Monday, March 4, 2013

A Comment on Being #PostAc

If you haven't already seen it, everyone should go over to our new How To Leave Academia site and read the latest post that Lauren and Currer wrote, about the differences between the "alt-ac" and "post-ac" movements. It's a really interesting read, and it helps clarify the differences between the different groups of us who are out here, trying to identify problems in higher ed and to help people who want to leave academia.

Unsurprisingly, I call myself a post-ac. I have been and will continue to be immensely critical of the overall system of academia, which values obscure specialized knowledge over all else and which tells its grad students and faculty that the only job worth having is an academic one, even if it leaves you impoverished and miserable. I've found a job outside of academia, in a for-profit consulting company. I feel no qualms about this whatsoever. I no longer believe that academia (as an institution) is a benevolent entity working toward abstract goals like "providing education" or "advancing knowledge." They are working to minimize costs and maximize revenues, just like many nonacademic companies.

But at least here in the outside world, organizations are honest about it. I'd rather work for a company that is making money and being honest about it than one that tells me with a straight face that I should feel honored to work 60 hours per week for a salary in the teens because I'm contributing to the "life of the mind" ... while they jack up tuition rates on students by double-digits, cut classes and raise class sizes, build a multimillion-dollar athletic facility, and hire two new Vice Presidents of Something at salaries in the mid-six-figures.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy. I'm tired of watching people get hurt by the "bait-and-switch" of academia, and to then turn their disappointment inward, so that they blame themselves for not working hard enough or for not being smart enough. I'm tired of them believing that they should sacrifice because they're contributing to some benevolent institution or some "greater good."

The institution doesn't care about you. And there are ways to contribute to the "greater good" of society without impoverishing yourself or driving yourself crazy with anxiety and overwork.

So I'm a post-ac. Unequivocally.