Buffy ended. Firefly ended. Angel is about to end. Wonderfalls ended before it could even really begin. Why should the bubble end?So begins my father’s 5-part commentary on my post about going to grad school for cultural studies. It’s rather funny since this year (cf. my first two years at Smith of “Can i please be on the 10-year plan?”) i’ve been very “Much as i love this, i look forward to being out in the ‘real world.’ ”
I like talking out loud on here and sometimes having people talk back, so i’m going to reply to various things my father said here (also, it just seems easier this way as opposed to replying to the comments on that entry - gar LJ and their character limits).
Tenured professors want to have graduate programs.Phrased like that, graduate programs sound like something i would want to have, too. Though of course my father phrases #1 in a way that evokes so much of what i hate about academia :)
1) When you enter graduate school you sign on to a whole set of beliefs that, like water to a fish, is so much a given that you hardly notice it or talk about it. This is a worthwhile field. It is worth continuing. It deserves support from the larger society. Just as most children want to have children themselves, former graduate students want to have their own graduate students. [cue Elton John "It's the circle/the circle of life."]
2) Having graduate students means you can offer specialized courses in areas of your interest. You can talk and discuss with people “on your level.”
3) Graduate students can take over much of the grunt work of lower level courses, running sections, administering tests, grading papers.
4) Graduate students can help you with your own research.
5) In general, a school that has graduate programs is more prestigious.
And honestly, i've gotten used to fighting, and i think i want to keep fighting. I expect to not have my fannishness legitimated, and while i don't want that to cost me a job opportunity, i like being challenged, and i think challenge really drives creativity/productivity. If everyone just agrees with each other, then what is there to write about, what is there to teach?
I’m possibly too much of a control freak to want to let anyone else run sections, grade papers, etc.
In a lot of ways it sounds like fandom (hey, my one-track mind is why i wanna do cultural studies :P ) you’re all committed to a field of interest that doesn’t necessarily get legitimized by the mainstream, but you still think it’s worth spending lots of time and energy on.
The result is that there are too many graduate programs and too many graduate students. Even if every new hire was to a tenure-track position, there would still be far, far fewer openings each year than there are applicants.There is also the obnoxious cycle wherein you need a bachelors or a masters or whatever to even be eligible for various jobs, so people are going to suffer through programs that may not even be particularly helpful and certainly don’t guarantee the graduate a job, just in order to be on the proper playing field. I’m looking at the education business in particular, of course, with their insistence on rating teachers/professors based on everything (level of education, workshops attended, committees manned, research done, papers published, community service done) except their actual teaching performance. What, are my biases showing? *coughs*
But because it is in the interest of a tenured professor to have graduate students, no programs are going to shrink or fold. So there will forever be a surplus of newly minted PhDs. Tenured professors, who do have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to academic affairs, could push hard for all new hires to be tenure track. Most of them would indeed like that to happen. But that would mean the Department would have less money for other things--like good salaries, benefits, and working conditions for the already-tenured faculty. You can see where I'm going with this.
My dad talks a lot about adjuncting in his commentary. This is one of those things wherein my experience at Smith has deeply skewed the way i look at things like higher education. Does Smith even have adjunct professors? I know we sometimes have TAs, but not like big universities. Professors teach because they actually like teaching, and they generally love what they’re teaching. I can’t fathom teaching at a place that isn’t like Smith in those respects. It just seems like such a horrid system. Even if i had a secure full-time job and all that, i don’t think i could stomach being a part of all that.
The chances of an idealistic college senior going to grad school, getting her PhD, and then settling into a life of productive teaching and research are very small. To the extent that people in higher education feed that delusion, they are morally--though not legally--committing fraud.That paragraph makes me sad, on a lot of levels.
Invisibleadjunct.com became quite a community, with lots of regular commenters. People debated things like, “What do I tell a student of mine who tells me he wants to go to grad school?” The consensus seemed to be, “Tell him the truth (see above). Tell him that if he expects to smoke a pipe and become beloved old professor, it almost certainly is not going to happen. Make sure he finds out what the placement record of a program is before he enrolls. Make sure he has a good idea what the placement record of the profession as a whole is (two PhDs for every tenure-track opening? Five? Ten? Twenty?). Make sure he doesn't graduate owing lots of money (A large number of people flat out said, if the school doesn't offer to pay your tuition and expenses, don't go. Many felt that if you taught course sections, you were probably making the school money even if they gave you a free ride).I have heard people say if your grad school won’t pay for everything, don’t go. Other people have suggested the part-time route: taking classes while working, so that (a) the grad school doesn’t own you and (b) you can pay it off as you go (and if i were going for my masters for something like teaching, my employer would likely at least subsidize the cost of the classes). I don’t think i would really mind being a grad school’s bitch, teaching classes for them in exchange for taking classes from them.
Ask him to think long and hard about how he would feel if he took several years of courses and then a few more years to write a dissertation and wound up doing something completely different. Would he look back on those years with pleasure? Or would he say “I wasted some of the best years of my life.”?Cultural studies is what i want to do with the rest of my life (at least i think that right now). I am actually really excited about the idea of going to graduate school to immerse myself in that.
Of course, there are plenty of other thinks (like gay rights activism) that i could see myself doing and loving that aren’t explicitly cultural studies. If i graduated with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and then decided i didn’t want to pursue a career in anything particularly cultural studies related? I would probably feel sucky about all the debt i racked up when i could have learned the same amount just reading books or something.
I think i have this idea that a PhD in cultural studies makes me “qualified” to talk about all this shit. Not that i think i need whatever grad school classes i’ll take (though i’m sure they’ll help - at least, i expect them to; that’s why i’m taking them) but rather because to the world at large the degree lends me a degree (tee) of legitimacy.
I was telling antheia recently that i always tend to have faith that everything will work out in the end. I know i have to work for things, but i tend to just do what i want, how i want, trusting that in the end it will all work out. So i'm trying to think about this all objectively, but that keeps getting overpowered by "But it would be so exciting to teach classes on/including fanfic, to be like jennyo bringing in Wes/Lilah scenes to her Film Noir class, to be able to weave fandom into teaching" and thinking how much i love fandom and being fannish and how it feels like a perfect match and if it feels right than of course it'll work out, right?