Thank you for saying so much of what I have thought about academia.
It’s essentially a Ponzi scheme; young academics are nothing but high-paid migrant laborers who are treated like the doormats in an abusive relationship; and it’s a criminal waste to take some of the country’s brightest minds, pull them out of the labor force for eight years, have them study and labor for very little money under enormous stress loads, and then boot them out the other end of grad school virtually unemployable. I graduated in 2006 with an MFA in art and was lucky enough to find a staff position at an R1 research school, so my family is lucky to have a stable home life and a roof over our heads (though I do not have the teaching job I had been aiming for, and now I have the added stigma of being “staff,” should I ever wish to apply for a teaching job in the future). I watched my husband struggle through the four years of coursework, starting one dissertation project only to get scooped by another grad student at a different university, starting a new dissertation project and finishing it at night as he took care of our child during the day. He teaches as an adjunct at two separate institutions. The princely sum he earns is just enough to pay for gas to drive to the one that is sixty miles distant and for daycare for our kids, and he has $150 a month to show for his efforts. There is never a guarantee that he will ever see more work after the end of a semester. It is demoralizing, to say the least.
Your article doesn’t even get into all the kinds of stress that come about from trying to balance two academic careers and having children—couples who live on opposite coasts so that they both have jobs, women who put off having children until they are in their late 30s or early 40s because of career pressures or job instability. It is hard to plan one’s life if you don’t know if you’ll be in a city for longer than the two semesters you were hired to teach, and it is a major stressor to move small children every year or two.
Thank you for pointing out that this system, as it is currently set up, sells young academics a bill of goods, and then sells them down the river. It is nice to know that somebody at the top of the tower has noticed the rabble down below and thinks something needs to change.