What should all us PhDs do?

A roundup of links discussing whether a PhD is worth it:

1. Nate Kreuter at Inside Higher Ed says no one should get a PhD

2. Erik Loomis thinks that goes too far

3. Roger Whitson begs advisors and programs to rethink graduate education

4. Former research prof Karen Kelsky tells advisors to stop shirking their responsibilities. Although not applicable to my own advisor (who always supported my extra-curricular pursuits), here’s my favorite quote:

The point of graduate school, for the actual graduate students themselves, is preparation for a career. A career like yours, with benefits and a retirement plan.

That kind of career derives far less from a thick wad of dissertation pages than from the quantity of one’s publications, the impressiveness of one’s grant record, the fame of one’s reference-writers, and the clarity of one’s ambition. I don’t find it problematic to say any of that openly. But apparently you do. You reject it as “vulgar” and “careerist”—as if wanting to have health insurance is vulgar and wanting to not go on food stamps is careerist.

That is pure intellectual snobbery. To acknowledge your graduate students as people in a workforce requires you to acknowledge yourselves as workers, and to do that you must finally abandon the self-delusion of the ivory tower—that scholarly work is “above” capitalist exchange and anything as gauche as money. And that you will not do. The irony of faculty “work” (“I’m working on a project on death and the abject”) is its scrupulous denial of any acknowledged kinship to the actual wage-work for which you do, indeed, draw a salary.

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