Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Why are we here?

First off, this seems relevant. Now for the rest...

Miss Self-Important still thinks grad school in the humanities or social sciences is a questionable life decision. (More on the topic here, both in response to an earlier post here.) As I mentioned in graphomaniacal comments on her blog - comments so endless that Blogger was all, we're not even going to post these, although thanks to MSI, they've been retrieved - I disagree rather strongly with her categorization of my anti-anti-grad-school stance. Speaking just for myself (although I'm not quite convinced my commenters would disagree with me on this), I don't think it's especially noble, a calling, an exercise in self-exploration, a brave anti-materialist stand against the workaday world, etc., to go to grad school. I don't see it as a question of passion vs. sucking it up and facing the grunt work inherent in working for others. I don't see it as selling out to leave or never enter academia in favor of more lucrative work possibilities. I don't see it as choosing the touchy-feely over the practical.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if MSI has heard these notions elsewhere, because yes, they're out there. Indeed, if I belabor the point, it's because I've long argued against this popular conception of grad school, one that only ends in misery - when the college senior who was fated to be an Esteemed Professor doesn't get into grad school, or when the still-more-confident grad-student version of the same can't land a permanent position but isn't willing to consider any other line of work. Grad students with these romantic notions are precisely the ones who are least blasé about job prospects after graduation.

Rather, my argument was and is that for many if not most college seniors/recent grads with good offers from good programs, grad school is the practical alternative. The go-don't-go debate ought to be straightforward enough: it's subjective. It depends what offers you have from grad schools, and what options you have otherwise, and whether - to the best of your knowledge prior to teaching college students, if not prior to teaching at all - you think you want to be a professor. It depends on your mindset - whether your job while filling out apps is Starbucks or a professional track in which you'd have a future. But all these variables make for a pretty weak polemic, which is why these articles, needing to take a firm (and contrarian) stand, warn away anyone interested.

The problem with the uh-oh-grad-school genre is that it conflates, conflates, conflates. Top programs with bottom-rung, funded and debt-producing, MA and PhD. These articles/posts also tend to conflate the question of whether it's a bad idea for the prospective grad student to go that route, and whether it's a bad idea for grad school as it currently exists to continue without extensive reform. They tend to address an audience (conservatives, contrarians, and burnt-out academics) already convinced that academia's in shambles, so precision's not given much weight. But precision would be fabulous.

The complicated question is the big-picture one, about the state of grad-school-as-it-currently-exists. There are the issues we know about, namely: 1) more grad students than tenure-track positions, perma-adjuncting replacing traditional faculties, 2) the imminent kaput-ness of the humanities in general and certain subjects (ahem, as we say in French) in particular, and 3) the expectation of infinite geographic mobility, which is just a subset of 4) the expectation that everyone is "head of household" i.e. a 1950s husband aka (if female, which often enough these days humanities grad students are) single and childless until at least 35. There are also the broader, more philosophical questions about the enterprise, such as MSI's, about whether the "life of the mind" ought to be equated with academia, that one of her commenters brings up - should a PhD even be necessary to teach? - and questions of political homogeneity.

Then there are the problems that haven't already been the subject of a thousand much-forwarded higher-ed articles, but that do impact both individual grad students and the university. These are really the behind-the-scenes version of those listed above, problems that impact even those who most belong in grad school. Specifically, there's the issue of transparency. It's possible to have items 1-4 drilled into you and still not know just how dire your own situation is or is not. If you're the universally-acknowledged best in your field at Yale, you can kinda-sorta relax, but there's a lot of... for lack of a better term, upper-middle ground, basically everyone who has funding, is in a good program, has every reason to believe they're in good standing, but is not top student at Yale. Those of us in that situation can guess but fundamentally have no idea whether we're in professional programs aimed at tenure-track jobs, or whether we're simply being paid to do something interesting for 5-6 years. We don't know until we know.

Moving beyond the question of the sad little grad students themselves, there's the issue of, what's the institution for? In programs that don't demand much teaching, in fields without much research-assistance needed, it's unlikely that students are being exploited for their labor. But if schools are paying (low-to-lowish) salaries to students who for the most part aren't going on to be profs, many of whom have entered at one and the same time claiming (and meaning!) that their plan is to be a prof and thinking of that outcome as something like winning the lottery, what's the point?

Part of the confusion, I think, comes from the extent to which the programs themselves are ambiguous about their missions. Is the point of grad school a) to let trust-fund kids or older folks who don't need an income dabble; b) to provide a paid-if-not-much haven for "that-guy" recent college grads who want to devote themselves to Big Questions and not get out of bed before noon, who think job-jobs are too stifling but who do not have an artistic talent to cultivate instead; or c) to train the next generation of profs, plus, via spillover, a handful of professionals in associated fields in and out of academia?

My sense of this, as someone who knows a good number of grad students in various fields, at various universities, is that fields and individual programs evolve, and that some that were once for dabblers and torn-blazer-aficionados have in recent years begun presenting themselves as professional-training environments. Or vice versa. And I don't think - although I've been pretty lucky in this regard - that profs themselves are necessarily sure who their students are, or what they're there for, whether they're in finishing school or training to be the next generation of academics. Maybe in the windowless room where the cabal that runs The American University meets, there's some clarity about what grad school is, but it can sometimes seem as if no one's entirely sure. All of this creates an atmosphere of confusion, in which there's a fine line between what's "driven" and what's entitled/unrealistic when it comes to professional aspirations at the other end.

One way to reform this would be to create somewhat more explicit tracks, according to different reasons for being in grad school in the first place, then allowing individuals to switch track if need be. Dabblers should know who they are (which I fear sounds pejorative, which isn't how I mean it - maybe a better word would be learning-for-learning's-sake-but-deeper-than-adult-ed? but is there a one-word description of that?) and should fund the professional-training end of things, either in MA programs or doctoral ones for which they pay (that is, until the time may come when they have professional aspirations their departments support). Big-Questions sorts who are not independently wealthy need either to take out loans for an MA and get it out of their system, or to join the pre-prof grad-school track, which does mean accepting that academia is not an escape from networking, showering, or office politics. Finally, those who could plausibly - and want to - become profs, and who are ostensibly on a pre-professional, funded track, should not be conflated with dabblers or Big-Questioners. They should not be expected to have money saved up for a program that's ostensibly paying them, nor should they be expected to be martyrs to the "life of the mind," to suffer for something that's neither charity nor art. To work hard, yes, but with pay and health insurance.

Ultimately, this would probably still leave some discrepancy between the number of even professional-track students and tenure-track jobs, but not to the extent that this exists today between all-grad-school-as-one and those slots. It wouldn't solve the two-body problem. It wouldn't silence those who think research in the humanities is some kind of oxymoron. But it would make it a bit more straightforward what grad school is for.

Much of this is, I think, already in place, but so unstated that people (like at least one Pannapacker's commenter) whose package was in all likelihood intended either for someone who has too much money to care about a stipend, or who wants so much to be A Scholar that they'll take what they can get, nevertheless think of themselves as on a pre-professional track, because after all, they're grad students, and isn't "grad school" the topic at hand?

19 comments:

Britta said...

My particular department knows what grad students are for: to train enough scholars to maintain the cabal they already hold over the field, and thus lead to permanent dominance of graduates from our department. (I'm only kind of joking. Not.)

I have that problem of "am I a top student at Yale?" type feeling. I've done the 1) get into top program with decent funding, and 2) my professors all seem to think highly of me and I've done very well in coursework, but 3) "where exactly do I stand?" is not something I can answer. Sometimes I think I'm doing really well and making all the right choices--networking, attending dept. and school events, keeping on the radar of profs around me, other times I panic over my unproductivity and feel like if my profs could see how much time I spend watching "16 and Pregnant" instead of reading for my quals, they would personally kick me out of the program. I'm also in a program where it's the expectation to be behind. Average time to degree is 9 years, and, unlike other fields, getting through in much less time can actually hurt your chances of getting a job. (The recent crop of superstars all took 7-8 years, but then again, many of the big names in my field who went here took 15!) I'm behind, but not behind the curve behind, more like, on the curve behind. Funding too is hard. Our funding packages are 5 years, so that means there are 4 other years in which funding will have to be scraped together. I have to apply for outside funding now (which will put my current funding on hold), and the thought of scrambling for more in my early 30s isn't fun. Also, it raises the stakes of not getting a job. It's one thing if it's 5 years of funding and then back in the job market, it's another if it's followed by 2-3 years of poverty. Of course, with an 88% TT placement rate in the first 2 years of graduation, if you're serious about the game, this is where to go.

Nicholas said...

I do sometimes wonder how much angst over grad school is because of the "am I a top student at Yale?" question. In my field (as I'm sure in all others) there's a running joke about the 10-15 programs that consider themselves to be top 5. I can assure you that in my second year out, there's absolutely no consensus even amongst the 6 people from my cohort in my program on who has done best. It'll probably be another ten years before the 'winners' and 'losers' are clearly sorted out. Meanwhile, I've been working on the same general research project since fall of 2006. I imagine it would be unpleasant to sink ten years or more into something where I believed myself to be somewhere in the upper-middle of all people, only to be proven wrong by the distribution of jobs. Are there other lines of work where you can plug along for ten or fifteen years before you're told you're no good at it?

PG said...

I feel like law school is just now getting the "Are you actually in a program and with the grades that will get you a job?" analysis. Of course, you can be much further down the hierarchy in law schools but if you're at the top of your class and editor of your law review, you can still get a good job offer. (Clarence Thomas even takes lower-tier graduates for Supreme Court clerkships.) There doesn't seem to be as strong an idea among professional schools as there apparently is in other graduate programs that what is getting taught is so different from one school to the next that someone who excels at Kansas or Utah Law isn't really a good lawyer.

For some subjects, it doesn't seem entirely necessary that the professor also be a great scholar; just being good at teaching would suffice. E.g. while it was great to have a professor teaching economics of antitrust who was so important in his field that he was simultaneously consulting for the Microsoft trial, the statistics for economics class really just needed someone who could cram the concepts into our brains. (Still a little fuzzy on regression analysis...) So maybe there should be additional subdivision of the tracks: people who are excellent at teaching the basic concepts but who don't have particularly original ideas for scholarship, and people who are perhaps a bit Big-Questiony but also decently competent at communicating what Big Questions they're talking about.

Britta said...

Nicholas,
The "is my project sexy" is also a big worry. I have area going for me (China) but sometimes I worry that my project is going to pigeonhole me or be seen as irrelevant enough that no one on the job market will want to hire me. My undergrad advisor, who is now at a school whose PhD program I applied for and didn't get accepted at told me I almost got in but got edged out by someone who works in China on illegal organ smuggling (what could be sexier than that?) I worry that on the job market, everyone else will have studyied organ smuggling, or drug dealing, or transvestite prostitutes, and I'm stuck studying a moribund bureaucracy which no one in China even cares about.

Britta said...

Oh, and also, school rankings are confusing, to say the least. In my discipline, people like to pretend like they don't rank schools (it's not about hierarchy!) but then, of course, in reality they rank like crazy. The last time anyone tried to formally do so was in 1994, and of course most of the top schools have their reasons why the rankings haven't/have changed and why they're emergent and other schools are failing.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Your dept. has a placement percentage that everyone knows? That's something! Of course, if I don't have this at my fingertips, it may have something to do with the fact that one of the departments I'm in is quite new, and is for a variety of reasons likely to be different in terms of placement than the other. But yes, it can feel like you're doing well in a program, without you ever finding out officially, as it were, where you stand. Or you kind of find out, then the next round of whatever shifts everything a new way. In some ways I think it would be reassuring for the rest of us if there were some clearly-acknowledged star in each dept, but that doesn't seem to be how it works, at least in the "soft" fields. Which gets to Nicholas's comment...

Nicholas,

"In my field (as I'm sure in all others) there's a running joke about the 10-15 programs that consider themselves to be top 5."

Yes, this! The exchange I was just on in Paris happens to be a place where the top-dozen-who-think-they're-top-5 congregate. True enough, true enough. Also yes, of course, re: the difficulty of figuring out where you stand.

"Are there other lines of work where you can plug along for ten or fifteen years before you're told you're no good at it?"

I don't know, art? Novel-writing? At least the plugging-along is on a topic of your choosing? I really have no idea re: this question.

PG,

"So maybe there should be additional subdivision of the tracks: people who are excellent at teaching the basic concepts but who don't have particularly original ideas for scholarship, and people who are perhaps a bit Big-Questiony but also decently competent at communicating what Big Questions they're talking about."

This was (and maybe is?) going to be the subject of the next of my posts along these lines. But in case I don't get to that any time soon, the problem with this is that in the humanities, regardless of where one's talents mostly lie (and yes, as college students suspect, if they think about this at all, most academics will tilt a bit more one way than the other), the teaching funds the research. There are research scientists who don't teach, but there aren't exactly research literary scholars, research historians. It's more like, well, writing, insofar as unless you're ridiculously famous, you also teach. There are things along these lines - high-level librarians, archivists - but the more committed you are to teaching, the more you need to do original research. Meanwhile, the more committed you are to teaching, the more you need to do original research, but only insofar as adjuncting is not such a stable job situation in the long haul, and it's nice to have benefits, get paid enough, etc.

There are certainly advantages to linking teaching and research, as in ways that each improves the other, but the system probably does end up screwing over those who are excellent at one and barely competent/incompetent at the other. Here, MSI's idea about removing the "life of the mind" from academia's monopoly has some promise, although I'm still not sure who but universities is about to fund even the humanities research projects that are, in fact, original and important. (More on what this means if I get around to that post!)

Britta,

I see what you mean about "sexy topics." My own approach has been... well, I suppose the thing is that it's convenient that my topic is, while not sexy like organ-smuggling in China, pretty accessible, and something that can be approached from scholarly and general-interest angles. I'm not sure if that helps on the academic job market, but I don't see why it would hurt, and it might on the market more broadly defined. Meanwhile, for you, although it does sound like your program will get you a job, worst-case-scenario, you know about China and know Chinese, which is plenty marketable in its own right!

Eamonn said...

“We don't know until we know.”
Let me announce my recent appointment to the Chair of Studies of the Bleedin’ Obvious and state that the same goes for everyone else and even when you think you know, you may not.
I think that if you can get paid - however modestly, but at least not get into debt - to study something that interests you to PhD level and absent a plausible alternative plan that gets you loads more money (during the time you would be doing the PhD and not much later when you have paid your dues/clawed your way to the top or whatever) and/or interests you much more, then you should do your doctorate. At any time, but especially in the current economic climate, what would be the strong arguments against that?
“I must have a high probability of a TT gig when I finally get my PhD”
Well, you should certainly bear that in mind when applying for a course, while you study etc. but if not getting a TT gig at the end of the line would be a deal-breaker for you (and you aren’t the next Kripke/God’s gift to your field, just a solid upper tier performer) then you probably should think of doing something else. Advice valid, I’d say in 2011, 2001 and 1999 etc. etc.
I’m not too sure what university departments could really do to put people more at ease in this regard, there are so many uncertainties in the job market, even in better times than these.
Eamonn McDonagh BA (NUIG), MA (Reading) PhD (IOE, London. Abandoned in mid-stream due to acute awareness of impending pauperdom)

Phoebe said...

Eamonn,

"Let me announce my recent appointment to the Chair of Studies of the Bleedin’ Obvious and state that the same goes for everyone else and even when you think you know, you may not."

If I catch you right, I think you're saying the same as I've been saying to Miss Self-Important, as well as in response to Pannapacker, namely that the alternative to uncertainty in grad-school-land is uncertainty wherever else. You can go the multiple-unpaid-internship route in journalism, land a low-paid entry-level job eventually (and quite possibly after a journalism MA, with the debt/continued parental dependence that's likely to produce), only to be laid off.

“'I must have a high probability of a TT gig when I finally get my PhD'”

Who are you quoting here?

"I’m not too sure what university departments could really do to put people more at ease in this regard, there are so many uncertainties in the job market, even in better times than these."

Well, one possibility is the one I lay out in the post, that departments could make it more explicit which tracks, as a rule, lead to which outcomes. Any thoughts on that?

Britta said...

Ha Phoebe,
They keep obsessive stats on all these things. The last I heard it was 88% TT rate, 98% placement rate. That's startlingly high, in part because they lean on you not to defend until you have a job lined up (or maybe if they think you suck, to drop out). This does make some sense for us, because in my field there's less stigma for having been in grad school for 20 years than being an unemployed PhD, but is also good for them, because then they get to cite some crazy placement rate record.

I also don't know how accurate this placement rate stat is, since I haven't really looked at the numbers myself. I have lots of friends who've gotten great jobs, and I know lots of people in the pipeline majorly stressing about it and saying there's nothing out there, so it's hard to say. Obviously it's competitive and cutthroat and even being on top of your game doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Eamonn said...

the question was an attempt to invent a plausiblish objection to what I wrote above it, which indeed is line what yr response. as regards:

"that departments could make it more explicit which tracks, as a rule, lead to which outcomes. Any thoughts on that?"

not sure how that would work. They can't say something explicit and that would place a commitment on them like "Those who successfully complete Program XYZ will be offered a tenure track position", can they? If they did, no one would apply for anything else.

And if they say, "Among those who successfully completed Program XYZ in the past, many have gone on to TT positions", that doesn't really help much does it? How does one know that one will be among the furure "many"? A considerable level of uncertainty will remain and there'll still be a great need to network, be nice to the right people and generally duck and weave, no?

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Just curious - where do you hear these stats? I've heard a mix of our-dept-does-great and we're-all-doomed from those ahead of me, but I'd assume numbers would come from the dept itself?

As for the stigma of 20 years in grad school... This is something that's changed in my department, because as of quite recently, my program's only supposed to take six years. It used to take something like 9-to-infinity, but there was a LOT more teaching required, and it's my sense that in the more-distant past, that is before anyone I know was in the program, the pay was so low that everyone was either starving in a garret or a dabbler. This puts those currently in their eighth year or so in an awkward situation. (FWIW I'm entering my sixth and, knocks on table, last.) Funding above and beyond the package you enter with is, these days, expected to be for that final year, not as a way of extending the program indefinitely.

But speaking more generally, it would seem that the longer a program lasts, the more it lends itself to dabblers/Big Questioners. Your field may be different, but in mine, no one's in the program for a decade with funding the entire time. I remember hearing something a while back about someone far ahead of me in the program and probably long since out who accounted for a year on the "(husband's name) fellowship." In other words, the decade-long program is half the nice thing where you have stability, pay, health insurance, etc., half the kind of thing where you either go into debt or have other sources of income. Of course, then there's the issue of certain fields requiring more time abroad, etc., which could lead to a whole new thread...

Eamonn,

My point wasn't that this change would eliminate uncertainty, but that it would reduce it substantially. The way this issue is generally discussed is that programs need to shrink. What I'm saying is, programs could stay the same size, if there were just more transparency about who's expected to do what at the other end. Note that I say "expected" and not "fated," because it's not about certainty. The goal would be to make it something like (bear with me) law school, where under certain, not all that unusual circumstances (a top-ish tier school - although PG knows more about all this than I do and her comment gets at this), you're fairly certain of employment in your field on the other end, at least insofar as it's not like winning the lottery to get any job whatsoever. As it stands, you get some people thinking they're on a path to profdom, who are in fact so low down on the totem pole that this is almost definitely not gonna happen. You get others who aren't going to be profs and couldn't care less, because they've gone back to school after having kids/stayed on in school while their spouse does the earning, and this is just a fun and productive-ish use of their time. Others still are so intent on having the identity of Scholar that they'll go to the poorhouse for it. If it were clearer from the get-go who's doing what - and, like I said, with the possibility of shifts later on - it would no longer seem that there were so many more grad students than jobs. More grad students than jobs, but not so so so many more.

Eamonn said...

all fair enough.

Just a final word about law school though, I'd regard law as a kind of trade/profession under the broader umbrella of humanities/arts. It's pretty much the normal state of affairs that law school grads end up doing some kind of lawyering, just like med. school grads end up doctoring, it's kind of the point of their studies. Not many people go to med. or law school because they find the books they will have to read there inherently interesting. For most such people it's a means to an end in way it's for people who do doctorates in French history or philosophy or whatever.

Britta said...

Phoebe,
I think it was from the department...I feel like I got some pdf form at some point? Maybe it was another grad student who compiled it and the dept. secretary sent it out? I can't entirely remember.

Funding is kind of a hot mess right now (not because it's terrible, but because it's totally in chaos). The year before I came, the university totally revamped their funding system, much like yours did in a very similar way, with the hopes of pushing everyone out in 5-6 years. Our department is now at permanent war with the administration, in part over the idea that people should be out of here in 5 years, and just pretty much in general. Oh yeah, the admin is trying to get the department to cut the number of admits, but the department claims that actually, the larger the incoming class, the more influential our department stays, and then the easier it is to get us jobs. (Which...I don't know about this one)

On top of that, they made teaching, which before was fully optional, tied to both our funding AND our ability to progress through the program. Now you have bitter nth year students who had really crappy funding all along fighting for teaching jobs with much better paid younger students who have to TA & teach for their fellowships. (Before it was understood you could teach when your funding ran out.) On top of that, teaching positions operate on some sort of patronage system, where who gets a job in the sosc core and which core is the result of some sort of byzantine political system. As far as I can tell though, if you can become a lecturer in the core, you're kind of set, since the core will probably keep wanting you to lecture. They've also raised wages to the point where if you taught 3 quarters you could probably survive without taking out loans, and if you taught 4 quarters or TA'd for another quarter you'd have similar funding to the new funding package. The odds of getting 4 quarters of teaching are slim though, since teaching is so competitive.

Eamonn said...

"in a way it's not for"

Phoebe said...

Eamonn,

"Not many people go to med. or law school because they find the books they will have to read there inherently interesting."

Perhaps so, but the point would be that those who are going to grad school just for the inherently-interesting can by all means pay to do so, while those who actually intend to get a professional credential (and ideally find the work interesting) can get one.

Britta,

I'm trying to wrap my head around what you just described, but it does sound similar to my dept. We have something like hum/soc that you can apparently teach as a postdoc, although I'm not sure how tough it is to get those positions. I think our overhaul was a bit different, though, in terms of teaching - it's now, unlike before, officially optional, but not actually optional. If that makes sense. It was at any rate irrelevant for me personally, although I do think there's something to be said for making sure people in a French department are capable of teaching a class in French and, more generally, that people who want to become profs have, well, taught.

Jane Calderwood Norton said...

Not sure if you read this:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2011/06/06/110606crat_atlarge_menand

Britta said...

Unrelated to this post, but here's a blog post about the Park Slope Co-op arguing over whether to boycott Israeli products.

http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/park_slope_co_op_fixes_the_middle_east

Daniel Goldberg said...

Geez. All of this, and the MSI post on her shop, just make me even more grateful than I feel every day to have a decent professor job with colleagues I like and respect, which I somehow managed to land despite having an interdisciplinary humanities Ph.D. and a J.D. from a decidedly non-elite school.

I know full there is little meritocratic about the academy, which makes my privilege here even more inexplicable. I'm a good talker, I guess, so that helps.

Still. Whew.

(It is true that job markets are probably slightly better for humanities scholars working in science/medicine, but still.)

(On the self-improvement note, I don't disagree with MSI's criticism of that as a rationale for going to grad school, but I will say that such maturation and improvement occurred in a completely transformative way for me during grad school. I became a much better human being during my time, and I have no doubt that while grad school was not the exclusive causal factor in that process, neither was it irrelevant. So, even more thankful).

Basically, MPIS, but I am excruciatingly aware of it.

Phoebe said...

Jane,

Yes, and just reread it. It's about undergrad, though. The only thing I took from it wrt grad school is that if you're even in a liberal-arts program in the first place, if you even go on to any degree above and beyond that, you're fancy and schmancy and don't much need to worry about your source of income, even if (as Menand's own case reveals) no one's guaranteed tenure at an Ivy.

Britta,

Ha! That's one you need to read with its comments. (OK, skimmed them, but you do need at least some for full impact.) When I wrote about that place back in the day, I made the very same point Marcotte does about how it's better (by the very morality the pro-Co-op sorts theoretically embrace) to provide jobs, even if supermarket jobs, than to save a bit on organic groceries and play at being a cashier on one's hours off from the advertising firm or whatever. And I was told that I obviously don't give a crap about theoretical supermarket workers because I've dared criticize the Co-op and thus must be a bad person whose privilege is showing.

As for the Israel stuff, it's very Park Slope to politicize a couple of bell peppers like that, which is, as far as I can tell, Marcotte's point - these people are smug and full of it. No one there quite seems to get that the issue isn't (only) whether it's ridiculous to think you're saving the world via grocery choices, but also that having a particular stance on Israel isn't something a store in Brooklyn with many, many Jewish shoppers - who, however on the left politically, apparently do sometimes support Israel - can do without alienating its members. This isn't like "rah rah, organic and local." Both sides feel they're rooting for and in different respects are rooting for the underdog. (I don't think anyone there is coming at this issue from the right.) Anyway, couldn't they just solve this by saying Israel fails on locavore grounds, and only selling stuff grown - by members - in nearby Prospect Park?

Daniel,

As long as you don't do what the first respondent to Pannapacker does and claim that it's hilarious that some people don't find jobs in academia, I wouldn't say that YPIS. Be glad you like your work, and enjoy! (And I always like to hear about someone with an interdisciplinary degree getting a job!)