Here is a rather cynical, but amusing (if not simultaneously depressing and horrifying) take on academic (capitalist) life (unless of course it’s merely intended as some sort of satire, then it’s even more amusing to me):
I recently defended my dissertation in English at a land-grant institution in the Midwest. Our department’s national reputation plunges every year as the new hires get weirder and their expertise more esoteric. Ph.D. degrees from our department, unless you’re female or a minority, don’t provide much value in the marketplace. Even if you do fit into one of those desirable categories, you’re probably screwed and headed to a $40,000-a-year job — much less if you get one of those stunningly low-paid, visiting-professor gigs.Most professors in my department express nothing but contempt for both graduate students and undergraduates. In a recent faculty meeting, professors lamented that the number of graduate students in the department had dipped below acceptable levels. Faculty members faced the prospect of canceled graduate seminars and the horrific likelihood of having to teach two (count ’em!) undergraduate courses a semester. Tsk, tsk. Literary scholarship as we know it might cease to exist, plunging the world into postapocalyptic chaos. Meanwhile the casualty rate of the department’s graduate students on the tenure-track job market approaches that of the British at the Somme.
Pretty horrible, isn’t it? Am I depressed? Not at all.
I’m flourishing, making $100,000 a year as an adjunct, working nine months out of 12. This winter, as most of the people I know teaching literature were shivering in the cold and dark of the upper Midwest while eating ramen, I flew to Florida to bask in the sun and drink with Gore Vidal at the Key West Literary Seminar.
Adjuncting is the way of the future. Make no mistake about it: In 20 years, there won’t exist more than a handful of tenured professors. Universities want cheap, cheap labor, as much of it as they can get. While many lament that state of affairs, I embrace it and invite other graduate students and newly minted untouchables to do the same.
So, just how do you make $100,000 working as an adjunct English instructor?
The author provides a list for us:
1. Stop thinking of yourself as an intellectual.
2. Change who you associate with
3. Stop reading the scholarship
4. Think of yourself as providing a valuable service
5. Stay idealistic
6. Watch Risky Business to get the entrepreneurial spirit.
7. Care about students
8. Think of yourself as a mercenary
10. Remember that literary studies is ultimately a derivative and service-oriented discipline.
Read the whole thing here and decide if it’s brilliant satire or merely somewhat depressing!
I think I did #1 long time ago – I’m on the way to making six figured then! Yay!
Did we ever think of ourselves as intellectuals? We’re more like nuisances, no?
I did number 6 a long time ago, but do I have to start with 1 and work my way down? I wonder…
By the way, I’m going with satire.
It’s definitely a satire, to make $100,000 adjuncting you need to teach about 30 classes or more (with average adjunct pay being around $3000 per class when I was doing it, maybe it’s much more now, but I doubt it), even 20 classes is a lot – if you’re on semester system, it’s 10 a semester which would be around 40 hours a week (4 credits) – full time job, I suppose, but I get tired being in class 8 hours a week (counting just the pure talking at your students hours)…
I say it’s bullshit, but disturbingly the point is clear: adjuncting might be the future…
I’m considering the life of crime at the moment, it’s glamorous and rewarding, plus the money is good, I heard.
No, no. I’m too dry and distracted today. I actually meant going with satire as in: I’m taking up such satire more seriously as a form of life as a way to deal with idiocy (even more than usual).
One of the funny things is that this article was floating around the department. When I was in my office this morning, I ran into two English profs debating about whether or not the article is satire. I said either way it doesn’t matter: if it’s true, good for the author (I guess), bad for higher ed, if it’s satire, as you point out, it’s still disturbing.
I made 1300/semester once adjuncting. Ack.
And you and I both know you’re far too feeble for a life of crime.
I’m bulking up, you know, eating lots of pasta and taking long naps – gotta look nice and fat to project authority… Not sure what to do with all the books though, what are my future peons are going to say? “Errr… Boss, are you reading Kant or something?”
No, they’ll all be Philosophy PHDs. “Hey boss, let’s go fulfill our Kantian maxims!”
That would be too cruel, those bastards would torture everyone for no reason and kill right and left – no one is more ruthless than a philosophy PhD that could not find a cushy TT job, people will be so afraid to mess with me, they will offer their territories and incomes without me asking – Mexican cartels would unite just so that they can sleep at night hoping they have enough manpower to fight me. Chuck Norris will disappear into obscurity and people will tell jokes about me – “Mikhail Emelianov doesn’t have a watch, he tells you what time it is!” but then instead of laughing they would cry, because it’s true…
I think a movie based on my PhD-staffed gang is probably a done deal – any suitable titles? Imagine the trailer:
They were nerds who read books while their classmates were smoking dope and getting laid…
[bespectacled nerds visibly upset, repressing their anger, observing their cool peers enjoy life]
They were reading more books while others graduated from college and got real jobs…
[Same but slightly older nerds visible upset, repressing their anger, observing their college peers drive away in a nice car with a girl]
They thought more schooling and more books would finally put them ahead, but they were wrong…
[Older graduate student-looking nerd reading rejection letters, calendar flipping through months, years – a twinkle in the nerd’s eye, sinister smile]
They could wait no more, they formed one of the most vicious gangs in the history of people forming gangs – they joined forces with an old crusty bearded maniac and crushed everyone – they are…
… awkward pause…
[Deep voice cautiously couching and repeating]
[Voice from behind the camera]
Cut, cut – what the fuck? what is the name of the gang?
[Nerd from the preview]
Umm… We haven’t decided yet, it’s a rather thorny issue, you see? I mean how can we adequately describe our enterprise? Language is so elusive and ambiguous, its very inability to maintain even an illusion of a sense of stability is rather disconcerting yet somehow it promises meaning, solicits a response that…
[Nerd get hit in the face by the anger director]
Fuck it, I’m done, let someone else do this movie…