One of our department’s professors is leaving for Google. He described his reasons for leaving thusly (I’m paraphrasing from memory and omitting the personal and family reasons he has for leaving), “Academics make less than people working in industry. The salary differential is made up for in fun. We get paid in fun. But there is increasing difficulty getting funding and increasing pressure to do so… congress isn’t investing in science… there’s politics and bureaucracy at the university. In short, academia has become less fun, leaving me with no reason to stay.”
I don’t consider myself a naive person. I understand that our society is structured such that only the independently wealthy are free from monetary concerns, and maybe not even then. I understand that to be successful one must be a bit or a salesman, a bit of a braggart, a handshaking, networking, smooth-talking extrovert.
But I still thought that one has to spend less time doing such things in academia. It’s hard to be sure.
I’m working under the assumption (belief might be a better word) that learning and teaching are valuable things. But it’s worth asking what are these things good for? In what way do they make life better? Are there alternative ways to make life better (for myself and for others)?
I’m not losing the faith. I know that grad school is where I want to be still. I’m just sharing some things that I’m thinking about. I have no decisive answers at this time.