Doing What You Love

A piece by Nate Kreuter, “More Than Love,” on Inside Higher Ed today alerted me to Miya Tokumitzu’s article “In the Name of Love” for the magazine Jacobin. She writes:

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Yes, and that’s what makes pursuing what one loves such a ticklish business.

Kreuter ends his piece with a bit of snark:

I’m off to the bank, where I will tell my loan officer how important he is to me, how his attention to fiduciary detail changed my life for the better, opened my eyes to the beauty of the economic world around me, and where I will proceed to hug him approximately 900 times, which should about cover next month’s mortgage payment. You see, I’m on the “Stand and Deliver” payment plan, and my loan officer really loves his job.

He’s got a point: American society takes advantage of teachers who are doing what they love, and this needs to be fought. The profession is being reduced to the point where it will soon be seen as only something for dilettantes and for young people dabbling before getting on to “serious” careers. We who espouse the DWYL concept are, in part, responsible for this. Tokumitzu writes:

Instead of crafting a nation of self-fulfilled, happy workers, our DWYL era has seen the rise of the adjunct professor and the unpaid intern — people persuaded to work for cheap or free, or even for a net loss of wealth. This has certainly been the case for all those interns working for college credit or those who actually purchase ultra-desirable fashion-house internships at auction.

That doesn’t mean, though, that we shouldn’t also attempt to do what we love. We must always fight to ensure that doing what we love is financially sustainable.


One thought on “Doing What You Love

  1. There is a wonderfully insightful piece on the back cover of the January 31 issue of the Chronicle Review that addresses this issue. In “Hanging Up on a Calling,” Rebecca Schuman describes her shifting emotions as she went from the security of a postdoctoral fellowship to the uncertainties of the job search, to a seemingly fortuitous offer of work as an adjunct, to the realization that the income from such work was barely permitting her to scrape by. Schuman eventually recognized that what she thought was a “calling” to teach was, in fact, actually the satisfying engagement in what she was doing that was made possible by her sense of financial solvency and her feeling that she was a promising new member of a professional community. The essay highlights something thatt should be obvious but that is very often overlooked in the discussion of the exploitation of adjunct faculty: that is, the value that we place on what we do is not something that we calculate in isolation; instead, it is to a significant extent a reflection of how much our employers and colleagues convey, in any number of concrete ways, how much they value what we do.

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