Through Others’ Eyes II

In connection with attempts to comprehend myself, my unstable colleagues, my happy ones, and our students, have been reading in blogs and other writings by graduate students who are leaving, or have left, and conflicted about it. These academics had information gaps I did not before entering graduate school, but they also have profound insights I do not yet.

Some of the things they do not like about graduate school are the things I do not like about being a professor — namely the mind trips the profession is capable of laying upon one. This makes me realize it is “not just me.”

Some of their reasons for feeling conflicted, though, and for having gone to graduate school in the first place, are motives I do not relate to, for example prestige (going to graduate school because it was prestigious, feeling conflicted about quitting because that means giving up prestige).

I realize now that when I was quitting professordom and people were horrified, as they were, what they could not accept my renouncing were things like this putative prestige. This explains a great deal about some of the reactions I got.

I was seduced back in by the idea of doing research, but I believe the reason people wanted me back so much was that they could not face my willingness to lose the prestige they saw me as having.

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6 Responses to Through Others’ Eyes II

  1. Hattie says:

    You can’t deny the prestige, though. And I’m not sure it’s wrong to pursue a doctorate for the sake of the prestige. The prestige gives you more control over your career.

  2. Z says:

    In my career, there isn’t a choice about whether to have a Ph.D. or not – it’s required. In others, it’s not required and can be a liability.

    I would be very careful of doing a PhD “for the prestige.” That is not enough desire or interest to get you a PhD that would be actually prestigious.

    Some people are also opposed to “vanity” PhDs, i.e. PhDs done just for fun. I think those are fine.

  3. Z says:

    Or: this is the post I most refer to. It’s very good and valiant.

    But this writer is detoxing from a slightly different illusion than mine.

  4. Z says:

    My issue was, just because I did a PhD, do I have to keep being a poor foreign language teacher to honor that in some way, or atone for it? Just because it led to a career path I hadn’t envisioned / wouldn’t have chosen, must I simply accept that? People thought so, because they thought it carried security and prestige and that those were the things that should matter to me.

  5. Z says:

    The other issue I’ve had, and this isn’t a criticism of that blog or of anyone, just of my (in)comprehension of things IRL people say to me, is that ego and prestige were never part of my motivation … it was the work. But when one talks about these things, it seems that a common assumption is that those would be one’s priorities.

    The other common assumption is that research and writing would be the hard parts, and as I’ve said before, that suburban real estate would be one’s goal.

    What I’m wrapping my mind around just now is the prestige thing. Last month it was the discovery that the real reason people suffer in law school is that they expect to be at the top of the class and discover they can’t be. So I’m just figuring out what was behind, or projected, from the mucho exhortation I’ve gotten over the years.

    But as far as prestige and control of career, I think you say that because your husband the PhD works in a place where there are MS people and PhD people in a certain configuration. In professor-land, it’s all PhDs, and professor is famously not a career path where you have a great deal of control.


    It’s odd: I am totally comfortable with not understanding a language or not seeing where the end of a research project are, I can sit with that, but I don’t like not being able to choose where I live and the conditions under which I live; and I don’t like the infantilization of women professors, and I don’t like not being able to opt out of that part of the job. So these are some things that go into this post.

    Also, having an MA in literature and teaching language courses at a university isn’t the same career path as having a PhD. The MA person would get a PhD so as to have a professor career, not so as to have more control over their instructor career.

  6. Pingback: On Privilege | Seminario Permanente de Teoría y Crítica

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