“Working Classes,” higher ed, and the ‘should you go to grad school in the humanities?’ question

I’m posting a couple of links full of rich and meaty thought that are both about class and higher ed, but ultimately on two different, but related issues. Anyway, they’re discussions that I wish I could involve myself in, but I’m still kind of mulling them over too much to respond articulately. And in some ways, I don’t think I’m quite the right person to do so, anyway.  So I present them to my readers to take up in the comments or at their own blogs.

The first is actually one of Karl Steel’s posts over on Google+. You don’t need a G+ profile to read it, since it’s a public post (though you do need one if you want to comment). Here’s the link. And here’s a snippet to give you a sense of it:

In grad school … I used to think I was something special, by which I mean an interloper: working-class family; public schools only till starting the PhD; first person in my family to go to college…

I’m past it all now, but this feeling–call it ressentiment and you won’t be far of the mark–had gone sour long before I gave it up. I’m done pretending to still be a working class kid. Unless some catastrophe throws me back on my family resources (which = nothing), there’s no point is holding on to what I was, not on the edge of my 41st birthday and and not when things continue to work out all right.

The discussion in the comments is really active and thoughtful and worth reading, all of it. (This, btw, is one of the reasons why I prefer G+ over Facebook — the interface allows longer, richer discussion and you can link to public posts. It’s like a middle ground between social networking and blogging.  And word on the street is that the anti-pseudonym stance may actually change. But I digress.)

The other link I want to share, a blog post by JSench at his almost brand-new blog, is also about being working class in academe, but instead of being about professorial personae and backgrounds — and whether they still matter once you’ve seized the brass ring of a tenure-track job — it’s about the decision to go to graduate school in the first place.  It’s an answer to yet another of Willliam Pannapacker’s pieces on why no one should go to the hell that is the PhD factory (this time, for Slate instead of for the Chronicle of Higher Education). Pannapacker’s latest bothered me in ways I couldn’t articulate, but JSench does it for me, with wit and clarity and a perspective I wouldn’t totally be able to bring to it.  Here, let me quote from the beginning, middle, and end to give you a sense of it, but, as they say, you really should read The Whole Thing.  Here’s part of the opening paragraph:

I think it’s a good thing to break down whatever is left of the romantic vision of  humanities graduate school bohemia followed immediately by a career resembling your favorite undergrad professor’s. But if we’re going to banish the romanticism, let’s also get rid of the melodrama that Pannapacker and others offer in its place. Instead of sexy bohos in black jeans discussing Poe and Lacan over coffee, we’re offered a vision of an evil empire sucking the lifeblood out of talented twentysomethings until those twentysomethings are suddenly thirty and have nothing to show for themselves but debt and a cv that reads more like a record of exploitation than a résumé.

And here’s something smart and pointed from the middle:

Except I knew exactly what I was getting into. When you grow up in a family of working people you get to know a thing or two about how employers are not the best representatives of your interests. When you spend your college summers working on construction sites you pick up some things about the risks you take with your body and your mind when you take a job. When you’ve seen a steel company retroactively cancel the pensions and benefits of thousands of retired and laid-off workers, then you have an idea about secure futures and broken promises.

And here’s a part I really liked in response to the “you shouldn’t go to grad school because there’s no job guaranteed” argument:

In the neoliberal United States, no one is guaranteed a job with health insurance. Most people, not just humanities majors, face difficulty finding employment that pays well, is secure, and has good benefits. There are no sure bets. If you think business school is a sure bet, there’s someone there to tell you it isn’t. If you think law school is a sure bet, there’s someone there to tell you it isn’t. If you think culinary school is a sure bet, there’s someone there to tell you it isn’t. And if you think that the humanities deserve special ridicule in all of this, you’re wrong. If you think a Ph.D. in physics is a sure bet, there’s someone there to tell you it isn’t.

I think I was pounding the desk saying “Yes!” at that point, especially since I’d had a conversation this summer with an old grad school friend who tried to tell me that the moment he decided to leave grad school and do something else was when some venture capitalist type said to him, “You’re doing all this work and you won’t necessarily get a job from it?”  I could only sputter at the time at that — couldn’t quite express how that wasn’t a good framework for deciding to quit (and also, I really don’t think it’s why he quit at the time — he’s rewriting his history) — but if I’d had my wits about me, I might have said something like the above. Also, I would’ve pointed out that Mr. Capitalist must not be very good at making money if he’s so risk adverse.  But that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, back to JSench’s post, here is what I really took away from this post, and what I’ll keep in mind when I advise my students, especially our MA students:

And so, please don’t tell your students that if they’re not rich or well-connected that they shouldn’t go to graduate school in the humanities. Tell them if you don’t think they are cut out for the work, and please tell them how difficult it can be at all points along the way. Also tell them that if they want to go to law school or culinary school. But if they still want to go, help them figure out how to be the person they think they want to be, how to become the person that will be satisfied. They will need skills. They will need to pass tests in practice and in academics. They will need to make friends, make professional connections, perform themselves in interesting ways, and they will need luck.

Overall, I think this post really hits closer to the truth about graduate school than all the “sky is falling! don’t go” hand-wringing and yet also counters the romantic notions our students sometimes have.  And I like that emphasizes the value of the experience and the degree in and of itself, which too often gets lost in these arguments (and I, for one, have been guilty of losing that).

Anyway, go read. And then come back here and discuss.  Or else respond on your own blogs.  And I, for one, am adding JSench to my RSS feed reader!

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20 thoughts on ““Working Classes,” higher ed, and the ‘should you go to grad school in the humanities?’ question

  1. I totally agree about the “no sure bets” thing. If people think that humanities grad students are “whiny” about their job prospects/grad programs’ disclosure of employment opportunities (which I don’t think, but I know some people do), they should dip into the law student blogosphere – there is a whole genre of “scambloggers” devoted to SCUH-REEEEEMING about how law school is a scam and deans/faculty are out to suck as much money as they can from poor innocent law students who think the degree guarantees them a job working 80 hours a week for $160K a year. I don’t agree with these bloggers, but their overall point is correct: law doesn’t guarantee a job. Business doesn’t guarantee a job. Computer science doesn’t guarantee a job. Engineering doesn’t guarantee a job. (The problem with law as opposed to a PhD in the humanities is that you don’t usually go into 6-figures of debt for the latter, but that’s a whole other issue.) And yes, it is evidence of privilege that you can go into the working world seeing employers as on your side.

    Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some peculiarly fucked up things about the role of grad students in the academic labor market, though. And I would still have a hard time encouraging someone to go off and get a Ph.D. in medieval history (at least not the way I did it, straight from undergrad – which I would kinda bet is how Pannapacker did it). But I do NOT agree that you should only go to grad school if you’re rich/well-connected. You should only go to grad school if you’ve thought long and hard about why you want to go and what you’re going to do with the degree and how you can make the most of your program to put yourself in the best position possible to do a wide range of things that are not being a professor, but I refuse to think that’s limited to people who are rich/well-connected.

    (Personally, I actually see grad school as professional school for professors, and don’t think there’s a lot of point to going to grad school in the humanities unless you want to be a college professor, because that’s basically the only career for which you NEED a Ph.D. in the humanities. Which is an unpopular position, I realize. I just don’t think grad school is actually very helpful for anyone who doesn’t want to be a prof, and I don’t see grad programs changing at any point in the future, and plus, I think most grad faculty would be TERRIBLE at helping grad students prepare for other careers. It’s a comment on grad school, not on the people who want to go.)

    (I should also add this is all really talking about the humanities, because I don’t know other disciplines. And it is filtered through my own experience coming straight from undergrad.)

  2. Hey! Yes, I finally got around to checking out your new blog… welcome to WordPress! Just wanted to say that I thought of you this morning (and it’s relevant to this post) while watching an interview on BBC about the future of education.

    I missed the beginning, but the talking head being interviewed stressed that students just aren’t going into science and technology like they need to be to get the better jobs and improve the UK’s standings in those fields. When the interviewer noted the education budget has been slashed 40%, the talking head said the answer was for the private sector to sponsor a student’s studies in the field of the company’s choice. That would ensure companies could find job candidates actually qualified for the job they needed filling, and that students would be able to afford an education–in a field judged to be of value by the “private sector,” of course.

    Then the talking head said “of course, I’m a historian by background so it pains me to say this.”

    Huh. Alas I missed both his name and his affiliation (given, I assume, at the start of the interview), but it did make me wonder who signs his paychecks and how he ended up with that gig.

    Anyway, glad you’re back to blogging and I like the look of your new online home. Your e-text frustrations a couple posts back, btw, were fascinating and insightful, though I’m sorry it happened. I do love how much you care about both your students and your work (I use “work” here to encompass your job, the texts you deal with, the greater meaning of it all, etc.)

  3. New Kid — Ah, but neither author was just talking about the PhD; they were talking about all higher degrees in the humanities, including the MA, and that degree has a wide variety of purposes before you even get to the part about minimum credentials to teach in a community college. And I think MA programs *do* serve those different types of students very well, but Pannapacker dismissed them along with the PhD programs (probably because he doesn’t have knowledge of them — like you, I think he went straight from undergrad to the PhD, and assumes everyone else did). This particular lack of knowledge (along with the assumption that PhDs haven’t worked outside of academe) is something that JSench’s piece addresses very nicely. And using his MA program experience (where he taught 2/1 ought of the gate *and* took 3-4 courses) in contrast to his Cornell experience, JSench also addresses the fucked up things about the grad student experience, but he still doesn’t think that’s a reason to say simply, “don’t go.” And, in fact, he still saw his life as a grad student as better in many ways than as the construction worker (and other things) he’d been, because his job wasn’t endangering his life or breaking his back. (I realize looking at my post that I didn’t highlight very well how much JSench’s post was about class — his own class experiences and Pannapacker’s class assumptions.) And though he’s a PhD candidate and doesn’t know if he’ll get the tenure-track job he wants, he says he won’t regret having done the PhD. And yet Pannapacker thinks he’s a poor fool for having done so.

    You know, I’m starting to think that maybe Pannapacker purposely exaggerates his stance and purposely says extreme things to get the conversation started, gadfly style. If so, it worked, and I’m glad he did it. But if he really believes we should tell students they shouldn’t go unless they’re independently wealthy, then he’s a pompous ass.

    StoriesThatAreTrue — Thanks for commenting! Yeah, hmm, that’s a really odd thing for a historian in the UK to say. He might as well have say, “I got mine, screw everybody else.” He’s probably now an administrator, especially since he said he’s a historian “by background.” Who is paying him, indeed! … And on caring for work: it’ll be the death of me. I took the advice to do what you love, but I should’ve taken the *other* advice: *never* do what you love! (Seriously, I’ve seen both bits of wisdom floating about.) I bet I could’ve found something satisfying that I didn’t love so much. (Though truth be told, I think even the assholes would care if the bookstore ordered the wrong damn text for their class without telling them.)

  4. Ok, I’m not done with the linky goodness, and I started to write an actual comment just on the thread over at Karl’s, but I then realized I should just read everything and write a full-on post over at my place. Anyway, thanks for putting all this in front of me. And also: I entirely agree that the Gloom and Doom of the Pannapacker stuff isn’t terribly useful or productive, though it does seem he’s making a nice little career as a commentator on higher ed out of it.

  5. Pingback: Identity Crisis: Gender, Class, The Humanities « Reassigned Time 2.0

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  7. Two things. 1) One of the early commentators to Karl Steel’s post pointed out the phenomenon where working- and lower middle-class students get into academia for upward mobility. I think that articulates most clearly why I continue to cheer on William Pannapacker. I think there is an upward mobility narrative that can be seductive, precisely because those of us from these backgrounds knew few, if any, academics growing up and so have not listened to professors complain about how much they don’t make. I don’t agree with all of Pannapacker’s points–especially b/c I think the academy needs class diversity immediately–but I think we can take his comments about going to grad school only if you’re independently wealthy as an indictment of the system rather than a prescription to be followed word for word.

    2) I agree wholeheartedly with New Kid’s assessment that humanities graduate school is professional training to be a professor. It is completely unnecessary if you aren’t planning to be a professor. And because it’s a qualification that only one profession requires (and, as New Kid implies, prepares you poorly to take that qualification elsewhere) and one that can take an extraordinarily long time of precarious living to complete, I do believe the jobs crisis warrants special scrutiny. Especially given that the causes of the jobs crisis has little to do with the economic downturn and everything to do with choices administrators are making. Yes, I realize that there are people who say they’ll be happy to have spent their years learning and they’ll be happy whatever turns out. But if that was really the case, wouldn’t people be leaving in droves the moment they get a low-paying, no benefits adjunct position? I’ll admit: my graduate experience has been abominable, so I’m particularly aware of the fact that my goal upon entry was to get a tenure-track position. But still, Pannapacker will continue to have value so long as the current trends continue and faculty members continue to pretend as though things are fine. (And yes, my department continues to act oblivious to the fact that its placement record is significantly below other departments at the university, and way below its supposed peer institutions. But according to faculty, our applications are guaranteed to make it to the top of the pile solely on the basis of our institution. Couldn’t be less true, but this is what we’re still being told.)

  8. I tend to think that people should have full information when they’re trying to make these kinds of choices. Here’s the careers people do with these degrees. Here’s the salary ranges for those careers. Here’s the amount of debt you would be taking on. Here’s the percent of people who do what you want to do and how long it takes them to get there. Here’s the likelihood you’ll have a say in what part of the country you will live. Then they can make their own choices. Some people may still be over- or under- confident, but at least they will have more information.

    I had most of that information and opted for social science over math or history. For me that was a good choice. If my social science didn’t combine the other two fields, it might still have been worth it to have the additional expense and additional uncertainty of the other, more saturated, degrees.

  9. These posts, which I’ve spent my weekend rereading and worrying over, are wonderful (and horrible), and I am grateful you pointed them out. I am especially grateful for the jsench link, as it’s heartening to hear a counterargument to Pannapacker that doesn’t just involve criticizing his Chicken Little style of discussing higher ed. So, thanks. Very much.

  10. OK, I didn’t get around to responding to the most recent comments in a timely fashion, and so I think the conversation move to other blogs where the blog-master was a little more on the ball! Oops! Once upon a time I could count on people talking amongst themselves, but I guess this is a sign that I have to do some wide-spread commenting to let my loyal readers know I’ve moved and to get some new readers!

    But in short, I’m with NicoleandMaggie on this — arm people with information and let them make their own choices. Anything else is pompoous and condescending.

    Also, Frog Princess, did you get an upward mobility narrative? I’ve actually never encountered an upward mobility narrative for the PhD (for the MD and JD and maybe MBA, yes, and certainly for the BA/BS, but not for the PhD), but maybe that’s because I’m from a white collar background and was conscious that a PhD was somewhat of an *alternative* career choice. But I’ve never heard my working class students, BA or MA level, express their desires for the PhD (or the MA) as upward mobility, either.

    And that last point hints at what I think is what really bothers me about Pannapacker — that is, he is a total outsider to *everything* he talks about. He teaches at a private undergraduate college, so has NO graduate students and, I would bet, few truly disadvantaged students. And it’s been a long time since he was in graduate school. That lack of actual expertise or even experience in the subject matter of his essays only adds to the pomposity of his “I got mine, now the rest of you fuck off” attitude.

    One last thing, which kind of responds to Frog Princess’s point 2…I’m going to put this in all caps so it’s visible (I’m not shouting at anyone, especially not you, Frog Princess), because I think it’s getting lost: PANNAPACKER DISMISSES THE MA RIGHT ALONG WITH THE PHD AND THE MA IS DEFINITELY *NOT* ONLY FOR BECOMING AN ACADEMIC (OR A MORE CREDENTIALED TEACHER). PANNAPACKER DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT. And I bet the MA is something he has *no* experience with, since, again, he teaches at an undergraduate college and, I think, went to a PhD program straight from the BA. JSench’s essay, on the other hand, makes it really clear how much the MA served in preparing him for the PhD, including in terms of letting him know what he was in for so he could go into it with open eyes. And I served as director of our MA program for four years, so I can tell you that my students come into for all sorts of reasons and go on to do all sorts of things afterwards. And yeah, they could’ve done many of those things with just the BA, but two years doing something you want to do *with funding* (and yes, some MA programs do give full funding, including ours — tuition plus stipend) is *not* a big risk, nor does it bring great opportunity costs with it, especially if you’re coming straight out of college in your early 20s (but even if you’re non-traditional).

    In fact, I think a lot of what Pannapacker decries would dissipate if more students followed the MA+PhD path. As I tell my students all the time, it’s a lot easier to decide that academia isn’t for you after the MA — once you’ve graduated and you’re away from the weird echo chamber — than it is to make that decision one or two years into a PhD program (even one that awards the MA degree along the way).

    So, IMHO, Pannapacker needs to stop being so fucking condescending, and he also needs to stop talking about things he knows nothing about.

  11. So two things. One, I don’t think the upward mobility thing is ever explicitly stated. I don’t think anybody would, really. But it not being stated isn’t the same thing as it not existing. You mention that you always saw academia as an “alternative career choice,” and that to me gets at the difference. I knew next to nothing about the monetary realities; had I, I probably would have made another decision, but that’s because financial stability is extremely important to me. And while I didn’t believe a PhD launched you into the same stratosphere as MDs/JDs/MBAs ostensibly do, there was still a pervasive idea growing up that more education equaled more money and more security. It never occurred to me that academia was an alternative or unsafe career choice–and here I mean once you get on the tenure-track. I had some sense of what adjuncting was, but I had no idea how prevalent it was, nor how much the system is dependent upon adjunct labor and, as a result, produces adjunct labor in droves and then punishes people for leaving adjunct work by deeming them “failures” and “unserious.”

    For what it’s worth, in my experience now that I am in academia, I find that people outside academia (from both white and blue collar backgrounds and people from my conservative home state and very conservative hometown) invariably think that professors make significantly more than they do, and what’s more, are shocked and indignant when I divulge what I’ll be making this coming fall as an instructor at an elite university. I’ve had these conversations with many people, in part b/c I’m interested in the disparity and how people outside academia are appalled at what has become depressingly commonplace inside. So I think there’s a narrative out there about the value of education, and what education provides, that the PhD falls under regardless of the facts. And it’s because this narrative is such a fabric of American life that I think Pannapacker does an immense service.

    Second, I agree that Pannapacker shouldn’t lump masters’ programs into the mix. They don’t narrow one’s possibilities to nearly the same degree as the PhD. But at the same time, the costs of masters’ programs can be prohibitive. Yes, there are some that are funded, but too few. I have a colleague who feels the same way JSench does about the masters’ program he did, and yet he’s got serious student loans. What I find worse than Pannapacker’s shtick is being blasé about student loan debt. (Not saying you are, dr virago, but much of America is.) To some degree, I feel like the burden of necessity is even higher if somebody is going to be taking on tens of thousands of dollars in loan.

  12. Frog Princess — Fair enough. I can see why a large segment of the population might assume PhD = more education and therefore more money. (I’m reminded of Charles Gibson’s remark in the presidential debates, when one of them took place at a SLAC, and he said something about the average professor there making $100K, provoking much laughter from the audience.) Maybe it’s because I grew up already ‘petit bourgeoisie’ (Dad had a white collar, small-time management job) in a fully middle class suburb, but with a mother who had a bohemian streak running through her suburban housewife heart and thought money only mattered up to a certain point, that the upward-mobility narrative wasn’t relevant to me. In other words, it was a lot easier for me, culturally speaking, to be less concerned about salary. (Aside: I got kind of sick of being poor when i was grad student, but the temporary nature of that kept me going. I figured if I didn’t get a TT job, anything else I started over in would *have* to pay more than being a freakin’ TA! Having worked in two different jobs before I went to grad school, I also pretty much *knew* that.) That said, I make fully 3 1/2 times what my dad made at his highest income (he was *really* small time) — even if that wasn’t my impetus for going into academia. But from what I’ve heard, I think most blue collar jobs (if you can get them and stay in them) pay as much or more as the average tenure-track position in humanities. Ironically, though, in the bourgie world I came from, I think most people would’ve seen such work as taking a step down, even if it did command more salary. Class snobbery and all that. Besides, I was the “smart girl” — I was *supposed* to end up in brain work. And that, too, is a class thing, I think (valuing brain work over body work, that is — but what do I know?).

    So, in short, I can see why you and I had different perspectives coming in. And during graduate school, clearly my program was doing a better job of making us aware of the realities of the “market” — we started talking about it in the first year and I always knew I had to have a Plan B. Though I do have to admit that that was coming largely from the more senior *students* in the program and from our unionization efforts across the campus than from faculty.

    As for my students, many of whom are from working class backgrounds, I make sure they know what you didn’t know. I think that’s what ticks me off about Pannapacker. He may be right for your generation or your more prestigious program — and that *SUCKS* that you didn’t know these things, btw, and your grad program sounds freakin’ clueless — but I do think many students today are better informed, especially those in the public unis where there are grad students to give them the skinny (or people like me, who *always* lay out the numbers first when I talk to students interested in grad school). Although, maybe Pannapacker sees this as a wide-spread problem because it’s a problem at his college. I can see Hope being full of out-of-it senior faculty who haven’t been in touch with graduate school culture since the bicentennial. In fact, I know a prof of that age at a SLAC just like that — he recently tried to tell one of my MA students to go to a PhD program unfunded! (I pulled said student aside and said “no freakin’ way!” The student, the son of a pipe-fitter, said, “Don’t worry, Dr. V., I know he’s talking crazy talk. No way I’d take on that debt.”) So, OK, there’s still a misinformation problem out there at certain kinds of institutions.

    BUT, I still think the solution is to *inform* students and let them make their own decisions. I still think it’s condescending to tell students simply to forget about it. And I think students like you and JSench would’ve been the most likely to give up if a professor said “don’t go.” Well, I don’t know about you, but JSench says he would have given up. I, being the perverse ‘hear me roar’ bourgie-liberal-feminist child of the suburban 70s, would have just been more determined to go if someone said not to.

    Oh, and as for MA programs and debt, I think you’d be surprised — there are a lot more funded MA program out there than you think, especially at the public unis. I would simply advise students as I do with PhD programs: don’t go unless you get funding. And I think the “not without funding” mantra helps with the debt problem, too. My class in my grad program was the last to admit students without guaranteed funding for the duration of the program. After that, the entering class was halved in size and fully funded. I think a lot of other programs are going that way, too. There are *problems* with this, too, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic. But it is possible to go to grad school without incurring debt.

    Finally, let me just say that Pannapacker’s whole schtick rest on the assumption that there’s an oversupply of graduate students. There isn’t. There’s an undersupply of jobs because of adjunctification of higher ed. That adjunctification isn’t just cheating talented grad students out of jobs, it’s also cheating the undergrads they teach (not because adjuncts are shitty at what they do, but because the circumstances in which they work are shitty). Pannapacker’s grabbing the horse from the wrong end. We should be directing all screeds and all of our anger to those at the top — to people making the decisions about budget lines — not to the students thinking about graduate school.

  13. Dr. Virago, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation too. It’s pushed me to think about these issues a bit more clearly. So thanks for hosting it.

    I’m also probably not as sensitive to the impact of Pannapacker’s don’t go injunction, b/c weirdly like you, I tend to ignore people making pronouncements like that. I guess I’m just stubborn, and I feel like I’ve always got something to prove. It’s a skill that’s held me in good stead; as readers of my blog know, last year I had to deal with some out-and-out bullshit from my department/advisor that would have forced most people to quit. I came close, but I couldn’t give them the satisfaction of making things up about me, and then sending me on my way. But I take your point: I need to be more aware that not everybody sees these statements as either a challenge to overcome, or something to be ignored.

    In part b/c I’m making an argument about how academia presents itself, I have probably exaggerated a bit what all I didn’t know. So: I was never told how disastrous the market was, at least not in any real, hard-core numbers; I did hear a version of the “big wave of folks about to retire” line; and my own graduate program has refused to get to grips with the situation. That said, in large part b/c financial stability has always been so important to me, I made it my business once I got into graduate school to do the best I could to “stack chips in my favor.” I don’t know that I did the best job of that, in part b/c of how my program is structured. (And here, pseudonymity sucks, b/c I think my graduate program is especially woeful at preparing students for success on the market, and its placement record bears that out, not that that information is easy to come by, and I’d love to just put my program on blast.) So I don’t want it to sound as though I am some naif who drunk the grad program Kool-Aid, and who only now is like…wha happened????

    It’s in large part b/c I knew what was coming, through my involvement with academic blogs in particular, that I was not only the most prepared among my cohort for failure but that I have become a vocal advocate (on blogs and in my program) for full disclosure. It could be that I’m overgeneralizing my experience too much. I went to graduate school straight from undergrad in 2005: blogs were around and I certainly read some, but we weren’t quite at the saturation point or the level of variety and sophistication of academic blogs that we are now. (I don’t mean to downplay academic blogs from the early 2000s; I’m simply saying that they’re a lot harder to miss now than they were in 2003, 2004.) And I spent more of my pre-grad-school energy figuring out how to get through a program in a timely fashion than I did worrying about what would happen after.

    I also should say that you and I are on exactly the same page when it comes to funding. One of the few things my program does well-ish is fund all of its students for five years, and my undergrad advisors made it clear that I should only consider programs that funded me fully. (To some degree, my choice of grad school may have been based too much on money, but that’s my own deal, which I’ll talk about when I comment on your other post.)

    I’m also with you on the fact that the real problem is the adjunctification of higher ed (and how that impacts the education we’re providing), and I get what you mean by saying there isn’t an oversupply of graduate students, but an undersupply of jobs. But I guess I feel as though that’s unlikely to change, and so even if technically there isn’t an oversupply of graduate students, in reality there is. Why should we continue to produce tons and tons of people to fill the adjunct pool? I guess I just come at it slightly differently, and I think that as long as there are grad students who willingly accept poorly paid, under-benefited positions, there will be no impetus from the top to convert those temp positions into tenure-track positions.

  14. as long as there are grad students who willingly accept poorly paid, under-benefited positions, there will be no impetus from the top to convert those temp positions into tenure-track positions.

    Point taken. I do think that many programs have made some ethical decisions in the last 10-15 years to shrink — even before we were talking about this so openly on blogs. (And yeah, academic blogging plus IHE have really changed the game in terms of the information out there.) But I don’t think anyone foresaw (or could foresee) the especially terrible collapse of the last two years. And I fear we’re going to be living with the repercussions of this disaster for a *very* long time. So, maybe Pannapacker is right and maybe the message *does* need to be delivered as polemically as he delivers it. At any rate, I do agree with the basic premise of his argument (the way the system exploits graduate students and adjuncts, etc.) — I just have a hard time getting over the classist rhetoric of it all, especially coming from someone who is in a secure TT position.

    Hey, btw, is your blog also called The Frog Princess? Or rather, where can I find it? I’d like to read it, but you haven’t put in a URL and I’m not currently subscribed to it.

  15. my bad…i’ve been signed in via wordpress, and you’d think that would give you a link. it’s technically called “lines ever more unclear” but the link is thefrogprincess.wordpress.com

    Blogging’s been slow as of late, finishing the diss and all that, but I intend to blog more once the summer’s over.

  16. Yeah, I don’t know why WordPress isn’t giving me the link. At any rate, thanks — I’ve added your blog to my Google Reader subscriptions!

    ETA: Oh, duh, I have to hover over the gravatar to get to your WordPress profile. OK, now I know for future reference….Oh, but wait, that still doesn’t give me the link, so I’m glad I asked! I like WordPress a lot, but the commenting function is something that still confuses me a little bit.

  17. Pingback: Stock Take VI: the work, the job, the life? « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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