Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I like teaching and researching

This has been an absurdly busy and difficult month. So, sorry for the lack of updates. Hopefully November will be better.

There seems to have been a recent influx of funny videos and posts about what it means to teach, and the current job market. Here is so you want a PhD in the Humanities, and here is so you want a PhD in Political Science (btw, there is a really interesting post to be had about the gendered differences between the two. One has two women talking, one has two men. The first one carries with it concerns about marriage, the second about 'getting laid'. There is more going on to be talked about as well. Maybe someone else will write that post). Also, Adam has a post worth reading about repeating the grim facts about the job market. All of this speaks to something I was very naive about when I went into grad school, and something I was never naive about.

I was incredibly naive about the possibility of getting a job with a PhD. Basically, people warned me I wouldn't get a good job, but I would get a job. We'll see if that works out personally, but in general the job market is far worse than I was lead to believe. Part of that is it has gotten increasingly worse while I've been in grad school, and part of it is simply it got worse since my undergraduate professors were on the market. I was incredibly naive about the state of the job market, and I was incredibly naive about the basic boxes I needed to check in order to even stand a chance at the absurdly random process of getting a job (I am in complete agreement with Adam about how random it is). For example, I had no clue that I needed to get my PhD from a prestigious school to even get my application read. And as someone else said in one of the many job hunt laments (I can't remember where I read it now) applying for a job out of 750 applicants is not a market, it is a lottery.

But whereas I found the So you want a PhD videos to be funny, they are also kinda offensive to those of us who really want to be doing what these professors seem to dismiss. I want to teach, to do research, to be a professor. And this is something I've never been naive about. I've never thought it was the life of the mind, or that it was really any different from any other job. I know it is political, and filled with petty people, and requires a lot of work. You work hard to get a degree that you are never going to get rich with. But, in general I never have had the cynicism that the professors in these videos seem to express. I have never had the contempt for my students, the disgust with my colleagues, or the dismissiveness to my own work. I have never expected academia to be any better than it is, and I am really happy when I get to do the job of being a professor. I understand people who love their jobs want to vent, and again, the videos are pretty funny. But it is worth noting that being a professor is really a pretty damn good job for the people who honestly like teaching and researching.