12 December 2003

[howl of intellectual agony::warning -- poorly organized rant to follow]

since i'm currently engaged in The Most Boring Possible Paralegal Task (digesting depositions, thank you very much), i've spent a fair number of minutes this morning reading the "should i go to grad school" thread on invisible adjunct. this is, of course, an argument that's been flopping around in my head quite a lot lately. should i go to grad school? well, as with every question, it depends on whom you ask. it also depends on the day, of course...some of my advisors seem enthusiastic one day and completely down on me the next.

more importantly, it depends on what and where the person you ask is. it shocks me, absolutely shocks me, that my swarthmore professors (and other swarthmore professors: read tim burke for a really good example) are often so cynical and exclusive about who can go to grad school, where one has to go to grad school, and what will happen to you during and afterwards. i spent the first almost-eighteen years of my life outside the lofty realm that is east coast academe, and in that time it always seemed that grad school was something you could do if you wanted to. something honorable, yet not unreachable. "indoors, no heavy lifting," my dad always says.

now it all seems unreachable. and expensive. and uncertain. it's a measure of my privilege that this is approximately the first time that the "do i actually want to" and "should i" and "can i" questions might all have different answers. ("absolutely;" "depends on where;" "there is a slim possibility," respectively.) the politics of the application process are incredibly confusing and arcane, the application process itself is sinfully expensive, and apparently everyone on the face of the earth currently wants a political science ph.d. BUT...somehow i can't go back to the midwestern second tier. i love my father and respect his scholarship, quite a lot, but i have less than no inclination to teach at UND, or st. cloud state, or, God forbid, st. thomas.

why? well, part of it, i must admit, has to do with my now-much-regretted childhood habit of reading papers written for my dad and correcting the grammatical errors (there were often many). and then there's the part where many smart folks i know from, say, UND, have become increasingly reactionary on the topic of identity politics -- simply because of their exposure to colleagues whose intellectual laziness and personal insecurity should require that they not be allowed to read pomo without a chaperone.

...none of which is to say that ungrammatical grad students and lockstep leftists don't exist at, say, harvard -- just that the proportion is smaller.

so i will bitch, and moan, and wish the application processes at the harvards and yales weren't what it evidently is, and nevertheless i will submit myself to this torture in the hopes that eventually i can be in a position to tell people like me that only academical demigods such as myself can and should go to graduate school.

...either that, or i'll go to law school. i won't be as fulfilled, but i'll be not-quite-as-fulfilled in three years flat.