Sitting at home, alone, many women in the North and South were overcome by feelings of fear and grief as their husbands fought on faraway battlefields. For all too many, nighttime only exacerbated their concerns. Nightmares of blood and gore tortured countless wives. And yet over time, some women gradually overcame such fearful feelings—even in their dreams.
During my first semester of college I told a professor that I wanted to go to graduate school to become a professor. He very wisely replied, “Jon, get a real job and do history on the weekends.” As a senior, another professor told me, “Don’t get a PhD in history unless you can’t see yourself doing anything else.” Both offered sound advice, and I hope they will forgive me for not taking it.
Now, as a tenured faculty member, I often find myself giving advice about graduate school to my students. I usually give them similar advice to that which I received when I was in college because they need to be aware of the risks involved in graduate study. The reality is that too many people are getting PhDs in the humanities, and there just are not enough jobs for them (I was on a search committee earlier this year that had 174 applicants for one job). Graduate students in certain fields therefore run the risk of lost potential income over a series of years, only to come out either unqualified or overqualified for most jobs, and ultimately unemployed or stuck in the adjunct circuit.