Sarah Kendzior tells the truth–now bring on the ad hominem attacks!
I am absolutely high on the genius of this article (and not just because she quotes yours truly, with attribution even). YOU GO, GLEN COCO. I am hoping the intelligent decision you made not to personalize this piece will spare you some of the cruel and largely unfounded vitriol I’ve gotten this week. It’s funny, too, because here’s how the (distilled) argument in my article went:
ME: the academic job market is overcrowded, so even if you are great, you probably won’t get a job, and when you don’t, you will be made to feel absolutely worthless by your peers, and you will believe in your heart that the only reason you failed–and make no mistake, you, personally, failed–is that you aren’t good enough. This isn’t necessarily true, because there is simply a massive glut of “good” people–with publications (check), great evals (check), and a decent rep in the field (until “Thesis Hatement,” check). So buck up! Don’t let those assholes tell you who’s “good” because they don’t know.
THEM: Bitch didn’t get a job because she’s not good enough. Obviously. I mean, look at her. Only one book contract? Only two articles in top journals? Only one of the most prestigious postdocs in the US? SHE SUXXX. And she ugly too.
This is a dangerous mentality–and not to me, I’m sensitive but I’ve basically just had a chorus of U MAD? in my head since Friday, making me giggle–because for the entrenched, it further entrenches them, and perpetuates exactly the abusive mentality Sarah writes so beautifully about (with so much true and palpable pain; gurl I hug you! this is a hug!), and makes sure nothing will ever change. And for the mid-indoctrination grad students, it sets them up for even more pain when the job market doesn’t work out for them (because even for the luckiest and the best, the people who actually get stuff, this shit is meager. Mea. ger. I mean, at least three of the most “desirable” positions in my field last year were at institutions LEGENDARY for denying tenure, and were in fact replacements for people who didn’t get it, despite being serious geniuses who are incontrovertibly great scholars and probably terrific pedagogues too. But I digress.)
I wish I didn’t scream inwardly with recognition at every line of this story (not just the one I wrote, heh), I wish things were different. I wish it were a true meritocracy, not because then I’d have a job (maybe I still wouldn’t, and that is fine), but because then we would know what we needed to do to be competitive for one. But, more than anything, I wish that exactly the series of psychological maneuvers Sarah describes in her article (I keep using her first name even though we’ve never met b/c we are Twitter friends and because I LOVE HER, DO YOU HEAR ME? I LOVE YOU) were not still taking place this very second, and I wish the article I wrote to try to bring attention to them didn’t instead succeed for some in giving them even more credibility.
I wish more than anything for the Slate article I wrote to be wrong. I wish the reason so many amazing people I know travel from visiting job to visiting job, or adjunct 7 courses a semester is because they did something “wrong” that the rest of you can avoid by going to the Ivy League or just by not being like me. I hope that every panicked graduate student who read “Thesis Hatement” and got placated by a bunch of his/her friends on Facebook with cries of “DON’T LISTEN TO A LOSER” is vindicated, and gets a job, and doesn’t end up in the incontrovertible reality that Sarah describes. I really do–but I have read the complicated theoretical writing on the wall, and I really don’t see things changing for the better. Instead, like I said a few days ago, I believe that in a few years it will be all adjuncts and MOOCs (although then who’ll be left to treat the adjuncts like shit? Maybe there will be like one tenured professor per department still. I don’t know). I really hope I’m wrong–I really do hope that what happened to me is simply the causal result of me sucking. But even with the total devaluation of my self-worth that had already taken place before hundreds of strangers weighed in on it, I just don’t think I am.