Monday, October 3, 2011

Propaganda and Aggravation

Let me begin this post by saying that I am biased. I'll admit it outright. I was trolling the blogosphere and clicked through to Penelope's blog from Escape the Ivory Tower. Her post annoyed me. Let me explain why.

Yes, I understand that her post was a bit of anti-grad school propaganda. And I know that such things are needed if only to counteract what students get from faculty. Even some faculty recognize that they should not be trying to talk folks into entering grad school.

However, as someone who went to grad school (Ph.D. no less - big no-no from her blog), I have a few issues with her post. I'm ok with her main point that students need to seriously consider what they want before they go to grad school. The myths and considerations she brought up are also good to ponder before one heads on to more schooling. The details of the post, on the other hand, I'm not so happy with.

As a future post-academic, the idea that my Ph.D. would hinder me in the job market and that I'm an idiot for getting it rubs me the wrong way. (Yup, I took it personal. It's the blogosphere. I'm allowed to do that.) I legitimately went to grad school because I thought I wanted to be a professor. So, I prefer to think of my time in grad school as an internship and beginning the steps to that career. Then life, in its usual highly inconvenient way, led me to change my goals. I am no different, and no more of an idiot, than anyone else who tried a career and then decided to switch paths, due to changing life circumstances or market conditions.

True, Penelope was referring to humanities Ph.D.'s and mine is in the social sciences. I assure you, people have just as much difficulty finding the practical application of the social sciences outside their field as they do any of the humanities. Many people have not even heard of my field despite its long history. From all I've read about getting post-ac jobs, your prospects depend entirely upon your ability and willingness to sell (or spin) your skills. Yes, you have skills and there are many corollaries between academics and the "real world." Somewhere down the line I'll post about my experience with this but I'm just not to that point in my job search yet.

So, here's what I've learned from post-ac blogs to counteract this propaganda: Your Ph.D. is not worthless. It is not a hindrance. Depending on where you are and where you want to go, getting a post-ac job can be difficult - but so is getting an academic job. Life can be difficult but that's no reason to back down! You can get a job you'll enjoy outside academia. In fact, you have a better variety out here than you do in there. The world is vast beyond the Ivory Tower. You CAN find a career that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out with a spork - heck, it can even be downright fulfilling and intellectually rewarding!

So, here's a happy ending for you courtesy of Anthea at The Hour of the Bewilderness: a recent article from Inside Higher Ed about the need to change grad programs and to destigmatize post-ac jobs.

1 comment:

postacademicinnyc said...

Agreed. Penelope Trunk is an everyone-gets-what-they-deserve maniacal individualist who doesn't get social class and never will because it dilutes her whole "no excuses" philosophy. People do need to be warned away from grad school, but people who went to grad school, or who will go despite the warnings, are not idiots. We're us. We did a thing and, as you say, now we're moving on like a lot of people do.