Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Freaking Christmas, People in Language and Literature

Well, the news about just how bad it is this year in terms of the job market is in. I suppose I'll need to update my real life webpage section of Doom and Gloom about pursuing graduate school with this latest report.

The thing that sucks is that I've got a handful of students - strong students - who are intent on pursuing grad school/academia right now. In spite of my Doom and Gloom and Stern Advice Against. In spite of the copious amounts of material that I give them to read.

I hate this. I hate that I can't just be enthusiastic about their hopes and dreams and whatnot. Yes, they're adults, and yes, they will make their own decisions. And I will do everything (though how effective my "everything" is I'm not so sure) I know how to do to help them to achieve their goals. I'll write recommendation letters, and I'll help them to do what it takes to come out on the other side relatively unscathed. But I would so love to be able to look at their bright and shiny faces and reflect their optimism back at them. I would love it if I didn't know so many people who've been chewed up and spit out by this field. I would love it if I were clueless about the state of the profession and so didn't feel like I need to protect them from themselves, which of course is impossible, just as it was for people to protect me from myself when I got the crazy idea that I should be a freaking English professor.



Belle said...

Not to be Pollyanna-ish (as if) but can't you get them to investigate non-academic opportunities for English/Lit majors?

Dr. Crazy said...

Belle, let me tell you, I encourage that totally, and I suggest things, and we've got a freaking bulletin board with alumni and what they're doing with their degrees (not just a list, like little personal narratives and pictures), and let me tell you, at least in my experience, once students get the grad school thing in their heads, it's really difficult to divert them from the path. They think that they will be the exception. Really this is worth a longer post as opposed to just a comment, so perhaps later or tomorrow I'll find time for that.

Shaun Huston said...

The investment in graduate school with uncertain payoffs should always caution any of us against uncritically aiding such dreams on the part of students, but I also think we need to ask ourselves what we're "saving" them from by dissuading them from grad school (in the social sciences and humanities at any rate). I think that a student's own reasons and values should be as much a part of how and whether we enable this choice or not. Any kid who thinks that they are buying themselves a "sweet gig" needs to be directed somewhere else. On the other hand, the student who really seems to have a passion for the subject, am I really doing them a service by pressing them to do something else? Non-academic options in many fields will likely still require some level of graduate education, after all. Of course, I rarely face this choice. I have yet to have a student ask for a recommendation to enter an academic program in geography.