By Raminder S
“Having trouble adjusting to the real world? Missing the warm womb of college life? Well climb back into that academic vagina with the Quendelton State School of Graduate Studies,” begins College Humours video, A “Real” Grad School Ad.
I enjoy College Humour’s popular viral videos as much as anyone else, and found the video above to be rather amusing. However, their use of gendered language, such as “warm womb” and “vagina,” in this parody on the plight of graduate students and studies troubles me. Why is the female body—nay—the idea of clinging to your mother’s womb, utilized in this way? My problems with their sexist language aside, the ad touches on the very real problem that uninformed assumptions about grad school are becoming commonplace.
One woman in the ad states, “I get to spend the next ten years of my life analyzing three lines of a poem that’s over 500 years old. In the real world that would be considered a mental disorder.” First, what is the real world? I am of the opinion that students should delve out of the sphere of academia at least once and get a feel for life outside of the ivory tower because it may help put their lives in perspective. However, this phrasing of “real world” distorts what academia is. Second, there’s nothing wrong with analyzing a poem or a text. People dedicate their lives to the study of the written word, and you’ve probably encountered many of them between Kindergarten and High School. Actually, why is it that teachers are looked upon favourable as educators but graduate students are those who simply can’t let go of being a student, one who studies and knows nothing else? The ad satirizes these very real problems, which I can appreciate it. However, it also trivializes mental disorders. Graduate studies are mentally taxing, and I don’t think many realize just how burdensome it can be.
The ad concludes with the following statement: “Quendelton State School for Graduate Studies: It’s not an employment if you pay tuition because if we were good at life we wouldn’t need more school.” For those who don’t understand the mechanics and appeal of graduate school, “more school” tends to imply the evasion of actual, hands-on, 9-to-5 work. Yet grad school doesn’t mean one isn’t good “at life”, meaning getting employment. I know of a lawyer who quit his job to pursue graduate studies because he realized he loved the study of law, not the practice of it. School and (un)employment, in other words, are not divorced from each other. They can be one and the same, which is very much the case for those pursuing graduate studies.
True, there are students who do base their self-worth on getting good grades and are crippled by the idea of change. Some even have an insatiable need to excel in school because the real world, if we’re going to use that phrase, has convinced them that doing well in school is the only way to succeed in life. As far as they are concerned, making the transition from the academic sphere into non-academic life becomes (unsurprisingly) terrifying. College Humour, then, effectively parodies the fears of students and misinformed conceptions held by society writ-large. Adding to these issues are universities themselves. Functioning ever more like corporations, universities want students to attend their schools because that means money. The emphasis is shifting away from universities as educational hubs towards financial hubs, but that’s a post for another day.
For now, if you are wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of graduate studies and don’t really think it’s for you, or are afraid of taking that step away from it, there are more and more people who have begun advocating for academic alternative routes, also known as “AltAc”. Check out the post “It’s OK to Quit” by The Professor Is In; the blog itself is a great resource for graduate students. You can also view the post “The Awkward Transition: From University to the ‘Real World’” on how to make the transition away from school. If, on the other hand, you remain passionate about and committed to graduate studies, then good for you. Continue to take pride in your decision! Graduate studies are a serious commitment, just a different commitment than the typical 9 to 5 job.