Wednesday, October 24, 2012


It seems that the Humanities take quite a bashing for not being as easily/numerically quantifiable as the sciences.We're taking it in the chin left and right for being about "feelings" and not about things that "cure cancer."

But, in the interest of playing off the stereotype of my studies (Hello non-academics, did you read eight, 200+ page books yesterday? No? Then stfu about the 'value' of my research/field.), I shall talk about my feelings.

I feel my pay does not adequately reflect my economic worth.

I feel tired of being asked if I would rather have part-time work so I can "start a family." I want full time work. Women used to work in the fields and squat down and drop babies out and go back to work, so I think I can manage my time and research to do the same, if I ever so choose to reproduce.

I feel undervalued and underutilized.

I feel I should have known more about graduate school and the true prospects of employment after graduation.

I feel there aren't enough hours in the day to do my awful adjunct job, commute, and research. I want to publish my way out of this hell.

I feel the weight of the world; I feel old.

Most of all, CM, I feel miserable.


  1. I have nothing to contribute beyond sympathy and empathy because I feel similarly, except that I feel overused and undervalued. I hope that we can find careers in which you feel valued.

  2. I can't add anything, but I know right where you are and I send you my support.

    It's not the life many people think it's going to be, and there are things wrong at the very heart of it.

    Hang in there. Find the moments that make it worth while...

  3. Oh, my, do these ring a bell:

    "I feel my pay does not adequately reflect my economic worth....I feel undervalued and underutilized....I want to publish my way out of this hell... .I feel the weight of the world; I feel old."

    I feel all of the above, even though I have a full-time (but not TT) job. Admittedly, my feeling old (or at least aging and a bit tired) is less of commentary on my job, since I suspect I've got more than a decade on you (but I still don't appreciate the student in my class this afternoon who not once but twice described a character as "really old; I mean she must be at least forty"). But still.

    One gets just a bit more respect as a humanities teacher when one teaches writing, as I do, since people generally agree it's important (if only for instrumental reasons), but then they wonder why I can't magically turn people who rarely read into good writers in the space of 15 weeks, all while juggling three other sections (and while my students are juggling 16-credit schedules and 30-40 hour paid workweeks).

    I wish I had a solution, but I don't. I suspect these things are cyclical, and that after a period of higher ed as expensive vocational ed, somebody will become inspired to educate the whole person again, and we'll be back to giving at least lip service to valuing the humanities. But that's not much comfort at present. I hope you can find other sources of comfort, and the energy to envision several plans of escape, and implement at least one.

  4. As an astronomer, I feel every bit of your pain. Once, when I had a 35-hour per week, officially part-time job with no benefits, giving shows at a major planetarium, my already meager pay was cut in half by an assistant director. His justification for it was to tell me: "Your work is its own reward." My replying to him, "Then give me your paycheck" did not help.

    I am deeply disturbed by how academia, and American society in general, are turning their backs on the humanities. I have no doubt that this will result in an even more brutal, less-human society than we have now.

    The humanities are not without tangible market value, either, seemingly the justification for everything these days. Not knowing how to write clearly and well, for example, may result in manuals for machines that kill their owners, assuming the owners are literate enough to be inclined to read them.

    Too many departments and even professional societies lie to students in telling them that there are jobs where there won't be. Around 1990, claims of an "imminent shortage" of science and humanities faculty were nationally announced. It didn't happen: the wave of retirements of faculty who were hired during the postwar expansion of universities never really came, and if it did, too many tenure-track jobs were made contingent.


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