Tuesday, June 18

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go


An interesting article on doing a PhD in humanities. 3 down and 4th in planning, I can well recognise this situation. Nobody will pay you to teach others which really don't show clear economic value. 

You may not like it but the brutal truth of the matter is that your main piece of education is to ensure you get paid for the value you add. 

Take it forward as a teacher. If what you teach isn't valued then you won't get paid. As simple as this. When I became a professor, I got into trouble with my senior colleagues when I would say things like, ' if a student hasn't learnt then the teacher hasn't taught'. That kind of personal responsibility is unfortunately missing in quite a lot of teacher which is the reason why they tend to blame parents, universities, governments, students, porn, you name it. 


So my advise is to do a good first degree what will give you skills to earn a shed load of money and add huge amounts of value.  Then do a graduate degree to boost your earning potential. 

Then comes a PhD. Or two. Or if you are mad as me then more. Study for a PhD for pure pleasure and the fun of learning. Otherwise it's a bit dodgy. Of course the situation is better in economics and business PhD's :) but if you want to do a history or English lit PhD then forget it. 



Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education

By Thomas H. Benton

Nearly six years ago, I wrote a column called “So You Want to Go to Grad School?” (The Chronicle, June 6, 2003). My purpose was to warn undergraduates away from pursuing Ph.D.’s in the humanities by telling them what I had learned about the academic labor system from personal observation and experience.

It was a message many prospective graduate students were not getting from their professors, who were generally too eager to clone themselves. Having heard rumors about unemployed Ph.D.’s, some undergraduates would ask about job prospects in academe, only to be told, “There are always jobs for good people.” If the students happened to notice the increasing numbers of well-published, highly credentialed adjuncts teaching part time with no benefits, they would be told, “Don’t worry, massive retirements are coming soon, and then there will be plenty of positions available.” The encouragement they received from mostly well-meaning but ill-informed professors was bolstered by the message in our culture that education always leads to opportunity.

All these years later, I still get letters from undergraduates who stumble onto that column. They tell me about their interests and accomplishments and ask whether they should go to graduate school, somehow expecting me to encourage them. I usually write back, explaining that in this era of grade inflation (and recommendation inflation), there’s an almost unlimited supply of students with perfect grades and glowing letters. Of course, some doctoral program may admit them with full financing, but that doesn’t mean they are going to find work as professors when it’s all over. The reality is that less than half of all doctorate holders — after nearly a decade of preparation, on average — will ever find tenure-track positions.

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