Friday, October 12, 2007

a Chronicle column

Mmm. I'm not given to griping about Chronicle columns as a general rule. (I know it's a favorite blood sport with some people, but I've written several, and it's a damned hard genre to get right -- besides, I always worry that someone is out there on the Net snarking at my stuff, so I want to be nice to other people.) That said, does anyone else feel put off by this column? I mean, yes, Plagiarism Is A Very Bad Thing, but some of the other stuff she complains about ... isn't, really, particularly in an overcrowded humanities field (and I do get an English-y vibe from the column, though I could be wrong). People have the right to change their minds about their career goals, yes? And in particular, I'm getting the impression that she considers any job not at an R1 to be a dead loss.

Ah well.

In other news: am at a conference. Whee! (Does anybody else feel like they're Getting Away With Something when they leave on Wednesday or Thursday to go to a conference? I know, perfectly legitimate, part of one's professional responsibilities, yet somehow it always feels like skipping school.)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that this column had an "English-y" feel to it, but my beef with it is, why on earth are these students getting PhDs?! If all they are doing is reissuing an advisor's work, how did they pass the diss defense? If they are so resistant to going beyond one-dimensional topics, how did they even get a diss proposal accepted? And on a more basic level, who really believes that working with grad students and producing more humanities PhDs in the job market of the last decade is the pinnacle of academic success? If we really believe in graduate education, shouldn't we be holding students to the highest standards so that have a chance to get a tt job when they finish? I suspect that the author teaches at an Ivy if all these weak students are actually getting jobs.

Ok, thanks for letting me rant :>)

Sisyphus said...

What a bizarre column! Is this person for real? It said more to me about what kind of advisor she is than anything about these students --- evidently potential advisees have to beg her and lie to her about their interests in order to get any help from her, and they feel they have to play various games (from claiming to love R1s to passing gossip) to get in her good graces.

And I think there's a fine line between molding yourself after the style of your advisor (which they want you to do) and copying him/her too closely ... it's hard to see that line and I think the more experienced person in the profession (the advisor) should be pushing and training the other about these distinctions.

PS have fun at the conference!

heu mihi said...

I get the feeling that this advisor is way too identified with her students--to the point where it's a personal affront to her if someone decides that academia isn't going to be the most important thing in his/her life. This one particularly irked me:

"...the student who claims to want a plum academic career but who, upon completing the Ph.D. and landing a research position at a major institution, suddenly leaves the profession, insisting that family considerations were paramount after all."

Um--is this not allowed? People's priorities change, especially once they're actually in a career: as grad students, we really don't know what full-time academia is going to be like until we try it. This is not "apparent deceit," "bluster," or "empty talk": It is ultimately none of the advisor's business.

(I haven't actually finished reading the article--will do that now!--but those passages startled me.)

(I also kind of hate that use of "plum.")

Fretful Porpentine said...

I agree that this column had an "English-y" feel to it, but my beef with it is, why on earth are these students getting PhDs?! If all they are doing is reissuing an advisor's work, how did they pass the diss defense? If they are so resistant to going beyond one-dimensional topics, how did they even get a diss proposal accepted?

Or, alternatively, the columnist's description of their work might not be entirely accurate. I'd be interested to hear some of her grad students' side of the story!

Sisyphus -- Glad I'm not the only one who found it bizarre.

Heu mihi -- Exactly! That was the anecdote that really got to me; are people not allowed to change their professions or priorities, ever?

In general, it bugs me when people treat an academic position as the equivalent of a religious vocation rather than a job, but that's another rant for another time.

Renaissance Girl said...

How off-putting this column must be for prospective graduate students--and especially for women. A self-vaunted "feminist," the author seems to wish to offer a pretty limited model of professionalism to the female graduate students she teaches, one in which "family considerations" must be secondary to the glorious calling of research.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Nice to meet you, Renaissance Girl! I hadn't thought about the gender angle, but you're right, expectations like this tend to hit female grad students with families the hardest.

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