Sometimes I think that you will all just think I’ve lost my mind. (cue Robbie Williams “…It was mine to give away…”)
The academic labour market, heck the entire labour market, is going to hell in a handbasket and I’m telling you to think about your passion and your best contribution.
I’m suggesting that you think about publishing not as a way to get a job or get tenure or promotion but as a way to communicate important ideas to people who care about them.
I actually believe that if your idea of a great academic career involves being a fabulous teacher and the pressure to publish seems unreasonable, that you should not even apply to Research Intensive institutions even in a bad labour market. You don’t want that job anyway. Why waste everyone’s time?
At least one person out there seems to be doing this
Recently [in Autumn 2010] I’ve read 2 different articles by Lee Skallerup Bessette, who has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta.
She has a full-time instructor position teaching writing. By all accounts she loves her job. (Her Twitter stream contains plenty of evidence of this.) Read more in her article: The Tenure Track Position: No Longer the Brass Ring?
Interestingly, she has also written that not having to do research as part of her job, and making her scholarly research but one of the things that she does (alongside teaching, freelance writing of the kind linked here, and blogging) has improved her research. (Since this post was first published she has published 2 books based on that research.)
Pay particular attention to the concluding paragraph of How Higher Ed Makes Most Things Meaningless.
Academia has such a narrow view of what is meaningful, and I, for one, have stopped listening to what higher education thinks I should be and started defining it for myself.
When I look at those two articles, I see a woman who is making her best contribution.
By the way, she is not starving, or homeless.
By 2015, Lee had left that particular position, mainly due to the insecurity, low pay, and general lack of appreciation of her (potential) contributions. She is now working in Faculty Development, a job that builds on her love of teaching and pedagogy, which has job security, benefits and whatnot, and enables her to make a contribution to the quality of teaching at an institutional level. Is she completely satisfied with how higher education works these days? No. Is she earning a living doing the things she is passionate about and making a contribution to a sector she feels strongly about? Yes.
This post was edited July 9, 2015.