No, my parents aren't stupid. It's just that the whole academic hiring cycle is such a bizarre and counter-intuitive dance, no one would believe it who hasn't seen it. The practical result is that when you need a job, there aren't any out there (or you are competing with literally hundreds of other applicants), and when you are hiring, there aren't any qualified candidates. As my department chair Bill likes to say, "It's a wonder anyone ever gets a job." Having been on both sides of the hiring process, I have to agree.
The account Mark Bauerlein gives in his misleadingly-entitled "Systematic Indoctrination" is about as accurate as any I've seen. My favorite part:
There is no more miserable creature on earth than the post-doc looking for a job. You’ve spent your twenties reading books and writing papers, taking classes from advisors who wonder when you’ll be off their hands. You have no prospects, and you can’t do anything else. You can barely pay your rent, but every hour at a part-time job derails your ambitions. At the annual scholarly convention, you join a thousand other wannabes scrambling for a few plum appointments. Your clothes are a bit threadbare, your posture slouches as if you aren’t sure of getting a rebuke or a reward. Your face is wan, but your eyes dart.
Yup, that about describes it.
In an unrelated note, does anyone out there know of any other non-academic magazine that keeps a blog on education, or is National Review the only one?