Why do I insist that I am trying to help graduate students, even though I have been known to call (certain among ) them “twerps,” “pipsqueaks,” “idiots” and “fucks”? Here’s why: Because everyone you think is trying to help you is actually lying to you. I’ve covered this in my “horrible platitudes” article for Vitae before, but just a refresher course on all the out-and-out falsehoods you get every day:
“The market’s not that bad.” Lie. Except for a precious few fields that most of you are not in, it is that bad. It is, for many fields, worse. Why tell this lie? Because the truth would damage grad-student recruitment, which would be “bad” for the University (which needs the cheap labor) and “bad” for the graduate faculty (who would have to teach more than their current one five-student seminar per year).
“There are jobs for good people.” Lie. There are precious few, if any jobs, for any people, and many of those jobs go to mediocre or bad people. Why tell this lie? Same as above.
“Well, academia isn’t for everyone.” Technically this is true, but about the person your “helper” is describing (a classmate or cohort member who Left The Field), this is disingenuous victim-blaming. Why tell this lie? To absolve one of the guilt of grooming a replicant who’s all replicated up with nowhere to go, forever and ever.
“Don’t waste too much time on teaching. Your research is the most important thing.” Lie. Lie, lie, lie. Three people at most will ever read your research. At most. You have the potential to touch hundreds upon hundreds of lives with your teaching–and the vast majority of TT jobs left are high-teaching-load positions at R2 or SLAC or regional/directional. Teach if you want to teach. Research if you want to research. Do nothing–NOTHING–solely for its result, because it’s a result that probably won’t happen.
“That adjunct job/VAP will be a good stepping stone to a tenure-track job.” Lie. That adjunct/VAP job will be an excellent stepping stone to more jobs exactly like it for the rest of your miserable career.
“The market will be different next year/You’ll fare better on it with PhD in hand and a few years’ experience.” Lie. The market will never come back, because “austerity” measures (aka adjunct-sterity measures) are terrific for the corporatized university’s bottom line.
“Move wherever the job takes you, and if you have to be long-distance with your spouse, it will be worth it in the end.” Lie. It will not. You may end up unable to have a family because you put it off for too long, because “after tenure” is apparently the only socially acceptable time (if there is one) for a female academic to reproduce.
“You should be working 6 hours a day minimum on your dissertation and producing at least 10 pages a day.” Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. That’s basically like saying, “Hey, get overwhelmed and don’t finish.” You can–and should–write two pages per day or fewer (most of the time) if you want them to be any good. Writing a dissertation is nothing–I mean NOTHING–like writing a paper. It is a completely different beast, and requires its own very delicate and specialized approach, and most of your advisers are beyond abysmal at this approach. In my year as a dissertation coach I have come to the conclusion that most dissertation advisers should not be allowed within 100 feet of their students (mine was awesome, by the way, in case you care).
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. When you are getting lied to like this–all day, every day, by everyone who matters to you–the result can be really damaging. I am here as a very needed counterweight to all of these lies. Ignore my #realtalk at your own peril.
SCHUMAN OUT. #exhausted