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Dorothea Salo

I know it feels like that. It did for me too.

But, frankly, they're right and you're wrong. I grant that it doesn't take visible courage to leave when there's just no other viable option.

What takes courage, though, is every single step afterwards, sometimes for *years* afterwards. I was lucky there, incredibly lucky; I landed on my feet fast, and haven't been knocked off 'em since. I wish everybody could be as lucky as I was.

But since the world doesn't work that way, I have a certain duty to call out courage when I see it. And you have it, Rana, like it or not.


Well, then it is the courage of the enduring rock, not the courage of the leaping salmon or the diving bird.

The others are the leapers and divers. I'm a stone in a streambed. (Not that I mind.)

(I have NO idea where that came from. But you get what I mean.)

Academy Girl

"So my departure was one of suddenly being without academic prospects, not a gradual acceptance that my needs were not going to be fulfilled in academia nor a growing disillusionment with the institution as a whole."

Do you realize how many people have no academic prospects but keep trying -- a class here, a class there, driving miles to teach, or continuing to apply? Putting a stop to the adjunctification temptation takes a helluva lot of courage, in my opinion. I've have never seen you as anything less than courageous, and realistic, and a truly great blogo-knitter!

Invisible Adjunct

I hear you, Rana, and I feel the same way: "left standing outside," and shut out from the possibility of a viable academic career.

I'm not wild about the courage theme, because it strongly implies/insinuates that those who hold contingent faculty positions are lacking in said quality. This has the effect, I think, of personalizing the issues, turning a systemic problem into a matter of personal character.

Academy Girl

I don't know if it's fair to make that kind of comparison -- the issue's not that dichotomous, and people's perspectives vary widely. To say that those who choose to leave are courageous doesn't take anything away from those who choose to (or have to) stay. I feel it does take a lot of courage to walk away from academia (or stop applying) if you've been working in it for a long time or had hoped that it would be your future. Those who stay (or keep applying) do so for a variety of reasons; some might even feel perfectly content in their choice. I think many might be exploited (or hooked on the system), causing their own doom (and perpetuating the system) by constantly going back to work as contingents, but they're free to disagree. Some will want to leave but be unable to enact change for any number of good reasons (including those who don't have the courage). I'm also quite positive that some academics, both tenured and nontenured, think those who leave are idiots, secretly characterizing them as incompetent or ill-suited for the work ("can't cut it"). None of this takes anything away from those who see leaving as the best choice for them personally (and/or in relation to their views of the system) and who then work up the requisite courage to make change. What genuine change in life doesn't require courage?


My problem with the way either staying or not staying in academia is put in terms of courage (which I don't think is lacking in either decision) is that it makes it appear as though we really were in control of the choices we make. I don't think we are - we're each handed a set of circumstances and we make the most we can out of them. This is what bothers me about the go to grad school/don't go to grad school problem too. I really don't think it's that simple. Take, for example (to have a different example here than on my blog,) a young person inclined towards thoughtfulness who writes well (pretty generic description of a humanities grad student) and in whose family most people have ph.d.'s and work in academic settings. Is it really so simple for this person to say: okay, the academic life for a humanist isn't so great these days, so I won't go that route? And does trying to go that route really make this person a sucker/idiot/whatever that humanities grad students are getting called with a little too much frequency these days? Maybe I've done too much yoga/read too much Tolkien but I think the only thing we can have control over is how we deal with the circumstances we're handed.

Because of all of the above, Rana, I agree with the other commenters when they say you are courageous. You blogged about your experience. You didn't let it rule your life. And, you're brave to admit that you miss academia, and that it's not a cut-and-dry kind of decision for you not to be in it - for now. (By the way, this "for now" part should get more attention. Because I'm with you on that one, I think it shouldn't have be more final than "for now." Besides, no institutional or political system stays unchanged forever - see Eastern Europe for that one... Where I also think (well, know) that in many of the countries it was the quietly and consistently courageous behaviour of individuals who worked with what they were given that brought about change.)


Argh, you guys -- just when I'm getting ready to dig in my heels and insist stubbornly once again that I don't feel courageous -- hell, I'm living my life one day at a time, just like anyone else -- y'all go and come up with nifty observations about the larger implications of "courage" rhetoric and the state of the institution and everything.

Way to pop a bubble of self-importance, folks! :)

Dorothea Salo

LiL, your description was me at 22. No, it wouldn't have been simple at all to say no to grad school.

It would have taken courage. Which, at the time, I didn't have a whole lot of.


I do agree with the notion that casting any choice in terms of a value-laden adjective gets dicey and distracts from the real issues. But I couldn't resist.


Oddly enough, of all the people I know in grad school, not a single one is a child of an academic. The only person I know who is a child of an academic is not going to grad school (and in fact works at the company I have a job at -- got me my job -- but does much more interesting stuff). People make active choices to go to grad school. I did, though it was certainly based on insufficient evidence, I just don't believe the evidence could ever be enough.

I do think, Rana, that you have been courageous. Other people have said why and how more eloquently. Listen to them.

the artist formerly known as DM

(I need to get a cooler ID)


I don't know if a "what they said" is appropriate here. I agree with what I have read, and don't think I can add anything extra. You show plenty of courage.

P.S. IA, we miss you.


*shuffling toe in the dirt* Thanks, guys. Someday maybe I'll look back and see what you do. :)


Wolfangel - I know plenty of grads students who come from academic families. And plenty who don't. Perhaps writing in general terms is not the best way to try & point this out - I just don't believe that one formula will fit everyone. In fact, the formulization of the academic life is doing it more harm than good. (And I just wrote down a formula of sorts here...) And even more than that: I really don't believe that the major life decisions we think are active choices are necessarily about what we think we're choosing - or that as much of the choice is actually a choice as we'd like to believe.

Which, to my mind, does not take away anything from the courage of the person left to deal with the facts...;)

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