Saturday, February 23, 2008

But I'm on my Third City, And I'm on my Fourth Car, And I'm on my Fifth Apartment

I'm coming late to the party, but I want to lay out my basic advice for prospective grad students. Keep a couple of things in mind, though. First, there's a lot here that needs to be fleshed out. This is just the bare bones version. Second--and more importantly--I make no claims about this advice being worth anything more than what you paid for it. This is just my sense of what I wish I'd been told before I went to grad school.

Enough throat-clearing. Here it is.

1. If you'll ever want to choose where you live, do not go to grad school. If you're a philosopher and you want a career in academia, you have no reasonable expectation of being able to choose where you live until you're close to 40 years old. By the time you hit middle age, you might--might--have some very limited choice about where you want to live. So if you really want to live in the mountains or on a lake, do not go to grad school. If you really want to live in a big city, do not go to grad school. If being with family and old friends is really important to you, do not go to grad school.

2. If you have, or suspect you'll ever have, a significant other who can't pick up and move at the drop of a hat, do not go to the grad school. This one's really just a corollary of #1, but it's worth really hammering, because not seeing this one coming can cause life-tearing sadness.

If your SO's career or family or whatever means they can't move whenever and wherever your career demands, here's the likely best-case scenario. You'll negotiate many, many years of a long-distance relationship, sacrificing plans for houses, kids, and dogs. You'll never take vacations, because any time you have off from school and work, you'll only want to spend with your SO. When you finally get to live with your SO, you'll be able to only because you're making sacrifices in some aspect of your career. Maybe you'll leave behind a great a bunch of colleagues and a college that suports the kind of curriculum development you're into. Maybe you'll have to turn down an offer from a Leiterrific department. Maybe you'll have to turn down an offer that would have paid for the house you've always wanted. Whatever it is, you'll give something up to be with your SO. Remember, that's the likely best-case scenario.

Here's the worst case, but still appallingly common scenario. You'll one day have to choose between your career and your SO. Given what, by that time, you'll have invested in both philosophy and your relationship, that choice will likely be one of the most painful things you ever experience. If you can, better just to avoid ever having to make it.

Okay, this post is already too long, and I haven't even gotten around to my third piece of advice. Stay tuned for that.

67 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Your SO point is dead on.

and... a bit of life advise -- once you are in grad school, falling in love with someone in your own academic discipline is a huge risk.... the dream of working and teaching together on some ivy covered campus is just that, a dream. The reality is lots of time spent commuting and talking on the phone untl one or the other of you decides that it isn't worth the hassle -- and either the relationship or the career has to go.

So -- once you are in grad school, find out where the MBA and Law Students hang out -- their jobs will be more flexibe (and higher paying).... so, you should go there... or if those types aren't your type, at least hang with the people in the hard sceinces or other academic areas that are in higher demand than the humanities and social sciences -- at least then you'll have a pretty good shot at a 'trailing spouse' job, because they want to keep your SO.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has just finished his PhD and is facing some of these issues himself, I agree completely and wish that someone had told this to me when I was getting into this racket.

Right now I'm looking at the exclusive choice between a career in philosophy and a life in the city I love with the family, friends and social activities that I love.

I can either spend the next 10 years going from VAP to VAP to VAP to eventually maybe a TT position at somewhere half decent to maybe even possibly a TT position at a place I like,

OR

I can start all over on the career front, try to find something that is remotely interesting and uses my limited skill set, but with the advantage of living with my SO, living near family and friends, being able to settle down into a house with dogs etc., and (most importantly) not having to move every year and go through the APA every year.

I think I've decided for the latter path, and it's tough, but I'm sure the former would be equally tough in its own way.

Had I known all of this before I went to grad school (or even undergrad) I would have done something much, much different with my life. I would have relegated philosophy to a hobby, maybe take a few courses or go to a few seminars while I used my skills to achieve a more useful degree set.

Anonymous said...

Great advice. I'm at a Leiter-not-so-great department and the myth of landing a TT job at a good department with a PhD or MA program is just that. A myth. Even at a top 20 department it doesn't happen often enough to justify buying into the myth (even places like Harvard and Berkeley place *most* of their students into liberal arts colleges).

If you're the kind of person who just wants a TT job teaching at a decent undergraduate institution, it's far more realistic. But even then, you'll have geographical and familial worries. It isn't easy to pick up a job in a specific location that satisfies both you and your spouse/partner.

If there's anything other than academic philosophy that will make you happy, do that instead. Consider doing a philosophy MA on the side, or after you've already established yourself in a different career.

Even more importantly - if you're already in grad school - it isn't too late! You can cultivate other job skills and pursue those with a philosophy MA or even ABD status.

two headed boy said...

My second year into grad school I realized I'd never live in the city I'd grown up in again. There are only two departments there, both leiter ranked programs (one very highly ranked), and both out of my league, at least for quite some time. That was tough to take. I can't even imagine how difficult the two body problem is.

Eduardo said...

I don't know. I navigated several years of long-distance relationship. I went to grad school in the cornfields when I desperately wanted to live in a particular big city with all my friends and family. All that sucked. And yet ... things have worked out OK for me. Are things perfect? No. I'm still not in the aforementioned city, though I did manage to spend two years as a visiting student there during grad school. And yes, my SO and I have had to make serious sacrifices.

But ... I do think that if you're willing to struggle and fight, dear prospective grad student, you *can* make the whole grad school business work for you.

I just wanted to add a voice of optimism. Getting a job in philosophy *is* a long, tough slog. But life is hard, no matter what path you choose. Yes, if you become an investment banker instead of an academic, you'll have more money and more mobility. But you may have *less* intellectual stimulation, less intellectual companionship, less job security (compared to a tenured job), less respect from your peers, less chance to feel like you're a part of a pretty damn cool intellectual tradition that stretches back to Plato ... and so on.

Let's not *undersell* the virtues of this academic life. It's tough as shit to get a job in philosophy because *even with all the hardship,* it's *still* a very attractive life to so many people.

Anonymous said...

Why would you think people on the philosophy track can choose where they live at 40 (or 50)? Most survivors have no greater choice at 40 or 50 than they did when they first went on the market. Lateral moves are very difficult, and moving 'up' is nearly impossible. You might console yourself that you could always move 'down' (to a worse job in a better location), but that's nearly impossible as well. Most people are stuck where they are once they get tenure.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Eduardo --

First if all, you've got an amazing story. I can only hope things work out that way for me. (Of course, hope is not a plan.)

However, what's the force of the "can" in your "you *can* make the whole grad school business work for you."? Do you mean, it's possible to have a decent life in academia, even if your SO can't move wherever you need to go? Happily, you seem to be living proof that it's possible.

However. Here's where I invoke my general principle of advice-giving: the advice we give should reflect the rule, not the exception. Does a prospective have a reasonable expectation of being able to pull off what you've pulled off? Can they plan on it? Or would you say what you've managed to do is the exception, rather than the rule?

If it's the exception, it's not a legitimate basis for giving advice. When we're giving advice, we need to tell prospectives what's likely, not what's possible.

Anonymous said...

To 9:37am, I disagree with you when you say, "Let's not *undersell* the virtues of this academic life. It's tough as shit to get a job in philosophy because *even with all the hardship,* it's *still* a very attractive life to so many people."

I think what is now coming out in this blog is that it is not an attractive life at all. People are realizing this. It is not attractive because there is practically no pay, you can hardly have a family (SO and/or kids), you can't support yourself well and cannot support a family on this level of pay, you can't choose where you will live at all really and will be away from people you might want to live near (extended family, your own children's grandparents, dear friends, whatever the case may be). You will work like a DOG grading papers and creating courses. You will practically never have non-work-related vacations. It sucks. Let's face it.

I think you are putting too much stock in feeling like, "you're a part of a pretty damn cool intellectual tradition that stretches back to Plato." This is way overrated. Typical self-inflated philosopher's opinion of philosophy and of themselves. Not that I don't share your view to some extent, but we all have to try to get that view out of our heads a bit, or at least relegate it to one side.

Philosophy doesn't pay the bills (at least for our generation) and doesn't leave much room for family/children/significant others. We want to be happy in life. It's family/children/significant others as well as career success and/or hobby success that contributes to people's happiness and satisfaction, and feeling as though they have a good life.

I'm fairly new to this blog. I have posted a couple of times saying that we should seriously rethink what we are doing here. I think those of us who can do something more lucrative should do that. (This doesn't mean we cannot still be philosophers.)

I fear some may see this kind of comment as coming from a "troll" but I don't see it that way. Why work for absolute peanuts? Why look at these jobs as desirable? They are not. We need to demand better or leave the field and come back when the salaries are better and conditions improve. Find a way to win the bread that is easier, leaves more time for life, and you will be a lot happier, I say. It is ridiculous that we would have to work for absolute peanuts, routinely have to uproot for one year positions, and toil away into the night grading and everything else. We are educated professionals. It is time to appreciate ourselves for that.

Recent philosophy PhDs, UNITE!

Anonymous said...

And for women considering grad school, you should think doubly hard about the SO issue. Though we live in a society of mostly dual-income families, it's still the case that most boys are raised to be career-focused, and most girls are raised with the (implicit or explicit) expectation that they'll make career sacrifices for their family (e.g. take the "mommy track", leave jobs when their husbands are transferred to a different area, etc). Of course, I know some wonderful men who have made their wives' careers a priority, but I know many more women who have had to sacrifice SO or philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to throw in an observation -- not directly related to this thread but relevant enough.

It seems like a lot of posters over here have the dream, if not the outright goal, of eventually landing in "leiterrific" research program. Now I do understand that for many people this is what is important, i.e. being able to focus on your personal research, publishing etc. And that totally legit. But I guess I wasn't aware this was type of goal holds the majority status that it seems to have.

Where are all the philosophers who just really want to be teachers? Now granted, I'm only an MA student and so haven't experienced the hardships of teaching, but I know that being able to teach had a large impact on my choice to take this direction rather than law school or something of the sort. Honestly, focusing primarily on my own personal research doesn't sound entirely satisfying to me.

What does a PhD in philosophy get you? It gets you the ability to teach (and from what I can tell you pretty much need one for Jr. Colleges as well these days) and it gets you the ability to publish more easily/be part of the philosophy community. Now it seems to me that the latter of these two is primarily an issue of recognition, either actual or just a type of social inclusion. So it seems like if teaching is not the main goal, that these types of recognition are what people are after (because honestly you can "do philosophy" without that kind of stuff as a hobby).

I'm not saying there's something wrong with that, I have that need myself. But I'm a bit perplexed as to why landing a job at a teaching institution is often, at least implicitly, seen as a lesser achievement and why this desire for the big-time seems to be such a majority. Am I just totally off the mark with these observations?

Relatedly, is the job market quite as bad for people who would be quite pleased to be at a SLAC?

Anonymous said...

10:04 said:
"I think you are putting too much stock in feeling like, "you're a part of a pretty damn cool intellectual tradition that stretches back to Plato." This is way overrated. Typical self-inflated philosopher's opinion of philosophy and of themselves. Not that I don't share your view to some extent, but we all have to try to get that view out of our heads a bit, or at least relegate it to one side."

On the contrary, I think it would be crazy to make this kind of decision without considering what's intrinsically rewarding about doing philosophy. Indeed, it's always seemed to me that I am incredibly lucky to be able to do something that I both enjoy and take to be intrinsically valuable; very few people, I think, can give their working lives this kind of whole-hearted endorsement. And though you're right to say that 'career success', taken generally, is but one of many things that contributes to a happy life; the generality of the phrase conceals a real difference between success-for-it's-own-sake, which one might achieve in business, law, etc..., and success-at-something-intrinsically-important, which has a rather different kind of value. Indeed, I take it to be valuable enough that I'm willing to make sacrifices for it in a way that I think it would crazy to sacrifice for a career in corporate law or some such.

That said, it's clear that not everyone in philosophy takes it to have the kind of value I'm inclined to attribute to it. So one good piece of advice for prospective grad students is this: do you have a strong sense that philosophy is (for you) worth doing in a way that most other things would not be? If not, then I'd think very hard about whether the sacrifice involved are worth it, given the alternatives. If so, I'd still think very hard, but take into account, in my thinking, the fact that there are important goods to be achieved by a life in philosophy that could not be achieved in any other way.

[P.S.- Not the author of the comment you were responding to]

Anonymous said...

This advice is way too harsh. If you never want to make sacrifices for an SO, then don't have an SO. Will it be hard to make no career sacrifices if your SO is an academic? Yes. You may not be able to take your first choice job. You may have more years off the TT.

But you never know. I am tenured at a decent place where my SO is also tenured. MANY couples are tenured at my university, having met in grad school, and I have know couples in academia who have worked it out just fine. Yeah, even philosophers.

If you are not willing to make sacrifices don't get married/commit. There are plenty of reasons you and your mate might argue about careers. there are plenty of careers that don't mesh well together.

Even if you get the careers set, how about your SO having cancer? How about having to live with your demented or ailing mother in law? How about having an unexpected child? Let's get real people.

So, you Leiterrific folks may have to give up a 1-1 R1 job for a 3-3 BA job, or even, egads a 4-4 job. Cry me a river. If you anticipate wanting to put your career before your marriage then I think it is clear which you should abandon.

Anonymous said...

I think some people here are being overly pessimistic. It's true that you won't have much of a choice of where you live, and if your SO is in academia you'll almost certainly have to do the long-distance thing for a little while.

But the pay really isn't bad (once you're out of grad school, and not adjuncting). As far as I can tell, basically every assistant professor gets paid significantly more than the the majority of the US population - many even get paid twice the median salary. It's true that your friends who went out of college straight to more lucrative careers will be making much more than you for the rest of your life, but you'll still be better off than most people, and will have a sort of flexibility in your work life that your well-paid friends can only dream of. (That is, in terms of the hours and days that you work, and what you spend your time working on, not in terms of the location and company you work for.)

It's important to reflect soberly on the geographic prospects, but it's also important to notice the benefits of this profession. Those of us who intend to continue in the profession after grad school aren't all self-deluded.

10:04am said...

To 10:15am, I really agree.

One small point though: it is not just how we are raised as individuals. Society places a greater expectation on men to be the breadwinners. An individual who may have been raised in a more equality-promoting atmosphere is still living in the world and where there are more traditional norms than in that individual's family. There is a greater expectation from society that men will be able to be the providers. One can hardly be a provider as a philosopher, at least not for those entering the job market in our generation.

I think women, men, or anyone else who wants children should think hard about philosophy grad school because the pay is so bad. If you do not have a spouse/partner who will support the family financially, be aware that your income as a philosopher will not even pay for decent childcare.

Even the upper range for an entry level assistant prof position (say $69,000) will not be profitable if one has to pay for childcare (at least not in my area, maybe in some very remote rural place, but I doubt that too). Plus there are terribly long hours and hard work just like many professions. It is just not worth it financially.

Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind as someone thinking about doing a PhD in Philosophy: it seems to me that for better or worse, you get a LOT of information about your future career prospects when you apply to grad schools and see where you get in. If you apply to 10-15 schools in the Leiter Top 20 and get into 5-10 of them (I'd bet this happens to about 15-20 students each year, if not more), you are considerably less likely to face many of the obstacles described in this thread. (The overlap in the admits at the top 5-10 schools is really quite high, with many of the same people making the circuit at NYU, Rutgers, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, etc.)

This might seem ridiculous (how can one judge career-long philosophical potential based on undergrad performance), but I'd bet it's pretty reliable.

If you are NOT one of those people, if you only get into one school in the Top 20 (or whatever), or none at all, you are looking at the uphill battle chronicled in this thread and on this blog generally. This isn't to say you aren't talented, or that there aren't great, great departments at which to be a student that are in the 20-50 range. It is to say that it is a long, hard, painful road from those places to a job of any sort, a job in a place you want to live, a job in a place that your SO can live, a job with a reasonable teaching load, etc.

And be very careful at buying the story that goes like this: I didn't get into any top 20 schools, but I did get into this place ranked 37 (or whatever) and they have a world expert in my subfield, and so I'll be ok. Personally, I think that story doesn't typically pan out that way. And, more to the point, you are getting evidence when you learn you didn't get into of the Top 20 places. It isn't decisive, there are all sorts of mistakes people make in their files that make them appear worse than they are. But you are learning something.

I think you learn something significant even when you learn that you didn't get into any of the Top 10 places. Think about the numbers. Each Top 10 place admits 8-15 people (at least). Let's say there's lots of overlap, so that instead of 80-150 people, there really are only 40-50 people taking all of these admit spots. So, right now, there are 40-50 people 'ahead' of you on paper. They also are now in a better PhD department than you, with more prominent letter writers, a higher national reputation, better grad students surrounding them, better funding, less teaching... So you're behind (on paper), and now these other 40-50 people get that much more support. And then in 5-6 years, you will be competing with these same 40-50 people, plus some subset of versions of those same people from a year or two back looking to improve their lot... Anyway, you get the point.

(I strongly encourage anyone with a somewhat weak undergrad record, or thin philosophy experience, to use a terminal MA program to boost your chances at getting into a good PhD program.)

Of course, as has been routinely mentioned, department placement records are an excellent place to look. Again, though, don't be tempted by 'exceptional' thinking. Sure, you see that at a place ranked #41 or whatever one person got a job you'd be excited about back in 2003. There is no reason to think that *you* will be that person, the exception. Most of the people who get into top 50 PhD programs are smart, talented people who did exceptionally well as undergrads, show promise, work hard, etc. And most of them will run into trouble on the job market.

The tone on this thread can seem too pessimistic, but I think that starry-eyed undergrads or people looking to leave the real person work grind can be too optimistic about their chances.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:44,

Yes, the job market is as bad for people wanting jobs at SLACs. Call their SCs and ask how many apps they get for Open/Open, M&E, or Ethics positions. Lots and lots is the answer--over 200. And you're competing with all sorts there, 3xVAPs, Top 10 ABDs, people with TT positions in lesser SLACs or meat grinder large State U's.

Anonymous said...

There is a compromise that can resolve some (not all) of these issues: getting a JD and retooling as a legal academic. Of course you have to have some interest in law to do this, but there's a lot of room in law schools for charting your own course if you meet that basic requirement. Law schools are relatively easier to get academic jobs in than humanities departments, so you can have a little more control over location (though not as much as a non-academic would). Law schools are very open to interdisciplinary scholarship these days. They pay much better than the humanities--starting salaries are generally double what you are looking at. Teaching loads are half of what you are looking at.

I went to law school after getting a humanities (not philosophy) PhD from a well-regarded program and being completely chewed up and spit out by the job market in my discipline. Now I have a TT job in a law school attached to a research university in a location I am happy with.

You don't need to incur staggering debt to get a law degree, unless you are dead set on going to Yale (or already supporting a family). If you get a super high LSAT score (which you all should be able to do) you can get a full-tuition scholarship at a law school with enough name recognition to make this a viable path. It really is that simple. There are no living stipends (some scholarships carry nominal stipends), but it's only for three years.

If you get a law degree, you can also just practice law if you want. I did that for a while before looking for an academic job again, but I found I missed the things eduardo describes. They are present in law school faculties, even outside the elite schools.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 11:09 --

"If you never want to make sacrifices for an SO, then don't have an SO."

"If you are not willing to make sacrifices don't get married/commit."

I'm reading these sentences over and over, trying to figure out what you point could possibly be. Do you mean to suggest it's normal for many non-academics to spend often as much as a decade or more in long-distance relationships just to get to the point where they have the option of sacrificing elements of their careers to be together? But that's idiotic, so it can't be your point. So then, what's your point?

You continue:

"Even if you get the careers set, how about your SO having cancer? How about having to live with your demented or ailing mother in law? How about having an unexpected child? Let's get real people."

The form of this argument seems to be: "You people are complaining about a really hard relationship issue. Well, imagine that issue away and there are still others to worry about! In fact, they're other issues that would be way, way worse if you didn't get to imagine away the first issue! So quit worrying about the first issue!"

To which I reply, "Huh?"

And finally, it's great that your school has many academic couples. Do you know how many profs at your school are in long-distance relationships? How about the one's who's SOs were forced to end their careers to stay with their partners? And how many people aren't profs at your school because they couldn't make it work with their SOs, and decided to give up academia rather than give up their SO? And lastly, how many profs at your school are single or a have failed marriage, because that's what it took for them to be at your school?

Without the relevant comparison classes, saying that "many" people at your school are in academic couples just isn't all that meaningful.

Anonymous said...

"I think what is now coming out in this blog is that it is not an attractive life at all. People are realizing this. It is not attractive because there is practically no pay, you can hardly have a family (SO and/or kids), you can't support yourself well and cannot support a family on this level of pay, you can't choose where you will live at all really and will be away from people you might want to live near (extended family, your own children's grandparents, dear friends, whatever the case may be). You will work like a DOG grading papers and creating courses. You will practically never have non-work-related vacations. It sucks. Let's face it."

I am a TT professor at a Leiter ranked program. The description you gave is more or less accurate. Except that my job doesn't suck. I love my job largely because I love philosophy and I wouldn't trade it for the world. But i am the sort of person who doesn't care a lot about family or SOs and puts work ahead of everything else. So its perfect for me. I think that what we have to recognize is that to be at the top in ANY profession including philosophy you pretty much have to put work above everything else and forget about the other stuff (unless you are a genius or well-connected, which I am not).

apriori said...

Lots of good stuff here today:

I went to a 30-50 Leiter School. Had a VAP and now have TT job in the middle of nowhere, but it's 3/3 and we have a union, so the pay is great.

How did this happen? Well, if you go to a lower Leiter, you have to be the very best student they have during your years there, and hopefully, the best they have seen in many years if you want to get a job that won't make you want to kill yourself. If you look around after a year of two of grad school and can tell that you aren't the best, then you should start looking for an exit strategy.

It will take you 7 to 10 or more years from ugrad to TT job? That's a long time. Then when you get there, the pay is relatively low considering all the opportunity costs that go along with it.

My job is by no means a bad job, but it isn't a good one either for many reasons. Small faculty, really bad students that makes teaching not fun, and no budget for travel and the like. Plus, I am in the middle of nowhere. And thinking about taking a 4/4 to get to a place that is worth living.

Yes, jobs can be found and there are people that make it, but you have to be dedicated and willing to give up just about everything for it. And to be honest, the reward isn't that great.

When you do get that job the hours are long and all those promises you made to your SO about not working so hard when the diss is done will be forgotten and they will be upset.

It is a difficult job with relatively little pay and respect is long gone for the professor.

I will be getting promoted next year and my SO keeps asking me to give up philosophy so we can live someplace else. After all this time, I cannot help but think she is right. Many of my friends that flamed out on the job market have day jobs and are happy.

Just think about it. If you aren't the best at the lower Leiters, then you really need to get the hell out or get ground up in the process. The problem as I see it is that to leave is to admit failure, and to give up an identity that we have worked to foster. Especially if you have a completed PhD. The rest of the world just won't understand, but reflect on what makes you happy, and if it is friends, family, food, access to civilization, week-end football, or any thing else other than philosophy, then you really ought to take a year off and see if you can make a go at it. You can always come back to philosophy in a year.

Prof. J. said...

PGS,

If it's the exception, it's not a legitimate basis for giving advice. When we're giving advice, we need to tell prospectives what's likely, not what's possible.

This seems to me to be a very, very bad principle. We have to think about *both* when we give advice. It's incredibly irresponsible to ignore the possibilities that are possible but unlikely.

"Mr. Obama, if you run for President you will lose, and you will have spent an incredibly long time and exposed yourself to public attack from vicious unscrupulous people, and spent an enormous amount of money, all for nothing."

But... shouldn't we take into account, in giving him advice, the possibility that he could win?

The stakes are not so high for prospective philosophers; but neither are the odds.

Anonymous said...

Let me add my voice for the optimistic side of things.

I went to a school ranked in the low 30s on Leiter's famous list. I was able to get a VAP my first out, and a TT job the year after that. I now have tenure (this is my first year with tenure).

Now I know the bit about giving advice: I should not just say what *can* happen, but what is *likely* to happen. Well, every person I went to grad school with who finished his/her dissertation now has a TT job, and most of us have tenure now. A few have moved up in the ranks, and one at least two teach at programs with strong grad programs.

In my experience, then, it is likely that if you finish your dissertation, get some pubs, get some teaching experience outside your grad department, you will be able to get a TT job.

Furthermore, (most) everyone I know from grad school loves his/her job. Some sacrifices had to be made, but this will be true of every major life choice a person makes.

And to the comment above that the job itself sucks since you cannot travel, get low pay, etc: well, that is pure nonsense. I celebrated getting tenure with a trip to Paris with my spouse; I was able to buy a home within one year of landing the TT job. Compared to grad school, I am freakin rich (never missed a bill since getting the TT job. Things were not so rosy in grad in school).

Those of you who like teaching philosophy to undergrads, really enjoy reading, writing about, and thinking about philosophy, and like to have a flexible schedule should keep at it: things can and do get better.

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:04:

You said

Even the upper range for an entry level assistant prof position (say $69,000) will not be profitable if one has to pay for childcare (at least not in my area, maybe in some very remote rural place, but I doubt that too). Plus there are terribly long hours and hard work just like many professions. It is just not worth it financially.

Are you SERIOUS? No way. No fucking way are you even remotely serious. Seriously. You can't be serious.

Where are you from? And can I please have some money?


In a different vein, surely there's room for more optimisim concerning job prospects than most folks are expressing... especially if, as the very sensible M.A. student asked, one is more interested in teaching college students than becoming the next Quine. I'm at a Leiter-mediocre program (between 22 and 35) that has graduated more than a dozen students in the last five years. ALL of those students are now employed and ONLY ONE is not in a TT job.

Anonymous said...

yeah, pgs, i think you're still sugar-coating it a bit.

there's also the possibility that you'll make serious sacrifices for your s.o., *and* your s.o. will make serious sacrifices for you, and you'll *still* be unable to live in the same city.

or you'll take the worst offer that you get, passing up some attractive jobs, in order to move to the city your s.o. lives in, and after six months there you'll break up.

or you'll stay together, moving repeatedly to try to keep both of your careers on track, and wish you could have had kids instead.

i mean, maybe some of the tragedies i have seen were low-probability events, too, and not everyone gets so thoroughly fucked over. but maybe mentioning some of the long-tail disasters will help to counter-act the cognitive noise from earlier posters highlighting the long-tail triumphs.

i think this blog really does perform a service when it gets kids to wise up about the unattractive aspects of the life.

eduardo said...

PGS, posting at 10:04, and Anon 10:04--

I spent my undergrad years at a SLAC. During my junior year, our profs called a meeting for those interested in going to grad school in philosophy. They told us that the general arc of our lives, should we choose grad school, was likely to involve--locusts! plagues! a pox on all our families!

In retrospect, I think there was something fishy about that advice: things seem to have worked out pretty darn well for everybody giving it.

I've heard variations on the doom-and-gloom theme repeated frequently, since then. Philosophers (academics?) seem to delight in telling everybody how shitty their lives are--this has become an occupational master narrative, as the lit-crit people might say.

The thing is, we vote with our feet, don't we? I'm just not sure how to take all this talk about academic philosophy being a supremely shitty life when it comes from people who--as far as I can tell--actually choose to stay in academic philosophy.

So I do take my earlier post to follow PGS's "general principle of advice giving," which I think is a good principle. The fact that so many people seem to stick around in this crazy field is evidence that as a general rule, people actually think their chosen field provides a better life than competing alternatives would provide. Again, we vote with our feet.

Call me a pragmatist, but if you tell me you doubt that your chosen occupation is better than competing alternatives--but you don't actually do anything to pursue those alternatives--well, I just don't think that counts as genuine doubt.

So I guess I'd propose a Second Rule of Advice Giving--make sure the advice you give is harmonious with the choices you actually make in your own life.

I know how frustrating the job market is--I've been bruised by it, too. But there must be some good reason we all stick around. Right? Surely we aren't forced by economic hardship to stay! As we all repeat, ad nauseam, on this blog--economics should pull us *away* from the field ... but yet ... something ... pulls us ... back (insert William Shatner voice here).

Anonymous said...

I'd like to second Anon 11:45's skepticism about going to a lower ranked school that has one big shot in an area that you are interested in.

This can certainly work out for some people, but I've also seen plenty of cases where.

1. Big shot gets hired away by a higher ranked department and their new admit is left holding the bag.

2. Big shot doesn't get along with the new admit.

3. The new admit decides that big shot's field isn't as interesting as it seemed when she was an undergraduate, and that s/he would rather study something else.

In a highly ranked school, there will be plenty of people to fall back on if any of the above happens, but if you are working with the lone big fish in a small pond, any of the above can really leave you screwed.

Anonymous said...

1:20 wrote:

"Even the upper range for an entry level assistant prof position (say $69,000) will not be profitable if one has to pay for childcare (at least not in my area, maybe in some very remote rural place, but I doubt that too). Plus there are terribly long hours and hard work just like many professions. It is just not worth it financially."

Are you SERIOUS? No way. No fucking way are you even remotely serious. Seriously. You can't be serious.


I'm not the original poster, but he or she is absolutely right (and, I presume, "serious", though I can't be sure). My wife and I have live in a major metro area in the Northeast, and 3/4 time (i.e., 8am - 3pm) child care for our two young kids sets us back just under $3000/month. Rent is $1800. You do the math.

Anonymous said...

As a completely unrelated question comment - people here seem to talk the most about 4 year schools... does anyone know the usual date where we ought to hear from community colleges and other schools on the 2 year track?

I've applied to several places, and I've have not heard back... is that a bad sign?

Anonymous said...

Relatedly, is the job market quite as bad for people who would be quite pleased to be at a SLAC?

Yes.

10:04 again here said...

I would like to respond to some of the discussion that has taken place today. I apologize in advance for the long post.

11:06, you bring up the idea of success-at-something-intrinsically-important and that this kind of job success contributes to happiness. I think that success at something intrinsically important in one's career indeed contributes to happiness. I also think that we tend to forget that there are many other things besides philosophy, typically helping-oriented, that are intrinsically important. Philosophy is not the only way. I think we will all be better off if we realize this.

To 12:24, you said, "I am the sort of person who doesn't care a lot about family or SOs and puts work ahead of everything else. So its perfect for me." I can understand that. I just think that the vast majority of people care a lot about those things and your case is not as typical. Job seeking in philosophy suits your personality type very well, actually. You are the kind that doesn't mind as much as others to have to move for a one year job, and you probably don't mind as much the low pay philosophers typically receive for such life-altering inconveniences.

But I take issue with one statement of yours. You say, "...to be at the top in ANY profession ... you pretty much have to put work above everything else and forget about the other stuff ..." While it's true that to be tops in your field you have to put your career first in certain ways, there are limits to that in, for example, the corporate world, when compared with philosophy, and besides, the reward is much greater.

The sacrifices that philosophers need to routinely make in order to merely get a job in the field (for our generation of philosophers) and in exchange for such paltry pay, strike me as ridiculous. While one might make sacrifices at, say, corporate jobs, in order to be in the top level, at least there is a good reward (meaning a good salary and benefits) that presumably makes it all worth it.


To apriori at 12:36, you said, "I will be getting promoted next year and my SO keeps asking me to give up philosophy so we can live someplace else. After all this time, I cannot help but think she is right. Many of my friends that flamed out on the job market have day jobs and are happy." I'm glad you brought this up. I think it is very heartening for everyone to hear this. Philosophers can be quite happy when they turn to other fields. There is nothing wrong with doing this!

And you also said, "The problem as I see it is that to leave is to admit failure, and to give up an identity that we have worked to foster. Especially if you have a completed PhD. The rest of the world just won't understand, but reflect on what makes you happy..." I think you bring up an important point here, too. You have pointed out that many people may feel that to leave the profession of philosophy is to admit failure. I think you're right that we philosophers may tend to think this, but it's not the case. I hope we philosophers can come to see that this is not failure, and can actually be success.

Recognizing that pursuing, for example, one year jobs year after year for only ten cents a year is not the healthy or beneficial way to live one's life, and consequently changing professions can be a change for the better, and is not failure! In fact, it seems like success, growth, and progress.

To anonymous at 1:20, you said to me, "Are you SERIOUS? No way. No fucking way are you even remotely serious. Seriously. You can't be serious... Where are you from? And can I please have some money? I'm at a Leiter-mediocre program (between 22 and 35) that has graduated more than a dozen students in the last five years. ALL of those students are now employed and ONLY ONE is not in a TT job."

When I first read your posting, I was not sure how to respond. Are you being hostile? Had I offended you in some way? I am not sure what your intention was with that post. I was glad to see that 2:43 stuck his/her neck out in support of the facts of child care. Of course I'm fucking serious. Why else would I bother to say what I said? I don't understand your post but I'm not sure if I like it.

Thank you, anonymous at 2:43, for giving specifics on your situation and supporting my statement of fact that childcare is very expensive and philosphy jobs do not cover this expense.

You do the math, 1:20. I gave the example of what I thought seemed like a well-paying assistant professor post that pays $69k. (Is this not well-paying for an assistant professor post?) This job is not financially worthwhile if one has to pay for childcare. Nursery school costs a minimum of about $5k per year and this only covers 9am-12pm. Plus you probably have another kid. Suppose, just to make the picture more charitable, the other kid is in public school already, and gets out at 3pm.

Well you still need a full time nanny. Suppose they get sick and can't go to school. You'd need to pay a nanny for full days even if your kids are regularly in school for some or all of the day.

Even if you had those sick days covered somehow, which realistically almost no one would, you'd still need a nanny, at the bare minimum, from 11:45am for nursery school pick-up until you came home from teaching that night class, on the nights you have it.

And guess what. A not very good nanny in my area costs at least $15 per hour. When I say a not very good nanny, I mean someone who is not actually a child care professional in any way, who does not possess any college degree, let alone a college degree in something that has to do with children, with experience in being a professional nanny.

Such nannies are generally people who are here from other countries illegally and they cannot get any other jobs. They have experience usually having raised their own children in their own country. They often will not have gotten an education in their own country (which is typically a developing country, also often referred to as a "third world" country) past 8th grade. And that's all you really get for a minimum of $15 per hour.

In Manhattan (where I do not live), nursery school costs very easily more than $10k per child. However, the program might be 9am-2pm instead of 9am-12pm.

(A professional nanny with a college degree in childcare and experience as a nanny makes at least around $50k plus some basic benefits.)

Forget about having a third kid. More costs associated with that. How would one physically swing it anyway, while trying to get tenure?

And I come from a Leiter ranked 20-25 school by the way. Just in case this helps you see that I am very fucking serious.

Thanks for reading my long post. I'll refrain from going on. Don't want to bore anyone by writing a dissertation-length post here on this blog! We've all had enough of that I'm sure ... :)

Anonymous said...

Eduardo wrote -- "The thing is, we vote with our feet, don't we?. I'm just not sure how to take all this talk about academic philosophy being a supremely shitty life when it comes from people who--as far as I can tell--actually choose to stay in academic philosophy."

I love this blog. It's a vivid rerun of everything that philosophy grad school was for me... the constant anxiety about the future, the self-hatred, the advisors who were indifferent at best, mocked me at worst. What psychological principle compels me to view these scenes again and again?

Two years ago I voted with my feet, newly minted PhD in hand. Thank God. Not once have I regretted my decision to leave the field.

I hope those of you looking for TT jobs find jobs soon. To those of you ambivalent about remaining in the field... it is okay to entertain thoughts of departure. If you are like me, you might just get your self-respect back.

Anonymous said...

so how many of you would say that, if you could go back to the year you applied to grad school, you'd throw those applications in the trash?

Anonymous said...

10:04 is writing with a tone of authority that he isn't entitled to.

I'm a tenured professor. I'm about 40. My wife works, but her job isn't especially lucrative. I have several children. I never had a nanny. I doubt that any significant number of philosophers employ nannies.
Yes, day care was expensive; we managed. It's no different from other jobs that way.

I live in a place I really love, not in the same state as my family but on the same coast. Sure, I was a little lucky in that way, I know that.

I'm sure I could make much more money if I'd spent two years in business school (I actually have no idea how long it takes to get an MBA) instead of five years in graduate school, and probably I could have gotten into a good business school (just guessing, like almost all of you I was really good at standardized tests). But, then I would be, I don't know, managing, or something like that. Instead, I don't really go to work at all. I just sneak off and talk about philosophy with really smart people all day. A bunch of them are 19 years old, but I love talking to them. Then for a while I read about philosophy, and type furiously at my computer. Once in a while I go stay at a fancy hotel and spend several days listening and talking philosophy, daylight and dark, eating and drinking. So, yeah, I could make more money doing something else. But financially I'm okay (and I'm not comparing myself to subsistence African farmers, no), and I wouldn't trade what I have for a corner office in a Manhattan skyscraper. Really.

I have a suspicion. I suspect that 10:04 and maybe a couple of others are kind of hoping to scare away the competition. Could that be it?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm not so sure about this idea that 69k for only one of the two parents (so at the very least 100k combined) isn't enough to raise a kid or even a few kids. Yes professors have to work a lot, but also, they don't have to be at the office all day every day. Additionally, what about all the American families who have three kids, both parents at the office all day every making maybe 45k each, what financial advantadge do they have over philosophers? None that I can tell, yet they swing it. I think this problem of how finnancially difficult it is to raise a family has way more to do with the nature of having a family, regardless of what your job/pay are. It really has nothing to do with being a philosopher, its hard for everyone who doesn't make a combined 200k(and its even hard for them, families are difficult). I'd like to meet these families who have raised children free of extreme difficulty. I always love encountering things that do not exist. Its the nature of having a family; you gotta make sacrafices.

I don't think people are paying enough attention to how hard these types of things are for many non-philosophers. Yes, philosophers are quite intelligent and hard working and so could make loads of cash, and drink expensive wine in other areas. But honestly, why are you doing this if its not worth extreme sacrafices? Did people really go down this road thinking it was going to be all fruits and berries every day?

akratic Irishman said...

Great post, 8:16 PM!

There have been many (not unjustified) negative comments here about the profession. Nonetheless, it can be a very nice life (if you actually like, um, doing philosophy).

For the six years after my PhD (I'm in the sixth year now), I had two temporary jobs (3-year contracts). While I didn't like the lack of security that this involved, they were both in nice places (northern California & Ireland), and I could spend a lot of my time thinking about philosophy. I also got to know some smart, interesting people. And my schedule was far more flexible than those of most of my (non-academic) friends.

Now, finally, I've been offered a good TT job at a good department in a decent city, and I'm thrilled. Career-wise, things have worked out for me, and I'm very happy that I stuck with philosophy, despite striking out twice on the job market (for TT-jobs) before.

I have old friends in Toronto, London, and elsewhere, making way more money than me as lawyers, software designers, 'business people', etc. They live in cities that are much cooler than the one I'll likely spend the rest of my career in (although it's a 'decent' city). Some are happy with their jobs, some are not. But I'm glad that I stuck to my guns with philosophy.

It can be a good life!

tenured philosophy girl said...

Childcare is wildly expensive, but what's with all the nanny crap? Why do you 'need' a nanny? Are your kids somehow too special or fragile to go to a proper daycare where they will be looked after by people who are in the country legally with training and insurance and where they will get to make friends and socialize and maybe - hmm, is this the problem? - meet people of different backgrounds than theirs?

Gee, I must have missed the memo. My smart, talented, well-adjusted, popular, tolerant kid never had a nanny - what a bad mommy I am! Daycare ran us between $500 and $900 a month, depending where we lived and how old he was.

On a separate note - Just curious, PGS - what happens around 40? Last I looked, when people hit 40 they are generally tenured, so out of the running for the 300 or so junior jobs that year and stuck applying to the 20 or so senior jobs, but they area still too early in their career to compete effectively for those senior jobs, which are senior precisely because the department wants an established star. Early associate professors are the least movable people in the profession.

10:04 yet again here said...

Anonymous at 8:16 pm, I think you are really obnoxious.

You wrote,
"10:04 is writing with a tone of authority that he isn't entitled to.
I'm a tenured professor. I'm about 40"

I guess I am not entitled to write my opinions with authority on this blog because you are a tenured professor and I am a PhD from a 20-25 school???

Everyone on this blog is entitled to write their opinions with authority. Who are you to say that? You are another nobody. Just like everyone else here. That's the beauty of this blog. So don't make comments saying that you are a greater authority figure than another person here.

Quality of day care is even worse than poorly qualified so-called nannies for minimum $15 per hour(not true professional nannies). That is usually the case anywhere you go, although one might rarely find a good day care or two somewhere in the world (none near me though) and probably in France. Glad it worked for you but it will only be a truly last resort for me, and I don't see myself taking that route with my current circumstances, and hopefully these circumstances will continue.

I don't think philosophers should have to work for peanuts. For highly educated, highly intelligent people, it is crazy! We should demand better. That is my point. It is mentally unhealthy to pursue very low paying one year jobs, move to a different place, year after year, all the while trying to get a tenure track job and constantly being turned down.

We should all recognize the point that someone made on the newer thread, the advice #3 thread, yesterday at 6:56pm: "the academic profession as a whole is sliding down the socioeconomic scale. the academic salary that used to support a decent house and a family can now barely support a condo and a couple. probably not that, without the spouse working.
your favorite u.g. prof, the one who is in his 60s? no matter how well you do, you'll never be able to live in his house, or afford his life."

Academic salaries have not kept pace. That is very true. We academics have been too eager to remain in this line of work for peanuts, and all the while greater workloads have been heaped upon us.

There is something wrong with a system that "rewards" elite, highly educated, skilled people with pay often so low that it is beaten by entry level business jobs for college grads, public school teachers, and professional nannies! CRAZY, isn't it!

One can hardly think I or some others are trying to scare off the competition. (Another obnoxious comment from you, 8:16pm.) Instead I am promoting our mental health and happiness. I am not being divisive. Quite the contrary! And I am actually not seeking a job.

We should UNITE and collectively do something about the low pay that has become standard. If we won't work for this low pay, maybe something will change.

A job in philosophy is not all that it's cracked up to be. Although it's great in many ways it is not so great as to justify paltry pay and difficulty in life.

To 5:45pm, I loved your whole comment. Here is a small excerpt to remind people of the gist of it, "Two years ago I voted with my feet, newly minted PhD in hand. Thank God. Not once have I regretted my decision to leave the field."

What do you do? I take it you now have a job in another profession? Can you tell us more about your situation? I would love to hear it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

To 10:04--

Doesn't your post assume that success is to be identified with making money? The more money you make the more successful you are in life?

Perhaps you think that this is correct. I do not. I am not rich, never will be. But I live well; I read, write about, and discuss ideas that I love to read, write about and discuss And someone pays me for it. Like anonymous at 8:16, I consider the life I lead to be a very successful life, even if market managers or lawyers who make way more than me do not agree.

For example, if I teach a MWF schedule, I get to stay home TR and putter around the house, walk my dog, read some, write some, go shopping for dinner, cook nice meals for my wife and myself. I can think of no other profession that combines this kind of flexible schedule with the security of a pay check for life. Of course, this is assuming you get a TT job and then get tenure. And I know that I am lucky to have done both of those things. But 10:04 seems to be suggesting that doing these things is not sufficient for being happy and successful since the ultimate payoff is so paltry. If you truly enjoy teaching and discussing philosophy, then nothing could be further from the truth.

10:04 said...

There are no decent day cares in my area. I guess you'll just have to trust me on this. I do not have a nanny either, nor do I want one. Nursery school sounds more like the day care that you describe, proper insurance, people with education and proper training, and the kids are playing with a variety of children.

10:04 said...

To 8:29am I think your life sounds ideal. It's great! Very attractive.

I really do NOT think that the more money a person makes, the more they are successful. No, no, no! I am talking about meeting expenses on low pay.

Perhaps it is worse in my geographical area.

Maybe it is do-able elsewhere.

Anon 8:16 said...

You misunderstood, 10:04. I didn't say I had a greater authority than you.
Unlike you, I spoke only about my own case, and not (absurdly) general claims. The akratic irishman and the tenured philosophy girl seem to have had experiences more in keeping with mine, but we're all just giving information about our own lives.

The reason you don't have the authority isn't that I have tenure, but that you just don't have the evidence for the claims you're making.

For example,

"Academic salaries have not kept pace. That is very true."

Evidence?

"Quality of day care is even worse than poorly qualified so-called nannies for minimum $15 per hour(not true professional nannies)."

Evidence?

You expect everyone to just believe what you're saying, without evidence? That's assuming a tone of authority you aren't entitled to.

Mr. Zero said...

10:04,

I admit to being naive about the costs of childcare and stuff. I have no kids, nor any concrete plans for having kids. I haven't done anything to explore the actual costs of these things.

However, I think the reason why your post is getting such a strong reaction is because of how absurd it is. Come on, man. You can afford to have kids on 70 grand a year. You don't need a nanny. You know how I know? Because I know that there are janitors at your school, and I know that they don't make anything close to what you do, and I know that they have kids, and I know they don't have nannies. QED. (or, as someone else has advocated, pwned)

Anonymous said...

what financial advantadge do they have over philosophers?

Presumably they started earning steady money in their early 20s instead of their late-30s, and have no debt associated with an additional decade plus in school. (Or am I the only one here who got a terminal MA first and then took off a few years to think really hard about whether or not I wanted to do a PhD?)

Anonymous said...

10:04--

You are right about how location affects lifestyle. But there are two sides to that story.

I teach in an economically depressed part of the country, and that allows me to own my own home, go to Europe on vacation if I choose, buy a new car, eat out a lot, and in general live the way I want (I have no kids, and don't plan on having any. But if I did, I could do well here. Most colleagues have kids, and they like the area and describe it as a "great place to have a familiy"). And that is all very nice.

But, since this is an economically depressed area, it kind of sucks also. Not much to do. Not much of an art scene. Most people outside the school are uneducated and very, very poor. Good amount of petty, senseless crime.

Had I gotten a job in NYC, SF, Seattle, Portland, or any other city that I love, then I would love my city, but hate my cramped apartment, long for owning a house, eat out only on my b-day....you get the picture.

So this is, of course, one sacrifice we make: live in a depressed area, and afford many of the goods of life, or live in an attrative area, and be broke and struggling for quite some time. We actually hired someone in a TT job from the Bay area the other year because she opted for the house, land, etc. over the big city. I think she wonders whether she did the right thing quite a bit these days.

Personally, I think I am in the better place. I can afford to eat out in NYC when I go there; my friends who live close to that area never do, since all of their money goes to rent, transportation, etc. Ironically enough, I know more about the food and art scenes there than they do; I enjoy their city more than they can. And then I go to Paris in the summer, while they sit in their apartment wondering whether they can afford to turn on the AC.

tenured philosophy girl said...

To Mr. Zero - Thanks dude! Awesome comment!

I feel very stupid asking this and I am sure it is obvious but can someone please explain the 'pwned' thing to me and other possibe Clueless Compatriots?

10:04 -

This all feels a bit like thread-hijacking to me but since others are doing it too...

When my son started kindergarten, the school (yup, public school - I'm the evil mom that lets my kid mix with the plebs, don't forget) regularly divided the kids into two classes - one for the kids who had been in daycare and could be assumed to have basic social and learning skills, and one for the kids who had been stuck at home with mom or a nanny and were wracked by separation anxiety and completely incapable of sharing the glue stick. The daycare kids spent the first half of kindergarten learning how to read and add, while the stuck-at-home kids spent the first half of kindergarten learning how to share the glue and not wet their pants or cry when their moms/nannies dropped them off. The school administrators were completely up front about this.

Actually I have done tons of research on this (and will send cites, not anecdotes, to anyone who cares) - daycare kids are sick less, better adjusted, and watch way less TV than the stuck-at-home lot. They come out lower on no interesting measures. That's science, not someone's unsupported impressions of the day cares in his neighborhood that he has not actually used.

The Victorian era is over. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Come on, man. You can afford to have kids on 70 grand a year. You don't need a nanny. You know how I know? Because I know that there are janitors at your school, and I know that they don't make anything close to what you do, and I know that they have kids, and I know they don't have nannies. QED

You're definitely right that you "can afford to have kids" on 70 grand a year, especially if you don't live in a major coastal metro. But one thing to keep in mind about that janitor is that she's likely to have family in the area to help with the kids: you don't have to be willing to move far away from your family to get a job as a janitor. Just about all of my non-philosophy friends with kids have much lower child care costs than I do for this very reason. That's just anecdotal evidence, of course.

Also, the nanny-bashing is kind of ridiculous. As I posted above (2:43pm), my wife and I pay almost $3000/month for day care for two kids. That's high -- we have a number of reasons for doing it; I won't bore you -- but it's not *crazy* high for our area. We could save four or five hundred a month by going somewhere else, though of course that, too, isn't straightforward, since most places have waiting lists, etc. Anyway, I just wanted to point out that at $15/hour, a nanny would be a bit cheaper.

Of course the child care problem is hardly unique to philosophers! The only reason it's worth bringing up is that in my experience people who don't have kids are usually pretty shocked to find out how expensive child care is, at least for kids who aren't school-age yet. What seems like a juicy salary -- especially from the perspective of a graduate student! -- might not even be enough to live on if you want to have kids, at least in some parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

anon 11:05: you spend $3,000/month on daycare?! I can't fathom what might count as a good reason for that. This does not mean you don't have the right to, of course. But still. Probably over 99% of humans who have turned out okay did so w/o such daycare.

Re pwned:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn

Anonymous said...

12:32,

I think in many parts of the country it would be insane to pay that much for day care. The point of my post was that in certain parts of the country, it's not obvious how to avoid doing so. Rate chart here:

http://childcare.harvard.edu/pdf/ratecard.pdf

As I said, we could find something cheaper -- we looked at several less expensive places -- but by "cheaper", I mean "15-20% less". Can you fathom what would might count as a good reason for spending $2400/month on day care for two kids? If not, then you can't fathom what might count as a good reason for sending your kids to day care in the Boston area.

Happily, we're moving to the midwest in the fall, where child care will "only" cost about $1800/month.

Anonymous said...

tenured philosophy girl,

11:05 again. I agree we're thread-jacking, but the deed's been done...

I just wanted to second your view that there are lots of good reasons to favor day care over a nannies. I just wanted to point out in my earlier post that the cost isn't one. Day care is not obviously less of a luxury item than a nanny.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 12:32 - thanks! Not only do I now know a very cool new slang term that can help me seem hip to the cool kids, but I also now know something about Welsh loanwords.

I am jumping on the pwned bandwagon.

tenured philosophy girl said...

11:05/1:09 - True. What got my panties in a snitch was 10:04's absurd, offensive, ignorant claim that there exist 'maybe one or two good daycares', and the sanctimonious conclusion that daycare was a "last resort".

I have to take your word for it about the cost of day care in Boston. But please remember that Boston is exceptionally expensive. People who are not (un?)lucky enough to land jobs in Boston, Manhattan, San Francisco, and maybe one or two other cites aren't looking at necessary costs anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:04 a.m. is so wrong. Let's take this one by one from someone who (1) came out of a Leiter-unknown program (which, by the way, has a very high job placement success rate); (2) does Continental and Postmodern Political Philosophy; (3) is, to put it bluntly, not the smartest fellow any of us know, nor the best writer, nor the most productive publisher; and (4) is in the last weeks of pre-tenure stress.

Anon 10:04 says "there is practically no pay": I've been teaching 10 years, and make about $75K; I have a good-sized house in one of the priciest markets in the country, bought when interest rates were low four years ago; I eat out where and when I want, buy whatever toys I want, donate to charitable organizations with the extra.

Anon 10:04 says "you can hardly have a family (SO and/or kids), you can't support yourself well and cannot support a family on this level of pay": I have a wife who works part-time and volunteers the rest; we are currently childless, but that is changing in the next year, and we foresee no inability to support them, though there will be obvious lifestyle changes and additional (reasonable) frugality.

Anon 10:04 says "you can't choose where you will live at all really and will be away from people you might want to live near": Of course this is true for some, but I progressed my way through the profession (via VAP in Buttsville and risky Sabbatical Replacement) to the wonderful and highly sought-after urban center where I now work and live.

Anon 10:04 says "You will work like a DOG grading papers and creating courses." Um, yes, I work very hard (my dogs, on the other hand, do almost no work, but my wife and I do take them on hour-long hikes most days). I create courses on a regular basis because I love teaching, love learning, I'm really good at it, and the satisfaction I receive from this is huge.

Anon 10:04 says "You will practically never have non-work-related vacations": This is pretty stupid. First, conferences are a great way to travel, especially if you have a travel budget. But even without it, my wife and I have gone to Hawaii and Mexico, spend weekends at B&B's in the mountains, whatever. And what do you call summertime, and the six weeks of winter break, sitting at home reading, writing, cooking, hiking, dreaming up new courses and new books!

We're not doing this on family money, folks. Just some decent decision-making capacity, and a lot of hard work. It hasn't sucked for a minute. While I know I'm "lucky," I also know that I've made intelligent, ethical and strategic decisions, helped other people who have helped me back in turn, and tried my damnedest to be fabulous at every turn.

Anonymous said...

How tolerant of you, tenured philosophy girl, to allow your son to dance with the plebs...So, according to your reasoning, those who go to daycare are better off than those who (gasp!) stay at home with mom...Who chooses to be a home-maker, keeping her child until kindergarten. (Which, so far as I'm aware, is when children normally begin learning not to wet their pants and how to play with glue.)

Ooops. Sorry. Or if Daddy decides to stay home to be the home-maker.

And two cheers to you for sending your child to public school. When society gets around to it, I'm sure you'll get a medal for your good deed.

Daycare = Tolerance
Public School = Tolerance

Damn. Glad you made me aware of that.

tenured philosophy girl said...

"So, according to your reasoning, those who go to daycare are better off than those who (gasp!) stay at home with mom...Who chooses to be a home-maker, keeping her child until kindergarten."

Um, yeah, all else being equal. Science and common sense support the idea that being cloistered away with one person with very little going on in her life and lots of other domestic responsibilities taking up her time and attention is not as good as being surrounded by other kids of all sorts and cared for by adults who have chosen to work with kids despite the low pay, are trained to do so, and are there for the sole purpose of attending to the kids.

Not that there aren't bad daycares and excellent nannies/SAH parents and plenty of exceptions of course.

And don't play dumb - obviously my point was that the kids wet their pants because they are stressed by being away from home for the first time, not that they'd never been toilet trained at home.

I wasn't looking for a medal at all for sending my kid to public kindergarten. Just looking to avoid the idea that those of us who believe in daycare and public school are worse parents.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Follow-up comment - I feel the need to add that this all started with a conversation about preschool-aged kids. I do think there are important benefits to infants spending most of their time at home with primary caregivers, even though the abysmal maternity leave in this country, including at most universities, often makes this impossible. Infants have very different needs than preschoolers.

Nice tie back to the job market (finally) - one thing I haven't seen discussed at all on this blog, tellingly, is finding out about and even negotiating maternal/parental leave once you get an offer. I know many people who have negotiated for a paid term off at schools that have the horrible minimal 6-weeks-no-pay policy. This is really important to negotiate NOW if you think you'll ever have kids, whether or not kids feel like a pretty distant scenario for you at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I got me 3 siblings, and parents whose combined income is not too far above the level of the hypothetical janitor. We've turned out just fine. We've never lived in the lap of luxury, but we got everything we needed. It turns out that a parent bringing in 69K wasn't among the things we needed, nor was a full-time nanny. True story!

Anonymous said...

"Um, yeah, all else being equal. Science and common sense support the idea that being cloistered away with one person with very little going on in her life and lots of other domestic responsibilities taking up her time and attention is not as good as being surrounded by other kids of all sorts and cared for by adults who have chosen to work with kids despite the low pay, are trained to do so, and are there for the sole purpose of attending to the kids."

Umm...No. "Common sense" tells me none of the above. "Common sense" tells me that a child needs his/her parents a helluva' lot more during that stage of life than they do the madness of a daycare scene. "Professionals"? "Trained?" You've seriously got to be kidding me.

Because children today, who've gone through daycare, are so much more well-adjusted than those of us who - God forbid - were raised by stay-at-home parents? All else being equal? I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. Only an academic could come up with such absurdities.

Don't get me wrong - I don't find fault with those who use daycares. I'm sure some (emphasis) are quite nice. But don't try the backward justification that it's actually _better_ than staying with a parent. That might make you feel a helluva' lot better - but my bet is that it's false. At least, that's what "common sense" tells me.

And, oh dear, this horrible country and its paternity/maternity leave laws...How uncivilized, how utterly terrible! Surely the government should subsidize at _least_ the first four or five years...At _least_.

I wish I could say that I don't mean to mock you. But I do so mean it. If what you say makes you feel better about leaving your kids at daycare and/or sending them to public school, fine. I, nor anyone else from I can tell, have no problem with it. But your means of justifying this (by the way, who _asked_ you to justify this - as I recall, you're the one who attacked a guy for discussing a nanny?) and your apparent celebration of it is beyond nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I believe the point has been made, but I'm still absolutely blown away by the utter cluelessness of anyone who could see $69K as "peanuts."

Can you *see* the other people in the world around you, or are they invisible to you?

Do you think that the only people whose lives could possibly be worth living are your co-professionals at your law firm/i-bank/consulting firm and the sexy rich people you see on TV?

If you can't make ends meet on $69,000, it's *your* fault, not the salary's.

tenured philosophy girl said...

anon most-recently-3:37: You are a strange person.

"And, oh dear, this horrible country and its paternity/maternity leave laws...How uncivilized, how utterly terrible! Surely the government should subsidize at _least_ the first four or five years...At _least_."

Do you actually, seriously deny that this countries maternity laws suck compared to every other civilized country? Wow, I have literally never heard an educated person deny that.

And why in the world would you think that I - the very person who you are bashing for thinking that there's no reason at all for kids to stay at home for 4 or 5 years - think we should have 4 or 5 years of mat leave? Everything I have said shows I wouldn't think this. What a strange charge! It does seem, however, that you maybe should believe in such a thing. Personally, I think a paid 6 months or year off like most developed countries have is just about right.

You may not know it but I am pretty confident that it is you who is coming off sounding like the political extremist, not I. Why do you think that even the fucking family-values-snorting Bush administration has acknowledged that universal free Pre-K is worth spending tax dollars on??? Because ALL the research shows that 3 and 4 year olds do best - ceteris paribus blah blah blah - when they go to school (or something like it) rather than stay home.

Anonymous said...

Tenured Philosophy Girl,

Care to address the primary point of my post?

I guess not. First of all, I do deny that this country's maternity laws suck. Political extremist? Perhaps. I'm not sure. But gauging this country's laws against those of the EU does little to assauge my doubts that the maternity laws in the country are perfectly alright. Are they more civilized in the EU? Wow. That'd be a stretch, now wouldn't it?

(And I think I'm educated...but maybe you're right. Perhaps I'm just a dumb schmuck off the street. That difficult to imagine someone disagreeing with you, is it? Automatically qualifies them for uneducated, does it?)

That I think children should stay at home with parents in no way entails that I think the government should subsidize it. If you think you can infer one from the other...then honestly, I can't help you.

That evil fucking Bush. What a bastard he is. If even evil Bush can see something, why can't I? My take on our current president notwithstanding, I can readily imagine someone thinking and believing that univeral pre-K ought to be the norm. It ought to be the norm, one might think, because there are numerous persons out there who simply cannot afford daycare. And it's got jack-all to do with the fact that a scientist tells us (ceteris-paribus) that children perform much better, are more well-adjusted, (and to resort to your technical jargon) blah-blah-blah.

They perform much better than staying at home alone, than staying home with a grandmother who also keeps 12 other kids, than staying within a familial framework wherein they get no attention, than staying at home with a drug and/or alcohol abuser...and on, and on, and on.

But then again, I suppose I'm not up on all the research. As apparently are you. And it obviously makes you feel better about your situation. So please, forgive all of this ignorance on my part.

But I'm still pretty sure that you are wrong.

(I have to go now...I'm jerking my imaginary children out of public school, hiring a nanny, and writing my senator to revoke all maternity laws in this country. Have a good day.)

mr. zero said...

I took a psychology of child-rearing class in college. We looked at a number of studies about day-care. You know, science? Not off-the-cuff musings by philosophers commenting anonymously on some blog?

The current consensus, among people who study this kind of thing for a living is that having your kid in a good day-care center is no worse than having him at home with you in any way, and is better in some ways (the ways TPG mentions).

Bad day-care centers are very bad. However, it is hard to isolate the effects of bad day-care centers from those of bad parenting, since the kind of parent who is diligent about finding a good day-care center is going to be good about a bunch of other stuff, too; whereas the kind of parent who isn't diligent about finding a good day-care is likely to slack off in other areas.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Virtual hugs to Mr. Zero for always saying something sensible just when I am about to delete this blog from my bookmark list in exasperation...

Science. Try it. Then talk.

(oh, urgh, the sound of me trying to restrain myself from pointlessly continuing this argument and failing because I am weak...)

I didn't say that I thought the government should subsidize mat leave (though I do believe this). Universities can also subsidize it, and many do. But anyhow my venerable interlocutor has claimed:

1. Good moms (or dads - he sarcastically made it gender-neutral at one point) stay at home with their kids for 5 years.

2. We should stick with the current US system of 6 unpaid weeks of mat leave and that's it.

It would seem to follow pretty immediately that according to him, academic women (parents?) who have kids should quit their tenure-track jobs, since those will only be held for them for 6 weeks and they should stay home (without subsidization) for 5 years. Really, women who are planning on having kids have no business taking up these tenure-track jobs in the first place then, do they?

I guess that then the men (other parents?) will have to work extra-long hours to bring home the bacon to support the wife and kids on one income. They won't get to participate much in raising the kids then, but after all someone has to be the provider.

Welcome to the 1950s folks - did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the 1950s folks - did I miss something?

Only that your interlocutor should be considered a troll and you should stop responding to him/her. This statement of his/hers -- "Only an academic could come up with such absurdities" -- suggests, shall we say, a fairly ambiguous interest in the philosophy job market.

Incidentally: I know people disapprove of comment-deletion, but I'm not sure why moving strings of irrelevant comments into separate posts isn't more popular, and/or better-supported technically by blogging software. But then, I also think there should be dedicated sites for, say, arguing about Israel and Palestine, or "feminism and science" (your source for every online argument that ends up namechecking Larry Summers!), or any number of other things, although I'm not enamored enough of the idea to pony up money for domain registration or hosting fees.

Anonymous said...

You can actually support a family with a few kids on an adjunct's salary in an economically-depressed area, provided that one spouse doesn't work if you've got kids. (The extra salary never makes up for childcare, an extra vehicle with extra transportation costs, a bigger wardrobe for more expensive clothes, and so on.)

I know because I've been doing it for several years. It certainly slows one down in progressing toward a Ph.D., but it's financially feasible enough to make me think a higher salary in an area that's not too expensive is much more doable. But it requires being frugal, and I know that's a lot to expect of some people.

Anonymous said...

Stop the presses, ladies & gentlemen...Mr. Zero. Took. A. Class. (Christ, let's all step back...Let the man speak. It's obvious he's earned it.)

Anyone here ever take an anthropology class wherein the remains of certain Latin American ruins were analyzed? Think you're getting the whole story here, always? Might we imagine, Mr. Zero, that there are dissenting opinions from those weighing in on child-rearing via day care centers? (Holy shit, even from SCIENTISTS!?!) Might we...Now, granted, I've not took-a-class on the topic. But then again, for 99.9% of human history, no one's taken a goddamned class on it to need to be told how to rear their child.

TPG...Your exasperation speaks volumes. "Science, anyone?" Now that's not rhetorical, is it? You're the one who began by invoking "ceteris paribus" around here. And I called bullshit on the fact that daycare centers are _better_ than rearing your child on your own up until K (which is what you originally posted, by the way). My views on maternity laws have very little to do with the case at hand, and your sanctimonious reckonings to the contrary, universities are very rarely private. (Which means the govt. _would_ have to step in on these issues...)

Your (1) and (2) are, again, philosophically ridiculous. No one said anything about "good" moms (oops, or dads). I said, as I recall, that it is virtually always better to be able to stay at home with children. But since I have also defended "nanny-dom", how precisely does it follow that I think that "good" moms (and dads) stay home with their children? How? By parity of reasoning, what? Please, enlighten me here.

How tolerant we all are here. Especially the jackass calling for comment moderation...

tenured philosophy girl said...

The troll-feeding comment snapped me back to reality, thanks. Boy, troll-feeding is weirdly hard to resist isn't it? Sorry for contributing.

Again - my relevant tie back to the job market on all this, which I think should get some notice, is that asking about and negotiating parental leaves is something that many people should keep in mind. A paid term of teaching release is usually a reasonable request but you won't get it if you don't ask. Also, finding out a potential school's parental leave policy is often a little window into how tolerant that school will be of your being an actual human being with a life and commitments to other humans.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding means of argumentation:

"That sounds an awful lot like something Hitler would have said...Hence, it is false and should not be taken seriously."

vs.

"That sounds an awful lot like something a troll would say...Hence, it is false and should not be taken seriously."

I'm baiting no one. I'm simply arguing with (what to my mind are) absurdities. Or, at least, with propositions that are taken as obviously true whenever the contraries appear much more self-evident to me.

But since I've been labelled a troll, I suppose I should recant...But I won't. You, TPG, are a moron.