I have a message for all those humanities PhDs who did the work and got accredited; who knuckled down as undergrads and earned good grades, secured three strong letters of recommendation, scored highly on the GRE, and won admission to grad school; who finished four years of coursework, taught some freshman courses and discussion sections, passed qualifying exams and fashioned a thesis; finished it and defended it two years later; then hit the job market with high hopes only to end up with a one-year lectureship or nothing at all. I have a message for all of you who got no tenure-track position, and ever since have been getting by on adjunct work, two courses of freshman comp or Spanish 101 at a nearby state university and another one at a two-year college across town, the first two paying $5,000, the third only $3,000, which amounts to a semester of minimum wage once you add up the minutes of prep work, grading, in-class instruction, and office hours. To all of you for whom the years are passing with no hope of advancement, no benefits or health insurance, the remembrances of graduate school fading, the old confidence gone, the thrill of teaching crushed by the absence of status and meager pay: Well, I have a job for you.
It's a job that will allow you to teach what you love. You won't be a grunt in the insistent hierarchy of the college campus any longer. You'll be a valued part of an academic enterprise. You'll be respected, you'll be wanted. The academic job market for fresh PhDs has been horrible for decades, and never worse than in the last 10 years. It has made you into one of a thousand sellers in a buyer's market, with the zero prestige that goes with it. You needn't go through it any more.
There it is, exactly what you studied for way back when—pick one and apply. It's not a professorship, not a research post, not what you aimed for at age twenty-two, but let's get clear about that old ambition. When you envisioned the career of a university faculty member, did you think it would include vigilant political correctness? Do you really want to labor for six months on a research article or for five years on a monograph that will be read by practically nobody? Would you prefer to work in a place that students are abandoning or a place where they are congregating?
These schools are happy places. Humanities departments in higher ed are not. Intersectionality doesn't inspire much wit. No jokes, please; identity politics are no fun. At the schools affiliated with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (linked above), with Great Hearts Academies, with the Barney School network at Hillsdale, the energy is palpable and joyful. That's what happens when the world likes you and asks for your services. Enrollments are climbing, waiting lists are swelling, schools are adding classes and grades, and new schools are opening all the time.
You should be part of it. Classical schools don't need ed school theory—they need your knowledge. Classical schools value your learning, and the parents do, too. You are why they have chosen to send their children to the school. Spring is coming. Schools are counting the open teaching slots they will have to fill for September. Check them out.
Mark Bauerlein is contributing editor of First Things.
First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.
Click here to make a donation.
Click here to subscribe to First Things.