Why are academic jobs seen as the holy grail or only grail in fields with the worst job markets?

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re going to be doing a series of posts on academic job market dysfunction and the market for PhDs outside of academia.

In this comment, Miriam writes:

I think it is shameful that many Anthropology programs (including mine) don’t encourage and support non-academic careers. There are both public sector applications and, for those of us who got burned out on low wages in grad school, highly paid corporate anthropology work. User experience research is cultural anthropology. When I compare my experience to my Computer Science husband’s, it’s ridiculous. In my department, I almost had a professor withdraw from my committee when I let slip that I was considering a public-sector Anthropology career instead of an academic one. In my husband’s, the department used the amount of graduates placed with companies like Google as a selling point. More than that, the department actively built corporate links to help with placement.

Given the job market in Anthropology, it is cruel to pressure candidates to value and look for academic careers. Yes, one person from a grad cohort occasionally ended up in a tenure-track job. The overwhelming majority ended up with post-docs or one-year lectureships leading to more lectureships or adjunct positions. I will never understand why professors would expect intelligent people to look at the amount of tenure-track jobs available and not figure out that the odds are heavily against us. I also don’t really understand the bias against public-sector or corporate research. Yes, the research is more constrained, but it’s also more practical. Perhaps one sign that I was always a bad fit for my particular program is that I valued the idea of doing ethnographic research in service of a specific application more than doing it to publish an article or book that would probably only be read by other academic anthropologists.

I’ve noticed this as well.  Humanities PhDs seem to be less encouraging of outside careers than are STEM PhDs.

I do wonder if it’s that there are more obvious career options outside of academia for engineers (for example, my DH is working on something very similar to his PhD work for a start-up, large scale work he couldn’t do as a TT professor because he didn’t have the funding) and economists (government, consulting etc.) and all those other disciplines that have pretty decent academic markets.  It’s true that in my grad program, our advisers were disappointed when top students chose government positions over great R1s, but for the rest of us they were happy to write non-academic job letters for government and consulting work and they provided panels of graduates to talk about what life is like in those kinds of careers.  At my current university, academic jobs (in the US) for our graduates are rare and we funnel most of our students into private-sector jobs.

But Miriam notes that there really are positions for anthropologists outside of the academic sector.  Her professors just wouldn’t hear of them.

This musing is coming on the tail end of checking out the tweets that sent people to our deliberately controversial post on the topic.  Apparently we’re neo-cons because neo-cons are the only people who ever use the word, “entitled.”  (Note:  that means a good portion of professors who teach undergrads must be neo-cons!) We’re fairly sure those folks just looked at the title of the post and didn’t actually read the post itself, since the post itself doesn’t actually say much or take a position of any kind, and the comments decry the defunding of academia.  (Duh!)

But the truth is, even if we fully funded academia, there still wouldn’t be enough jobs for a lot of humanities folks because the more attractive we make those jobs, the more people will want humanities PhDs, because the humanities PhD is essentially a fun thing to do.  We know this because even now there are people willing to starve themselves for the chance of someday becoming humanities professors.  If you make it more attractive to be a humanities prof, all that you’re going to do is drive up supply.

Underlying these complaints, we think, is that many of these people who complain about the fact that we don’t just make tenure-track jobs for everyone with a PhD is that these folks think that PhDs can’t possibly work outside academia like the rest of the hoi poloi.  They shouldn’t have to, what with their lily white hands and all.  That’s where the entitlement actually comes in.  There’s this belief that there’s something wrong, something dreadfully wrong, with leaving the ivory tower.  That’s what Miriam, above, is tapping into.

And yes, that’s easy for us to say, being tenured at all… but…

But… maybe tenure isn’t all that.

Maybe, sometimes, it’s worth grabbing that golden ring and throwing it away.

One of us lives with someone who made the jump (though before tenure), and he’s so much happier.

Academia is still just a job, and a lot of time there are better ones out there.  Nobody should have to put up with crap because of a job, especially people with enough education to escape.

So yeah, it would be lovely if, as a society, we took money from Exxon (and you know they’d take it from children’s mouths before they cut corporate welfare) and funded education again, but that won’t solve the problem of the humanities labor market, because the more attractive you make those positions, the more people will want to have them.  There will be more jobs, but there will be even more applicants for those same jobs.  Heck, even if we cut off all production of new PhDs, folks with humanities PhDs who had given up would return to academia if there were a demand for their services.

Cloud and Miriam were right when they said that learning how to do independent research is a valuable skill, even outside of academia.  Maybe we should stop pretending that there’s something dirty about using these skills outside of the ivory tower.  Maybe we should try to find value in producing things, like Miriam said, that are read by more than just other academic anthropologists.

And who cares what your out-of-touch adviser thinks.

Kitty update

Ok, the plan was to catch the kittens and mamacat, get them all fixed, get the kittens tamed and rehomed and if mama was tamed to keep her, otherwise to let her out.

Instead…

The three kittens are still in our bathroom (they got booted from the guest bedroom suite when partner’s parents visited).  Little boy is slowly coming around and one of his sisters may be right behind him.  The other sister will probably never be tamed [update:  still have hope].  She’s terrified of people.  Our bigcat is not helping as she does not like her access to my closet (her daytime napping spot) cut-off and she knows there’s kittens in there and she wants to show them exactly who is alpha kitty around here.  She threw herself bodily at the door one night and another night actually managed to get the door open.  Partner doesn’t want to put them back in the guest bedroom because it was a PITA to clean.  (Recall our bathroom is the only one that’s tiled.)

We caught 3 possums.  They are no longer in our neighborhood.

We caught one scraggly (longish-hair) black male cat with lots of scratches on his face.  We got him neutered, revolutioned, de-tapewormed, and vaccinated.  Initially cautious of people, he turned out to be a cuddle bug.  The vet thinks he was once someone’s cat but has been on his own for months.  He’s been in our garage.  He basically hangs out without destroying anything (unlike the kittens) until someone comes in to pet him.  He loves food, but he loves petting more than food.  He is a total sweetheart.  He is so grateful to be in our garage where it’s safe and relatively warm and there’s food and occasional petting.  It breaks your heart.  He was not doing well outside so he’s become our #1 priority for rehoming.  We may put him in the guest bedroom once we need the garage again, or we may try to integrate him with our other two cats.  A lot depends on how he gets along with bigkitty.  [Update:  I think I'm allergic to him.]

We caught one glossy young healthy-looking male cat.  We let him go.  We caught him again a few days later and took him to the vet.  We got him neutered, revolutioned, de-tapewormed, and vaccinated.  He turned out to be completely and totally tame.  Vet estimates him at about 1 year.  But he was covered in fleas and had a major tape-worm infestation.  She says he was certainly someone’s pet once but estimates he’s been on his own for a few months.  We let him recover in our patio during the day and in a carrying case in the nursery at night (it’s been getting cold) for two days and nights, but he was pretty unhappy about it and we let him go the morning after that.  We just don’t have space for him.  And, other than the tapeworms and fleas, he was doing fine outside.  He had a small scratch on his nose and we suspect he was the victor in a fight with garage cat.  He also may be the reason mamacat no longer has her home-base in our yard.  He immediately high-tailed it under our deck where she used to stay.  If we catch him again we may try to figure out what to do again.

We caught a bird.  We let it go.

We found and called another no-kill shelter.  She’s also full-up.  The humane society does have a program where they’ll take really nice cats and no-kill shelter them for a while (and take them to Petsmart  on adoption day and stuff), so we’re signing up garage cat for that.  Maybe.  They need a picture and by the time his face scratches heal and partner gets all the matting out of his fur (he’s almost done there), we may have decided to keep him.  Or we can drive him up to partner’s mom over Spring Break.

Still no idea what to do with the kittens.  Poor things.  It would be easier if they were tame.  Or if we’d caught mamacat way back when.  Now I worry about kicking them back outside unprotected where there’s fleas and tapeworms and big territorial black kitties.  But that may be what we end up doing.

Update:  boy kitten really likes pettings.

Sigh.

Update:  little girl kitten #1 really likes pettings

Update:  WE CAUGHT MAMACAT.  She had hookworms.  :(  She’s currently in our garage.  Vet says she’s really skittish.  We put garage cat in our guest bedroom.  After two nights in the garage she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink and hadn’t used the litterbox.  The only sign of her existence was a trickle of pee coming from someplace inside our car that we didn’t think she could get to.  So the vet said to open a side-door to the garage and hope she makes her escape.  So we did.  Hopefully she’ll be out of there before we have to use the car again in a few days.  (Note:  Honda civic hybrids are not good cars to leave in the garage with a cat.  Stick to a simpler car.)  Hopefully we’ll see her in the backyard so we know she’s out without having to take the car apart.  Update [Tuesday night]:  After another day of no eating and finding her wedged but breathing under the engine, I opened the other garage door.  That night, she seemed to lave left the garage and eaten all the food in there.  I think we saw her tonight just after dusk eating on the porch (after Patio Cat had his fill, talked amicably to our Bigkitty safe in the screened patio, and left).  It was dark, but so far I haven’t seen any other small cats in our backyard and her form in a brief flashlight flash looked tabby…

We did a lot of things wrong.  We should have set up feeding routines and used the kittens to catch mamacat and a dozen other things.  This website has some really great suggestions.  But, I suppose, if we’d done this correctly we wouldn’t have rescued garage-kitty or neutered patio-cat.

So that’s the story so far.  The kittens have come a long way and I think the next step is getting them used to DH or DC1.  Then maybe we advertise.  I don’t know.  It’s hard to know what to do.

Feral kitties

So, as chill and amazing as we seem and under control etc.  Something is stressing one of us out.

Four somethings, in fact.  (And the occasional opossum.)

About 3 weeks ago, a tiny black kitten got stuck in our garage.  It was cold and awful that first night so we didn’t let it out until the next day, and we thought we’d gotten it out the next day but the extra food etc. ended up having been eaten so it took another day with the door open for it to actually escape.

We put food on our back porch with the hope of the kitten and the mom reuniting.  And after seeing a baby tiger kitty, a mama tiger, and a scared black kitten we thought they had.  Over the course of a week or two, mamacat went from dull and scrawny to a beautiful glossy kitty.  She’d been taking good care of her kittens, but definitely needed more food for herself.

Regular feeding left them hanging out on our porch during the sunny weather.  The kittens remained elusive and skittish, but mama cat would almost get into touching distance when I fed them.  They disappeared during cold and rainy weather.  And I worried.

I am a firm believer that it is wrong to feed feral kitties without getting them spayed and neutered.  So I did web searches and I called our vet and DH called animal control and our local humane society and some other vets.  After talking to enough people we got instructions and rented traps and made a vet appointment and set out the traps.

We caught a little tiger kitten right off.  We transferred him to a carrier and set the trap out again.  Around midnight DH transferred two(!) little black kittens out of the trap into a carrier and reset the trap.  In the morning we found we’d caught an opossum but not mamacat.  Opossums are freaky and I do not like them.  Fortunately they only seem to come out at night.

The kittens spent that day at the vet, we found out the tiger was a boy and the black kittens both girls.  No fleas or FIV or anything that could harm our resident cats.  They’re small but 14 weeks old.  The internet suggests they’re too old to domesticate.  But the vet said she thought we had a chance.  In any case, they needed to stay inside to heal for a day or two.  Two weeks to heal fully, if wanted to do that.

And then the weather turned absolutely awful.  Sleety-awful.  So we kept the kittens inside in the guest bedroom suite.

Mamacat was heart broken.  She wailed for her babies.  While they were still healing up in their carriers we brought them out to the patio and they cried at each other.  But we failed at catching mamacat in the patio or in a trap.  Then we let the kittens into the guest bedroom so we can’t use them as bait anymore.  She’s since stopped wailing for her babies.

We caught another opossum two nights later.  And another two nights after that.  But still no mamacat.

And she’s stopped coming by every night, more like every other night.  She no longer lets me near while she eats.  She’s gotten good at eating food out of the first third of the trap, but no more.  (We can tell when we have an opossum, because they leave no scraps.)  The vet and the humane society say to keep trying.  Maybe she’ll be back when the weather gets better.  I suspect we’re just going to keep catching possums.

So I worry.  I don’t want mama to have more babies.  I don’t want the kittens to be out there defenseless not knowing how to hunt.  I don’t really know what to do.  If we let the kittens out we will probably catch them in the trap again instead of mama.  We don’t ever see the kittens– they eat and poop in the litter box and make amazing messes, but only when nobody is in the room.  When someone is in the room, they hang out in the guest bed box springs.

Most of the advice for taming feral kittens seems a bit cruel, separating them and caging them and forcing them to be petted against their will.  And all those sites say these kittens are too old anyway.  This one is a bit more gentle and hopeful, but I think we’re not doing it right either, what with the box springs instead of a cave, and not actually being there for them to watch while they eat.

So I’ve destroyed a family bond.  Mamacat can still have more babies.  And we have three defenseless feral kittens in our guest bed boxsprings who are unlikely to be tamed.  Also our HOA says we’re only allowed 2 cats, and we already have those.  (The city has our back on the feral cat colony thing although the woman at animal control had no idea what we were talking about when we mentioned it.  Still, their webpage is really clear.)  I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing.  I don’t know what the right thing to do going forward is.

And that’s the kind of thing that stresses me out.  Maybe not human lives at stake, but real lives nonetheless.

Do the holidays stress you out?

I have a confession to make.  They totally don’t stress me out.  I find them to be totally relaxing.  Holidays are awesome.

And yes, I’m the one with kids.  And yes, we celebrate Christmas.

Now, the end of the semester is a bit stressful.  Finishing up classes, then the final exam, then grading.  Also the OMG everybody is about to disappear we must have these last 50 faculty meetings to discuss urgent business.  Oh, and the 20 referee reports that are due right in the beginning of December.  And the 30 letters of recommendation.  That part is kind of stressful.  When all of that is over and the students are gone, it’s hugely peaceful.  So our Christmas season doesn’t really start until classes end (sometime in the late teens or early 20s of December, depending on the year).  The kids don’t seem to mind an abbreviated season at home even if school and stores start at Thanksgiving.

Do we make Christmas cookies?  Sometimes.  If we feel like it.  Ditto Christmas breads.  I like buying a little live rosemary tree a week or so before Christmas and we decorate that.  Christmas shopping mostly happens online.  Stocking stuffers (the only thing “Santa” brings) get bought at Target when we pick up gift cards for the teachers.  We’ve taken the oldest to see the Nutcracker.

Having the kids home 24/7 can be a little stressful, whether it’s Christmas or not.  (At least until DC2 learns to read like DC1.)  We try to arrange family visits so they overlap at least a little with kids’ vacation so that they can burn some of their energy off on the relatives.  Spread it out, so to speak.  We definitely use daycare as much as it’s open, and DC1 goes to daycamp for one of the weeks that ze is off (same place ze goes in the summer).

This time of year articles start popping up about the Elf on the Shelf and all sorts of crafty etc. time-consuming holiday traditions that moms can do to make things magical.  And that’s great for the parents who get utility out of doing stuff like that.  We love that DC1′s best friend’s mom is doing another gingerbread house party this year.

But what about people who feel compelled to do all the Christmas stuff even though they hate it?  The folks who are totally stressed out because they have to remember to move the elf every night, or they would rather watch a movie than make cookies, or they have a racist uncle Mike that they hate seeing every year at Christmas dinner?

Think about your sources of holiday stress (if any).

What happens if you:

1.  Don’t do them?  Would the world end if you just didn’t visit your racist relatives and stayed at home with the family you chose and you love instead?  If you don’t do outdoor lights?  Will the children be scarred for life if the elf moves to another house and never returns?

2.  Pay someone else to do them instead?  I learned this year that I will never adopt a family and go shopping for them again– instead I’ll just give money for someone else to shop with.

3.  Get someone else in the family to do them?  Why is it always mom’s job to bring holiday cheer?  Maybe another family member can step in and take the kids to see the lights or bake cookies and clean up the kitchen etc.

4.  Change them so they’re less stressful?  Maybe instead of getting a big cut tree you can get something that’s more manageable.  Maybe you can change a tradition so it’s more chill.  Instead of 12 different batches of cookies, maybe one or two.  Maybe it’s time for Santa to drop off the packages early and to leave them with some assembly required after they’re unwrapped.

5.  Reframe them so they’re not as stressful?  Sometimes you can just will yourself to enjoy a long drive (in the snow) to see the grandparents.  It’s an adventure instead of a chore.  Sometimes that’s not possible, but if you can’t get out of doing something, might as well make the best of it.

Do you have holiday stress?  What tips do you have for avoiding holiday stress?  What have you tried that’s worked for you?

The art of learning not to take things seriously: A deliberately controversial post

First a disclaimer:  We are totally AP parents.  If that infant cries, we pick hir up immediately.  We’re also not heartless– if a student’s grandma dies, ze can take time off and turn in assignments late.  And so on.  This post is not about big deals, but about moderating moderate upsets.  End disclaimer.

Sometimes kids get heart-broken over things that really aren’t that big a deal.  Falling down (but not damaging anything).  Dropping a candy (when they have more that haven’t fallen).  Another kid accidentally pushing them (again with no injury).  And so on, with age appropriate examples.

Yeah yeah, some parenting philosophies say you’re supposed to tell kids how they’re feeling.  And some say that you’re supposed to empathize no matter what.  Sometimes we’ve seen this in action and instead of soothing like it’s supposed to, it lengthens the amount of crying and angst.  (Possibly a misapplication of the philosophy.)

We sympathize with disappointment, to the appropriate degree.  Kiss the owie to make it better and go off to play.  (Occasionally a crying jag can be broken if you exaggerate for effect, OH NOOOOO, the world is going to end… that usually gets a giggle.)

It’s important to fix problems (had to take a break from typing this because DC1 got soap in hir eye), but once they’re fixed, they don’t necessarily need the post-game analysis.

Kids pick up on our cues.  If they’re not sure how bad something is, they look to us.  How upset are we?  How upset do we seem to think they should be?  Is this a quick peck and then you run off to play, or is this something that requires lots of sympathy (even if the kid has forgotten which leg got hurt by this point)?

When we make a big deal out of something that isn’t such a big deal, we may be prolonging the angst and the pain that might quickly have been forgotten otherwise.  When we provide too many cushions, we may be denying our children the chance to grow and to find inner-strength.  Bending over backwards as if to keep a delicate flower from being crushed over a small thing may keep that flower from being able to move with the wind.  Our reaction should be appropriate for the upset.

My mom liked to tell me that I was building my character whenever something didn’t go my way.  I remember telling my mom once that my character was buff enough already, thank you.  She said, and I quote, “Oh ho ho ho.  Very funny.”  Ah mom.

But the lesson is a good one.  Yes, we can recover from life’s little setbacks.  We can regulate our emotions.  We don’t always need to be rescued.  We can grow and find our own inner strength, and build that strength.

Spoiler Alert:  I’m currently rereading Foundling by Georgette Heyer, about a little duke who has been coddled much of his life and yearns to break free.  One day he sneaks out, just to see what it’s like.  He spends an uncomfortable time out on his own, but he also grows a lot too.  He comes back with a greater appreciation for the people who love him, but also with his own inner strength.  Life isn’t always about being protected from any potential upset.

So what brings this up?  Mother’s in Medicine had a post discussing whether or not it was ok to keep your kid at daycare if you yourself are on vacation from work.  The original commenter clarified:

This incident stuck with me because the child was very, very upset each morning, much more so than at a regular drop off. The conversation was about making sure you forge a good relationship with your kids while they are little. Perhaps this mother did need a break; however it seemed that perhaps her child needed a bit of vacation then, too.

Assuming that the reason for the kid’s increased upsetness was mom’s being on vacation and not say, staying up too late the night before (because of mom’s vacation) or something completely unrelated like teething, this kind of thing can be a learning experience for the child.

Mom may take a vacation without you.  She may drop you off at daycare and you may imagine that she’ll spend the entire day eating ice cream and going to the zoo without you (more likely she’s going to do boring adult things).  But she’ll pick you up at the end of the day just like always (or maybe daddy will get you like always) and maybe she’ll be relaxed enough that you can do something fun that evening.  It is highly unlikely that a kid is going to be scarred for life by not taking a vacation when he’s supposed to be going to school.  So buck up.  Mom’ll be back and you’ll have plenty of time to have fun again in the future.

And that’s a good thing.

What isn’t good is mom freaking out and feeling guilty.  Because that teaches the kid that this kind of thing is a big deal, which really it isn’t.  Everyone is much happier when we give reactions that are proportionate to events and don’t make a big deal out of nothing.

Ok, Grumpeteers.  Your turn.

Why are you in my major?

#1:  Dear students, YOUR ANSWER MAKES NO SENSE! Love and late drops, Dr. #1.
If you don’ t know the answer, you can at least follow the part of the instructions that says “Use complete sentences”.
BUT APPARENTLY NOT!
#2:  reading is hard
#1:  I guess so

godDAMN people.
word to all you people in lecture who were like “yeah yea we got this”: you don’t got it.
maybe y’all wanna get a little less sleepy in lecture from now on, eh?

…and if I worried that I didn’t change the exam enough for the course repeaters? They’re doing JUST as badly as before. No worries.

#2:  I remember in my one [high school] class the teacher gave the SAME exam complete with same multiple choice questions and same question order etc.
I got 100%…

#1:  yeah, you’d be surprised how many people STILL tank it

#2:  the second time and the THIRD time…
#1:  it’s like they don’t have basic skills to be in college!  </sarcastic voice>
#2:  and yet, the average was still like a C or a D
oh, and it was OPEN NOTES
I just don’t get some people.
why even bother with exams?

#1:  why bother going to college?

if you’re going to get EVERY opportunity to ace the exam and still don’t?

I can understand social/parental pressure I guess, but WHY ARE YOU IN MY MAJOR???
GO BOTHER [OTHER SOCIAL SCIENCE]!
#2:  my students this year who need to come to office hours aren’t.  They may not pass.
#1:
gandalf
#2:  they should, but they’re not putting the time in

#1:  should, but shan’t.  It’s sad when someone takes both my classes at once and can’t pass either

(though again, how did you get to be a senior in this major???)
WHO PASSED YOU?
Also, accidentally, I graded these exams in the school colors!
Festive!

Overstimulated October

I can handle two children (or maybe it’s just DC2– DC1 is pretty chill) or I can handle students being around, but not both.

I’m not used to this.

I’m not used to needing the door closed.  To need silence without background noise.

Every day is exhausting.  I come home, play a bit with the children, help DC1 with hir chores, and then I feel like crawling under a desk.  Please everybody just leave me alone.

When DC1 was this age, I could still get work done if I wasn’t actively doing chores or taking care of the toddler.  When DC2 was younger and napped once in the evenings I didn’t feel so incredibly overwhelmed.  When school was out of session for the summer I was mostly ok.

It’s not that there’s too much work to do.  It’s not even that my brain has gotten too much work (although that happens sometimes).  Heck, I’m not even as sleep deprived or as frequently sick as I was when DC1 was a toddler.  I’m just completely overstimulated.

Some of it is introversion, and I seem to have become more introverted.  But it’s not just introversion.  I need silence.  I even asked DH to turn off Netflix the other night because I couldn’t handle the noise.  Because he’s a darling he’s taken to listening with headphones.

I wonder if this is going to go away or if I’m going to need to make a big change to my life.  It’s limiting not wanting to see so many people, to avoid talking to people.  I dread most social engagements and have been saying no to a lot of work activities just because I don’t want to be around people.  I want to be alone.  Someplace quiet.

I do love my family very much… but these days I love them most in small doses or when they’re sweetly sleeping.

(#2 says: I call that “October”.  It is officially Exploding Head Syndrome Month and begins Sept 17th.  I relate to Milburn.  Why do you think I put that ear-protection headgear on my wishlist?  It’s so I don’t have to hear things.)

Prepayment discounts

When I started this post a couple years ago, it was going to be talking about how awesome pre-payment discounts were.

I was going to talk about how you get 5-10% off just by paying everything in advance, but the real benefit was that you didn’t have to remember to write a check every month.  An additional benefit (for some people) was that you tended to feel a little poorer when you paid out one lump sum and that helps moderate spending.

Since then, I’ve discovered the main danger of pre-payment.

DC2′s daycare, which DC1 went to for many years, suddenly and without warning disintegrated.  A former worker emptied out the bank account prior to the electric bill or payroll being paid out.  The management handled it terribly, waiting until the lack of funds became dire and unfixable.  All but 3 daycare workers quit.  Mass exodus from the students.

We prepaid $8000 for the year.  We’re out around $4500.  The director swears she’ll get us the money back once the bank refills the account (since they weren’t supposed to let that person take the money out), but it looks exceedingly less likely that that’s going to happen.  It looks more likely that the school is going to declare bankruptcy, and people with unfilled orders come last in the repaying of debts in bankruptcy cases.

Was that worth saving 5%?  No.  We’re wishing we’d just paid monthly.  But in May when we signed up, everything still looked fine.  The school has been around for a couple of decades.  We had no reason to believe that something like this could happen, and could happen so suddenly and without warning.  We thought that if we left the school it would be because we didn’t like a teacher or something (unlikely, because they have great training and we’ve always been able to work with the director in the past), and it would at least be our choice.

We’re still prepaying DC1′s private school.  That’s a non-profit and they can fund-raise through donations.  I guess since they survived the last drama, we didn’t learn any lessons there.  Also we sort of think of that prepayment as a donation itself.

So…. bottom line, think really hard about what you would lose if the company went out of business before you take advantage of a pre-payment discount.

Have you ever been burned by pre-paying?

How to cause drama on the internet

Step 1: Say something judgmental that gets people riled up.  Bonus points if it’s about motherhood.
Step 2:  Say you don’t want any more drama in a dramatic separate post.
Step 3: Point vague fingers at anonymous people who are accused of causing drama!  Leave just enough clues that some people will know what you’re talking about and others will be tantalized, but not enough that everyone knows what you’re talking about.
Step 4:  Profit

This works very well on forums.  If you’re really good the admin won’t wait a full day to shut you down.  However, it may take a little while for folks to do the appropriate detective work to make it really juicy.  Be patient.  Give more hints in the comments section if necessary.

It also works on blogs, of course.  Though it’s probably a little harder given the control that folks have over where the arguments are going.  On the plus side, blogs with advertising do get some of the profit rather than just the forum owners.

How do you cause drama on the internet?  Er, we mean, how do you see other people causing drama on the internet because we know, dear readers, that you would never do such a thing.

Ask the grumpies: Is having a singular focus a bad thing?

First Gen American asks:

What advice do you give people who are singularly focused beings and do you think there is anything wrong with that? For example, I was recruiting this week and there are some students who have never worked or done sports. All their focus was always on academia. I have known some folks like this and although they are forced to change focus over time, it’s always singular. The transitions are often difficult but they become workaholics or super moms lying on the sword for the sake of their singular focus. (transitioning to retirement is often very difficult for these people). I am the total opposite so my opinion on this is skewed so I would like a more rounded view on the topic.

The third part of this question is, do you think its just how a person is wired and there’s no sense in fighting it? If we didn’t have folks like that then there would be no Olympians because I can’t imagine swimming 5 hours a day like Phelps for like 1/2 your life.

Hush talks about this a bit in her post on Amy Chua.

My dad told me that college was not vocational school, and that I should take one class just for fun each semester.  I am a big believer in a strong Liberal Arts education, and students lose out tremendously when they focus too much, in my opinion.  Sports in school are over-rated.  Sure, it’s nice to learn teamwork, sportspersonship, etc., but you can learn that on the math team or something.  I tried sports and found out that a) I am terrible at them; and b) they are not fun, they hurt, they make you feel gross physically, and I hated interacting with the other kids.

However, it’s not like I can really talk here.  I have been singularly focused on becoming an academic almost since I knew what one was.  (Other childhood dream jobs:  scientist, rock star, astronaut, spy.  Oh wait, I *am* a scientist!)  I pretty much always knew I wanted to be a professor, but strangely, I changed my mind on what I wanted to be a professor of.  In college I changed my major several times, always thinking I would have an academic career though.  And now I do.  So I am a little bit useless on the career exploration front.

#2 never wanted to be a professor because her mom is a humanities professor and she had many crazy colleagues.  It took a while for #2 to realize that some disciplines veered more towards crazy than others, so she made that decision near the end of college.  At the same time, #2 is pretty focused on academics and only did extracurriculars before college because her mom made her.  (I’m also a well-rounded and cultured person because my mom thought that was important.)  That doesn’t mean I don’t have hobbies though, just not ones that would go on a resume straight out of college (“Watched 50 anime series with friends”).   I don’t *think* I’m a workaholic (though some of my colleagues say I am… they’re just slackers), if I am one I’m a pretty piss-poor workaholic.

I’m also not sure what’s wrong with being a workaholic if that’s what makes you happy.  So long as you’re providing value and not destroying the economy in your day job.

We’ve already covered the mom thing.

Why should a person have to retire?  I mean, sometimes you’re forced to retire, but you have plenty of time to learn how to change focus then.  Why borrow trouble?

Umm… a singular focus can be fine.  It can get you far.   So I think that last part of the question is accurate.  People who do great things tend to be both talented and singularly focused.  More power to them.

So I guess my advice to singularly focused people would be:  Are you maximizing your utility subject to your budget constraints?  (That is, are you happy doin’ what you’re doin’, considering your circumstances?)  If so, more power to you!  If not, then sure, allow yourself some more exciting hobbies.

What does the rest of the Grumpy Nation think?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers