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Hi Sam,

Thanks for the post! I think you're spot on regarding academic snobbery. One of the explanations you give of such snobbery is that the people holding these attitudes don't have any experience with the "bad" jobs. This is also why, as a grad student on the market, I take all my professors' advice with a huge grain of salt. I've found they are often radically mistaken about what will be successful applying for teaching jobs, simply because they never really tried to get such jobs.

On a related note: do you have advice for people who want to apply to community college jobs? Or can you direct me to such resources? I'd be interested to hear advice for people coming from top-20/research-y type places, with all that that involves. (Specific question: is there any place to find job ads for community college jobs, besides philjobs, highered, vitae, etc.?)

Marcus Arvan

Hi Sam: Like I said, great post.

For what it is worth, I know several people with really good CVs who either failed to get tenure at R1s or are currently worried they are not going to get it. Further, I've heard that at some R1s, it's next to impossible to get tenure. So, while grad students are socialized to want R1 jobs, these jobs actually sound like a rather nightmarish situation to me.

On the flip side, literally none of the philosophers I know personally who got TT jobs at teaching institutions failed to get tenure. I'm sure it happens from time to time--but, on the whole, the tenure process seems to me far better for teaching schools than at R1s. A job like mine has plenty of stresses, and tenure is by no means assured--but I can hardly imagine how much more stressful (and potentially demoralizing) an R1 job would be in these respects.


I agree very much with this. I was someone who preferred not to get a big R1 job - but ended up with one. I was really more interested in teaching. Of course I applied widely because a job is better than no job. I'm not complaining because it worked out fine. But there are definitely days when I wish I weren't at a big R1. The problem in my case was that I was naive about (didn't realize) how famous and respected (among philosophers) my advisor was, and so I ended up being a strong candidate for research jobs.


I have certainly run into the attitude you describe, we all have. My dissertation adviser, although his views have changed some, would openly talk about "teaching jobs" as if anyone who got one failed. He mocks the jobs a lot. And another professor at my school said there is no point in being a grad student unless you are trying to get a job of "the same caliber as his job."

I would add that one reason I think people care has to do with the philosophy profession as a community. We share our teaching stories and research with one another, we see each other at conferences, we know a lot of the same people. Philosophy is a small world. And there is a hierarchy within this community. Those at small teaching schools and community colleges are viewed by some as "lower-class". For instance, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Michael Huemer recently post something about how the 9 extra people who will be hired because of the Hopkins donation are "marginal philosophers" who almost certainly will not contribute to the profession in a meaningful way. Who wants to be seen as that?

Lastly, I don't think ignorance is the reason research professors look down on other types of jobs. I think a lot of it is that they enjoy being at the top of the hierarchy and they want to keep it there. Also many don't see teaching as a real part of the profession and think research is the only thing worth while. I was at a conference once where one professor said, as if it were obvious, "Well none of us actually like teaching"

Sam Duncan

Some community colleges advertise on philjobs (that's actually where I saw the ad for my current job), but I think more the most common site for them to post on is higheredjobs. I think some also post in the Chronicle and Academic 360. So yeah it's a bit more scattered than the other academic job market and you'll need to do a bit more digging.
As for applying... Having community college teaching experience is a big point in your favor, though it's not an absolute necessity (I didn't have it, but it does help). If possible it would be a really good idea to try adjunct at a community college if you're serious about looking for jobs at one. In writing a cover letter it's important to really explain why you're interested in teaching at a community college. I also think you need to really pay attention to all the points the ad mentions and address them. That's not a bad idea generally but I think it might be more important for a community college job. It would also be good to do some research on what their student population is like and show some knowledge of that if you can. Really focus on your teaching in all your materials. Anyway, feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions I'll help however I can. (I've yet to serve on a hiring committee here, so I can only claim so much expertise.)
We all know that some people enjoy their place at the top of the hierarchy and enjoy lording it over others. But I think they're rarer than one might fear. I've been to a few conferences since I started working here and I don't really feel like anyone was looking down on me. And one of the deeper points I want to make is that we don't have to let the self-appointed lords of our profession have power over us. To a large extent the reason they can have it is that we let them. Once one stops desperately wanting their approval there's not really much they can do.


Sam I certainty agree we should try our best to not care what those type of people think! Oddly, though, I have felt the opposite at conferences. But maybe that was because I was a grad student and not because I wasn't from a top university? Or maybe I was imagining it. That could be true as well, haha.

son of sam

Your remarks are insightful. I will add another type of spoiler to your story. I have worked at a place where there were tenured people and adjuncts who were no different in abilities and accomplishments, but the tenured person made about three times as much as the other. Of all the people in the department this was the person who was doing the most severe job of boundary control (building a wall to keep the adjuncts out!). They were the person most threatened because there really was no difference between them and the adjunct but luck! The accomplished faculty were generally more gracious and accommodating to adjuncts, recognizing the injustice.

Sam Duncan

One of the things I wanted to say in the original post, but didn't get around to, was that we would be much better off if we admitted the role that luck plays in who succeeds and who doesn't in this field. But a lot of philosophers are really invested in pretending that this is a pure meritocracy and people get outraged when they perceive some minor deviation from the meritocracy that is supposed to otherwise prevail. The weird thing is that I know people who are self-professed Rawlsians or luck egalitarians who somehow think that philosophy is free of all the factors of luck they see elsewhere in society or that unlike accomplishment in other fields accomplishment in philosophy somehow makes one more morally worthy of respect (and vice versa for failure). But the truth is not only is academic philosophy not a pure meritocracy, but a pure meritocracy is practically impossible. The economist Robert Frank has some great points in his "Success and Luck" about why luck inevitably plays an outsized role in any area where an overabundance of qualified people are competing for scarce rewards. We'd be more sympathetic to others who aren't lucky and less hard on ourselves if we admitted that.
As a bit of an aside, I can't help adding that I'm also frankly disgusted by the way the concept of "talent" is used in our field. The way a lot of philosophers talk it's as though philosophical talent is something you're born with and the goal of graduate education and competition more generally is to discover it rather than to develop it. They seem to think there's a level of philosophical talent that people have that you could almost put a number on and that there's little to nothing you can do to up that number. (I particularly remember one snotty comment I saw somewhere about how a journal was a venue for "tryhard grad students" as though working hard were somehow pointless if not even contemptible.) When one looks at the way many philosophers talk about "talent" they seem to have something practically the same as the eugenicists idea of native intelligence in mind whether they realize it or not.


Sam your discussion on talent reminds me of the UCLA email that came out to the public. Whoever wrote it describes an adherence to exactly that view of talent you describe. The whole thing made me want to vomit. There was even a line about how someone who publishes too much clearly doesn't have talent, because real talent (I think the term used was "genius") could only be produced every so often.



Thanks for this post! I've had similar experiences. I received a job TT offer from a CC (my current job) while I was ABD at a bottom 50 PGR program. My advisor was shocked when he learned of how much I would be making. My salary is higher than the TT assistant prof that they had just hired! I don't say this to brag, but to say that there are some really good jobs at CCs. I love my job. Like you, I have a great relationship with the admins and the other faculty. I have lots of control over what I teach and when. I'm doing what I always wanted to to - teach. My school is thrilled when faculty research, but like others it is not required for tenure. Tenure is all about teaching and service. I write a little here and there about whatever I want with no pressure to publish anywhere much less at a top journal.

As far as ideas for applying to CCs:

1. Having experience with CCs is definitely a plus. I adjuncted for all 5 years of my Ph.D. program at the local CC.
2. Make sure your job docs focus on teaching rather than research. And don't mention research in the interview at all.
3. I found this blog while applying and it was very helpful to me: http://suburbdad.blogspot.com/ The author is a dean at a CC and if you search the old posts you'll find lots of stuff about getting a job at a CC.
4. Most importantly, learn to be a good teacher. Teach as much as you can. Take workshops on teaching. Try new things and see what works for you. The CC where I was adjuncting while in grad school offered teacher-training workshops just for adjuncts and I found them very helpful.

Finally, I'll echo what was mentioned above: my job wasn't listed on PhilJobs. Look at other academic job sites like insidehighered or higheredjobs to find CC jobs.


I agree with the ethos of the post. And I strongly support the community college teaching track as a viable career path in philosophy for basically all of the reasons you provide here. I am very fortunate to be at a community college with a rather large philosophy department (8 full-time philosophers). We are all about the same age and it has created a really great, collegial atmosphere. Also, my colleagues and I remain pretty active in our research. This, of course, makes our teaching better. I'm sometimes surprised when colleagues at other institutions (particularly regional 4-years in rural towns) look very favorably on a position at my institution (a large, urban community college). Even though the teaching load is a little higher, the pay is sometimes better, and the quality of life is much better.

All that said, I have experienced first- and second-hand the sort of snobbery that is endemic to academia. There is definitely a stigma associated with the community college in many peoples' minds. Going to a conference, appearing in a journal, or putting out a C-V with my institution's name has more than once raised eyebrows or triggered looks down the nose. So, the bias is real. It's almost certainly unfounded, but it's real.

Anyway, I really appreciate your post and am glad to see you thriving at the CC. Tidewater is a really good institution by all accounts I've heard.


These are good points. Not wanting to derail things, but I'd like to make an observation about one theme in the post that seems important:

"This concern for prestige and hierarchy seems built into academia as a whole... It’s also a betrayal of the left wing values most academics claim to subscribe to..."

Yes, it does _seem_ that way. But what exactly are these "left wing" or "egalitarian" values? When people's putative beliefs or values are so obviously deeply incompatible with their own behavior, they don't really have those beliefs or values. A few examples to illustrate:

-People who claim to be concerned with economic injustice or inequality are perfectly content to just sit there, year after year after year, doing absolutely nothing about the grotesque exploitation of adjuncts (not to mention other exploited workers within the universities) which they _know_ to be the necessary socio-economic condition for their own salaries and benefits and perks. Often they are not just silent about this, but they publicly ridicule those who want to criticize this system.

-People who are skeptical or critical or even openly hostile to the traditions and norms of their society when it comes to things like religion, patriotism, sexual ethics, family life (etc) just take for granted that the specific traditions and institutions and norms that confer social status and wealth and power on _them_ are somehow legitimate _enough_ to entitle them to keep working at their jobs and to authoritatively rate and rank others on the basis of traditional and institutional norms (e.g., 'pedigree', journal rankings, grades, letters of recommendation).

-People who claim to believe that western civilization in general, or their own country in particular, is based on oppressive or unjust (or at the very least "problematic") practices and values and institutions will at the same time happily base their lives, incomes, social standing and intellectual self-worth on their success within that very same institutional and cultural matrix--the same matrix that, if their own Leftist beliefs were true, couldn't exist except as a result of massive ongoing injustice; and which would therefore be utterly illegitimate morally and intellectually; and which therefore a decent person would not choose to participate in once she realized all this... But instead these people will offer up thin excuses about "working within the system" (when such work usually means just doing _exactly_ what is expected of them, and just what anyone else would do in the same job even if their politics were totally different...)

-People who claim to oppose "hatred" and yet very obviously hate lots of other people--conservatives, fundamentalist Christians, sexual traditionalist and others they take to be "haters". Talking to these others, or about them, they just ooze with seething hatred and contempt and sadism.

-People who are themselves white, or white men, or even white heterosexual men, and who believe that exactly those kinds of people are already "over-represented" in the profession, and who will actively work to exclude others in that category from participating in the profession, will not _themselves_ make any kind of sacrifice in order to correct the "over-representation" of people like themselves. And even though they know that, by their own professed standards, they have already unjustly benefited from the system far more than the people they're trying to exclude. And yet none of them (as far as I know) offers to do a job share, or take a pay cut in order to help subsidize a new job for a woman or non-white person, etc. They will never lift a finger.

These behaviors, given the professed beliefs and values of typical Leftist academics, are obviously radically incompatible with those beliefs. And the people in question in are intelligent, well aware of the obvious reasons for changing their behavior (if they do have those beliefs) and often, absurdly, they specialize in their research on just these kinds of topics. Therefore, they just don't have those beliefs and values. Well, either that or they're just _very_ unreflective. I guess that may be true for some.

It's ironic that making "egalitarianism" (whatever exactly that's supposed to be) into a social norm has the effect of greatly increasing most people's need for status and distinction. Often in relation to the most absurd social hierarchies, like where you went to school or how many papers you published, or whether your papers were published in a "good" journal (goodness being based on some complicated formula averaging opinions of people from "good" schools, etc) The more we are told that everyone is "equal", the more we seem to viciously squabble over any remaining marks of superiority. And this psychopathic behavior is then most concentrated in the venues where the mysterious norm of "equality" is most revered. So that, of course, people then start squabbling over who is the most egalitarian (and the most ashamed of his "privilege", etc.)

It's all resentment, envy and will to power.

I wonder if there are any soi-disant "egalitarians" in the universities who even _truly_ believe that they are mere "equals" to the plebs. Or even to some sadsack PhD who didn't get a job at an R1 school. If they were to search their souls a bit, I wonder what they'd _really_ find?

Well, whatever they did find, it wouldn't get published in a "good" journal so it's probably not even worth knowing it :)

I know, I know... My saying this is itself probably an expression of resentment, envy and will to power. Well, I do live in an officially "egalitarian" society too, so I'm not immune to these unhealthy pressures. But at least I don't pretend to be an egalitarian!

Marcus Arvan

Serf: The empirical research on this stuff is clear. A wide variety of studies indicate that "moral integrity" (i.e. sacrificing one's own interests for one's moral values) is rare. This doesn't show that people don't have the values they profess to. It merely suggests that people tend to let self-interest outweigh their moral values in behavior.

See https://books.google.com/books/about/What_s_Wrong_with_Morality.html?id=Xe-eAQAACAAJ&hl=en

Anyway, things have gotten derailed a bit here (and I think push the boundaries with this blog's mission), so I'd like to suggest turning back to the primary topic of the OP.


Empirical evidence doesn't settle the conceptual question. How do they empirically measure the "real" values of subjects if not by behavior? How could studies establish that they do have these values but fail to enact, rather than just being dishonest (with themselves maybe)? Conceptually, a value of mine that never propmts me to act accordingly when I could fairly easily, or when I know I'm violating my value system, seems like a value to which I'm (let's say) not too strongly committed.


Turning back (sort of) the primary topic: The philosophical and moral ideal is to be indifferent to the cruel and unfair judgments of snobs in the profession. Or at least, that's the only solution to the psychological problem of being aware that one is being judged cruelly and unfairly, and being aware that one should not care, while still being able to carry on with one's job and feel okay. But to be indifferent to their judgments, you need to be indifferent to the standards and hierarchies intrinsic to the profession. (As Sam says in OP, this all is "built in" to academia.) And so, in order to live up to this ideal or solve the psychological problem, you need to not be participating in the profession in a serious committed way. I can't try to have a career without hoping I get published in Mind; but I can't work toward that aim without thinking that getting published in Mind is truly a big deal. (I can't write and revise for a thousand hours _just_ thinking to myself that it's all some arbitrary BS I have to do in order to get an interview, in order to get a job, in order to get...) But then, if I think it's truly a big deal, how can I not think it matters that Professor X who's published three times in Mind thinks I'm a loser and a dummy? It can't be done! Or is there a way to be "in the profession" but not "of the profession"?


Well... although it is besides the point, getting a publication in Mind does not get you a job. Just ask Andrew Moon who had two publications in Mind and yet went seven years without a TT job offer. And you don't need one to get a job, of course. So I think you can have a decent career where you recognize the hierarchy is bs, yet still enjoy things like teaching, conferences, and philosophical conversation. And there is no need to worry about publishing in Mind one way or the other.

Marcus Arvan

Serf: One need not be indifferent to cruel and unfair judgments. One can try to improve the world by being *better*.

I am not indifferent to cruel things people have done to me, nor am I indifferent to problematic hierarchies. I oppose them. I just happen to believe that the way to make the world a better place is to try to embody the positive change you want to see.

Wittgenstein was known to say to his friends, "Just improve yourself, that is all you can do to improve the world." I truly believe that. Although I may not always succeed, I try my best every single day to live up that ideal: to be a nice person in an often-cruel world; to judge philosophical works on their merits rather than the venue in which they appear; and so on.

On that note, it IS possible to succeed without buying into features of the profession you take to be problematic. No, you do *not* need to publish in Mind to get a job. Look at the kind of people who get teaching jobs. They don't typically have publications in Mind. In fact, I did quantitative research on this years ago, and found the single best predictor of getting jobs was not high-ranked publications but total # of publications (irrespective of journal ranking).

Or take my case: I got a TT job (and tenure) without ever publishing in Mind or any top-20 journal for that matter. I just write philosophy I love, send it to places that might publish it, and am happy when they do. Similarly, I teach in ways I believe in, trying to give my students my very best, and trying to be the kind of teacher that made me fall in love with philosophy. I'm not a perfect person by any means. I have plenty of character flaws. We all do. But, for all that, I do my very best.

You want kindness and fairness in this world? You may or may not get them. But you can try to be kind and fair, and that, I think, is the best any of us can do.


Guys, I didn't mean to suggest that (I think that) you need to publish in Mind to get a job. I realize that's not necessary (or sufficient even, as Amanda said). Rather I meant that as an example of the kind of thinking or value judgment that, for me anyway, seems impossible to avoid to the extent that I'm participating in "the game" in any kind of serious way. Working for months on a paper and trying to publish it _just_ for careerist reasons isn't possible for me. (It's too depressing; I'd be too aware of how empty and futile it was.) I need to have some belief that what I'm doing is valuable. But then why am I doing all that work, and trying to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal, unless I implicitly believe that those kinds of standards (e.g., peer review) count for something? And once I buy into that, as I just do on some level, how can I discount the fact that the "peers" seem to think journal X is Important and Real, but journal Y is just sort-of-okay? For me, anyway, it seems I'll end up buying into the value system of the System to some degree, just by being part of it. After all, it's really only that value system that makes my activities make sense overall...

I don't say this to be a bummer.

And I do agree with what both of you two are saying, at least in a way or up to a point...

But the reality seems more difficult. For instance, while I would love to "embody the positive change I want to see", and no doubt I could do way (way) more in that department, there is the issue I just explained: Just being in the line of work and sub-culture that I'm in here seems inevitably to require (also, to some degree) that I have to _be_ the negative things I'd like to change. I think in a way this is fairly straightforward, no? Most of us are not going to just say "Okay, this thing is highly systemically corrupt and corrupting; therefore, I'm quitting and I'm going to live in the desert". But if you don't do something kind of like that--the kind of thing that Wittgenstein often pretended to do, or flirted with, but also never really did--then you're choosing to embody something you know to be wrong or false. And, of course, I myself am choosing to do that! So I'm not criticizing you guys (or no more than myself). But for me that's a problem, and makes it hard to endorse the "be the change" theory wholeheartedly or comfortably. (Though, again, the point is important and well taken.)


Also just to clarify: when I said "indifferent" I meant not being swayed or thinking less of yourself in light of unfair judgments, snobbery, etc. I didn't mean that the ideal is to not care _that_ these bad things exist. Rather, not to let it warp your own value judgments or character (a la Socrates or Spinoza or something).

Marcus Arvan

Here is what I will say, Serf. Life requires *some* compromises (in fact, I argue in my book that's what rationality and morality both require). You mentioned previously that you are an idealist. One of the things I think I have learned in this life is that there is such a thing as being too much of an idealist. Indeed, I think it's a recipe for a debilitating kind of cynicism. This is not heaven, and if you expect it to be--or yourself to be an angel--you will be consistently and sorely disappointed.

Anyway, the more sensible question that I thought you were trying to ask is whether, within the bounds of reason, it is possible to be "in the profession" but not "of the profession." I think indeed that is possible. I don't work months on papers to publish them just for careerist reasons. I read and think about philosophy because I love it. I write papers because I love writing them. I find real meaning in the arguments I develop, and my only real frustration is when I don't get things right by my own estimation. I also love teaching. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn't stop. I'd keep doing more or less what I do now--except I'd let someone else have my paid job who needs it and do my job for free. As it just so happens, I send my work to journals (and published a book with a press) because I'd prefer that people actually read my work, and as it happens that seems to me to require publishing. Again, this is *not* for careerist reasons. It's just because I want my work to be read, and I recognize that's a good way to realize that end.

I also don't write blog posts pushing for better hiring practices, or better citation practices, or whatever, for careerist reasons. Heck, I don't think I've won many friends for some of the things I've said. I say the things I say because I mean them, and want to express them. Sometimes I learn in retrospect I should have said something different. Again, that's life.

Anyway, I suspect you and I just have a very different perspective on things. I choose hope and optimism in the face of disappointment and frustration. Maybe that doesn't work for everyone, but I find it works for me. You seem so frustrated with the muck that you just wish it weren't there. I think that if you want to rise above the muck, you have to actually get in it, get your hands dirty, and try to help clean up the mess. The only other options, it seems to me, are to just be on the sideline complaining about the muck or wishing it would go away. And those are not the options I choose.


Well I do publish for career reasons, but I am trying to do so less and trying to work more on what I truly enjoy. But I don't consider the publishing for career reasons to be buying into the system. At least I doubt I am much more confident than you that the publishing system is "legitimate". However, there are certain things I love about philosophy, and to keep doing those things I love, I publish boring work as a means to that end. I don't see that as much different from all the many means to an end things I do in life. I would rather not eat my vegetables but I do so to be healthy. And as long as we are breathing in this unjust world, we take part in the injustice to some degree. I don't know. Just because I can't be morally perfect does not mean there is no point in working to be as close to morally perfect as I can, given the world and the circumstances.

Sam Duncan

So apologies for dropping out of the conversation for a bit. I'm visiting my parents in Pulaski, VA, which is pretty much on the opposite side of VA from Virginia Beach and spent most of the day on the road.
Serf, I can see why my comments might rub you the wrong way; for me to say not to worry about prestige might sound like those jerks on the TT who used to tell me that one shouldn't worry about money back when I was adjuncting (to which I used to think "Well yeah I've googled your salary pal and that's easy for you to say.") I really used to think the prestige game you see in the Leiter rankings and the various journal rankings, both formal and informal, really correlated with the prospects of getting a job, but there's more and more evidence that outside of the schools on the Leiter list people really don't care about such prestige rankings that much in making hiring decisions. Most SLACs don't and community colleges even less so, and those schools represent the vast majority of actual positions in philosophy. Prestige simply doesn't matter as much as some people are desperate to have us believe as far as getting a job goes. That's the pretty clear lesson that's emerging from the data Marcus has gathered on publications and all the good work Carolyn Dicey Jennings has done on placements.
As far as journals go, getting something published in any respectable journal is an accomplishment. The fact is that the only thing publishing in the big name journals really says that publishing in any respectable journal doesn't is that one can afford to waste a lot of time and be treated badly since most journals on the top 20 lists are slow, usually give little to no usable feedback, and are just generally badly run. In my dealings with the "elite" journals I've often thought of that old Gilda Radner SNL sketch where she says, "We don't care. We're the phone company we don't have to" but with phone company replaced with say.... well I shouldn't name names I suppose. (I'll except Ergo from this generalization. Those guys are awesome and the journal is a model of how things should be done.) But the thing is that if you publish in less prestigious venues there's a good chance people will still read your stuff, and of course there's no guarantee they'll read your stuff if you publish in a more prestigious journal. I mean beyond career advancement why publish? I think the only good answer is to get your ideas out there, but publishing in Mind is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for doing that.

Sam Duncan

I don't doubt that the bias is real, but I do wonder how widespread it is and how deep. The last couple of times I've thought someone was looking down their nose at me for working at a CC I've later decided that I was really wrong. So far the only person I've definitely gotten that vibe from was a grad student who was a. pretty much a jerk to everyone he interacted with and b. obviously trying to compensate for some insecurities. I guess this goes back to what Amanda says as well, but philosophers don't tend to have very good social skills. I've found that a good bit of what I initially chalk up to snobbery is just awkward people being awkward. (And I say this a a pretty awkward person myself.)

Asst Prof

My PhD is from a lower-ranked grad program with a decent placement record in teaching jobs. At this program, nearly all the students aspired to teaching-type positions, and the faculty was supportive of this. There are of course risks in getting a PhD from a non-top-50 program—or any program—but I can at least report that I enjoyed a positive sense of community in grad school that supported my aspiration to work in a teaching-oriented position.


Alas, I am sure there have been times where I thought I was being looked down upon and it was something else. And I have only just started my job at what I think is generally considered a teaching school (although it is kind of its own breed so I'm not sure about that).But anyway what I cannot ignore is private conversations I have had with research professors where they talk openly and dismissively about teaching schools and community colleges. I believe one called professors at community colleges, "drones".


To be clear, I do know many research professors who DO NOT have this attitude against teaching schools or community colleges. So I guess I have no evidence one way or the other about just how widespread is the dismissive bias.


Hi Marcus,
You're misunderstanding me. I wasn't suggesting that you publish or run the blog_only_ for careerist reasons. I'm sure you have lots of reasons for doing these things and it's good that you've been able to do them without being too inauthentic.

My point was just that, for me anyway, if those were the only reasons I wouldn't be sufficiently motivated. Maybe I should clarify: I do write and publish for careerist reasons myself, but not _only_ for those kinds of reasons, and other reasons are generally more important to me. But, however idealistic I might be, I do still care about my reputation and job interviews, etc. Or I used to care, anyway, when I thought there was some chance of moving up in the profession. So the point is that, to the extent that I'm able to keep going within the system, (a) I need to be somewhat 'idealistic' about what I'm doing, and therefore, (b) I need to be somewhat 'idealistic' about the standards and practices within the system; but I also know that, in taking that attitude, I'm being very inauthentic. And of course that may be a personal thing for me--other people, for whom the system is not so profoundly alien, may be able to do all this without too much inner conflict... (And I'm not suggesting that you're one of those people, or that it would be bad if you were.)

You write:

"This is not heaven, and if you expect it to be--or yourself to be an angel--you will be consistently and sorely disappointed.:

Well, I agree with this, but I don't think it's a fair response to what I was saying. Obviously there are going to be lots of compromises and imperfections in any form of life down here on earth. I know that, and I've already accepted all kinds of compromises and imperfections. Of course it doesn't follow that we should always just accept every negative aspect of life. Often it would be fairly easy to improve things (in a realistic way). For example, if pay equity policies were implemented consistently and seriously the abysmal situation of adjunct workers would be far better. This is a matter of dignity and recognition as much as money. It could be changed, or at least improved; but it probably won't be. If I'm angry or bitter about stuff like that, it seems to me that these feelings are natural; it would take some inhuman level of abstraction from my own daily life and beliefs to not feel that way.

This last comment of yours is very ironic to me:

"You seem so frustrated with the muck that you just wish it weren't there. I think that if you want to rise above the muck, you have to actually get in it, get your hands dirty, and try to help clean up the mess. The only other options, it seems to me, are to just be on the sideline complaining about the muck or wishing it would go away."

Yes, I am very frustrated by the "muck", but how could you think I don't "actually get in it"? I've been working in this system for about 15 years, at the very bottom. I live and breathe the ugliest, nastiest, dirtiest aspects of the university system year round. And I do "try to help clean up the mess", to the extent that I can. But I've also learned that my efforts are at best not appreciated, and always ineffective anyway.

I'll give you one example. Years back I was trying to get pay equity at a school where I used to teach. Without getting into boring details, the administration had come up with this transparently fake "equity" scheme: when comparing pay between faculty and adjuncts in one context, they'd use one criterion, when comparing in another context, a totally different criterion; it was just obvious that the only point was to prevent a reasonable objective comparison that would reveal just how massive the discrepancies really were. (Again, the details are boring so you'll just have to take my word here.) I calculated that using their "equity" scheme it would take at least 100 years of further tiny incremental increases to achieve rough parity (assuming no big increases in faculty pay). I've had administrators give me fake data, then admit their "mistake", then give more more fake data, then again admit some "mistake"... and I never got the data. They just lie to your face, over and over again. The only way to get the real data (which in theory is available to me) would be to sue them. And, obviously, that would be a waste of time given their legal and other resources.

Not sure what I'm supposed to do in that situation, or what attitude I could have after a dozen similar experiences; at some point you just have to admit that yes, this system is based on some very nasty shit (and not just some ordinary acceptable kind of "compromise" between the ideal and the real).

Anyway I wish I had the option of "being on the sideline" complaining. But no, I'm down here in the filth 24/7 and, though it seems to be futile, I do try once in a while to improve things for people in my position. (I've also tried on occasion to do things that I think might benefit students, but there I have even less standing. Though I'm teaching 5x as much as anyone on the faculty my opinions about teaching or policies wrt students count for nothing.)

You write

"I choose hope and optimism in the face of disappointment and frustration."

That's good. I'm glad you're able to do that. But surely you must realize that, as a matter of psychological fact, it's just not possible for most people to keep "choosing" this indefinitely. I've really given this my all, it seems to me. Many (many!) years of very hard work, teaching, networking, publishing in good journals, etc. But still, despite all of that, I can't get an interview; it's plain enough at this point that I (almost certainly) won't ever get an interview again. More than once I've seen younger people with no degree or publications get hired over me, by "colleagues" I've known for many years. Most of the time I'm re-applying for my job, cap in hand, and the person on the other side of the desk is objectively far less qualified and accomplished than I am. (The chair at one place I used to work had never published a single thing in her entire career.)

So, I'm just being realistic here: my career, such as it is, consists of doing heavy lifting, precariously, so that others can have nice jobs... until I'm just too old and broken-down to do that anymore, at which point I'll be kicked to the curb with nothing to show for it. Or I can just quit, try to find some other job that isn't menial labor. In the meanwhile, I'll be surrounded by "idealistic" leftist faculty going on and on about "inequality" and "injustice" and "discrimination" in every single area of human life except--of course!--their own workplace. And it's understood that people like me don't get to raise that touchy subject. However negative or gloomy this description may seem, it really is just an accurate description of the situation of a very large proportion of people in our profession.

I wonder what you think I should be "optimistic" about given these realities. Or how someone in this situation could (realistically, psychologically) be free to "choose" a sunnier outlook. Or what exactly you think I should be doing to get more involved, do more, try harder...

Of course I do choose to be optimistic about anything in life that seems to allow for it! And there are so many things in life outside this shit job I've been doing. I can enjoy all kinds of things, and even some things to do with philosophy. Overall, my life is pretty good. But here I'm just talking about the job and the profession.

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