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From the Editor’s Desk | The falsity of the ‘academic career’

I want to talk about the phrase “academic career” today.  It’s counterproductive and dishonest. It should be removed from the English language, and the phrase “education” substituted.

I guess the idea is that you’re supposed to think about your time in school as your “career” and devote as much time to it as you would a normal career. Do your homework, get good grades and you’ll be compensated … in some abstract way.

This is, I guess, an extension of the general theme that college education is about preparing you for a career, rather than existing for the purpose of education. All right, I get that. Learning for the sake of learning is dead; college is now a glorified trade school, only without the straightforwardness, economy and guarantee of a decently paying career with a lot of job satisfaction, which comes with trade school.

So let’s imagine you work in company run the same way as the organization where you have your “academic career:”

You have multiple supervisors, who all assign you unrelated tasks that you are expected to complete at home on your own time. (There are no fixed hours; however, you are expected to put in x amount of hours a week per task, which will frequently total more than 40 and extend to holidays and weekends.) These supervisors are all in charge of several hundred people performing similar unrelated tasks in several branches of the company. There is no coordination between these several supervisors, nor is there expected to be.

These same supervisors then review your submittals for each task, and a performance review is issued for each one. The work is then thrown out and never looked at again. Every three months your supervisors and assigned work changes and very little of your previous work is relevant.

There is no monetary compensation. Instead, after five years you get a number between two and four and a piece of paper.

If someone told me this was their “career,” I would tell them that they’re being subject to several labor law violations, chief amongst them unpaid overtime and, well, slavery.

Education isn’t a “career.” Most of us intend to get out of here at some point. There is such a thing as an “academic career,” and it is called being a teacher, or a professor, or a researcher, or whatever.

As Mark Twain reportedly said, “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” Prevent your academic career from interfering, too, with a mint julep.


2 ounces bourbon whiskey

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon powdered sugar (or 1 ounce simple syrup, and omit the water)

4 fresh mint leaves


Muddle mint, sugar and water in a highball glass. Add cracked ice and the bourbon. Stir, garnish with mint and serve. Have one to commemorate the end of your academic career and the beginning of self-worth, relaxation and a healthy work-life balance.

Justin Roczniak is the Editor-in-Chief at The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected]