Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On My Cross (briefly)

I hate it when academics complain about the lousy money we make because it sounds so arrogant. Most people in the country are nickel and dimed to death, so what right do we have to complain from our ivory towers about the amount of money we get paid to read all day? I mean, I had it a lot tougher when I was getting paid to pick up road kill and pave highways with the road crew: not that I made less money, but it was more grueling. Actually, I made more money on the road crew, and as a janitor, and as a stock boy, and... To be honest, I don't think I've ever made less money than I do as an instructor.

I'm not mad exactly, but today I'm wondering how I'm going to do this. After the summer, I'm in debt. The research funding wasn't enough to do the research, and so things went on the credit card. No problem, right? But, now I've been teaching for four weeks, and finally, the state of New York has paid me. My paycheck? $459.76

I hate it when people tell me about their finances, but seriously, how am I supposed to pay off a mortgage, and car insurance, and eat food on that and a very occasional scholarship check? I'm fine with getting my videos from the library and my dental work from the dental school and all of the other shortcuts that we take to get through the month. But, I'm getting tired of this ponzi scam of higher ed. I'm tired of being told that I should be glad to be making less than a stock boy at Wal-Mart because other grad students can't get funding. I'm tired of being asked to starve for the first seven years of my career in order to secure another 'instructor' job at another university for another ten years or so, at a slight pay increase. And then maybe get denied for tenure and have to start all over again. Or perhaps I could go teach at a high school- and never get the pay increase. And listen to fatheads complain about how good I have it because I can take summers off!

Look, my point is that there is nobody who does this for the money, and they would be nuts if they did. We all do this job because we feel that it's some sort of sacred duty to society. There's no glamour to it, the pay is terrible, and there's really no respect conveyed by the role in this society. We do it because we think that in some grand scheme of things education is a noble profession- that it's a sacred role. And it is. But, man, it's hard to live a normal life in this role.


The Pagan Temple said...

As long as you feel like you are doing something important, and making a contribution that you can be proud of, or might be somewhere down the road, that's the most important thing-for now. Maybe later, it will pay off in ways you can't imagine. Hang in there.

I know all that probably sounds like a bunch of cliches that's easy to string together, but it's true.

Hiromi said...

Why arrogant? I think the pursuit of knowledge is an important thing. Maybe not of immediate obvious material use to society, but important nonetheless. I believe that having thinkers around enriches society.

Rufus said...

I just think of my father who works in freezing temperatures for hours a day as a lobsterman, and I feel guilty for complaining about getting paid to read. I think of it as a lucky break, but what annoys me is running across so many people who consider it to be a lucky break!

Rufus said...

Thanks for the support, y'all!