More on Academic Advice

All right, to sum up, here is what I don’t like about it. I got all this advice but the cognitive dissonance was that from what I could actually observe, things were not really this bad. I always thought there was something wrong with me, that I could not see it, and feared what might happen if I could not see it was true. But I think it was a great distortion, and that it really is not.

I always heard: don’t spend time teaching, get out of service, and write as fast as you can without too much regard for content – all that matters is placing your piece somewhere; whether or not there is any interest or passion from y0u in it is utterly immaterial.

I always heard: you probably won’t get a job and if you do, you probably won’t make tenure; if you do that, you will still be living in an awful place, and research is just a scam anyway; on the other hand you will at least have job security so try, try, write as fast as you can and ignore everything else, and then you’ll have job security.


I also always heard: Do not do this. It is not going to be fun, you know. It is going to be terrible, because you will have to write.

Donotdothisitisnotgoingtobefunyouknow. Donotdothisitisnotgoingtobefunyouknow. Donotdothisitisnotgoingtobefunyouknow.

And I heard: You are doing too well, and it hurts our feelings.

Youaredoingtoowellithurtsourfeelings youaredoingtoowellithurts youaredoingtoowellithurtsourfeelings youaredoingtoowell youaredoingtoowellithurtsourfeelings youaredoingtoowellithurtsour.

These things were repeated a lot and concrete answers to concrete, how-to type questions were not recognized by this crowd; they would not take discussion.

So, I feel I am already all too well advised not to spend time on teaching or service, to write as fast as I can, to not really care what I say so long as it is published; I am already informed that it is a difficult race and that I, if I make it at all, will be one of the last chosen. I think this is all very misleading advice and I do not wish to hear it again.

Advice from me:

Because of the market, we were always told to not to be critical of the appropriateness for ourselves of any particular job and that if we were, we would prove we were not serious. This is more wrong advice.

Institutions are really different and you have to really look at what you want your life to be like before you leap. And yes, you do know (we were told we were “too young,” at 30 and 35, to know our own tastes and orientations).

The idea that it is “arrogant” to “imagine” that you know is a strange one, with roots in – some obscure monasticism, perhaps. In bright Aegean light, self knowledge is a good thing.


2 thoughts on “More on Academic Advice

  1. The best advice I ever heard from one of my profs was, “If you are really good you don’t have to worry.” I think she’s right. Maybe not in the short run but in the long run.

  2. Perhaps. It depends on what “good” is. I’m not convinced, though, and it’s potentially not a good thing to say since then, if things go poorly it was that you were not really good. It also depends on what you are worrying about. Getting jobs in German? There are hardly any, so no matter how “good” you are, yes, you have to worry. The other thing I don’t like about that sentence is the vagueness – it doesn’t answer any sort of concrete question, and can be used to evade them.

    On the other hand, and this is what I like about it, it is a fact that no amount of step by step instructions makes up for insight, or something.

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