To begin with, I am in no way suggesting that we as graduate students should not be concerned with our careers and individual lives. Im attempting to create conversation about our role in our disciplines and make the argument that we need to be concerned with the future of our disciplines before we are on the tenure track.
Being a graduate student for a few years and hearing faculty whove been in the game (academia) for a long time, Ive heard discussions and gripes about the problem of careerism showing itself strong in graduate students. But what does careerism mean? According to dictionary.com, careerism is the devotion to a successful career, often at the expense of one's personal life, ethics, etc. In the academy, however, this term seems to have a more complex meaning. Therefore, I use the term careerism to suggest not only the devotion to a successful career, but also the devotion to the fulfillment of self. By this I mean making a name for oneself at the expense, however, of academic responsibility. According to the National Council of Black Studies, Our guiding philosophy is that education should engender both academic excellence and social responsibility (http://www.ncbsonline.org/about_ncbs). Some scholars in American Indian Studies have made this similar statement, focusing on the issue of tribal sovereignty.
Academic responsibility is the belief that we as scholars (at this moment graduate students) need to not only be responsible to our career, that is, ourselves, but we need also to be concerned about the disciplines or fields that we will enter in the next several years. To be sure, if you are going into history, you should be concerned with the discipline of history itself, not just your own field. I hope that we as students move beyond worrying about our own subfields and making a name for ourselves, and enter the conversation of where our respective disciplines are going, for the old guard is beginning to fade to black. So, where is your discipline now? Are you satisfied with where it is going? Where do you want your discipline to go in the next thirty years? These are the conversations that we as graduate students need to have now; lets not wait until we get into the tenure-track.