Can We Ban the Connection Between Grad Students and Coffee Jockeys? Please?
In a recent Gawker post on how more students from other countries are entering American graduate programs, commenters immediately linked grad students to coffee jockeys. Grad school clichés follow:
“One of the tiny, tiny comforts of being a science grad student as opposed to liberal arts is that you know after it’s all said and done and you got a little more stipend than the others you can at least get a post doc…maybe. And what will the English grad students do? Coffee shop most probably.”
“Hey look at me, I’ve got a pony-tail and made $3000 last year.”
“When I went to grad school, I remember that students returning to their countries had some pretty effin cool gigs lined up whereas those staying in the U.S. were scrambling for the last few teaching jobs/starbucks barista positions.”
“I’ll have a grande caramel CPA, thanks. Hold the core classes.”*
Fair enough that grad students don’t get jobs easily, nor do they tend to get lucrative jobs, but I don’t know anyone who worked in a coffee shop. Most of the people I knew in grad school tutored or taught SAT classes. Where did the coffee shop idea come up? And what’s so bad about a coffee shop?**
Second, grad school dropouts (I guess I am one; I was in a PhD program and stopped at an MA) have been known to go on to jobs other than making lattes. It is possible to get non-academic jobs with academic degrees.
Making jokes about how comp-lit PhDs are doomed for Starbucks is cute and Stuff-White-People-like-ish, but it’s a) tired and b) untrue. Gawker did America good by burying the hipster (thank you, thank you), and now it’s time to bury one of America’s lamest educational stereotypes.
*Someone did offer a clever critique of grad school that avoided coffee: “Wait until you wake up after a long nite out after a four day weekend and find that Sallie Mae is sleeping in with you.” Well played.
**OK: There’s plenty bad at a coffee shop when you’re stuck behind some doof who wants a vegan soy latte with a splash of whole milk.
The adorable Niklas Larsson, the Legend of the Swedish Barista, by Faxmart. Posted on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.