Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Job market question for the English Lit folks out there...

Here's the scoop -- I do water aerobics with the mother of someone who teaches English Lit and comp at the college level on the East Coast.

His mother told me the following things today in the locker room --- which don't seem to add up.

1) He's currently working on his dissertation and he has no other PhD.
[I asked when he was going to defend, she didn't think he was that far along.]
2) "With his qualifications, I'd expect him to be teaching at Princeton."
3) He got many good offers from a variety of prestigious schools .
4) He decided to teach at a CC.
5) He's making more money at the CC --(which makes sense if he was an adjunct someplace or offered adjunct sections).
6) He has plenty of time to publish.
7) He's more or less in charge of the department --- this is his first year at the CC.

It sounds to me that mom is getting the sunny side of things -- perhaps her boy-genius got tenure-track offers from highly ranked schools ABD, but from the sounds of things he's blowing sunshine up her backside to keep her off his back.

I'm not about to blow his cover -- because I suspect his parents made plenty of money in business and she'd give him a hard time if he wasn't successful in her eyes --

but, for my own information -- is this scenario likely?


Anonymous said...

i hope someone in english answers becasue I'm dying to know. my instinct is, noooooo this cannot be the truth.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Ah, what a lovely fantasy world they live in! :) I'm in history, not in English, but the situations are fairly similar, and this doesn't seem likely in either one, unless you put the sunniest possible interpretation on everything. Perhaps she meant that he got good offers from a variety of schools *to enter graduate school*? I'm thinking that he wouldn't get any kind of employment offers from anybody, as an ABD not that close to defending. I can see any one or two of those things being true, but it's hard to swallow all of them. (Heck, though, if they are true, more power to him.)

Meansomething said...

I agree that it doesn't seem to add up. Yes, it is true in my state that a CC instructor with an M.A. could make more than an instructor with a Ph.D. at a four-year school, especially if her son is a regular full-timer at the CC as opposed to a visiting instructor or something at the uni--or even not, as the public CC's often pay much better than the private colleges. Being "more or less in charge of the department" is weird in English, though--it's the kind of thing that might happen in a very small department, like a one- or two-person dept (e.g. Photography at my CC). So either the son is exaggerating his situation to his mama--

--or else she's not putting it all together very well, which definitely happens. My mother would be hard put to accurately describe my career arc, such as it is. And I can totally hear her saying "With her qualifications, I'd expect her to be teaching at Princeton." It would make me cringe, yes, but she'd say it!

Dr. Crazy said...

1) The mother really has no clue about the timeline for things in the profession. Just no clue.
2) The mother really has no clue what qualifications are required to teach at an Ivy.
3) I wondered whether she meant for admittance to grad programs, too. Or perhaps her definition of "prestige" (perhaps influenced by her son's spin) is broader than what academics would call prestige? And even if that's the case, maybe he was talking about VAP positions, not actual tenure-track ones? Or maybe even adjuncting or contract gigs at prestigious-seeming places. (Example: a bunch of people from my grad program ended up doing some time in the BU College of General Studies. They could say they worked at BU, but they were making a pittance by Boston cost of living standards, and it wasn't a permanent gig and never would be.)
5) Yes, he could be making more money at the CC if it was that or adjuncting or if it was a difference between his grad program stipend - which had run out - and teaching at the CC. That said, I feel like a CC in the Northeast wouldn't need to hire a full time person without a PhD in English. Unless it's in like the way north of Maine or something.
6) Bullshit. And I say this as an English person with a 4/4 at a 4-year regional state university, where I actually teach upper-level courses in my field that contribute to my research. I just think this is lies, lies, lies.
7) Are you kidding me? Again, lies, lies, lies.

Others can correct me if I'm wrong, but that's my take as a person in English.
Now, what Meansomething says may be true - that this may be about the mother not putting it together very well - or it may be about HER lies in order to bolster her son amongst her friends when they say things like, "What, is he a lifetime student?" or "After all of that time and expense he's only working at a community college?"

Either way, I smell a rat :)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

She seems nice enough, and she only told me this stuff after I told her that I teach at a CC... but, I also gather her husband is good at making money and very conservative with money (from another conversation) and so to sell his career to his parents, he probably had to juice it up a bit...

timna said...

I was definitely offered half the salary I was making adjuncting at the CC at one point from a four-year college for a one year VAP position. couldn't afford it.

Bardiac said...

He maybe juiced it up, but I'm like some of the others here in having a parent who really doesn't get a lot of how careers in academics work.

A prestigious school for my mom would be a good state school; the Ivies are totally out of her realm of possibility. But the offers, maybe were to go to grad school?

My Mom also thinks that I basically only work the hours I'm actually IN a classroom, so of course I have TONS of time for research and such. If you're in a classroom 15 hours a week, then you have TONS of time for other research. Besides, research in English is easy anyway, all you do is make stuff up. (See, I can channel my Mom.)

The money thing may be BS or misunderstanding.

I was in a small department where, by merely showing up being warm blooded and willing, I could pretty much do any amount of work to run things. And sometimes it felt like I was running a lot of things I shouldn't have been.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

She wasn't at all confused about the grad school -- as she told me where he went to school and that the PhD program's prestige was why he got the offer...

I don't know about the rankings of English programs, but the name wasn't an impressive one for Philosophy... they may not even have a philosophy grad program. An old friend went to their law school -- as it was the only place that admitted him....

In terms of the money, y'all are probably right -- it was VAP/adjunct pay from the others or CC permanent-faculty pay at the CC... I know when I was offered my current job, I was also offered a one-year position at a private uni -- when I told the chair how much I'd make at the CC, he said he could never match it...

I'm pretty sure this is some combo of sanitizing it for parents and parents not knowing the academic realities -- I'll have to remember not to ask her about him in the future... I'd hate to blow his cover.

Dapper Fellow said...

It could be anything at all. I currently live and teach in New Orleans, and I can tell you for a fact that I knock more cash at the end of the day teaching Composition online than a tenured English teacher at the local four year university.

I'm not joking about this.

You might want to pass this blog address along to the fellow:

Dapper Fellow: The Traveling Online Teacher

Rhonda said...

2) "With his qualifications, I'd expect him to be teaching at Princeton."

If his qualifications include an award-winning book or two ... yep, I'm still not seeing it without the PhD.

Wait! Unless he's Toni Morrison? Is he? No? Sorry, Mom.

3) He got many good offers from a variety of prestigious schools .

This may be a t-t/non-t-t thing. One of the biggest challenges I've had is explaining to non-academic folk (like parents) why I would leave two more prestigious schools for the one where I now teach. But still, "many good offers"? I don't know about that.

4) He decided to teach at a CC.
5) He's making more money at the CC --(which makes sense if he was an adjunct someplace or offered adjunct sections).

A CC would pay better than my tenure-track job at a small, non-selective, private college. In fact, I'm thinking of moving in that direction, for that reason.

6) He has plenty of time to publish.

At a CC? Well, then he's much better at managing his time than I am.

7) He's more or less in charge of the department --- this is his first year at the CC.

No. He's really not. I worked at a CC where pretty much everyone took a turn being chair, including non-tenured folk, but only after they'd been there a while.