Monday, November 14, 2011

an apology

I would like to officially offer this formal apology:

To anyone I've engaged in conversation with about the future of academics, I would like to formally apologize for the tone and content of my interactions. The last thing I want to do is to let my poisoned mood infect anyone who still believes and still has faith.

The problem? I used to be a believer. I used to believe in the power of thought, the power of thinking, the power of discussion, the power of learning. And while I never thought I would be a superstar in academics, I always thought there was at least a place for me within the ranks of thinkers. Over the last six months, I am starting to fully realize the extent to which all of this was least for me.

And there's a lot of reasons why I think I failed. I am, for the record, fully willing to admit blame for much of my academic failure. There was always more I could do; in the words of one of my favorite songs, I definitely "could've been stronger, could've been smarter"...and I know this. I still feel overwhelmed by the structural roots behind my personal failures, but I am going to try to quit bringing them they are probably news to no one (particularly anyone who's read this blog).

I am, for the record, trying to work on it. I realize I've been dwelling on all this way too much, and I realize it is one of the major (although not the only) reason behind my current slide toward depression, a slide I am trying desperately to halt and to not share.

So here's what I'm going to do. I promise only to participate in academic discussion when someone specifically asks me to do so. I promise to blow by scholarly links, discussions of the job market, blanket invitations for interactions. If you post something somewhere that raises my gloom, I will do everything I can to look the other way...and I will by no means indulge in an effort to spread my gloom. As it's clear the academic world really doesn't consider me a member, I'm going to try and quit bemoaning that fact or dwelling on it in any way. I would really hate it if my own bad attitude got into someone else.

Let me make clear that I do in fact envy all of my academic believer friends...more than you can know. For those whose career has worked out or is steadily progressing, I salute you. But more importantly, for all those who still get excited by ideas and think there's a future in pursuing them, I covet your faith and your optimism and wish you the greatest success imaginable. The life of the mind is a truly noble goal...and I wish you better luck than I experienced.


R D-R said...

I'm not necessarily optimistic about the job market just because I retweeted Roger's article. But I do think the "sadistic/nihilistic" attitude that these articles coming from those in TT positions is unproductive, particularly since it's been done SO SO many times before at this point.

In terms of TT jobs, Roger's article is still a negative one. But in terms of thinking through the value of graduate education in a different way (and how it's the responsibility of our grad directors to do so) is more useful that just saying "hey asshole, don't bother."

He's also right to criticize Cebula's snarky comments about being a Hooters manager. A) we didn't go into this to make the "big bucks." B) what's wrong with being a Hooters manager, Mr. Elitist? (Okay, there's plenty wrong with Hooters from a feminist front, but claims like this are why some of the general population thinks of academics as elitist dicks. It's classist and in bad taste.)

Calling for a restructuring that moves away from adjunct labor (and for those in TT positions to support this) is a legitimate point. While I know you don't view your job as ideal, you're lucky that you have a renewable instructor position at a university. What would be even better for us is long-term contracts as an instructor (and more variety of courses) and better pay. etc. There's no reason that can't happen in a world where we're not TT teachers. Except the structure that treats our contingent labor so unfairly. I know you don't love your job, but you get compliments from students on the courses you teach (that *you* respond to in a snarky way, which was disappointing to me).

Sure, your faith in the job hunt is broken, as is your faith in academia (and humanity, and, and, and, and...) Imagine, if you will, that grad directors take some of this sort of advice and you had come out of the PhD program with the ability to both criticize and make media. Wouldn't those skills (alternate ones that Roger calls for) have helped you on the job front? I know you have a hard time finding jobs that only involve media criticism and not production. Why can't a program like ACS also involve some coursework in that area for those who will be looking for those jobs? Or may just want to make media in general? Hell, we could do a better job with non-exploitative programming on something like TLC that the BG grad who currently runs it (Hello, Duggars!)

The negative-Nancyism of the articles and videos Roger posts about are doing nothing to help solve the problems we've all identified. We can keep moaning and groaning or we can suggest changes that will help us (maybe) and help future PhD grads. Because we know people aren't going to stop idealizing "the life of the mind" and going to grad school. We just need to emphasize there are other legitimate things to do with a PhD besides do the TT thing, and work towards training for those as well as training to be rejected by journals and jobs forevermore.

themikedubose said...

Thanks for the thoughtful good, I'm going to break my own vow.

Yes, production should be mandatory. I could've applied to a much better array of jobs that suited me more in every other way if I had production skills. The current crop of BG grads are much better suited in most ways for the job market than I, though...when I went, it was "here, take some courses in the University"...and that was pretty much it.

As it turns out, I am actually fairly nihilistic about the academic job market...but while there's a lot I have to say about that, I am not gonna do wouldn't help anyone else and would surely only poison me more.

As far as my personal snarkiness, true, but that was only in my posting persona. I am proud of the job I do, and if you ask my wife, she would tell you I was beaming. It is for me, though, pride at doing a job, much in the same way I was proud of the work I did at Little Caesars. Career-wise, my job is a death-nell for a media guy in many ways. I still envy those who, like you, are able to stay on some level of career trajectory. Me? I just work at a job.

I don't think anyone should be insulting towards potential grad students. But on the other hand, I would personally tell them that if they wish the life of the mind, there are plenty of ways to achieve that which do not entail the massive amounts of debt and such of grad school. A Ph.D. and "a life of the mind" are in no way exclusive. A degree is not required if someone just wants to be a thinker...just read, think, and engage in discussions. Furthermore, a degree is no guarantee there will be an intellectual environment outside of coursework. One of the reasons I can swear this off is that no one (save one friend in another hemisphere) has wanted to talk academics, scholarship, and theory with me anyway.

None of this is to say I won't write articles in the future....but I've just gotta treat it as a hobby rather than my calling...for the sake of my own sanity.

Good luck, though, to you in your ongoing quest to be a professional scholar; you've already achieved more than I, and may you continue to do so.