But there is another level of feeling to consider here --- I went back and looked at my posts from years past to find some examples of the proper tone of anger and despair and profanity. And I'm talking about the "finishing the dissertation" posts, not the job market ones. You see, one thing I've noticed about being done is that I no longer live under this immense cloud of doubt and fury and rage and despair that was finishing the dissertation. I think profs forget the extent to which writing and finishing (and worrying about not ever finishing) puts you in a state of intense misery that somehow magically goes away, to a large extent, once you file, even if you do still get depressed about the job market or paying rent or whatnot.
I'm talking about waking up in the morning and feeling like a big weight is going to press the air right out of me. I'm talking about feeling bitter and downright ugly most of the time. Grad students working on their dissertations are miserable, emotional creatures at their best, and tend to respond to everything through that perspective, consciously or no. And then professors write about these same grad students and are surprised when everything that comes out of the grad students' mouths is angry? Hello, dissertation writing is this horrible period of stress and uncertainty even when you have a clue about where your next paycheck is coming from!
So I'm bringing that up just as a reminder to put the recent "attacks" in the comments sections into perspective.
But then when I was rereading my old stuff (a lot of which I softened with humor because I didn't want the blog to be nothing but bile at all times, so quoting appropriately is sorta hard), I found this:
Sorry to return to my usual bitterness but that's what passed through my mind as I was reading the IHE review of Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. ...
I haven't read the actual Donoghue book yet, but the interview goes over the familiar blah blah we all know of increasing costs and corporatization and reliance on adjuncts, with the often-repeated-elsewhere conclusion that tenure and tenured professors are dying out. The keynote is sounded at the end of the article, which I shall post here in all its depressing glory:
Just thought we all needed a reminder of this, because I don't think this is a case of having a market and then having a couple of bad years, I think we've been having a terrible situation for years now and this new crash/recession will be what finally ends tenure, professorships, and any thought of a living wage in the academy, permanently.
"Q: What are key steps that could be taken to restore the tenure-track professoriate?
A: The tenure-track professoriate will never be restored. Two factors seal its fate. First, the hiring of adjuncts continues to outpace the hiring of tenure-track professors by a rate of three to one. It’s silly to think we can reverse the trend toward casualization when, despite a great deal of attention and effort, we can’t even slow it down. Second, the demographics of American higher education don’t help us either. For 40 years, students have been moving away from the humanities toward vocationalism. This trend has been accompanied by an equally pronounced shift in enrollments from four-year schools (with English and History majors) to community colleges, where the humanities have never had a strong presence. Tenure-track professors don’t have a place in this new higher education universe. Much as it pains me to say it, I never considered putting a question mark at the end of my title, The Last Professors."I don't believe that tenured profs will die out completely ---- there's still room for those few endowed chairs at wealthy, private top universities, for example ---- but I could see the balance shifting as high as 90% -10. What would that system concretely look like? How would it feel on the ground? And is this really going to be a case of that metaphor where you boil a frog in water by gradually raising the temp a couple of degrees at a time?
There are good comments on that post, too, including (if I may) my own, where I point out the university system doesn't even need to exploit any individual grad student or postgrad for very long (so all our big talk about "only doing 3-4 years on the market before quitting academia altogether" is plenty enough to supply all the adjuncts they need, as long as they have a steady supply of new suckers.)
But from my yesterday's post I am infuriated by Rohan Maitzen's comment about advising students on to grad school:
I do try to emphasize very strongly that past the MA level, graduate school in English is currently structured as professional training, but for a profession it is increasingly unlikely a graduate will be able to enter, at least on the terms s/he would like. I say over and over that while you might do an MA for further enrichment, it no longer makes sense to consider a PhD in that light, because all the program requirements are really structured to prepare you to be a "productive" and successful academic.Seriously??? Two fucking years of "enrichment"? Who does that? Who the hell does that? You didn't, because your programs all helped further you into your current academic job! "Enrichment" to me sounds like something totally unimportant one does for fun --- I did after-school programs for enrichment. I took summer camp for enrichment. Some people go backpack across Europe for 6 months for enrichment but even that is too long for me. Who actually goes and devotes two years of their life to an MA program just thinking it was a fucking book club that would have no impact on their future career or earnings or networking potential?
If all you get from an MA program is "enrichment" then there is no fucking reason to go --- look, novels cost from about 11 to 20 bucks a piece and you can go off and "enrich" yourself by reading them at home, after working a real actual job. What the hell does the MA add to that? A lot of programs have their reading lists online; you can download them and read along without paying 10 grand and while moving forward in some actual career ladder that will work for you, and take a bit of the money you are earning and get season tickets to the symphony.
There is nothing going on in English or MFA or even History MA programs that you don't have access to; unlike the "entry cost" of certain subjects like film production or physics that are not feasible to do on your own, the entry cost of reading around in English or History or writing creatively is practically nil. You want community? Go start a message board with 20 friends who you love and who love to talk about books and link it with your own blogs or video logs and have at it for free! Trust me, it's way cheaper than paying for an MA or getting paid to teach freshman comp for an MA, if you don't plan on being a teacher later. And if an MA or PhD is nothing more than enrichment, somewhere between getting a hobby and going to church to improve yourself, why even go? You're just going to have to retrain for that job-nobody-wants-which-is-why-someone-is-willing-to-pay-you-for-it, anyway.