I was going to devote this blog post to the continuing hand-wringing about the crisis in the Humanities. The Chronicle of Higher Education currently has an entire section devoted to the decline of tenure-track positions in this area, about how we need to look at ourselves, stop accepting grad students, be more honest, be encouraged to find jobs elsewhere, etc. Listen, the numbers are there; tenure-track in the humanities are declining. But until alumni, students, and parents start raising alarms, nothing is going to change. Can’t write? It’s someone else’s problem, it’s someone else’s fault.
But I’m tired of it. I feel a bit like an kicked dog; I kept coming back, hungry for the few morsels of affection and flattery, hoping that this time I wouldn’t get a swift kick immediately following. There is a grad student who writes:
“We, the humanities graduate students of the United States of America, do not want your pity, or your smug, self-congratulatory admonishments of our choices. What we want is your help formulating a path that will lead us into careers where we can be useful, not exploited.”
Yeah, good luck with that. This is the same profession that has been ignoring the problem as it has exploded for the past 30 (40?) years. Kicked puppy. Please, please, this time, you’ll love me enough to give me what I need, what I want. I’m no longer angry at academia for doing what it does; it benefits those few who have won the tenure-track lottery. They can feel superior to the rest of us and rely on our own intellectual vanity and fragility to ensure a never-ending supply of PhD students.
To all those grad students, you’re on your own. Get out. Get on google and start doing research yourself. Take the time. That article that you think will finally perfect your C.V.? It won’t. Take the time and start doing some job and career research instead. Pay someone to do it for you. There are academic coaches out there now who specialize in getting you out (see Leaving Academia, among others). Who we are, what we do, it can be great in other avenues.
Should there be a more direct route for PhD’s to be able to teach in high schools? Yes. Is that a good enough excuse not to do everything you can to get out if that’s what you want? Nope. Do PhD’s “get no respect” outside of academia. Yup. We’re the butt end of so many jokes, I can’t even count them anymore. But are you going to let that defeat you?
What have you got to lose? Pick yourselves up, stop expecting someone else to do the work for you and just do it. You have the skills. Use them in an area that will eventually get you a job or a career that a) pays and b) provides self-respect. Be brave, be great, be strong, and for God’s sake, stop whining.