Friday, March 30, 2007

Loudmouth Reformed!

I just got back from a colloquium dinner. For those who have no idea what a colloquium dinner is, I'll explain it all another time. Right now, I want to talk about my food.

I had gnocchi in a white truffle cream sauce. It floored me. It absolutely fucking floored me. It was shockingly good. So good, in fact, that when I put it in my mouth, my first, my only, and my overwhelmingly powerful thought was, "Motherfucker!"

But thankfully, I was sober enough to shake off the cream sauce-induced shock and regain my composure before I'd blurted out anything more than, "Mo'!" Also thankfully, the septagenarian senior-senior faculty member sitting across from me--the one with the very old world sense of propriety--is going deaf. Another crisis averted by my awesome suavity.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Anacondas dance / Will they be our doom?

Meanwhile, in job markets other than philosophy:
Herpetologist and Educator

I am looking for a unique individual that possesses two skills:

1st a love of children. Someone that can work with large groups of kids, and maintain control. Someone that can connect with kids and get them interested in what you have to say.

2nd a love of reptiles. Someone that has worked with a number of reptiles. I'm not refering to having a ball python when you were younger, but an individual that has a working knowledge of reptiles.

The position I'm looking to fill is a Reptile Handler assisting me with educational shows. If you possess these skills, please call [***.***.****] or e-mail ****** I really need someone that can hit the ground running.

I found this on Craigslist. Think I should apply? I bet the boss of Raging Reptiles would at least have the balls to use the active voice when he told me to fuck off.

Update: You know, I've been thinking about this, and I don't really have any idea what a "working knowledge of reptiles" could be. When you say you have, say, a working knowledge of NetLogo, that means you might not be a super-expert with it, but you can use it model whatever you need to model. But what do you do with a working knowledge of reptiles? What's the work?

So Late, it's the Next Day Update: Anonymous, in comments, points out that a working knowledge of reptiles probably involves knowing when a snake is just chilling and when it's about to put a fang in your ass. That's a good point. Especially, I suppose, if you're going to be playing with kids. I have the growing sense that I'm not cut out to be a herpetological educator.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice IV

Here's a really nice illustration of how the passive voice functions as the perfect grammatical context for offensively condescending bullshit. Which is, of course, the whole point.

It is unfortunate that you could not be included among our finalists.

Let's take this step by step. First, the passive voice, and with it, the grammatical implication that no one in particular made the decision not to interview me. In fact, "decision" isn't even the right word here, is it? Since no one actually did anything, it’s more like. . . an event. It just happened. It was a matter of fate or, if you will, fortune.

This is stupid, obviously. But once you start thinking about who did what and why, the sentence loses even its thin veneer of meaning. Who, exactly, is it unfortunate for than I didn't get an interview? Not this department. They didn't want to interview me, and it's no misfortune not to conduct interviews with candidates you're not interested in anyway. So that leaves me. They're telling me it's unfortunate for me that they didn't give me an interview.

Know what? I know that, assholes. I'm not so fucking stupid that you have to tell me it's unfortunate you didn't give me a fucking interview.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

True story. Yesterday, not moments after after I posted about that paper I've got out under review, I heard back from someone whose comments on that paper I'd been waiting for for a couple of months. Let's call him International Big Time, because that's what he is. Just getting this guy to read my paper involved my supervisor brokering a deal with him and, I have to assume, calling in some chits. Now, I happen to think his philosophy is the shit, so I was eager to see these comments. Imagine my delight--and gut-clenching anxiety--when I saw an e-mail from him waiting in my inbox.

No luck, though. It turns out International Big Time had attached the wrong document. He didn't send me his comments, he sent me a letter obviously intended for the chair of my department. So. Now I happen to know that International Big Time is engaged is some bare-knuckle negotiations about the possibility of moving to my department, or possibly moving to one of two other, much better-ranked departments. I am really, really not supposed to know this. My department keeps hiring and tenure information in a cone of silence. We find out when we've made a hire or a promotion by looking for announcements on the department website. (You'd think a hire or a promotion would warrant an e-mail sent around the department list, wouldn't you? Me too. But not our chair.)

And I am really, really, really not supposed to know what kind of money is getting talked about in these negotiations. This is the part that really kills me. International Big Time is negotiating three different job offers, and the amount of money he's talking about is staggering.

I guess for some, the job market's what Marlo would call one of them good problems. Me, right now, I just want to see this guy's comments on my paper.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Brother Number What?

PJMB reader CT writes with this comparison of me and the Khmer Rouge:
At least they had jobs!
So true, so true.

The Longer You Wait, the Harder it is.

My supervisor caught me in the hall the other day to ask me how the essay I've been working on is coming. (I swear to god, it's going to be done by the end of the day today) But he also asked, "And you don't have anything else in the pipeline right now, right?" For those non-philosophers among you, the pipleine refers to having a paper out there, under review at some journal, at some stage in the process of getting it published.

Here's the thing. It took me a few seconds to answer his question. I couldn't remember whether I had another paper under review. I do, as it happens. And it's a paper I really wouldn't expect I'd forget about, since writing it felt like passing a grapefruit-sized kidney stone slowly over three months, and then dealing with two senior faculty members--both on my committee--telling me entirely different things about what changes to make to the kidney stone. That paper hurt like a motherfucker. So much so, in fact, that I'm starting to get a little nauseous right now just thinking about having to revise it more.

The point is, I'm not going to be doing that revision anytime soon, and for the same reason that I forgot about the paper. Because I sent it off to a journal almost five months ago. Five fucking months. And according to this wiki, I can expect to wait at least another four months before hearing an initial verdict. Seven to nine months between your initial submission and an initial verdict. Assuming that verdict is either a revise-and-resubmit or an outright rejection (my specialty!), that means it'll be another bunch of months to get it accepted somewhere. So it can take well over a year to get a paper accepted at a philosophy journal.

This is really fucking discouraging, because the section of my CV that needs more ink on it comes under the heading "Publications."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Teacher's Goin' to Show You How to Get an A

I've mentioned a few times that an application for a job in philosophy includes a lot of different pieces of paper. In my continuing effort to explain how stupid aspects of this process are, I want to highlight one of those.

I discovered last year that a lot of schools require you to submit your graduate transcripts with your application. For those who might not know, these are the transcripts with your grades for the graduate courses you took before you wrote your third year exams and started writing your dissertation. They're transcripts, in other words, for courses you took (at least!) three or four years ago. They're also transcripts for a lot of courses that have nothing to do with your AOS or AOC. They're transcripts that say pretty much nothing about you as a candidate.

Look, search committees. Don't you think asking for transcripts is a little embarassing for you? Do you really think you need to know what I got in my first year proseminar? I mean, I've got nothing to hide, so it's fine if you want to know. But do you really trust my prosem prof's assessment of my abilities better than your own? Come on guys, all y'all are professors of philosophy. You can look at my CV, my letters, and my writing sample, and you can do this all on your own.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Like a lot of philosophy departments, mine requires its grad students to pick up reading knowledge of at least one foreign language. I'm sure both my supervisor and my German instructor (Hey, there, Josef!) would be pleased to know my German gets used to help the future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS play German video games. Now that's scholarship!

I Could Tell You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Speaking of trying to finish dissertations, check out this passage from Infinite Potential, F. David Peat's biography of David Bohm:

Bohm was reaching the end of his own research project on the collisions of protons and deuterons--only to find it plucked from under his nose. The scattering calculations that he had completed proved useful to the Manhattan Project and were immediately classified. Without security clearance, Bohm was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place! To satisfy the university, Oppenheimer certified that Bohm had successfully completed the research, and he was awarded his Ph.D. in 1943. [p. 64]

That last part is pretty sweet. Do you think if I somehow get my dissertation classified, my supervisor could convince the Graduate Division of the school that I don't actually need to finish it? It would make my CV look pretty fucking cool, too. I don't think I'd bother with the Pentagon-style black lines over all my dissertation info. I'd just make it is say "Dissertation title redacted," or something like that. It'd be more elegant that way.

Spring Break Dissertation Bender

It's spring break, which, for the graduate student, doesn't mean keg stands and Girls with Low Self-Esteem. It means a chance to get some goddamned work done.

It means a Dissertation Bender. Days on end filled with nothing but you, the laptop, stacks of books, more coffee than any one person's kidneys should--in a just world--ever have to process, and the sinking realization that the sun has gone down and you still haven't gotten dressed or brushed your teeth, much less actually left the house or spoken to anyone.

But The Date has been good about it. He's been there. He's been taking me on nighttime walks. And he came home with flowers for me in the middle of the worst of it:

They're living in the juice jug, since I don't have a vase to put them in.

All this, for a 30-page draft of Chapter IV. 11,000 words in a week and a half. Gah. My brain is sore.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You Never Call Anymore

I'd hate you to think I was going soft after yesterday's post, so let me bitch for a minute here. You know what's really pretty shabby? Not getting a PFO of any kind from a school I interviewed with at the APA. I know their search is over, and I know they've hired someone else. Maybe a form letter's called for here? Even a form e-mail? Something? Anything?

I guess not. Why bother with even a modicum of human decency?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Active Voice

Listening to Jimmy McGriff play "'Round Midnight" and getting some prep done for class tomorrow, grading some papers and drinking a beer. But let me take a break from that to tell you how a PFO letter ought to be written.

A few schools have sent me letters that thanked me for applying. The precise terminology is important here. It's not enough to say, "Thank you for your interest in our department." Because you know what? I'm not really interested in your department. I'm interested in getting a job with any fucking department. You have to say, "Thank you for applying." It's even better if you say "Thank you for taking the time to apply," because it really did take a lot of fucking time for me to put those applications together.

But it can get better than that. One school I interviewed with at the APA sent me a letter that thanked me for the interview, and actually went so far as to say they enjoyed our discussion. That might be total bullshit, but fuck it, I enjoyed the discussion too. They were a decent bunch of guys. And it was nice of the chair of the department to write such a kind rejection, even if it was a form letter.

There really isn't a lot about this process that makes you feel like an actual human being, so you appreciate those moments when they come by.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Glossary of Obnoxious Insider Philosophy Job Market Jargon

PJMB reader JH has pointed out that some of the acronyms and other bits of jargon we've been using around here might be a wee bit obscure to the non-philosopher. Fair enough.

Here, then, are some definitions for some of our most commonly used terms:

AOC: Area of Competence. Departments expect you to be able to teach undergraduate-level courses in this area. Some departments might expect you to get around to publishing something in it at some point as well.

AOS: Area of Specialization. The area your dissertation is in, and what you expect to publish about most of the time. Also, when you go on the job market, departments expect you to be able to teach courses in this area at all undergraduate levels. They also expect you to be able to teach a variety of different advanced seminars for undergraduate majors and honors and grad students in this area.

APA: The American Philosophical Association, strictly speaking. Just as often, though, "APA" is used to refer to the Association's conferences. There are several APA conferences held throughout the year, in different parts of the country. The biggie, though, is the Eastern Division conference held in December--that's the one where all the horrors of the job market go down.

JFP: Jobs for Philosophers. A newspaper published several times a year by the APA that lists--you guessed it--jobs for philosophers. It lists every philosophy job that's open in North America, and a bunch from the rest of the world too. It's not as thick a paper as you might think.

(I'll likely pop back here and update things as new terms get abused.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice III

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled:
Our Search Committee for our advertised positions has met and, with difficulty, made their decisions. I am sorry to have to report that you were not selected. That in no way implies a negative judgment of your talents, accomplishments, or promise in philosophy.

Seriously? Your stone cold rejection of me in no way implies a negative judgment of my talents and all that other shit? So, like, I could be the next fucking Saul Kripke (except, you know, without the panty sniffing), and you still wouldn't say, "Fuck it. We can get an ethicist next time around"? Seriously?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Things Without Which a Dissertation Would Not Be Possible, Part II: An Ode to Ballantine's

The job market is a terrifically stressful enterprise, and Ballantine's offers unparalleled solace for the beleaguered grad student's soul.

Plus, it functions nicely as a substitute for positive feedback. Who needs an advisor to feel all warm and fuzzy and confident, anyway?

Let me point out that this is not just economy scotch you're looking at here. This is the economy size of the economy scotch. 1.75 litres, baby.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

One Tenth of a Meaningful Award

In case my post yesterday didn’t quite strike a bitter enough note, I’ve got more to say today about the C. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. I didn’t mention the award came with a cash prize, did I? Am I going to complain about cash? Yes, I am.

The prize is $250. That’s a particularly interesting number to me, being as it’s exactly one tenth of $2,500--which just happens to be my health insurance costs for next year. My school’s paid for my insurance up to this point, but they’re cutting me off after this year. It’s their policy, since after so many years, they figure it’s just time for me to be moving on. This is one of their little ways of letting me know it’s time to fuck off. To be clear, that health insurance bill is going to cost me two month’s income. That’s two months where, right now, I have no fucking clue how I’m going to pay my rent or buy my goddamned rice and beans. That’s the shiv I get from my school for not being done this year.

But look. I went on the job market this year. I fucking tried, okay? I tried, but I failed. Is it my fault that I failed so completely and utterly? Well sure, it’s got to be more my fault than anyone else’s. I’m dealing with that. But—and this is the part that really hurts—I didn’t do anything wrong. Not only that, I did a fuck of a lot right. In fact, I did so much right that you—my school—gave me the fucking C. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. Which is supposed to be some Big Fucking Deal.

So I’m good enough to get that big fucking award, but not good enough to get health insurance. If only I had a nickel for every time someone’s said congratulations, well. . . I still couldn’t afford my health insurance. And that sort of makes the award seem pretty fucking hollow.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence

I mentioned a couple of nights ago that the future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS and I went to this dinner function at my school. Actually, it was a lot more than dinner. It was an afternoon awards ceremony, followed by a public lecture given by a Very Important Public Intellectual. That was followed by a cocktail party with the VIPI and the award winners, and only then did we get our shitty dinner with the VIPI.

Now, the VIPI’s lecture was quite good, both in substance and style. But I wasn’t there for him. I was there for the awards ceremony. See, I was one of ten grad students getting the award. Let’s call it the C. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, since that gives a good sense of just how much pompous bullshit dripped from every part of the entire event. I had to walk across a stage in front of, I’d say, about 600 people (who were all there to see the VIPI), shake hands with the dean, get my picture taken, which I fucked up, and then shake hands with a different dean (so many deans!). And then go back to my seat. And then I got to listen to the VIPI’s talk.

The whole event was billed as (roughly) “A Celebration of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.” The idea was that an outstanding achiever in the field of excellent VIPIing would give a public address. This would be done in the spirit of outstanding achievement, in order to celebrate the outstanding achievement of us ten grad students in out excellent respective fields. The dean made it clear that it was a Big Fucking Deal.

Some of my fellow recipients also thought it was a BFD. One woman had, I think, six members of her family there, her proud dad with a huge camera and an even huger bouquet of pink roses.

I was a little more sanguine. I have only one goal in grad school right now: to get a job. And this is not going to help with that. It’s one more line on my CV under the heading “Awards and Distinctions.” And frankly, I’ve already got enough crap there. When I was putting together my CV in the fall, my supervisor told me to single-space that section, since no one actually reads it anyway. It just has to look like there’s a lot of stuff there, and the single-spacing, he said, makes it look “denser.”

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, and I appreciated the chance to shake the dean’s hand, since she’s done things for the school that I really support. But it wasn’t a Big Fucking Deal. It was nothing but a single line on my CV, and one that I didn’t need anyway.

On Coffeeshops

My love for writing the dissertation in coffeeshops is boundless. Unbounded. Without bound.

Sure, there’s the distraction of wireless internet access to contend with. (Unlike with the intermittent access I have at home, where I’m only able to steal my neighbour’s wireless when it’s not too humid out. And only in one corner of the apartment.) You might think this would make home a better place to write. Avoid the temptations of Facebook and the Onion and Bitch PhD and Sudoku Combat and Pandagon and I Don’t Like You In That Way by simply making it impossible for them to suck you in. Seems like the most responsible way to get the dissertation written, no?

Yeah, maybe. But I prefer a different approach: engaging in a particular form of self-delusion, wherein you begin by convincing yourself that the fellow patrons of the coffeeshop know that you are frittering away your afternoon—and by extension, your life—fucking around online. Then you convince yourself that the good opinion of said patrons is actually very important to you. (Both these steps involve a considerable amount of self-deception, to be sure.) Finally, you use this desire to be thought well of as an incentive to stop frittering away your afternoon and start writing your dissertation.

It’s pathetic, I know. But it works.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Never Tell Me the Odds

I mentioned a couple of days ago how people reacted when I told them I was applying to 94 jobs this past year. First, almost everybody who wasn’t in philosophy was floored by the number. But then second, they figured with that many applications, I’d have to get something. I mean, what kind of loser applies to 94 jobs and doesn’t get a single offer?

This kind of loser, as it turns out.

But there’s some context here for people not familiar with the philosophy job market that helps to explain my complete and utter failure. (And by "explain," I mean "explain without reference to me being a crappy candidate.") The thing is, there’s a lot applicants for philosophy jobs. I really mean it. A lot of applicants. So, a couple of different schools mentioned in their rejection letters that they got over 200 applications for their jobs. You read that right. In at least two instances that I know of for sure, a single job opening attracted over 200 applications.

Now those numbers might seem like outliers, right? But I’m guessing they’re not. I’m guessing they’re not too far from average. Why? Because one rejection letter I got told me that they got over 400 applications.

My aunt, who’s in her 70s and a very polite lady, responded to that number with, “Holy shit. Never heard my aunt swear before. The philosophy job market's good for all kinds of new experiences.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Loud Mouth

So, I'm walking down the main stairs in my department's building, recapping the night in a loud, too-many-glasses-of-free-booze voice, following a dinner function at school:

"You'd think an elitist private univiersity could afford a decent fucking chef."

And who should pass me and the future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS on the stairs? The dean, coming from the same crappy dinner.

I can't believe how awesome I am.

When I'm Sixty-Four

Sincere thanks to the two 60-something women in the coffee shop this morning, for deciding not to sit down and chat in the back room, since everyone back there was working quietly. Not a lot of people show that kind of consideration for us poor souls whose offices are so shitty, we have to work elsewhere. You're a credit to your generation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

. . . 3 and 0

Since I mentioned yesterday how many applications I sent out this year--94--I might as well fill you in on the rest of my sad sack story. When I told friends and acquantainces about that number I saw a lot of surprised faces. I guess most people looking for non-academic jobs, or even non-philosphy academic jobs, don't send out that many applications. That number was also what convinced a lot of people that I'd get a job for sure. Again, these were mostly family and friends who didn't understand how the philosophy job market works. "Of course you'll get something. You're applying so widely!"

So. What did 94 applications get me? 3 interviews at the APA--two schools I gave a fuck about and one I didn't. And what did those get? Nothing. No campus interviews. 94 applications didn't get me onto the finalist list for even a single school, let alone get me a job.

And that, more than my patiently repeated explanations in the fall of last year, got people to understand how the job market works.

Monday, March 12, 2007


This post from Philosophy of Brains is pure gold for someone who wants to snark about the philosophy job market. For someone who's actually on the job market, though, it's pretty fucking depressing. There's a lot in it, so I'll be coming back to it at some point. But for now, I just want to highlight this:

Your cover letter doesn’t count in your favor if it’s good, but it can count against you if it’s sloppy. You should address all job requirements and say something about why you want that particular job.

I should say something about why I want that particular job, huh? Why, that sounds pretty darn reasonable, doesn't it? I mean, that's exactly what my high school guidance counselor told my class a cover letter was for, and I have no doubt that b-school kids get told the same thing. "I am especially interested in opportunities to use and further develop my leadership skills, and I think your firm's commitment to creative and team-based management will allow me to acheive those professional goals and blah blah fucking blah. . . ."

Last year, each one of my cover letters was addressed to a specific person with a specific departmental address. And each letter asked that my application be considered for a specific job, as numbered in the JFP. But beyond that, they were generic. They said what was in the application: my CV, my writing sample(s), an abstract of my dissertation, my teaching portfolio, and in some cases, my transcripts.

You want to know why I didn't individualize the letters any more than that? Because I sent out 94 of them. That's right. 94 cover letters with 94 applications. And some search committes want my letter to tell them, all chipper-like, why I think I'd be a great fit for their department? They know as well as I do that, chances are, as soon as they see my AOSs and AOCs, they'll decide I'm not what they're looking for, and then my application's done. So fuck that. 94 different fucking departments are are not going to get individually written cover letters from me, just so they can throw them the fuck out.

94 individually written cover letters? No fucking way.

Things Without Which a Dissertation Would Not Be Possible, Part I

While I might be a fool to to turn down the promise of banana bread, perhaps KHD is right, and things have gotten a little heavy around here. I hereby resolve to stop being such an Eeyore all the time, and present to you some lighter, less self-pitying fare: Things Without Which a Dissertation Would Not Be Possible. (Let's be forward-thinking and call this Part I.) What you see here are just a few of the many things one needs in order to write a dissertation. A dissertation support crew, if you will:

A laptop cozy. To keep the e-dissertation safe on its way to and from the coffeeshop where it is being written.

Articles from JSTOR. JSTOR's a huge collection of online journal articles that you can access from anywhere with an internet connection. (Like, oh, say, a coffeeshop.) Terribly convenient. It's made trips to the library stacks practically unecessary. I don't think I've set foot in a library in months.

Books. No explanation necessary.

Last week's New Yorker. Because everyone needs diversions.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Small Progress

PJMB reader KHD writes to say,
You'd better post something at least remotely happy at some point b/c reading that just made me want to tell both of you "Muffin!" and bake you some banana bread.

Well, I could really use some banana bread, but alas, I actually have something positive to report. You remember that paper I need to be my first non-dissertation-related publication? Well, I managed to draft a section of it that's been kicking my fucking ass for the better part of a week--even on the days when I wasn't watching The Wire and sucking my thumb for hours and hours.

So that's some small progress. Of course, the section is way too long as it is, and still has only a crappy explanation of what needs to be explained. But it's a start. Bring on that nicely rounded-out CV!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ad Nausea

Recently, I spent way too much time (like a few weeks) working on an application for a teaching award. Why bother taking so much time away from the dissertation? Well, the line on the CV would be a good one. (Particularly given the types of teaching-heavy jobs we’re constantly reminded that we’re being groomed for in my dept, as I bitched about in my last post.) And it doesn’t hurt that the award comes with a pretty hefty check. (See? Even the noblest broke grad student isn’t above stooping to being motivated by crass monetary considerations from time to time.)

But the application process ended up being one of those things where if I'd realized how much damn time it was going to take there's no way I would've started it. But once I'd put in the first week or so's worth of work, I needed to keep going to make the beast good enough to have a shot at winning. You know, so the first week's worth of work wouldn't end up being a waste of time. And so on. And so on. Ad nauseum. Ugh. This is what we call, in the philosophy business, throwing good time after bad. Okay, maybe that saying's not unique to the philosophy business. But you get the drift.

The finished product was over 20 pages long. I think I'd have found the whole writing process much less frustrating if I hadn't spent the entire time consumed with the feeling that I was just talking out of my ass. It was abundantly clear to me that my ideas about what makes for a good teacher didn’t line up so well with the judging panel’s. Apparently, all that is required of the best instructors is possessing a willingness to spend as much time as humanly fucking possible seeking feedback on one’s teaching methods and then revising said methods in light of said feedback. That’s it. Get feedback. Revise. Get more feedback. Revise more. Ad nauseum.


Let me be clear: what I find so off-putting about all this is not the thought that revising one’s teaching methods in light of feedback couldn’t be a useful way to improve one’s teaching. Of course it could. What’s bugging me is the implication that this revision dance is all one has to do. As if being a great teacher has nothing to do with being smart, a good communicator, a good motivator, and excited about the subject matter. Nope, nothing at all to do with any of that.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Yeah, no, just not my year, I guess.

I'll be going to a philosophy party tonight and seeing a lot of people I haven't seen since the APA in December or before. They'll all ask me--one way or another--where I'm at on the job market. And I'll have to tell them I was a complete and utter failure. That's annoying, because my complete and utter failure is a lot easier to deal with if I just forget about it and think about next year instead. But I won't get to do that tonight. No, tonight's going to feature a whole fuck of a lot of me putting on a shit-eating grin and saying, "Yeah, no, just not my year, I guess."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice II

Here's another choice bit from one of my many, many rejection letters:
At this stage, the department has focused its attention on a small number of candidates who have already been invited to campus. As a result, your application is no longer under active review.

So, I guess my application is now under inactive review? That'll take some time, I bet, what with all the inactivity involved.

Coughing Up Blood

I'm in the unusual position of working on a project so obscure that, as far as I'm aware, there might be two other junior people working on similar things in North America. The consequences of this for the job market are many. Right now, though, the consequence I'm dealing with is the discovery that one of those two people got offered a job I interviewed for. A job I really would have liked.

This is good in some ways. Obviously, it's good that departments are hiring in what I do, especially since the obscurity of what I do means I can't assume departments will be hiring in it. And I've read this person's work, respect it, and think it's pretty good, so it's not like I got beat by someone who sucks.

But fuck that pollyanna bullshit. The way to deal with all the rejection is to tell yourself that hiring decisions get made for all kinds of reasons. Your application probably got tossed because the department decided they had needs to fill in areas besides yours. So they went with someone else. Fine. It's not personal, it doesn't mean anything about your work, and it doesn't mean anything about you as a candidate. But now, I don't even get to tell myself that lie. It is personal, it does mean something about my work, and it means something about me as a candidate, too. And that feels like someone just kicked me in the stomach.

There's no way I'm getting any more work done today.

Prophecy Girl

Let me follow up on PGOAT’s post from a couple of days ago. A few weeks ago my supervisor caught me in the hall between our offices and asked me if I wanted to teach over the summer, and if so, what. Summer teaching at my school is good money if you pack the students into your class, so “Yeah,” I told him, “I want to teach this summer.”

But teach what? One possibility was to teach a class in one of my AOCs. I’ve taught the class before, and I told my supervisor I wouldn’t mind the chance to renovate the syllabus I put together last time around. The other possibility was to teach Intro to Philosophy, which I’ve also done before, and can teach in my sleep. My supervisor listened to what I was saying and said, “Intro would take less work? That’s what you’re teaching.”

So even if I wanted to spend more time on teaching, consolidating a teaching competency in one of my AOCs, my supervisor wouldn’t let me do that. He wanted to keep my days free so I could work on my dissertation. As he sees things, my work, and not the Teaching Experience that PGOAT’s profs like to talk up, is what’s going to get me a job.

One last point that PGOAT’s too modest to make herself. Her department is ranked higher on the Leiter Report than mine is. By that metric at least, it’s a better department. But on the whole, people from my department get better jobs. Now there’s probably a few different reasons for that, but could it possibly be that all that awesome Teaching Experience isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be?

Back to my paper.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Little Orange Light on the Dashboard

I woke up this morning to find an e-mail waiting for me from an editor. She was reminding me that I owe her an essay. It's true, I do. She was too tactful to mention this, but I've owed it to her for a few weeks now. I have no excuse for not having it done. It's about fun stuff, stuff I really like writing about, and it's going to be a much needed non-dissertation-related publication on my CV.

But holy fuck, I have no motivation. I haven't had any since I found out I wasn't getting any campus interviews. The week I found out about the two schools I actually gave a fuck about, I sat around, read blogs, and watched DVDs for days. Even now, almost two months later, if I can start work before 11:00am, that's a good day. An acquaintance with some clinical psych training tells me this is a textbook case of how to suck motivation: set up a series of hoops for a person to jump through, make her jump through them, and then give her nothing for her effort. No reward. No nothing. Nothing to show for months of work.

So. I need to write this paper.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Self-Fulfilling Teaching Experience Prophecy

I talked with a professor recently, and he gave me maybe the clearest example yet of how my department is oblivious or indifferent to how they're setting us up to get shitty teaching jobs.

Prof’s big advice was about the importance of Teaching Experience: I should try to teach even more courses, new courses, courses I hadn’t taught before and thus would have to spend a lot of time with new preps for. It’s important to have taught as many different courses as humanly possible, Prof insisted. Teaching! Experience! I suggested my time could maybe be better spent teaching more sections of courses I’d already taught before. (This would mean avoiding new preps, the second most time-consuming part of teaching. (Grading’s the biggie.)) Hell, this way I’d have time left over to put into such extravagancies as writing a worthwhile dissertation. Prof’s response was that we had to learn how to do philosophy while teaching a bunch of new courses at some point in our career, and we might as learn how to do it in here grad school. Never mind that I’ll already be hitting the job market with a dozen sections of three different courses. (By comparison, people in PGS’s dept go on the market having taught around four sections of one or two courses.)

But notice what this means: we spend so much time getting all this awesome Teaching Experience that our dissertations, by necessity, kinda suck. And almost none of us have any publications. And guess what a sucky dissertation and no publications gets you on the job market? A shitty teaching job, or just as likely, no job at all.

Of course, Prof’s advice to get lots of Teaching Experience makes sense for him. He’s assuming that people from my dept will never be able to get anything other than the crappiest teaching jobs. But the assumption itself ensures its own truth.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice I

I teach a freshman writing seminar, and one of the most consistent ticks of crappy undergraduate writers is their love of the passive voice. They love it. It is loved by them. When I try to beat it out of them, they sometimes complain that their high-school English teachers taught them to use it, because it sounds more "objective." (Huh? Were their English teachers fooled by the presence of an unneeded auxiliary verb into thinking that they weren't reading the opinions of whoever wrote the paper? That instead, they held in their hands nothing less than The Truth, as spoken by God Himself? Whatever.) The point is, ass is sucked by the passive voice.

And yet it has its uses, doesn't it? All you have to do is drop that incriminating prepositional phrase and shit just happens without anyone ever doing it! Remember Reagan's "mistakes were made"? Awesome, to be sure, but not as personal as this little gem you might remember from 11th grade: "I'm sorry you were hurt."

Well, here's some sweet, sweet passive voice, served up just like it was outside the gym on the night of your junior formal:

I regret to inform you that you have not been chosen as a final candidate for the position of Assistant Professor in Philosophy. . . .

Holy crap! You didn't get chosen! How did that happen? We just showed up Monday morning and found your file in the recycle bin. Really sorry about that. . . .

Stay tuned, as I bring you more choice selections from my thick, thick--thick--stack of rejection letters.

Why a philosophy job market blog?

It's March, which for philosophers means the job market is winding down for the year. See, every fall, on a set schedule, every philosophy department in North America that's hiring advertises for applications. And every fall, on a set schedule, every grad student or recent PhD looking for a job as a professor applies for some of those jobs. And then, for months after this, hijinks ensue. For job seekers, other things also ensue--such as the soul-grinding humiliation of being rejected by absolutely everybody, drinking to cope, and buying new ties.

I'm a grad student in philosophy, and I went on the job market this year. I struck out big time. But I did learn a few things. One is that the process is so foreign to people outside of academia that it's actually very hard to explain to them. Another is that the philosophy job market is absurd. It'd be funny if it were happening to someone else. So in the coming year, as I do it all over again, I want to help non-academics understand what the hell this is about, and to document some of the more tragicomic aspects of it.