Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Plummeting Line

Michael Berube on declines in the job market for English professors:
In more recent years, the number of positions advertised in English has hovered around 1600-1700.  This year, one of my students told me that she’d heard the number would be something like 250.  “WTF,” I calmly replied. “Where did that number come from?”  It came from a wiki of some kind, which is apparently what These Kids Today use when they’re not twittering on the FaceSpace.  “That would be a Depression-era number,” I said, “because I don’t believe there’s been a time since the MLA started keeping stats when the number was below 1,000.”  Well, it’s now looking like 250 is indeed a very low estimate.  But it’s quite possible that the number will wind up being below 1,000, which is a problem, because all the MLA charts run from 1,000 to 2,000, so that 2009-10 might require the MLA to redesign the things or face the prospect of publishing one of those cartoon-charts where the plummeting line runs right off the page.