It has come to my attention that I’m now too old and too experienced to be hired to do my job. Consider the “Required Qualifications” of this listing for a position at Colorado State University:
- Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment.
- A promising record of scholarship/research in pre-1900 American literature and culture.
- Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900.
For years our “betters” have told those of up who earned our degrees between 2005 and 2010 that we needed to do whatever we could to survive—adjunct or lecture or accept positions at community colleges—and that when the market turned around we wouldn’t be punished for having done so. Seems we were lied to. If institutions require candidates who earned their doctorate after 2010, it indicates that they’ve embraced the idea that there’s a Lost Generation of scholars out there. A Generation so embittered by the paucity of prospects and the years spent toiling in academic recesses that its members can’t ever be reintegrated into a functioning department. We—I earned my doctorate in 2008—have been tainted by market forces beyond our control, but instead of bucking the inherently flawed system as they do in words and print, these aggressively benevolent “betters” are conceding that they’re powerless to do anything for this Generation in deeds.
“It’s not up to us,” they say. (Only it is.)
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” they say. (Only they can.)
“If you’d landed a job in 2009 this wouldn’t have been a problem,” they say. (Only there weren’t any jobs in 2009 and they damn well know that.)
In short: the jobs promised to the Lost Generation are being outsourced to younger and prettier scholars for no particularly compelling reason, except that the younger and prettier scholars are younger and prettier. As Chad Black noted in the linked post, it’s not that there hasn’t always been a bias against those who don’t land a tenure track job after three years, it’s just depressing to see it codified in an advertisement—especially in light of what our “betters” have been telling about what will happen when the market turns around.