I was going to write my 3rd post in my series on remuneration, but I feel a more pressing topic is in order. A toxic group-self rhetoric has really been glaring an ugly head. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. I want it to stop.
In order to tell you what I see, I’m going to start by telling you of an important event that shaped the path of my life. In 2006, I graduated from high-school and was contemplating my career in journalism. I had been editor of the school newspaper and loved the prospect of continuously learning more about the world. The summer after graduation, I jumped on a plane going to the east coast intent on hitting every Civil War memorial, ever national monument, and everything to be seen in Virginia, Maryland, Boston, and Capitol Hill at D.C.. On the plane, I sat next to a less-than charming woman who claimed to be an editor for the NY Times. Kismet ensued and, for nearly 6 hours, she grilled me about my journalistic hopes and dreams. With each perspiring point of enthusiasm, her cynicism squashed any grandeur I could muster. I’ve written about this story before and my co-workers know it well, but considering I work for a legal news company after I decided years ago that “news was dying/dead”, the irony seems fit. This woman ruined journalism for me. I went on to study several other things before landing on Rhetoric & Technical Communication, but I can’t forget my “almost-did”.
This is where I speak to those academics. You know who you are. The ones ruining it for everyone else. You complain about the difficulties of a job that many of us want. Your trite twitter comments about job placement and a dying career path are unnecessary. For me, the non-academic in the room that wishes he could someday be a part of the conversation, hates what you’re doing.
Let me try to put it another way. Let’s say, I’m saving money to go on vacation. Let’s say I want to go to Yellowstone. I see pictures of people enjoying themselves and I have a sense that I would love to visit this remote place. You have been there, you know there are some negative things like grocery bills and a massive Earth-destroying volcano. I don’t need you to tell me that Yellowstone is going to blow-up and be non-existent in so many years. I don’t need to read your tweets about how being there is “awful, buffalo don’t do anything”, “being at Yellowstone is so much work and it’s hard”.
How you speak about yourself is how others will view you. You complain about your students, the academic politics, the constant deadlines, etc just shows me that you don’t deserve, yes don’t deserve, the position. Get out of academia and make room for people that want to participate.
I spent a few years in graduate school listening to other people complain about their Graduate Student Assistant-ship where they got to teach. Mine was a non-teaching GSA. I’m grateful for everything being one that finishing grad-school with limited debt, but listening to other people complain about a job I wanted was more than torture. It still is.
I applied to a few Phd programs in 2017. They all told me the same thing. You’re resume is good, grades are good, GRE is good, recommendations are good, but you don’t have teaching credits or specific work experience, “go get those and come back”. So, I’ve sought those things out. While doing so, I’ve learned a great deal about my future colleagues in arms and I’m constantly appalled by their behavior. I don’t know if I even want to get a PhD anymore. Years of listening to people, good and decent people, complain about my destination has really made me ask “why am I saving up for this vacation?”.
I’m lucky enough to work at a company that I believe in with people that I could see myself working with for a long time, but I must think about my life goals. I need to think about the experiences that will get me where I need to be. I need to “save”, i.e. gain experience, so that I can “go on vacation”, i.e. get “the job”, that will make me feel fulfilled. This is my driving force for doing my best. I have a hard time doing that when I’m being told “don’t save your money” or “go somewhere else”. You academics that do this, suck. You make others lose faith in the study of Rhetoric and you’re portraying to others that the study needs to die. You know that rhetoric is a valid and worthwhile study, act like it.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to question what I want out of life. I’ll keep gaining experience with the hopes that a PhD is in my future. I just hope that I don’t have to wade through ruins to get there.