research paper on the sightings of kites in southwestern Antarctica! And wow! One person read it: you!

      Delete
    7. Anon @ 3:50 pm:

      Further to my comment about the unicorns and yours about studying what one wishes, one of the problems with the current post-secondary system is that its graduates expect, if not demand, that there be jobs in their disciplines.

      How realistic is that? Society will have difficulty functioning without physicians and veterinarians but civilization won't collapse if nobody wrote another word about, say, Jane Austen (an author I specifically detest).

      Also, let's not forget that the objective behind becoming an academic isn't to teach or conduct research or, somehow, improve society. It's to get tenure, that magical job for life (or, at least, it used to be), and to climb onto the gravy train. Once on board, one gets to kick off anyone else who might want to get on but isn't "worthy".

      I once stated on:

      http://www.collegemisery.com

      that I supported the abolition of tenure. It's a good thing the forum is on the Internet because had it been in person, I'm sure I would have been drawn, quartered, and hanged.

      Delete
    8. Anon 3:15 and 5:13

      I agree with what you're both saying. One reason why the humanities has so much trouble getting respect is because people within the field don't conduct research that is relevant to people outside of their niche. The purpose of research is to help improve our society and an essay on Jane Austen that a handful of people will read is not doing that. There are ways that the humanities CAN make their research socially relevant but it seems that the humanities likes its Ivory Tower too much to do this.

      Higher education needs to get rid of tenure. It's no surprise that the worst professors I had while I was an undergraduate were tenured - they couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag.

      Delete
  13. This reason is an important one. Perhaps equally important is the psychological regression that accompanies this downward mobility. While most don't cruise into adulthood with grace, maturity, and wisdom, academics in the humanities likely fare worse. Just as it takes a very special person to be moral, kind, generous, and optimistic while being under-fed, over-heated, and sleep-deprived, the different but various taxing conditions produced in the humanities have a way of turning people into toxic, immature little psychos. Economic/social downward mobility for sure- but imagine my surprise when I met my 12 year old self in the mirror while brushing my teeth.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Seriously, you people need to change careers if you're this miserable.

    Sitting around and complaining seems fun at the time but it's actually making you bitter and unlikeable. Get a new career. Especially don't get caught up in the mindframe that it's normal to hate what you do.

    And here comes the denial in 3...2...1...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, instead of whining about the problem, show us the solution.

      What career should people change to?

      Every career field is going down the drain with fewer and fewer jobs there. The private sector is dying. Academe is dying. Government jobs are only for cronies, so that is the only field increasing.

      Delete
    2. I used to follow:

      http://www.collegemisery.com

      At first, it, and its "predecessor" site, were irreverent and funny, taking swipes at the academic system. However, it's now nothing but whining and complaining about everything, particularly from those who are adjuncts.

      I used to think that well-educated people were smart, creative, and ambitious. After being in the system for many years, both as a student and as a teacher, I don't believe it any more.

      There are just as many idiots with university degrees as there are without them. Those with degrees just happen to have more schooling.

      Delete
    3. PhD Accounting, every career field is not going down the drain. You tell yourself that to justify your misery instead of looking for a way out of the hole you've dug yourself.

      Again, this is why I said don't believe it's normal to hate what you do. Find another career that won't make you a bitter, depressing individual.

      Delete
    4. OK, so which career fields are not going down the drain? Instead of complaining about others "justifying their misery" show the solution.

      This is the second time you posted no solutions, just whined about the problem.

      Delete
    5. I'm not your career coach. I can't tell you what you'd enjoy doing.

      I can't believe you're really trying to say every career field is failing so you can stay in the miserable ivory tower with no regrets. I can tell I've struck a nerve and no matter what field I would post you'd try to find anyway to dismiss it. You're in this too deep. Look for a way out.

      Delete
    6. Not all career fields are failing.... but a lot of them are. A majority of them.

      You can look at the Labor Dept. reports to see that. Ie: in August a third of all the jobs created were in retail and restaurants.

      Manufacturing is growing slightly, but health care is really the only sector showing robust job growth.

      It's bad for everyone out there.

      Delete
    7. If it's bad for everyone then there's no harm in switching careers to something you'd like, right?

      Delete

    8. Manufacturing is still dying. Government policy says that all manufacturing is to be done in China. Factories are closing left and right, so manufacturing is going down the drain.

      Healthcare? Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, private health insurance premiums will spiral out of control, so nobody will be able to afford it soon, that field is dying. Then the rest of the health care system will be forced to take payments from the government (Medicaid, Medicare, public health) - so as the budget problems get worse, watch the reimbursement rates get sliced more and more. And state medicaid payments take 9 months in my state, so guess how long doctors can stay in business taking medicaid at crappy reimbursement rates waiting 9 months to get paid.

      Retail and restaurants are minimum wage. That's the future career of everyone at the rate this economy is going. High paying jobs disappearing, low paying part-time jobs becoming the norm.

      There was a funny skit about this Jamaican family who were very hard working. They'd brag about all the jobs they had. Father would complain "My lazy son, he only have 3 jobs. I have six jobs" Unfortunately, this will be our future.

      Delete
    9. PhD Accounting:

      The region I live in is heavily dependent upon the oil industry. If the price should ever drop like it did 30 years ago, we'll become part of the rust belt overnight.

      We've had government-run medical care for years. About 20 years ago, the government leader, who supported and was supported by the moneyed class, decided that the rich shouldn't have to share facilities with the un-rich, so now we have a 2-tier system, but nobody officially calls it that. Unfortunately what's left for the great unwashed is a disaster and was allowed to become that.

      Don't forget that one reason retail jobs are minimum wage is because of the Internet. Why should I pay for something which also includes the services of a clerk when I can order the same item on-line and get it cheaper, even with shipping? On top of that, many who work in retail don't care what they're doing, have no idea what they're selling, and have no interest in learning.

      Delete
    10. I realize this is off-topic, but retail jobs have been minimum wage since long before the Internet. And I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn, that the clerks who fill and ship Internet orders are minimum-wage as well, or not much more.

      Delete
  15. If things aren't depressing enough, take a look at:

    http://optfa.com/infographic-on-un-hired-ed-the-growing-adjunct-crisis/
    http://collegemisery.blogspot.ca/2013/09/have-you-seen-this-shit-krabby-kathy-is.html

    Step right up, folks. Get your doctorate and proceed to dig a financial hole for yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My family has been trying to convince me to go for a Phd. My father grew up in a time when a degree meant everything. My sister has a Master's and she's waiting tables.

    I tried showing them this blog but as soon as they heard the title they were convinced you were all just quitters. I showed them the news of unemployed and financially struggling graduates but they figured those grads were unmotivated so they couldn't get good jobs.

    Someone tell me why Americans still think a degree is worth shit? Ironically they will abandon all logic and reason to believe the grad school myth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I started my Ph. D. 20 years ago when a grad degree was still worth something and finished when the dot bomb bubble collapsed. (Nobody saw that one coming.)

      But I was in my mid-40s when I got my degree and I think it was my age more than my education (interpreted as excess qualifications) that's prevented me from getting a proper job.

      Delete
  17. While people are worrying about the hiring of foreign workers, there's another aspect to it.

    In my country, the federal government set up facilities in the homelands of those workers, the purpose of which is to *train* them before coming over, and done so courtesy of the taxpayers. It's like paying to build the gallows from which we will be hanged.

    I mentioned in other postings that I used to teach at a certain post-secondary institution. One of my fellow tenants in my apartment building teaches there, so we've swapped stories once in a while. He mentioned to me a while that he teaches a course which is largely filled with foreign citizens and, when they graduate, they will be working here. Even the educational system is helping scuttle the economy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. International students are the new gold for administrators.

      Delete
    2. While I was working on my Ph. D., the majority of grad students in the department were foreigners. One didn't notice it so much because there wasn't anything like a common room for us in the building.

      In our lab, most of the grad students came from outside the country. Some of the others resented it, particularly whenever the foreigners talked among themselves in their native language. It was as if those who were citizens were intruders. It didn't bother me, though, as I was rarely on campus and did my research on my computer at home.


      My alma mater went through a major expansion about 50 years ago because of the baby boomers who would be attending. However, around the end of the 1960s and early '70s, that dropped somewhat because of the economy at the time. In order to fill all those empty lecture theatre seats, the university recruited students from overseas. It's been that way ever since.

      Delete
  18. "civilization won't collapse if nobody wrote another word about, say, Jane Austen"

    It's not that you couldn't make an argument that Jane Austen is relevant. You could argue that Jane Austen's place in literature should be "here" or "there" or that her characters are relevant to the 2010s for this or that reason, and those might be legitimate scholarly arguments to make.

    No, the problem is that anyone who wants to study Jane Austen at the PhD level will have to put her in the context of marxist-feminist-postmodern-poststructual-anarcho-fad-mumbo-jumbo theory. Any *one* is enough to me, but you have to combine and synthesize your research into multiple ones or invent a new paradigm.

    Accepting these bullshit theories is like being in some club for academic people; they put six or seven layers of separation between academic people and normal people, for no reason other than to be smug and so they can disdain any writer who actually appeals to lay people. This is true regardless of political orientation - ie: academic historians have about as much respect for Howard Zinn that they do for Bill O'Reilly (don't believe me? Go to a conference.)

    In my opinion, the mumbo-jumbo issue is one of the biggest reasons why the humanities are in crisis, and justly deserved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The physical sciences and engineering aren't immune to adherence to mumbo-jumbo concepts, preferably if there's a lot of "ooh" and "aah" associated with them.

      A good example is fusion energy research. A lot of time and money has been spent in developing a full-scale reactor based on the tokamak but one which would be commercially useful hasn't been built yet and may never be. The latest attempt is ITER and doubts have been expressed as to whether it will work, let alone succeed.

      Meanwhile, a much simpler design, the fusor, has been investigated and shows promise, but it hardly gets any attention, even though it potentially offers an easier solution.

      Research in these disciplines has been plagued by the mentality that one can solve any problem if one throws enough money at it and that the only way to approach them to copy the Manhattan Project and the early space program. Never mind that the underlying theories and concepts took decades to develop and that the objective of those projects was to get things done as soon as possible.

      One day, they're going to realize that Sir Ernest Rutherford was right when he said:

      "Gentlemen, we have to run out of money; now we have to think."

      Delete
    2. Absolutely correct as to the debasement of Jane Austen. I was so disappointed in grad school, for reason above all. It robbed my love of learning and books. It has been about seven years since I quit, and I still have great difficult reading a book in a calm and orderly manner, from start to finish. There are so many books I would like to read, but I still do not enjoy reading the way I did during my high school and (undergraduate) college years. I hope there is a special circle of Hell for the "theory"-besotted.

      Delete
    3. The critical paradigms that you disparage as "marxist-feminist-postmodern-poststructual-anarcho-fad-mumbo-jumbo theory" aren't treated as essential just for fashion or status. They're treated as essential because they are in fact essential: now that, thanks to critical theorists and others, we're aware of the limitations and issues inherent to earlier and now-outdated modes of analysis, as intellectually honest scholars we cannot simply ignore them.

      It's a complex world. Our work has to reflect those complexities. And as our awareness of those complexities deepens, our work has to reflect that as well.

      Delete
    4. Finding cures for diseases, determining how to deal with changes in the environment, and investigating how buildings can be made safer and more energy-efficient are important and essential to society.

      I can just see this headline: "Tornado Bypasses Town of Pig's Knuckle: Population's Extensive Knowledge of Jane Austen Novels Responsible." Marxist-feminist-postmodern mumbo-jumbo's *really* important, isn't it?

      Delete
    5. 1:22 am Anonymous:

      During my freshman year, I was required to take an English course and the one I selected involved reading books by such authors as James Joyce, Jane Austen, and D. H. Lawrence. I had never read any of their works before and, after the course was finished, hoped I never would again.

      I undertook to read "Mansfield Park" in one weekend, as it was among those assigned for the course. The only reason I did that was because I had nothing else to divert my attention--most of my buddies were away on some excursion and there wasn't anything decent to watch on the telly. I found it excruciatingly boring. I couldn't have cared less who got married, how much a prospective husband was worth, or who'd end up a spinster.

      Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" was another one I was required to read and, not only couldn't I make head or tail of it, I thought it complete rubbish.

      Fortunately, that was the only English course I had to take as a university student. I've seen a number of TV and film adaptations of Austen's novels since then and they only reminded me of why I dislike her works.

      Delete
    6. Anon 10:02, well said.

      The time has come to stop blindly accepting all intellectual pursuits as worthwhile endeavors. What good is research if it isn't relevant to the world around you?

      I find it endlessly amusing whenever someone asks an academic to prove the importance of their work, the argument suddenly shifts to pathos with no proof whatsoever what they're doing is worth a can of beans.

      Delete
    7. Even the dross most academics research is worth paying for, if it gives the other 1% the freedom to illuminate humanity.

      I'm not sure I believe that myself; it's like printing 99 copies of E.L. James in order to fund but one Dostoyevsky. Yet, if Dostoyevsky would otherwise be consigned to full-time janitorial labor and not have access to a printing press, the exchange would be worth it for society.

      Anonymous 1:54, I'm willing to defend others' work if you'd like to have the discussion on specifics. What I can offer you generally is that deeply examining the thoughts of others--even the crap Joyce and Austen produced--can be part of taking the necessary beginning steps to better understanding the world around you.

      That sounds like vague bullshit, right? Here's something more specific, though--if we consider Nancy Pelosi's life alongside a Jane Austen novel, it can illuminate in greater detail the ways that respected elites (both female and male) waste society's resources on social posturing. If all those professors analyzing Jane Austen had actually understood what they were reading, they would've stopped voting Democratic, taught a generation that frilly corsets were insubstantial pisspots, and changed the course of history.

      American voters are atrociously lacking in insight for many reasons, among which is that they didn't understand that Jane Austen was an unwitting example of the failure of their own social models. Her works should be taught and dissected like Mein Kampf: as dangerous instruction manuals to show tomorrow's children how imperial circuses dull serfs and facilitate mass suffering and genocide.

      Delete
    8. "Even the dross most academics research is worth paying for, if it gives the other 1% the freedom to illuminate humanity. "

      NOT IF NOBODY READS WHAT YOU RESEARCH! But somehow academics think this makes what they're doing some type of noble endeavor. Like it's a badge of honor showing how above it all they are. It's not. You live in a bubble where you THINK your research is all-important but in actuality it is irrelevant nonsense that only interests you and no one else.

      You are right that history has its place and should be examined but practicality has its place as well. Your Nancy Pelosi and Jane Austen argument is a good one. I can make a paper on the effects of the caste system throughout medieval Europe and how it relates to the last presidential debate. The question is, like with your argument, who would care? Your argument is that they SHOULD care because, like most academics, you've convinced yourself your thoughts are oh so enlightened.

      Just because you can research a subject and make an inference does not mean it's necessary. Does the world really need another Jane Austen paper? Really? But Anon 10:02 said it best.

      Most academics research absolutely anything for the heck of it, not caring to appeal to any demographic, knowing not a single person will read their material unless forced to. This type of research helps no one and contributes nothing to society. Good job!

      Delete
    9. Much of what seems to be taught and investigated in the humanities isn't relevant to society, never was, and never will be.

      What was once a means by which the world was made relevant to people or to change things for good has become a pseudo-political platform for misfits and screwballs to spout whatever loony neo-leftist theory they believed in.

      For the last generation or two, it largely consisted of "all white heterosexual males are evil" and "all white heterosexual males are an impediment to civilization". It was as if those academics regretted that our ancient forebears came down from out of the trees and began walking on two feet. They would like nothing better if we went back there.

      No wonder they want tenure. They'd like to think about these things all day, have someone else pay for it, and do so without being fired or otherwise justifying themselves.

      Nice work, if you can get it.

      Me, I saw what I did in academe as an extension of what I did while I was in industry, which included an obligation to the society which was affected by what I did. How many academics can say that?

      Delete
    10. Anonymous 7:57 and Anonymous 10:09, you’re mocking academics for living in a bubble where they’re paid to do unimportant shit. That’s largely true, but guess what--you are the one paying for them to live in that very bubble and investigate that very unimportant shit, through your taxes. And if you try to stop paying, the IRS will send armed men to break in your door, confiscate your possessions, and shoot you dead if you resist.

      Does that mean the academics have gotten the better of you? Maybe their research has something to it, after all! Even in a bad economy for PhDs, you’ve spent your entire working lives funding the careers of thousands of their predecessors. The somnatic effects of their empty blather have been an integral part of robbing you of a lot of money. You should not be dismissive of, but instead very concerned about, their research. If you understand what they were really saying, you’ll begin to understand how it fit into the IRS taking away so much of your money. Maybe you’ll learn how to stop it from happening again, when the “professors” are replaced by the same sorts of worthless bureaucrats, but with different job titles. You could even learn to protect your children, and others’ children, from similar exploitation.

      Living under such a situation, it can seem like just desserts to laugh at academics who are currently having trouble making a living. What you’re missing is that all of your bad examples of wasteful academic research are caused by the controllers of our economy. You are cheering the downfall of academia, but that very downfall is being orchestrated by the same people who initially caused the rise of academia, and that downfall accompanies the rise of other exploitative, harmful industries to replace it. Your delight, then, ultimately serves the ends of those who are harming you. The major publishers, technology companies, and bureaucrats who control (1) paper publishing, (2) grant provisioning, e.g., paying for research and endowing chairs, (3) curriculum development, (4) newspaper and NPR access for career stepping-boards, and (5) hiring and tenure decisions, are the same people who have spent decades bankrolling the worthless bullshit that we now often think of when we think of “humanities.” American modern art, neofeminist political correctness, and endless revamping of British pulp like Austen and Shakespeare, are paid for out of the tax coffers--paid for by your family.

      This conflict is not new. A large factor in the government taking over the humanities in the 20th century--to introduce modern art, gender studies, and basket weaving as viable college majors--was accomplished by tricking people like you into thinking that worthless professors needed to be controlled. Then, the Department of Education could shut down dissenting, meaningful research, and replace it with crap.

      The powerless, jobless academics who want to do meaningful research, and write things that improve society (and would actually improve your day-to-day life, given enough years), are not getting jobs because the entire educational infrastructure of the country has been perverted, through racketeer control, into the sparkle pony image you so loathe. Laughing at all grad students and adjuncts now is counterproductive to your own interests, because many of them are the people who would, if they could make a living at it, study worthwhile issues and improve the world. They are not responsible for the crap produced by mainstream academics. The reason they don’t have jobs is because they are not connected to the families, publishers, and spineless suck-ups who provision what you think of as “academia.”

      Delete
    11. High Arka:

      You sound like someone who knows what they're doing is completely bogus and can't justify it.

      We used to laugh at people like you. We still do.

      Meanwhile, there are people like me who make good use of their education and do something worthwhile for society. For the last few years, I've been working on the same topic I studied for my Ph. D. (Modelling renewable energy systems, if you must know. Yes, it is useful, unlike something like that Marxist-feminist-anarchist-neopostmodern clog dancing which the I'm-so-important-that-I-deserve-tenure academics are so fond of portraying as essential.)

      I have money that I worked hard for, saved, and invested and I live off it and use it to fund my research. I don't have tenure because I don't need it. I don't worry about grants because I don't need much money for what I'm doing and, since I'm paying for my work out of my own pocket, I can choose what I want to look at and how much time I want to spend on it.

      That's quite a change from 30 years ago when I couldn't get a job no matter how hard I tried. (Many other people in my occupation couldn't either.) Meanwhile, academics like you didn't hesitate to brag about how they had a job for life and were openly smug about it.

      If you want to convince people of why you think that academics need job protection and to be insulated from what the rest of us out here have to contend with, you need a serious change in attitude.

      Delete
  19. I agree with Eileen.
    “If you don't get fully funded, they don't actually want you.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found that out during my Ph. D.

      I paid for most of my expenses out of my own pocket and it was as if I didn't exist in my department. I guess that if I showed some initiative and provided my own resources, I wasn't "good enough" to be considered a proper academic.

      Besides, by using my own money, the department couldn't take its cut and it couldn't tell me what to do and what to investigate. Independence was frowned upon.

      Delete
    2. I found this out too late. i was also anonymous in my grad program but the worst part is reliving the failure everytime i go to class or write a paper or get rejected for yet another job/fellowship/scholarship or whatever. It is discouraging to face the fact your life plan has been a catastrophic failure. But it's also hard to move on from it...

      Delete
  20. If you are blunt, honest, not into backstabbing and not familiar with kiss ass methodologies, then academia is not for you. Don't even bother getting a Master's degree. When I get to interact with many of the so-called Professors and see how they climb their way up, I wonder how many middle fingers do I need to address their views.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You got that right.

      I long concluded that if intelligence, talent, and hard work had anything to do with getting a Ph. D., many university departments would have to close because they wouldn't be able to get enough qualified staff.

      Unfortunately, that same back-stabbing and butt-kissing is often required to keep one's job, depending upon whatever administrators are in office.

      When I started my teaching position, the department head at the time liked me. When he retired, it didn't take long for his successor to start making my life miserable, partly because I didn't make smoochies with his backside. One of my colleagues finally decided he'd had enough of that guy's tactics and retired. A newly-hired lab tech didn't even finish his probationary period because he refused to be treated as a doormat, courtesy of certain staff members.

      Cronyism was rampant in my department and I hung on long enough until I had enough money to head off on my own.

      Delete
    2. The rise of the Obama generation, the downfall of the American civilization.

      Delete
  21. I wonder what happen if the goverment start cut off easy student loan money?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ain't gonna happen. There are too many people who are dependent upon the status quo.

      I once had a conversation with somebody about why he thought that an NHL team was essential to the local economy. His argument was that the bars near the arena needed the business from the after-game crowd and there were all those people making and selling team souvenirs.

      He didn't convince me.

      Similarly, there are a lot of people and institutions that are doing well from the system as it is, so why should it change?

      Delete
    2. Sequestration, deficit reduction and high rate of default will push it.

      Remember, if you are against the way academia operates, vote Republican. Because the enemy of your enemy is always your friend.

      Delete
    3. Anon @ 11:08 am:

      The political backlash from such changes might not be worth it to whichever party makes them.

      I used to live in a part of my country in which the regional government supported a number of companies, some of which turned out to be financial sinkholes. A regional election was held and that government was tossed out as the winning party had, as part of its platform, the closing of such firms.

      After it took office, it looked at the books of those companies. When it came to the one that I was working for at the time, it became apparent that if the new government closed it, several hundred people would be out of work. The political cost of shutting it down was deemed too high and the company was kept afloat for several years until a buyer took it off the government's hands.

      Making major changes to the academic system might not go over well. The main university in the city I live in is a major employer and the regional government here knows better than to tinker too much with it. Already, the fat's in the fire because of a recent round of funding cuts, which came a year after the government party won re-election.

      Delete
    4. " The main university in the city I live in is a major employer"

      Agreed. Rochester, NY is a perfect example. As Kodak declined, the University of Rochester and the health system it's connected to are now the region's largest employer. NO WAY would any politician damage that.

      "if you are against the way academia operates, vote Republican."

      No. It doesn't really matter whether it's D or R - it's just their angle of approach. Republicans push more of a business model on education and would change the *formula* for granting funding to more of an outcomes based model. So they would not stop funneling money, just funnel it differently.

      Democrats will do the same but less severely and be a little more friendly to arts and humanities. Not much more friendly, but more - especially in terms of grant availability. Republicans want to slash things like NEH and NEA that offer a lot of grants for things like art exhibitions, etc... that humanity-type professors apply for.

      My community's politicians of both parties (we are a swing area with an ever-so-slight lean toward republicans) are very proud of the recent state university expansion in the area. In fact, one of our republican state senators is probably going to run for U.S. senate against the incumbent democrat using that expansion as a major campaign plank touting his "commitment to education."

      So no. The student loan and Pell grant gravy train is not going to stop. It may change course if any of Obama's proposed reforms go through like the affordability and outcomes based rating system.

      High level college administrators are a quasi-political class. They will cozy up to either party. I recently had to listen to a story from my college president talking about his golf game with one of the state politicians.

      Delete
    5. Anon @ 11:37 here

      The current president of the university (which happens to be my alma mater) got at least one tycoon to fork over cash. Baron von Moneybags doesn't care what's done with it because he gets a tax break.

      The president doesn't care because the moolah keeps rolling in.

      The regional government doesn't care because the contracts to build the new fancy-schmancy facilities go to whichever corporation bought that government its last election.

      The faculty doesn't care so long as the profs keep getting their paycheques and the kiddies don't care so long as they get their pieces of paper after they stay there for a few years.

      Delete
    6. "High level college administrators are a quasi-political class. They will cozy up to either party."

      Witness Janet Napolitano, who on the flimsiest of CVs recently advanced to president of the entire UC system. She is not an academic - in fact, she's barely a lawyer. Some would argue she was not competent to hold her two previous political offices (head of DHS and prior to that, gov. of AZ). As AZ state gov. her primary accomplishment was to raid the state treasury prior to the 2008 recession. The state has yet to recover from the consequences of this mismanagement. Some may recall when as head of DHS she identified Canada as a major threat, and subsequently claimed that the deaths of an American citizen and a Border Patrol agent were not indicative of an escalation in drug gang border activity. She's the UC system's problem now.

      As for "cozying up to either party," usually high level college administrators are Democrats cozying up to other Democrats - and again, Napolitano is a case in point.

      Delete
    7. There's Mitch Daniels as president of Purdue.

      Delete
  22. Sort of off-topic but some of you here are incorrigible. It's no wonder the academic system doesn't improve when the majority of academics are so self-absorbed they can't even properly agree with someone else.

    "It's bad."

    "No, it's terrible!"

    "That's what I just said!"

    "Well I'm righter than you!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you like that sort of debate, you'll love departmental meetings. I attended many of them both as a grad student rep and as a member of the teaching staff. Sometimes, those meetings became so heated that I was wondering who would throw the first punch.

      Remember, the reason that academic politics are so vicious is because the stakes are so small.

      Delete
    2. Woohoo! Reason #92:
      You'll become a incorrigible blog commenter

      Delete
    3. "I'm not stupid, YOU'RE stupid"

      Thank you, AWOL. If we were in kindergarten that would be considered a clever rebuttal.

      Delete
    4. Department meetings! That should definitely be a reason. They often to descend into the kinds of arguments outlined by @11:11. Someone will throw a bomb into the discussion of something relatively simple and it degenerates into a ridiculous argument.

      What's even worse is that such exchanges can turn into decades-long feuds within departments.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous 3:55:

      On top of that, those feuds can become quite vicious. Once in a while, one hears a news report about a prof who goes off the rails and resorts to violence.

      One in the U. S. shot some of her colleagues a few years ago, and in the early 1990s, the same thing happened in Canada. In the latter case, the university investigated the circumstances behind the incident, agreed that some sort of problem existed, and that was about where it ended.

      Delete
  23. Everyone is right so far, both the complaining PhDs and the complainers complaining that the complaining PhDs are nothing but complaining complainers.

    The decline of the academic job market mirrors the decline in everything else social. Here is where all you PhDs have a chance to show if you learned what the PhD was really about: giving you the philosophical capability to teach and lead people in actual social change. You PhDs are supposed to be the people experienced enough to show the masses that change is not achieved by capitulating to the demands of nobility. You are supposed to be the vanguard of resistance; the thought process of rebellion; the humanitarian counselors to three hundred million lost souls. The point of your PhD should not have been a tenure track job, but the intellectual training to show people how not to be slaves. The salon produced interesting conversation, but it was never as effective as the guillotine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Been there, suffered for it.

      I tried that while I was teaching at a certain post-secondary institution. I was threatened with severe disciplinary action because my education "intimidated" the students.

      I gave that place the finger and quit. I work for myself now.

      Delete
    2. That's where the other PhDs shouldn't have abandoned you. Most of the reasons not to go to grad. school discussed in this thread are 100% accurate, yet also proof that the political economists have been right since the beginning.

      There are individual lessons we can all learn from this, as well. Our own failure to be brave and teach the truth (and be instantly fired in response) has failed to save our jobs, in the long run. In fact, it has made us worthless clowns to the rest of the population, who are unable to appreciate our obtuse pursuit because we are paid only for those obtuse pursuits. If we'd been brave 10 years ago; 20 years ago; 50 years ago--then, we might have done something positive for the profession. The problems faced now by adjuncts and students are caused by our failures, and we're responsible for the situation. (Except perhaps for you, Anonymous 7:17.)

      Delete
    3. The reason the issue of my education came up was part of a campaign on the part of certain administrators to get rid of me. That went on for years and my Ph. D. was merely another excuse they used to build their case.

      I figured that if I didn't quit when I did, I would have eventually been fired. My enemies would have found eventually something which would stick.

      But suggesting that one be brave, speak the truth, and be fired for it doesn't pay the bills. People have to eat and, sometimes, they have to do things which they find somewhat unsavory in order to survive. It's always been that way and it always will be.

      During the 1980s, I went through a period of one year working, one year on the dole because the economy was that unstable. Then I started investing some of my money and, over the years, I acquired enough that I was able to set out on my own. I don't have to worry about becoming unemployed because I work for myself.

      In this society, you have to look after yourself.

      Delete
  24. It's a shame academics can't come together on issues. I look at this blog and see many divided users each shouting from their own soapbox. They're too self-absorbed to realize their neighbor is shouting the exact same thing.

    Academics are in a race to prove they are the smartest in the room. That competition is understandable but isn't always productive. A lot of us obviously have the intelligence to change things but we're too divided to make a difference. Too busy trying to prove you're the smartest in the room while the Dean eats his caviar on your backs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part of the problem is tenure. The whole emphasis is to gain membership into that magic club and to make sure that nobody "unworthy" doesn't get in. Once that's been accomplished, there's no incentive to change things. Why derail the gravy train after one gets on board?

      Academe is a self-serving bureaucracy whose only objective is to maintain things the way they are. It is resistant to change, even if those inside the system benefit from it.

      Delete
    2. Tenure is the one thing keeping academics from losing all power. Obviously not the adjuncts, but most faculty I know would prefer that there were no adjuncts, only tenure-track. Adjunct reliance started as an administrative idea, and in my view they should be held responsible. They would have monkeys teaching classes, paid in bananas, if they had their way.

      Take away tenure and faculty will be treated like replaceable business cogs by our CEO/Admin overlords.

      Delete
    3. Excuse me, Anon @ 8:45, but how is it that an academic deserves to have job protection while tradesmen and professionals in the private sector don't? How is it that, say, writing papers about the effect of Jane Austen on the emission of x-rays from black holes in medieval Gondwanaland so important that one can't be fired or laid off?

      By the way, I do know what it's like to be out of work. I spent many years on the dole because there were few jobs, if any, available for people in my occupation--and that was a long time ago.

      Delete
    4. Tenure is not and was never meant to be protection for doing a bad job. It does not mean you cannot be fired, it just means there is a process that admin must go through to do so.

      At my college it does not mean that you have 100% protection from being laid off, it just outlines a process for reductions in force so that no favoritism can be played.

      It's *supposed* to be protection against getting fired for arbitrary reasons, ie: criticizing the governor of your state, who the president of your college is friends with.

      What I would say about tradesmen and private sector professionals (and I have been one) is that they should organize to promote their collective self interest and get the best bargain possible.

      Delete
    5. Oh, people with tenure get fired but usually not the way one thinks. There are "unofficial" procedures which are used to get around the legalities and processes. The only times tenured staff get canned is if they commit a criminal act or do something extremely immoral.

      Why should academics be exempt from being sacked for making arbitrary comments when the most of the rest of the working population don't have that protection?

      As for your "solution" of organizing, have you considered that the fraction of workers who are unionized has declined significantly in the last 40 years? People are still fired for supporting unions, let alone trying to join one.

      As for unions, have you ever worked in a union shop? I have and it's nothing like what most people imagine it to be. One can be intimidated by the members if one goes against popular sentiment, even if one is within one's rights as laid out in the contract. Often, a union won't offer any protection, either--it may simply make sure that one is made redundant in accordance with whatever was agreed upon. And, yes, there is a lot of on-the-job loafing going on.

      So what makes academics so special that they should be immune to what nearly everyone else has to contend with?

      Delete
    6. Well said, and I agree Anon 10:12. Especially 2nd and 4th paragraphs.

      Delete
    7. "Why should academics be exempt from being sacked for making arbitrary comments when the most of the rest of the working population don't have that protection?"

      Because it's a start--because someone has to have it before all of us have it. If we act like the proverbial crabs in a bucket, and tear down whichever profession begins to see the first rays of light, then we'll never all be able to get out of this.

      We're all prisoners of this clownish dance, working for electrofiat currency with guarantees of nothing, to the ultimate betterment of the lazy, obscenely wealthy turds who appear in Forbes. Insult one another if you must, but save at least half of your vehemence for the prison wardens, all right?

      Delete
    8. High Arka:

      I've got news for you. People have been working without job protection for hundreds of years and, yet, human society managed to survive. My father plied his trade for over 50 years without it. For most of that time, he worked for 2 companies: the one he started with in the mid-1950s, and the one that took it over and from which he retired. There were times when things were lean, but he was never fired or laid off from either of those firms.

      He kept his job because he was not only good at it, but because he made himself useful by making money for his employers.

      You sound like one of those academics who want to be paid a 6-figure salary because you like thinking about irrelevancies such as the effect of hamster fur lint on the performance of gamma ray bursters in barred spiral galaxies.

      I suggest that you stop whining and start making yourself useful to society. Everybody's expected to make sacrifices nowadays and academics aren't exempt.

      Delete
    9. "So what makes academics so special that they should be immune to what nearly everyone else has to contend with?"

      So because some groups of people don't have good deals, everyone should strive to have just as bad a deal?

      Delete
    10. "those academics who want to be paid a 6-figure salary because you like thinking about irrelevancies"

      My salary less than half of six figures and will never be six figures unless I become a dean someday. This is the first year in 3 years we got any raise - which was 1.5%.

      "start making yourself useful to society."

      I'm contractually obligated to teach 10 sections per year of a foundational subject.

      Who's going to decide what's useful? You? This is exactly what tenure is designed to protect faculty from - to prevent some administrator from arbitrarily deciding that literature, music, french, biology or whatever they deem is "unimportant."

      Delete
    11. "So because some groups of people don't have good deals, everyone should strive to have just as bad a deal?"

      Stop skirting around the issue. Nobody wants a useless armchair theorizing lump to be set for life. You know who deserves tenure? The scientist who spends every waking moment researching the cure for cancer.

      "Who's going to decide what's useful? You?"

      ...Let me guess who should decide what's useful, academics? Haha!

      They're the ones who created these fanciful, laughable majors in Interpretive Dance, Paleozoic Literature, Gender Studies, and the like. You know full well some of these majors don't compare with staples like Biology and English.

      Professors created majors that have little-to-no real world value and now they're mad the public is finally calling them out on it. The graduates remain unemployed and underemployed with their Underwater Basketweaving degrees but will professors reevaluate or end these types of programs? No. Instead they'll have an "intellectual" meeting or get on a blog to discuss how they think their useless degrees should be perceived. How productive! And you wonder why people argue against tenure.

      Delete
    12. Anon @ September 18, 8:25 pm here

      To be fair, there are a lot of flaky things being investigated in physics and engineering, such as wearable computers and space elevators. How useful those things are is debatable, but there may be a chance that some of the methods and technologies developed to investigate these them might prove to be useful in other applications.

      For example, in astronomy, researchers often have a lot of data to sort through before finding what they're interested in, such as identifying certain types of galaxies or stars. Some of that can be automated and done by computer, as it can be quite a chore for humans to do it. People get tired or make mistakes by misinterpreting a certain feature in a picture.

      I heard a while ago that this technique might be useful for identifying cancer cells, as this is can be quite tricky task. Wouldn't it be terrific if technology developed for one field might find an unexpected, and beneficial, application in another?

      Isn't something like that worth supporting?

      Delete
    13. Anon 6:57, I can tell you one thing, physics and engineering do not compare to interpretive dance and gender studies.

      These type of arguments are why the academic community is becoming a laughing stock. You cannot hide behind the slippery slope defense as an excuse not to trim the fat. Hundreds of fanciful majors and endless research on miniscule subjects is a complete waste of resources.

      Everything done in the Ivory Tower is not worth supporting. However, the academic community cannot accept this simple fact. Here's hoping we find the secret to eternal youth in that 13th Century French novel...

      Delete
    14. Anon @ 7:41

      I agree with you that not everything done in academe deserves support.

      My point was that there are some areas of research in STEM which may, at first, seem to be useless and without purpose, yet turn out to have unexpected, and often unforeseen, applications and benefits. I'm sure that Joseph Henry and Michael Faraday had no idea that their experiments with electricity would eventually lead to the invention of radio and radar, both of which changed society.

      By the way, subjects such as interpretive dance and gender studies were the butt of jokes even when I was an undergrad 40 years ago.

      Delete
    15. Your point is that you're trying avoid the fact that making yet another paper on Jane Austin and Friends is NOT worth the time and resources. Don't try to bring in physics and invention of the lightbulb after we've been talking about academics researching anything from Jane Austin to the migration of pocket lint as if it all holds some significance. You don't need to be in college to have a freak accident and invent something, yet somehow you've convinced yourself studying damn near anything will always lead to something. That is a fantasy land only academics dream up.

      "subjects such as interpretive dance and gender studies were the butt of jokes even when I was an undergrad 40 years ago."

      Amazing how they still haven't got rid of them then, huh? Everything done in the ivory tower MUST be important and cannot be changed! I can't wait to finish my painstaking research on the effects of researching on a full stomach and its societal benefits on geopolitical areas! Time to make a scientific breakthrough!

      Delete
    16. That's "Austen." Jane Austin was the wife of the Six Million Dollar Man.

      Hey, the Austen industry employs hundreds of actors, writers, film, television, and theater crew, and is measurably worth tens of millions annually even today. Not bad for a dead white woman.

      Delete
    17. Oh you're right! I meant Austen. Thank god you caught it. Grad school finally paid off!

      Delete
    18. Not for me, but then, I took a business degree (M.S.) and several *years* of engineering courses before arriving at long-term underemployment.

      Delete
    19. Yes, that's grad school all right.

      Delete
    20. 8:38 pm:

      I've been unemployed and more times and for longer than I'd like to remember, so don't think you've got a monopoly on misery.

      Yeah, I guess you're right about light bulbs. We don't need them when we can always burn books by and about Jane Austen for light and heat. Think of how environmentally friendly that is: no electricity is needed.

      Delete
    21. I don't know how we got to unemployment or misery from that, but okay...

      Delete
    22. Anon 10:33:

      Unemployment and misery are possible outcomes of getting a graduate degree. It was that way 30 years ago and it's that way now.

      Remember, the topic of reason #91 is downward mobility.

      Delete
    23. "...Let me guess who should decide what's useful, academics? Haha!"

      .....YES!!!!! ABSOLUTELY YES!!!!

      Do you remember when Sarah Palin publicly disparaged "fruit fly research" in an effort to rally support for special needs research?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/todd-palmer-and-rob-pringle/in-case-you-werent-scared_b_138089.html

      Well unbeknownst to her and, apparently, her supporters, our comprehensive understanding of the fruit fly genome is the very thing that allows us to ask meaningful questions about the causes of (and treatments for) genetic abnormalities in humans. Why did we spend untold fortunes studying fruit flies? Probably because 1)they are a good model organism and 2)forcing human virgins to mate with men who have legs for eyeballs just to answer basic questions about animal genetics didn't even make it to the proposal stage (I hope).

      I know you're going to say "but that doesn't count because you're talking about science and I only hate the things that seem totally ridiculous," but that's exactly my point. You can literally pull a group of average lay-people together and ridicule something as pivotal as fruit fly research in front of them and they'll either shrug it off or chime right in! So yeah, I'm REALLLY glad that mainly just the people capable of understanding the potential importance of this work (a.k.a. those good-for-nothing academics) were in on the decision-making process when it came to funding.

      The fact is, you shouldn't get to decide what kind of academic pursuits are important if you aren't even remotely pursuing any of them, and these allegations that entire disciplines in the liberal arts aren't even worth an underpaid, part-time staff in a windowless cubicle cluster should be taken with a hefty grain of salt. I imagine the reason I, and others who disagree with this sentiment have failed to provide humanities examples thus far is that we know better than to venture outside of our respective areas of expertise in matters that affect funding. That doesn't mean you can characterize tenured faculty in the humanities as lazy, entitled, or fundamentally inferior to tenured STEM faculty, and as unfair as it may seem that the people who are receiving funding are partially responsible for the way in which it is delegated, I challenge you to come up with even the general outline of a better system.

      Delete
    24. Again, trying to equate scientific research with utterly useless subjects like gender studies, folklore, LGBTTIQQ2SA literature, etc.

      Sorry, liberal arts fluff is NOTHING like research on an organism with DNA that is ideal for genetic research.

      Delete
    25. Anon 1:44:

      "The fact is, you shouldn't get to decide what kind of academic pursuits are important if you aren't even remotely pursuing any of them, and these allegations that entire disciplines in the liberal arts aren't even worth an underpaid, part-time staff in a windowless cubicle cluster should be taken with a hefty grain of salt."

      Again, a 60 page essay about symbolism in Jane Austen's novels that a handful of people are going to read is NOT benefiting society in any way. And yes, this is the type of stuff that academics want funding for.

      I said it before and I'll say it again: the humanities need to do a much better job of conducting research that is SOCIALLY RELEVANT. And I say this as a person who is in the humanities.

      If I were in the position to provide funding and someone asked me to fund their research on some obscure topic that no one outside of their niche will read, I'd say no.

      But if an academic could find a way to make the research relevant to people outside of the Ivory Tower, then I'd have no problem funding it.

      Delete
    26. If people could read, write, and think better; if people were patient and caring; if people had the time and resources to pay attention and investigate: if any of these things, they would find themselves more interested in the humanities. They're "interested" in science now not because they understand it or because it might buy Great Aunt Grace an additional month of cancer treatments in hospice before she dies, but because mass media presents science as a topic of breathless excitement.

      Jane Austen is part of that same mass media machine. The endlessly recycled pulp stories, and their presentation as high literature, are a great part of the reason that many people, academics included, don't know how to think critically about the real world.

      It is great fun deriding stupid academic research topics, but instead of taking shameful joy in the downfall of just one of America's many, many, stupid, wasteful crony-industries, we could turn this mockery, anger, and derision against the wealthy politicians and corporate interests, past and present, who have built and funded the Ivory Tower.

      Think of yourself like an FBI Agent trying to take down the mob: when you insult professors, you're dealing with the lowest level of made men. If you want to put a stop to the whole organization, you need to take out the capos and the dons, eliminate their source of funding, and break their power.

      If you're made a little nervous and afraid by the idea of focusing on something so meaningful, then you could just cruise around the internet getting angry about the 3-4% of aging professors who still have some form of tenure.

      Delete
    27. "laughable majors in Interpretive Dance, Paleozoic Literature, Gender Studies, and the like. You know full well some of these majors don't compare with staples like Biology and English."

      Yes, and I also know that biology and english majors overwhelmingly outnumber those in more esoteric subjects.

      If it makes you feel any better, at my college the dance instructors are all adjuncts, and gender studies is only taught as a sidebar by one of the english professors when she feels like it.

      Delete
    28. "Yes, and I also know that biology and english majors overwhelmingly outnumber those in more esoteric subjects."

      Great, once again we try to avoid the issue of useless majors in any way possible. Another poster criticized the misspelling of Jane "Austin" instead of coming up with a real defense. Strawman Strawman Strawman.

      I guess the academic community hopes if they avoid the argument long enough no one will realize the irrelevance of their lint beetle studies and underwater basketweaving degrees.

      Delete
    29. High Arka:

      Your 4:05 comments about science and research aren't just dumb, they're ill-informed. Do you honestly think that people go into those fields only because they saw something about it on Dicovery Channel?

      What did those in STEM do before TV and radio? Many people who went into the early space program were influenced by the works of Jules Verne.

      By one account I read, Dr. Frederick Banting, a co-discoverer of insulin and Nobel Prize winner, was motivated to investigate diabetes because a childhood friend of his died from it. The work that he and his collaborator, Charles Best, did, along with contributions from Dr. James Collip, under the supervision of Dr. J. J. R. McLeod, resulted in one of the first biotech companies being established. My father is alive today because of what they did, nearly 50 years after being diagnosed as diabetic.

      People like Dr. Jonas Salk worked hard to develop a vaccine against polio because there was a pressing public health need for it. Mine was the first generation to receive that vaccine and because of that work, polio is rare.

      I went into STEM because I thought the idea of going into space and landing on the moon was, quite simply, a neat idea. (You, probably, believe that it was all faked.)

      By the way, if you like a reliable electricity supply, safe streets, and clean drinking water, thank an engineer.

      Delete
    30. If you like using written English to have this conversation in a temporally convenient way, thank a humanitarian.

      If you like using the internet to transmit that English, thank an engineer.

      If you like that you know who Dr. Salk is, or the fact that many people in America understood that polio was a nationwide, rather than regional or local problem, thank a humanitarian.

      If you like that we knew who Hitler was, and knew to prevent him from invading the U.S. and executing Dr. Salk before he could invent his vaccine, thank a humanitarian.

      If you like that we had guns to shoot Nazis, rather than hitting them only with our dictionaries and toe shoes, thank an engineer.

      If you're finding this at all illuminating, then you'll understand that all of our human endeavors are connected, and reliant on what others in countless "fields" have done. No scientist stands alone, but upon the shoulders of those who came before. The labels we attach to our fields are elements of childish posturing; everyone needs to read before they can take PHYS 316 or recite histories of their favorite scientists, and everyone probably rode in a car at some point in order to reach the fine arts building.

      My inability to appreciate "building cool things" would prevent me from understanding why more advanced computers might be helpful to people who come after me. Your inability to appreciate "people expressing themselves" would prevent you from understanding why believing only in technology production, rather than the value of our lives and interests, will continue to atomize society into prescription-gobbling worker drones maneuvering against each other to buy newer smartphones and build better bombs, for friends they only share links, not conversations, with, and wars they no longer understand why someone else is fighting on their behalf.

      Delete
    31. High Arka:

      Evidently, you're one of those who regrets that our ancestors came down from out of the trees, since you hate science, technology, logic, reason, and rationality so much.

      By the way, the definition of humanitarian is someone "who seeks to promote human welfare". Your inherent hostility proves you aren't one.

      Delete
    32. High Arka:

      The only universal language is mathematics. 1 + 1 will always equal 2, regardless of which society one is in. The only difference might be what symbols are used to represent those quantities and operations.

      Delete
    33. We could make this STEM vs. Humanities argument till the cows come home. Neither exist in a vacuum - they need each other.

      The push now is for vocational subjects. Those are also the most expensive. Nursing is one of the most popular majors at my college and the school loses money on nursing students. It has to make up the difference with students in humanities courses where all you need to provide is an instructor and a room. The liberal arts side of the college is the one of the few departments that actually MAKES money from tuition alone.

      Our nursing program graduates now suffer from the same things as every college graduate. We only have one major hospital system, and it is pretty much fully staffed. From what I hear, our graduates are having to search for jobs state-wide or even out of state.

      So in this situation I could make the same argument about a nursing instructor that you are about dance professors. Actually, the economics of a ft dance instructor would be better at this point. Dance studios are few and far between here.



      Delete
  25. Is there any legal or reasonable way to limit the number of PhDs being produced? That would solve a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It won't change as long as grad supervisors see their students as cheap labour. The more degrees that are cranked out, the more people there are who can be exploited.

      Delete
    2. Here's an example of exploitation. Candace Pert, who recently died:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/science/candace-pert-67-explorer-of-the-brain-dies.html

      did work in fundamental brain chemistry. Her lab boss got the Nobel Prize and she wasn't even mentioned, not that it's the first time something like that happened. She protested but was told "that's how the game is played" and that once she has her own lab, she can do the same thing.

      Nice system we have, isn't it?

      Delete
    3. It's up to individual departments to limit the number of PhDs they admit but since grad students are seen as cheap labor, I doubt this will happen on a large, national scale.

      When I was applying for grad school a few years ago, a few programs I looked at were not accepting new students. One department actually waited until I sent in my application fee, GRE scores, and everything else in the application packet before telling me that they weren't accepting new PhD students. Their website contained misleading information. This school also refused to reimburse me and I wasted my time, money and energy applying there.

      My current department got a significant budget cut from our university and instead of not accepting new students into the program, they decided to accept new students without funding them.

      That's why blogs like this are so valuable. I'd like to think that if enough people know the truth about grad school and are persuaded not to go, then the system will change. I know that if I were properly educated about the politics of grad school, I never would have went. I'm not holding my breath, though.

      Delete
    4. Anon 9:56 back - Grad students are only cheap labor in the sciences. Yes, I can see a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to overproducing PhDs for lab work.

      But in the humanities, PhD students aren't used the same way, I thought? Certainly not where I did my PhD.

      Delete
    5. Actually, PhD students in the humanities are exploited in similar ways.

      PhD students are often forced to teach introductory courses not as TAs but as the actual course instructor which means that they have to create lesson plans, grade, etc. and don't receive help from others. The pay is also terrible. It's cheaper to let grad students teach these courses than to hire full professors to. There was actually a Reason about this: http://100rsns.blogspot.com/2011/01/41-teaching-is-your-first-priority.html

      I know plenty of professors who used PhD students in the humanities to gather research for their books and then did NOT give credit to the students who helped them, similar to what happens in the sciences. People are forgetting that humanities research often involves interviewing people, conducting archival research, reading through hundreds of books, etc. It's easier to hire grad students to do this work (or in some cases make them do it for free).

      Delete
    6. "PhD students are often forced to teach introductory courses not as TAs but as the actual course instructor..."

      It's worse than that. In some programs, the grad students work as full-fledged course instructors but are, officially, "Teaching Assistants" (and get TA pay). In fact, some departments designate their grad student instructors as TA's out of "kindness," because they can give benefits to TA's, but not to adjuncts (which just shows how screwed up everything is)!

      I now work at a U. where your starting salary is determined by your years of previous teaching experience, but "TA" work doesn't count, even if you were teaching your own classes for years as a "TA."

      Delete
  26. Reason #92 "Nobody wants a useless armchair theorizing lump to be set for life."

    (Courtesy of Anon Sept 20, 5:59)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right. Nobody wants that. Least of all OTHER academics!!!!!

      Delete
    2. Anon 1:47, your sarcasm is acknowledged!!!!!!! I bet the lazy and unmotivated would like to be set for life as well. What's your point?

      Stop using sarcasm if you're not clever!!!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    3. That wasn't sarcasm. The people who are hurt the most by "useless armchair theorizing lump"s are all of the other academics who worked extremely hard for the vast majority of their waking lives, only to have their profession reduced in the public eye to a level of admiration rivaling unemployment because of a few bad eggs. It is in the best interest of the diligent academics to ensure the "lump" group actually exists as somewhat of a rarity.

      Delete
    4. That was sarcasm but I digress....

      There's certainly more than "a few bad eggs." The public just wants to be assured academics are doing something productive with their time. Why are you so offended by that?

      Why are you offended you can't judge yourself by own stick? Of course you're going to feel whatever you're doing is important. But when you have the PROVE it, that's where academics start getting fussy.

      Delete
    5. Okay 11:34, It's taking everything I've got to even dignify this with a response, because so far this argument has gotten nowhere. No, I'm not offended by, let alone afraid of, someone who thinks my research was a waste of time. The whole point of peer review is to prevent wasteful research from happening in the first place. That being said, if someone has absolutely no understanding of a well-established discipline, to the point where they refer to it pejoratively as "basket weaving" or "neo-feminist marxist whatever," then their opinion of said discipline is totally invalid, for the same reason that Sarah Palin's opinion of fruit fly research in Paris is invalid.

      What offends me is that 1) you accused me of not being a "clever" person based on a string of nine words that you misinterpreted as sarcasm, and 2) you continued to mischaracterize what I said even after I explained myself.

      Here's an idea: instead of painting with such a broad brush and then scurrying back to your little "well, SOME of what people study is a waste of time" corner, why not provide a little context? For instance, maybe you could provide a list of, say, just the bottom five academic disciplines/departments/pursuits that you believe are so egregiously and inherently unproductive, they aren't worth a single cent of taxpayer money, now or ever. Then we (the comment people) could at least have a meaningful discussion here.

      Delete
    6. "because so far this argument has gotten nowhere."

      Of course it hasn't. You're trying hard to prove basket-weaving degrees and lint beetle studies are useful when they aren't. Instead, physics and engineering were brought up as if they are on the same level as humanities. Hah!

      "if someone has absolutely no understanding of a well-established discipline,"

      Interpretive dance and 13th Century French Literature are not well-established disciplines.

      "What offends me is that 1) you accused me of not being a "clever" person based on a string of nine words that you misinterpreted as sarcasm, and 2) you continued to mischaracterize what I said even after I explained myself."

      My characterization of you comes from arguing with you more than once. Your previous fruit fly post speaks volumes. Just because you have the title of anon does not mean you're anonymous.

      "Here's an idea: instead of painting with such a broad brush and then scurrying back to your little "well, SOME of what people study is a waste of time" corner, why not provide a little context?"

      I guess that wasn't at all sarcastic either, right?

      No one was backpedaling. In order to shift from the topic of useless research and useless majors the conversation was steered to physics and engineering. Why? Because that distracts from the fanciful majors the academic community doesn't want to acknowledge as useless.

      "maybe you could provide a list of, say, just the bottom five academic disciplines/departments/pursuits that you believe are so egregiously and inherently unproductive, they aren't worth a single cent of taxpayer money, now or ever."

      Let me just scroll up then:
      Interpretive Dance
      [Insert number here] Century Literature
      Gender Studies
      Africana Studies
      Philosophy
      Nuclear Physics (just kidding!)

      Those are just some off the top of my head. They should be hobbies more than anything.

      "Then we (the comment people) could at least have a meaningful discussion here."

      We started off having a meaningful discussion. It's just when we started calling out the bullshit majors and research, the ivory tower declared war. As always, the ivory tower thinks it holds all the answers and how dare you question them! How dare you!

      Delete
    7. I'll agree that anything with "studies" after it is probably not useful. But seriously, philosophy?

      Here's some actual data you can look at, instead of just blowing wind. I see that philosophy majors made up an outrageous 110 out of the ~25,000 undergraduate students at University of California - Davis in fall 2012. The horror. Another 70 majored in "dramatic art" which includes whatever dance majors they have. Omg. Women's studies 32.

      http://budget.ucdavis.edu/data-reports/documents/enrollment-reports/emjudsc_fcurr.pdf

      Even a liberal count of what you call "useless" wouldn't be anywhere near a majority. Let's cut all the cultural studies, all the fine arts, & all the humanities because no one really needs to know things like "Music" or "Spanish." We sure as hell don't need "English." Come on, we already speak that in America, right? Let's also cut say 3/4ths of all the social sciences. Not that many people need to know "economics," "history," or God forbid, "philosophy." That gets us to about 7000 students, or ~27% of the undergraduate student body.

      You're going to have to find more useless majors, my friend. Be my guest.

      Delete
    8. I completely disagree with the notion that Philosophy is a "useless" discipline (which is not to say that I am in agreement regarding the others in the above list).

      Science, after all, is essentially grounded in methodological naturalism, merely one branch of philosophy. Moreover, philosophers like Thomas Hobbes laid the foundations for modern fields including political science. Formal logic is a crucial component of mathematics, computer science, and law. Courses on theories of the mind are routinely included as part of the curriculum for aspiring neuroscientists and psychologists.

      To add to what "Anon 12:11" said, the student numbers don't tell the whole story. While "useless" majors clearly constitute only a fraction of total enrollment, I surmise the funding allocated to those departments constitutes a smaller percentage still. Much of the "taxpayer money" is going to go to the STEM departments for research. Actually, I'm under the impression that much of the tuition money from humanities majors also ends up going to supplies for STEM courses in some schools.

      Delete
  27. Sherman Dorn wrote: "Now, for the full professors at high-prestige institutions, it's criminal not to advise students that they need to look at the range of possible jobs."

    That comment made me roll my eyes. Most professors CAN'T advise students about jobs outside of academia. They don't know anything about them! They're worthless career advisors. They have no knowledge of the real world or connections in the real world that would be of any use to their grad students.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Gee, the plight of grad students in the humanities/social scientists is so dire it probably deserves study in the Journal of Subaltern Studies or another equally popular site for mental masturbation.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I've often wondered why I read this website and I was reminded of something that H. L. Mencken once said. He like to pillory American society and politics and he was asked why, since he seemed to hate his country so much, he still lived there.

    He answered something like: "Why do people go to zoos?"

    Who needs reality TV when there's this? Play nice, kiddies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the most entertaining argument we've ever had on this site. I'm loving every minute of it.

      Delete
    2. I'm waiting for someone to prove Godwin's Law correct. Any takers as to who'll be the first?

      Delete
    3. My vote is for High Arka's side. One more madeup mocking major might send them over the edge.

      Delete
    4. You're close. He's mentioned Hitler.

      Delete
    5. Reason 92 for not going to grad school: High Arka.

      Delete
  30. So to recap, here is the progression of events thus far:

    1. Blog overlord finally releases reason #91

    2. Flurry of activity related to post

    3. Dialogue rapidly devolves into unrelated lamentation of negative past experiences within academia and, eventually, an all-out witch hunt for disciplines arbitrarily (and arguably prematurely) deemed unworthy of existence ensues

    4. Steady-state environment is achieved, wherein any honest attempts to justify the (comparatively low) funding of obscure humanities departments is reflexively ridiculed by obvious anti-intellectual propagandists, typically in the guise of protecting the interests of "the public"

    If academia were really "overrun" by worthless humanitarian idealists, successfully siphoning money away to be spent on fruitless endeavors, why would many of the scientists who post here defend the humanities by offering analogous examples of obscure-but-useful STEM research? Wouldn't the currently-struggling STEM folks instead be at their throats, vying for that sweet, sweet humanitarian money, were it not already reduced to such a negligible sum?

    Also, if useless college majors are somehow so relevant to downward mobility, why is the phenomenon currently experienced in virtually every discipline?

    At the end of the day, I have no real dog in this fight over the role of the humanities or the lack thereof, but it seems like we have gotten a bit off topic in an attempt to address a few persistent, incendiary posters.

    How about we stop feeding the trolls and return to a discussion of the original post?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because it's fun poking sticks at caged animals?

      Delete
    2. Avoiding the issue once again. Now you want to complain that the discussion is off-topic because you can't prove the fanciful degrees have any merit.

      "why would many of the scientists who post here defend the humanities by offering analogous examples of obscure-but-useful STEM research?"

      Many? That's just you posting 3 or 4 times. And who said they or even you are scientists? Another day, another fallacy.

      "How about we stop feeding the trolls and return to a discussion of the original post?"

      What you're doing right now is trolling. Why do you act so above it all if you're going to keep trying to get the last word? If you want to stop arguing then shut up.

      Delete
    3. The original post is self-explanatory; something we already know.

      Downward mobility IS the norm, that's why people want to go to one of the top 5 schools. Chronicle of higher ed posted a study done for political science a few months ago. Essentially, a supermajority of new poli sci professors at R1 universities were graduates of 5 programs - 1) Harvard, 2) Princeton, 3) Yale, 4) Stanford, 5) U. of Chicago. Everyone else fought for the 35% or so remaining slots.

      Delete
    4. [con't]

      Interestingly, there wasn't much of a statistical advantage for any particular tier gunning for that remaining 35%. You could go to Wisconsin-Madison or Baylor with approximately the same chances on the market. I presume quality of research was a factor at that point

      But the data CLEARLY showed a massive bias in favor of those top 5. If you can get into one of those, you'll be fine.

      Delete
    5. But then, the seeming irony is, if you can get into one of those, you're already fine. Our previous president, remember, couldn't get into his initial Texas university choice because it had a merit-based system, but he was admitted to Yale undergrad and Harvard grad. The occasional person admitted to one of the top schools on merit is like the occasional good movie Hollywood puts out, in that it lends the appearance of fairness to a caste playground.

      Let's go a little further on the last sentence of your 12:31 post: if you're one of the random lucky ones who gets into a "top school" on merit, it's not a guarantee of success. You may get in and be gently eased out before you finish, or you may get in, finish, and not do well in the job market, thereby providing supporting evidence that the job market is based on some conception of fairness, rather than on pre-existing connections.

      (If it helps--and it's entirely irrelevant, being anecdotal, but if it helps to add some color--I know of some "top" PhDs who still struggle between adjunct and industry, despite comparable research backgrounds to plenty of the other yahoos who succeed. They've discovered that extended familial and social relationships with local politicians and administrators are worth far more than having a red "H" on your CV. It does, though, impress the hell out of other struggling people, and convince some of them that the reason things suck is "the economy.")

      Delete
    6. I'm not an Ivy Leaguer myself, but I would imagine that downward mobility in those institutions is inevitable for many reasons, one of which is likely the one that High Arka just mentioned. Another reason, though, goes back to a problem that has become a central theme in this blog: the system is designed so that far too many people compete for too few jobs. Ivy League graduates, the highest tier of prestige in most circles, must logically "move down the ladder" because those schools alone produce more qualified graduates than they can absorb.

      Something else that contributes to downward mobility is timing (or lack thereof). Let's say you earn your PhD at a university where only one professor teaches the subject in which you are now an expert. If they are merely two years from retirement, chances are you will find other work before the position opens. When it does open, maybe it will go to a member of your former cohort who happened to drag their feet in school a little longer.... then again, maybe it goes to an Ivy League graduate. The point is, you are probably no longer in the running.

      Delete
  31. First the country needs to address the fundamentals. You cannot allow the exportation of millions of jobs to India, China, wherever, and then allow the importation of millions of low-skilled workers whose living expense deficits will have to made up by the taxpayer. This doesn't even address the H1B program for skilled workers that are being abused by large corporations who are also heavy political campaign contributors.

    in many professions where you went to school doesn't matter squat once you have gained you own reputation in your field. You can be a well-respected surgeon or engineer irrespective of where you went to school.

    As for the liberal arts professorial types who only want to teach at Harvard, well, good luck with that. I have lived in the northeast quite near Harvard and currently live just outside Charlottesville, Va, home of the "public ivy" UVa. I find both equally insufferable. I would pick Tuscaloosa over either in a heartbeat.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Why does a blog like this have trolls and why are they always fed?

    Now onto my comment: Does anyone know of instances where someone avoided downward mobility?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think it's necessarily trolls. Based on my experience both as a student and as an educator, I've noticed that academics tend to be insecure and believe themselves to be--dare I say it--entitled. Some people have a tendency to have a corresponding behaviour.

      The days of a job for life are over. Even China realized that when it abolished its policy of the "iron rice bowl". Academe, while claiming to be open-minded, has maintained an inflexible position, insisting that it is exempt from this situation.

      The times in which one is handed one's opportunities, by virtue of educational achievement, are gone. One has to create them nowadays. Start putting that education to good use!

      Delete
    2. 9:28, I worked with someone who got their doctorate from a large "not top-tier" tier school and then did post-doctoral work at a top-tier private research institute, if that counts.

      Delete
    3. You are assuming that someone who went to, say Cornell, and got a PhD engineering degree and established a stellar reputation for himself in his field and later teaches at someplace like Virginia Tech is "downwardly mobile" even
      though he is the go-to authority in his field?

      I think you are out of your mind.

      Delete
    4. I'm curious to see what comments you consider "trolling" because nothing that was written here seems too outlandish. As in, I know people in academia who despise the humanities and people who defend them as blindly as High Arka does.

      Delete
    5. Anon 8:02, when you don't have a good defense you have to resort to name calling. It's as simply as that.

      Now they're trying to smoother the comments the comments about grad school that they don't like! Very intellectual, guys!

      Delete
  33. "quite near Harvard and currently live just outside Charlottesville, Va, home of the "public ivy" UVa. I find both equally insufferable."

    Next reason not to go to grad school: College Towns. You have to live in one for at least 2 years for an MA, 5-6 years, or maybe 10 for a PhD.

    If you're really lucky, you may get to live in one for the rest of your life (!) and get to hang out with people like "vodka Sam" - the recent student celebrity in Iowa City, IA who blew a .341 blood alcohol content and was so proud she tweeted her new tattoo of that number.

    http://benchwarmerssportsblog.wordpress.com/tag/iowa-hawkeyes-vodka-sam-funny-mugshot/

    The president of University of Iowa as well as the young lady's parents must be so proud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know her kind very well. I had several like her in my classes while I taught at a certain post-secondary institute and now, unfortunately, they're taking over the apartment complex I live in.

      They're as dumb as a rock and think that being "cute" will get them whatever they want. It will, but only for a while. Once their looks fade and their behaviour becomes irritating, they'll be in for a big disappointment when they find out that the real world demands talent, substance, and maybe even intelligence and character to get things done.

      Looking at her, I'm glad I never had children as I would be embarrassed to be her father.

      Delete
    2. Further to my comments at 10:42, living in a college town would be no different than living in any place where a single employer is dominant.

      The problem is that they tend to be insular in not just their thinking but also their culture and outlook. Anybody who doesn't "fit in" will be treated with a mildly hostile disdain for not being part of the "in crowd" or become a social pariah and, thereby, effectively invisible.

      There's also a tendency to know each other's business to the point that nobody can sneeze without someone handing that person a Kleenex. It doesn't take much to become the talk of the town.

      Delete
    3. So true. College towns are absolutely awful. These areas make it even harder to separate academia from your personal life. One thing I like about living in a big city is that I have more privacy and do not have to be surrounded by the college atmosphere 24/7.

      Delete
  34. "The original post is self-explanatory; something we already know."

    No, this is not something that incoming grad students know. Once you've been in the game for a while, you forget how ignorant you were when you started. The newbies think (at the very least) that they can make a lateral move with their Central State Ph.D. to a job at Western State (or whatever). They have no clue.

    ***

    "But the data CLEARLY showed a massive bias in favor of those top 5. If you can get into one of those, you'll be fine."

    It depends on your definition of "fine." Yes, if you come out of Princeton, you're going to find a job. However, you're still going to have to work someplace a lot less pleasant than Princeton. The come-down can be pretty dramatic. It's not easy on the ego.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Ah, yes, Princeton. Extremely high cost of living in the cesspool know as New Jersey. The governor is even on the Board of Directors. The olde stone buildings look like nothing as much as Victorian prisons right out of Charles Dickens. The latest one was built as a gift from
    Meg Whitman whose son barely escaped being prosecuted for campus rape.

    God forbid someone would accept a position at the University of Florida instead! What a comedown. They will spend their whole life and career gnashing their teeth.

    Let's all go see "A Beautiful Mind" for the umpteenth time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a good point. It is certainly possible that there is a better quality of life to be had working at a less stuffy institution. However, I'm under the impression that a faculty position at Princeton confers a political advantage when it comes to securing funding and conveying one's research/writing to an audience. The Ivy League life may not be for everyone, but since, in reality, the choice is not ours to make, the mobility problem is solidifying an unlevel playing field.

      Delete
  36. The earlier rudeness, while unpleasant, was certainly relevant to the issue. Most people do feel (and rightly so) that mainstream humanities is a waste, or at least a joke. But then, so is most of STEM, but they're just not able to understand it, because STEM has maintained a higher latinate jargon barrier. Corporations make billions of dollars (1) producing terrible remakes of old novels, for which they'll often consult with specialists in those fields; (2) producing terrible apocalyptic disaster movies based loosely on astrophysics, for which they'll often consult with specialists in those fields; and, (3) producing computer hardware or software applications that achieve pre-existing results slightly faster than before.

    All of these things are related to the university product, and all are of negative (or at least zero or very little) social value. Strangely enough, all of them are celebrated except the humanities: people consistently love (1) soulless, inaccurate period movies, (2) completely unscientific disaster movies, which the astrophysicists warned them ahead of time about, and (3) faster and more consolidated smartphone applications, such as XStorm (the recent combination of the earlier iPorn v. 2.3 and It's Weather! v. 1.1).

    The masses have also developed a dull reverence for the concept of "science" and "scientist," as though they're metaphysically punishing themselves for the few previous centuries of stoning scientists while ignorantly revering priests.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're doing exactly what the mega-corporations want. By wasting time on this blog and not finishing your dissertation, the complete change of the world is being delayed and delayed. Don't you see? The "prison wardens" want your PhD unfinished!

      Don't let the wardens and their enslaved "masses" win! Leave here and don't come back until you're finished! You are too important to the future of humanity.

      Also, take the pills the prison wardens gave you to silence the voices. And don't purchase a firearm.

      Delete
    2. High Arka reminds me of the joke about a ship: it toots loudest when it's in a fog.

      Delete
  37. Having to leave a "pleasant place" and suffer "downward mobility"? Is there anyplace less pleasant than New Haven, Connecticut, or more dangerous? You seriously want to raise a family there?

    ReplyDelete