2013 April 05 Friday
Grad School In Literature Is Worse Than A Waste Of Time
Says Rebecca Schuman: Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a professor.
No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.
The bit about the death of tenure-track literature professorships is good news. Rebecca, and many others like her, will have higher odds of doing something more productive. But they still wasted years of their lives in grad school. Granted, this isn't as consequential as wasted years in science grad school and as postdocs since the latter folks have more of the mental abilities needed to do engineering.
What's sad about literature in particular: so many people wanted to be lit profs that they had to create journals to publish in to justify tenure. So lots of stuff gets written into academic journals that should never have been written and that never gets read. What I wonder: Are literature classes less interesting now than 50 years ago because modern literature analysis is no fun and highly politically correct?
What I want to know: Have we reached Peak Professors? When will the total number of college professors begin to shrink? Online education is going to gut higher education.
By Randall Parker at 2013 April 05 11:14 PM
Have we reached Peak Professors?
Definitely yes. It will take couple generations for the size to shrink and for the obvious fat to be trimmed (e.g., http://www.human.cornell.edu/ or http://www.sohe.wisc.edu/)
Your basic assumption with all these subjects is that the purpose of getting an education is to get a job. Maybe the purpose of an education is to ... get educated. Nothing more. But, increasingly rare.
When I was about to finish my M.F.A. in painting we asked our graduate painting instructor (James Weeks), "What do we do now?" his response was, "Get a job in a gas station." There was no sadness that the world wouldn't be our oyster. We knew that going in. Most of us end up giving up the painting to build a life, but, the justification for 2 years in a "useless" grad program in the arts was that those 2 years might be the last time in your life you get to focus on your art. And the rest of your life will be greatly enhanced by the understanding that mastering a language provides.
The fact that graduate school is not such a great idea is finally beginning to break into mainstream consciousness. There have been a few voices sounding the alarm for some time, including William Pannapacker (who has written on the subject for the Chronicle of Higher Education) and the "100 reasons NOT to go to grad school" blog: http://www.100rsns.blogspot.com/
Unfortunately, future victims of the academic job market keep lining up to be admitted to graduate programs year after year. Most have some understanding of the job situation, but they're willing to bank on a hope and a prayer. The employment situation is much more dire than they realize, and the major structural changes that promise to make academic jobs even scarcer are only just beginning.