The title of this post is meant to signify something like “aghurk,” the semi-aspirated sort-of-a-vocalization I sometimes make accompanied by raising my arms up over my head when I’m at a loss for words in an exasperated or otherwise negative kind of way. I just read the list of stuff that Lump linked to. Carl’s post is fun. The rest made me go “… !?”

Several things I want to say and no time, I have to talk the dog then go to bed then get up way too early without enough sleep and teach and fail to meet my deadlines mid-week.

One, christ this stuff scares the hell out of me. The thought of yet another economic tailspin the like one that eventually led to me coming to grad school is fucking terrifying and evokes questions like why didn’t I take/keep/try for those other jobs? Why didn’t I go to trade school? What happens if the bottom really falls out after my wife is actually pregnant or after the baby arrives? What if…. !?

I guess this is a plus side to changing program mid-PhD. I’ve got a long while in school yet. Never thought that’d seem like a good thing. My heart really goes out to folk currently on the job market. I feel bad about myself that a piece of me is like “whew! glad it’s not me!” Not proud of that. Want to blame the institution for it, some bullshit about academic consciousness or something, but that feels like cheating.

Two, on some of the discussions about the value of education, on the one hand I totally feel that. I love to teach. I love being part of my students starting write better and coming to understand things. Absolutely. On the other hand, is it *really* worth what they’re paying for it? I’m also kind of bitter because my philosophy degree didn’t increase my employability or income. It really didn’t, not compared to other members of my family. It increased my status, lowered my income. Didn’t really increase my status all that much, either. I did meet my wife through college so I’m genuinely not sorry, but I am like … if I had a kid right now would I want to send that kid to college? Sure, if the kid wanted it. But I don’t know that there’s much in the way of reasons to advocate for why the kid should want to go.

There’s some Gramsci quote about the socialist movement being the best source of working class literacy. I know I can say that my own involvement in radical left stuff has fed my mind and been fed by desire to feed my mind to a degree competitive with my experiences in higher education. I often think that if I had just taken that money I used to pay for undergrad I could have read a lot of those same books and had those same conversations and so on. I mean, I learned a lot in college. I even learned a lot in college classes. But I don’t know that I couldn’t have gotten there otherwise, and for cheaper. Maybe higher education really isn’t worth all that much, maybe it’s really more like a racket – putting a fence up around something good and charging admission.

Let me put it another way. I think I live on about 15 grand a year. Last year my 18 year old brother made 23 grand or so. Either of these sums will do, they’re about equivalent to a year’s tuition at some colleges (and some have a lot higher price tags). Rather than pay that much each year for 4 years for tuition, and have to work on top of school in order to live, why not take the money and take 4 years off? Start a reading group and a writing group and a band. Know what I’m saying? Maybe if everyone stopped sending their kids to college and instead gave their 2 or 3 years to hang out and travel and so on…

And don’t even get me started about the idea that some places won’t hire people who have worked as adjuncts…! I know people who have gotten jobs on the strength of their research alone, never having taught. Really smart. Really knowledgeable. Their brains can run circles around mine. But I’m a better teacher. In part because I love to teach. I love being in a room with students, I don’t care what the subject matter is or the age – hell I really liked teaching grammar to elementary school kids and geometry proofs to teenagers when I had that terrible job at the test prep company. being smart and knowing stuff and writing well and so on does not equal being a good teacher. That higher education institutions measure aspects of academic research then try to apply those findings to hiring people to teach, or apply them in ways which effect teaching, should be criminal.

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