Dealing With Rejection

The same journals that used to send me nastily worded rejections are now accepting my articles. I just got an acceptance from a place that really hurt my feelings with a mean rejection back in 2009. And all I had to do to change things around was learn to work on research every day and reread / edit the piece I’m working on from the beginning every time I came back to it.

I will now be able to present a book and 8 articles for tenure. My initial goal was to present a book and 10 articles. I still have time to do that before I submit the tenure portfolio. Nobody is requiring this, of course, but I want to make tenure significant to myself and not to some external agency.

I also want to do better than Jonathan’s promotion guidelines. There is no particular reason to do this other than my own enjoyment. Yes, I have a very weird understanding of enjoyment.

This most recent acceptance makes me happy because the article is controversial and quite harsh. I’m very glad that the ideas I express there will become known.

Words Should Mean Something

Those who conduct the discussion about food stamps in terms of “lobster-eating surfers” are as irresponsible as those who frame it in terms of “19 million starving children.” Both groups turn our politics into a circus where the win goes to those who scream the loudest and make the most outrageous, drama-queenish claims.

In the meanwhile, the very real problems that lie equally far from lottery-winning surfers and starving children do not even get mentioned, let alone resolved.

Why is There Such a Huge Surplus of PhDs?

There are many more people graduating with PhDs than there are academic positions to absorb them. The reason for this is the same as for the growing number of adjuncts in academia: the rapid deterioration of secondary education in this country.

Professors want to teach interesting, complex courses. It’s normal to want to come to class and discuss your research with people who are at least somewhat equipped to understand what you are talking about. The absolute majority of students, however, is in need of intense remedial learning. One can barely get anybody to enroll in advanced courses while enrollments in the classes that teach the basics are exploding. The Bachelor’s degree has become what a high school diploma should be.

The few students who are interested in exploring their major beyond the few very basic courses that these days constitute most programs of study go into graduate school. Professors who want to teach serious courses resign themselves to the idea that this can only be done in the format of a graduate seminar. When there are 40 students in a classroom whose knowledge of the Hispanic Civilization is limited to “Latin America is a fascinating country” it is impossible to accommodate those three who are reading Octavio Paz for enjoyment and have passionate opinions on the origins of Spanish Romanticism. For such students, graduate school becomes the only place where they can finally study things that interest them.

It is useless to repeat “there are too many PhDs; let’s produce less” or “there are too many adjuncts; let’s hire fewer.” The college system we have in place arose in response to the breakdown of the system of secondary education. The number of schools that manage to prepare students for college is tiny and it seems to be shrinking. The rest of the graduates come to college lacking ┬áthe most basic knowledge and have to dedicate the first two or three years of their Bachelor’s studies to catching up.

We keep pretending that college and high school are two completely different worlds. This pretense will end up destroying higher education in this country unless we wake up already and take a peek beyond the walls of the ivory tower.