3 posts

No One Should Ever Go To Grad School… Ever

Last week, we heard from grad school rock star GrandInquisitor, who showed you how to make grad school your bitch. Now, I know for a fact that GI is one hell of a grad student and that you are getting absolutely top-notch advice.

But first let’s get one thing straight: Grad school is bullshit and under no circumstances should you listen to your annoying thick-framed-glasses-wearing friends who are telling you to apply to it. DO NOT GO TO GRAD SCHOOL. Here’s why:

1. Law school is the ultimate exercise in bullshit.

Don’t even think about going to law school. Don’t listen to your parents, they just want to be able to say there’s a lawyer in the family, even if it means ruining your life. There are already way too many law school grads and not nearly enough legal jobs.

“When the economy first went down, students saw law school as a way to dodge the work force,” said Ryan Heitkamp, a pre-law adviser at Ohio State University. “The news has gotten out that law school is not necessarily a safe backup plan.”

And perhaps worst of all, graduating from law school with huge debt has a tendency to turn you into a huge douchebag.

2. A journalism graduate degree is even bullshittier than a law degree.

Having gone to an undergraduate j-school program, I cannot even imagine wanting to go back and get a master’s in journalism. First of all, journalism school (even at the undergrad level) is pretty silly. Everything you really need to know you’ll learn on the job. Most of the best journalists I’ve met actually studied something else in college. Second, Journalists make dick. The money at most traditional journalism jobs will have you living the social worker lifestyle. I hope you enjoy driving that 1990 Hyundai!

But the real reason you shouldn’t study journalism in grad school is that the industry is changing so fast that university departments aren’t keeping up. Journalism is not a hard science. The big ideas are coming out of places like Gawker and, not college faculties. In fact, for a large swath of the industry, having a graduate degree counts against you.

Also, as a rule of thumb you should always do the opposite of whatever an unpaid HuffPo blog-jockey tells you to do.

3. The world does not need more literature professors who specialize in obscure shit no one cares about.

Expecting a career in academia is an absolutely terrible reason to go back to grad school. Yeah, yeah, you probably read “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” and thought you could get yourself into some kind of cool faculty intrigue. But in reality you’ll just end up as a non-tenured adjunct professor, which is the academic equivalent of a mall security guard.

Here’s a Brown University Ph.D student’s take on the experience:

The prevailing culture of graduate school, if not always the experience itself, is one of misery and deprivation. Most grad students genuinely believe that theirs is a particularly difficult existence. I myself have been guilty of this. My theory is that this is partly due to the discrepancy between high seriousness and low stakes. One spends a lot of time racking one’s brains about serious questions without anyone particularly caring about the answers. One can devote anywhere from two years to a decade on a dissertation, pouring all one’s intellectual energy into the project, for the reading pleasure of exactly three people, two of whom will only pretend to read it.

Sadder still is the way in which the horrible process of academic professionalization encourages grad students to define themselves by their work. Conference rooms and seminars resound with the sound of socially inept people introducing themselves by their subjects. In one of the most heinous crimes against humor since the last time Dane Cook opened his inexplicably large mouth, I once heard a political scientist respond to a colleague’s remark with, “You would say that — you’re a comparativist!” The seminar room exploded with laughter, making me drop the free sandwich I was there for. You want no part of this.

4. Grad school is not the answer to the piss-poor economy.

Fleeing the shitty job market is a common justification for going back to school. Maybe you’re a few years out of college and just got laid off. Maybe you just graduated from undergrad and are terrified of searching for a job. Don’t let your circumstances (no matter how frustrating or scary) convince you to take the wrong path out of desperation. If you go into grad school out of fear about the economy, and without a rock solid career plan, you’re making a huge mistake.

In addition to the opportunity costs associated with taking yourself out of the workforce for years and losing all those wages, you’ll mostly likely be taking on huge amounts of new debt to pay not just for tuition but also for living expenses. That debt ain’t interest free, which can result in downright startling amounts of money being owed. The juice is always running.

As our 7-year grad student from Brown put it:

I don’t think that I could, in good conscience, recommend graduate school, especially a doctoral program, especially in the humanities, to another soul.


5. The grad student lifestyle is not actually all that cool.

It’s a well-known secret that a large percentage of grad students go back to school because they miss so much of the campus experience. Eating Ramen noodles and riding a Huffy around town while hammered was pretty fucking awesome when you were 19. When you’re 25 or 30… not so much.

Look, the grad school lifestyle mostly sucks ass. You will be completely broke. You will earn less net income than porno shop jizz-moppers. That cool turbo’d Subaru Impreza WRX with the all-wheel drive and fat sound system that you had your eye on? FUCK YOU, GRAD SCHOOL BOY. You’ll drive your old used 1989 Dodge Shadow and wear thrift shop clothes and you’ll like it! And the parties… at the grad school level the parties aren’t really that fun unless you like drinking cheap shitty wine while listening to some guy with a soul patch recite John Berryman poems. And if that sounds like fun, I will personally come to your house and stab you.

6. Working isn’t nearly as bad as everyone makes it sound.

I know every single person in the world bitches about his or her job. Getting up early and going to work in a cubicle does kind of suck. We should all be free to spend our days writing songs about our favorite days of the week or sexting, or whatever it is that the kids are doing these days.

But if it weren’t completely socially unacceptable to do so, most people could tell you at least a few of the parts of their job that they find truly fulfilling. And while classroom learning for its own sake is great, actually doing something in this world is not to be shat upon.

And, oh yeah, you actually will have a lot less debt and maybe even a bit of money in your pocket, unlike your friends in grad school. So instead of spending your late nights writing papers about Pre-Columbian llama herding in Peru, you’ll be out at the club ordering bottles of Santana Champagne and dancing to this song. My first job out of college paid a paltry $25,000 a year and I felt fucking rich at the time.

7. Grad school has nothing to do with learning or enlightenment or any of that bullshit.

Grad school is about credentialing, not learning. Stop romanticizing the idea of studying a bunch of obscure, theoretical bullshit that no one cares about. You’re an adult now, you already should have the critical thinking skills necessary to Mapquest your nearest library and crack open a book. And if your local college has some professor whose ideas really do fascinate you, you can always read his book or audit his course without signing up for a lifetime of debt.

8. There’s a fine line between educated and overeducated… and it’s called “grad school.”

Grad school will train you in economically questionable skills such as writing things like this.

Notes from an angry teacher – Part II

For those of you who read my last column, I apologize for any confusion. I don’t call my students whales and I’m not happy that they get deported. I was trying to come across bitter. Those of you who know my commenting style are aware that I have a twisted sense of humor. That sense of humor sometimes helps me get through the chaos I encounter at work. To be honest, the kid who was deported hurt because I worked with him for several weeks after our incident, trying to connect with him and had people from various culinary arts schools in the area come in and talk to him because he was interested in cooking.

I will try to write from now on with a little more of that honesty rather than the portrayal of a bitter teacher. I still pray for the future of this country based on my experiences. And I’m not a religious person. I teach high school English.

– Often teachers come across students who lie to them to get out of work. It happens frequently and usually I’m able to dismantle excuses. However, it’s hard to teach classes that include writing elements, when students can’t read cursive. I found this out last fall, when I handed out sample short answer essay examples to my students and they couldn’t read them. They were written examples of how to respond to question prompts from students who took our state accountability tests from previous years. As I was handing these out, students began to look at me in confusion, until one girl raised her hand and said, “I can’t read this. It’s in cursive. I have no clue what it says.” The cursive was very legible. My response to her and to 75% of my other students who similarly couldn’t read it: “It’s in English, try to guess, and I’ll help if you have any questions.” When students have any sort of excuse not to do work, they will do NOTHING and later complain to someone that the assignment was unfair.

I graded their assignment that day and talked to a number of other teachers who said I should’ve know better than to give those examples in cursive, because they don’t teach those skills anymore at the elementary level. I was later told by an assistant principal that all assignments and directions written on the board should be in general text and I had to remove the grades from my gradebook for the assignment. I understand that the students can’t read cursive and we’ve failed them as far as educating them in it, but to me, it’s not an excuse for not doing work or an alternative assignment. Of course, when parents complain to dickless administrators, the teachers get thrown under the bus. And the students win.

– The cursive thing shocked me, but something that has also been shocking is the number of students who can’t read or decipher clocks. We have old-fashioned clocks in our classrooms, with SECOND HANDS and everything, and a good chunk of my kids don’t understand how to tell time using them. Often, when students fill out bathroom or library passes and they have no idea what the clock is reading, so they have to ask me. It’s sad. I’d say about 1/3rd of my students have no idea how to use basic clocks.

– One of the fun things about being a teacher is professional development days, when you get to work with the other teachers and sit through workshops. It’s always fun because you get to talk with people you often don’t get to speak to. For the most part, the workshops are huge wastes of time and often there is an elephant in the room. The elephants are the administrators (superintendents, principals, assistant principals) who cannot control a room full of teachers to give their presentations and lectures. And it’s funny to the teachers, because we are always asked everyday and critiqued by these people based on how well we can control 35 teenagers for an hour.

A few weeks ago, during one of our meetings, an assistant principal started screaming at us for being too loud following her lecture. She actually stopped us and said “Okay, it looks like I won’t be giving out any more information because you guys aren’t mature enough to handle it.” It was awesome!!!!

I will try to write columns weekly as an outlet for some of the madness. I have so many student stories, some of them are very unsettling. I’m considering leaving teaching this year because of the stress and issues our state is facing with funding and the uncertainty that comes with it. Everyday I feel like I’m making a difference, but it’s a huge fight with students, parents, and administrators.