If you’re making a choice between reading this introductory stuff and watching the video, watch the video. Just watch it.
You’ve no doubt seen one or more of the cynical/realistic xtranormal videos recently circulated in which a professor vainly tries to shut down a youngster who wants to be a college professor. I’ve seen one about getting a PhD in English literature (for the video and one take on it, see zunguzungu), others on political science and law, and I understand there’s one on history and probably others on any other academic discipline you care to name. Fine. None of our jobs are ideal; not all of our students are ideal; and not all of our students who want to get a PhD have been given or have given themselves adequate preparation (for advice on saying no to students, see Dr Virago).
I confess: I laughed at the English PhD video, and I also thought about how much I’d lucked out by landing a tenure-track position in a major city. “Thank the FSM that’s not me,” I thought, “but, hoho, some students sure haven’t earned their idealism, and, yeah, when I’m grading 50 papers, or filling out paperwork because of a plagiarism case, I don’t exactly feel that I’m leading the life of the mind.” I also confess that I didn’t feel proud of laughing at the video; probably more accurately, I willed myself be ashamed: if the video represented how I felt about my job, I should probably quit, fight harder, or work harder to find people to help me fight to make this job better.
All this is a long-winded way of introducing this video that’s come to my attention. Its caption reads: “A well-prepared student and a professor with basic social skills have a detailed but idealistic conversation about the pros and cons of an academic career. A response to a popular video.”
Watch it. It’s stirring stuff.