“Do it for love” and other fallacies to motivate grad students and junior faculty

April 17th, 2009 by jose

In a supremely honest piece, (part II) T. H. Benton says that basically, it makes no sense to get a PhD in the humanities right now.

His predictions are gloomy (and I think this applies to other disciplines):

We are entering a period in which large numbers of tenured faculty members will be released under "financial exigency" only to be replaced by adjuncts doing essentially the same work for no benefits, no job security, and much less money. Those future adjuncts are the current crop of prospective graduate students, following their dreams, embarking on a "life of the mind," doing what they "love."

Kudos to the Chronicle for publishing opinion articles like these. Ycombinator thread here.

It’s becoming painfully obvious to many academic writers that, once we remove the romantic component, faculty positions are just not that desirable (see Greenspun’s Women in science for a similar view). I think it is important to make the facts as popular as possible, so those who remain in the academic track do it with full knowledge of what they are getting and what their prospects are.

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7 Responses to ““Do it for love” and other fallacies to motivate grad students and junior faculty”

  1. JohnNo Gravatar Says:

    It’s one thing for a university to let an engineering professor go; it’s quite another to fire a medieval literature scholar. An engineering professor could probably move over to the private sector without a major disruption in income.

    Achieving tenure in the humanities is something like becoming a nun. You give up the pursuit of marketable skills in exchange for a promise of lifetime employment. Because scholars in the humanities are taking more of an economic risk, it seems that universities have a special obligation to the humanities faculty.

  2. jeffNo Gravatar Says:

    I started to respond here, but my comments got out of hand, so I posted it on my own blog: http://12easypieces.com/2009/04/18/why-go-again-a-further-justification-for-grad-school-in-the-humanities

    I previously responded to Benton’s article a couple of weeks ago here: http://12easypieces.com/2009/03/19/why-go-a-justification-for-grad-school-in-the-humanities

  3. John HunterNo Gravatar Says:

    Interesting comment. I wonder if any schools actually practice the idea.

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  6. JohannNo Gravatar Says:

    I don’t know if I can share this point of view. I don’t know enough about the American academic system, maybe it’s different there. But in my experience (Germany/Switzerland), most PhD’s know what they are getting into.
    I also think that Benton’s articles leave out the people who get PhD’s and then leave university for a job elsewhere or start something on their own. These people maybe just don’t complain, because they knew what they were getting into, so they are not on his radar. It seems to me his whole argument is based on his own experience. That’s ok, but it would be nice to see if numbers can back that up or not.

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