Everyone should read the College Ready Writing Blog

If you have not read it yet, you should check out the College Ready Writing blog. Today’s post is a tad depressing, but important. However, I think you should also check out her reflection about the economic realities of the PhD. We had a bit of an exchange on Twitter about it last night along with some other faculty from around the country. She says a lot of things I’m not really yet brave enough to say in public.

The exchange started with a question posed by Professor Amanda Bower to myself and the brilliant Dr. Skallerup. I include their names as they have them publicly listed, so I assume they are not seeking anonymity.

“Getting PhD=full body tattoo: Can’t get rid of it, takes long time, painful & people will wonder WHY you’d want 1”

My responses:
“there are days when I still wonder why. you have to have a passion for research+theory trumping common sense.”
Basically, I was saying that those that complete a PhD and work in academia have to have an all-consuming passion for research and theory that overcomes all sense of self-preservation and wealth accumulation.
“phd certainly isn’t about money. I must help others learn to help others learn. Phd knowledge constructed helps.”

This one largely speaks for itself and my passion. I also allude to my theoretical framework in the last sentence.

“I do like the tattoo analogy a lot! I get one after each major career milestone. They hurt, but remind me of what I lost + gained.”

You are all invited to see me get my tattoos upon getting tenure. I will probably shed tears, but pretend they are because I am thinking sweet thoughts of my children. Amanda’s analogy got me.

“mine useful+interest(ing). too./earning of (degree) + (academic) work since just often hurt/Each (person’s) exp. differs.”

Another person had noted that her degree was both useful and interesting and may have thought we who were responding did not, which was not the point. We were discussing the challenge of having a PhD in the humanities including the financial, time, stress, etc., which we cope with in order to follow our passions.

“However, there seem to be a lot more ABD (all but diss.) than PhD.”

I was noting my concern that a lot more people do not finish the doctoral degree than do. I have many friends who sit with tons of coursework, years invested, massive dollars wasted, and have no degree to show for it.

“Mountains of loan debt are challenging too. payment is 1/5 of my net salary. Cost/benefit ratio is off”

Responding to another colleague, I note that what really makes things difficult is the huge amount of loan debt I have to pay off for the degree. Given the cost of the degree, it would make more sense if the jobs that followed allowed for easier repayment or some form of loan forgiveness for doing the service of working for a public university. That, of course, is a pipe dream, but a pleasant one.

I learned a tremendous amount from this rapid interchange that probably took no more than 10 minutes in Twitter. This taught me about the very similar experiences that others are having and how important we all think it is that students be informed of both the benefits and challenges of the degree to which many aspire. This is an excellent example of how one may learn from Twitter. I feel bad sometimes that I re-tweet like a crazy person, but there are so many interesting things out there that should be shared and that are difficult to find otherwise.

Not everyone in Twitter is looking for glory, they just want to share what they have learned. We should appreciate them for it and let others know of their excellent thinking. There are folks in fields outside of my own that have brilliant thoughts relevant to what I do that I would never know about if not for this tool.

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