Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Search of Adult Suspenders

It's hard being junior. After years of starving to get through a dissertation, swimming through the murky seas of the job market, and climbing into a jungle full of publication nightmares and man-eating beasts disguised as service, we assistant professors sometimes find it hard just to wake up in the morning.

It's not that the work is too hard. Nah, we're up for that. Working 80+ hours a week is what we're used to.

And it's not that the pay is too low. Again, we know how to get by.

But what's especially hard to take is the heaping pile of steamy stuff piled on us day in and day out by a system that rewards seniority over innovation and grizzliness over sheer effort. No matter how many times a bright new idea threatens to change the status quo (or perhaps because it does), we get shoved back down. Bring a landmark opportunity to the table? Forget about it, grow up, and go get yourself a pair of adult suspenders before you dare to wear pants. (Meaning, of course, put a real professor on your grant apps or don't bother applying.)

Everyone means well, I know. But look at the evidence: Nobel Prizes are won for the work people do when they're young (e.g. under the age of 50). We're hungry, we're tireless, we kick butt. Why deny it, and question our capacity? What are you afraid of?

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