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Don't Go to Grad School

post #1 of 165
Thread Starter 
I tried to find these when posting in a Teger thread a while back but I couldn't. Now I have found them again. I post them for the edification of everyone. The third one is really the kicker. The most important takeaway, IMO, is to realize and recognize the extent to which the whole labor system in the modern university is corrupt, cynical, rotten, exploitive, mendacious, and designed as such.

http://chronicle.com/article/So-You-Want-to-Go-to-Grad/45239/

http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Graduate-School-a-Cult-/44676

http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the/44846

http://chronicle.com/article/Just-Dont-Go-Part-2/44786

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Big-Lie-About-the-Life-of/63937/
Edited by Manton - 7/26/11 at 9:24am
post #2 of 165
Wow, brutal truth up in here.


Mild clarification for anyone who hasn't read the articles yet, he is talking about humanities grad school. There's still a reasonable economic incentive for some of the hard sciences, engineering, and the professional degrees. Even in the hard sciences, a lot of the stuff in the articles holds true. If there's no industrial sector for your field, don't expect it to be a good investment of time or money.

One interesting thing about that article, which I've noticed before in my own life, is that humanity students actually seem to enjoy grad school to some degree and most science students can't wait to get the hell out. The humanities people are basically doing what they want to do long term, albeit at degradingly low wages. Once (if) they graduate, their chances of finding a job that'll allow them to continue that is fairly low: fairly low chance of finding a job in the first place, and then not so great odds of doing what they love either. Science people can graduate, and have a whole array of options in front of them: way more money and less intellectual freedom in industry, more money and more intellectual freedom in academics or government research, or somewhat more money and no intellectual freedom, but very low stress, in teaching.
post #3 of 165
Manton, what are your credentials, just out of curiosity? I assume yo went to grad school
post #4 of 165
Pretty sound advice in both those posts. I have three graduate degrees (MBA, MPA, JD) and make a little more than my two brothers, both of whom are convicted felons with GED's. But I genuinely enjoyed almost all my graduate courses, if not the professors teaching them.
post #5 of 165
Thread Starter 
I have two graduate degrees. I don't regret either one. But I didn't pay for them, incurred no debt, had a very good time, learned a lot, and I didn't end up in academia.

My experience was atypical for a number of reasons. I was in the social sciences, technically, but the branch of the social sciences that is closest to the humanities (political philosophy). I was more or less part of a separate and self-sustaining cocoon/cult. We were (and are) a world within the university at large, part of it and not part at the same time. What the author writes about how professional connections can save the day definitely applies to my group. Every single one of my cohorts who got a tenure track job got one through the professional network of fellow cult members at a small number of schools where we dominate. None of the schools in this network are particularly prestigious and all of them are remote and not terribly terrific places to live. I would have to describe them as a sort of conservative academic ghetto. But they are honest to God universities with tenure, etc., so my friends are delighted to be where they are, employed, with tenure or on their way. And, I stress to add, not everyone made it. The success rate of my group was far higher than what the author describes but only because of this network of like-minded folks who took care of them. There was only one of us who really scored and he is, while a fine scholar, also an "under-represented minority" and benefited from that. He would not be where he is if he were white. Period.

Last week I had lunch with another friend. Yale law degree, Harvard PhD. Massive publication record, super-popular teacher. Was denied tenure at an Ivy, then recruited heavily by one of my cult brothers at a UC campus but rejected narrowly by a departmental vote. He ended up with a great gig at a think tank that lets him do whatever he wants. You'd have to count that as a success but still.
post #6 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

I tried to find these when posting in a Teger thread a while back but I couldn't. Now I have found them again. I post them for the edification of everyone. The third one is really the kicker. The most important takeaway, IMO, is to realize and recognize the extent to which the whole labor system in the modern university is corrupt, cynical, rotten, exploitive, mendacious, and designed as such.

IMHO, the big problem is that the current university system is based in the logic of a previous generation (ever expanding enrollments leading to ever increasing tenure-track faculty positions) that no longer holds true. The system is in crisis in a myriad of ways, but my take is that it's more structural (embedded logics) rather than the result of a particular conscious design. My advice to students is, if you're going to go to graduate school, assume that you won't get a job in academia and therefore constantly and consciously think about what skills and knowledges one can acquire for a non-academic job. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, a small percentage of university professors are able to give good, current, and practical advice in seeking a non-academic job. So grad students are on their own. Most basic advice... it's insane to pay for humanities/social science grad school. If you have to take out loans, don't go.
post #7 of 165
Thread Starter 
It is by design. The pieces make that clear.

In a nutshell, the deliberate over-production of PhDs drives up the supply of labor and drives down wages. And not just wages, but labor costs in general, since universities can then get away with staffing the teaching rolls more and more with temps, adjuncts and students and fewer and fewer full-timers. The glut of teaching labor also allows them to increase the number of paying (whether with their own, their parents' or borrowed money) undergrads since they have a virtually limitless supply of low-cost labor to teach those courses. Simple formula: more cash flowing in, less cash flowing out = profit!!!!

But but ... these are non-profit institutions!

Right. sarcasm.gif
post #8 of 165
Thread Starter 
A piece that explains the university business model quite well:

http://www.thenation.com/article/160410/faulty-towers-crisis-higher-education?page=full
post #9 of 165
^ really interesting article

If you're thinking about grad school, you must get a hold of the National Research Council's ranking of grad school. As opposed to the US News & World Report-type ones, the NRC's has hard data about student debt, graduation rate, graduation times, and job placement. The numbers are startling.
post #10 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

A piece that explains the university business model quite well:

http://www.thenation.com/article/160410/faulty-towers-crisis-higher-education?page=full

I need to flag this again and point out to iammatt that, while I think there is a lot wrong with this, it is a good example of a leftism I can get behind. I think one can fill in the gaps and supply the needed corrections and the argument here would be stronger but not materially different.
post #11 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by arced View Post

^ really interesting article

If you're thinking about grad school, you must get a hold of the National Research Council's ranking of grad school. As opposed to the US News & World Report-type ones, the NRC's has hard data about student debt, graduation rate, graduation times, and job placement. The numbers are startling.

This is important, and true in every field not just the humanities. The NRC numbers show some pretty significant variations from the (useless) US News and World Report rankings, and the NRC numbers give you all those essential statistics that you pointed out.
post #12 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

A piece that explains the university business model quite well:

http://www.thenation.com/article/160410/faulty-towers-crisis-higher-education?page=full

What a depressingly accurate article. Great read though, lot of insight there for people who haven't seen it for themselves.

I'm (currently) part of that academic under-class. I work a full time teaching load, don't do research, but get paid ~60% of a starting tenure track faculty and am not eligible for benefits. I also get my contract renewed semester by semester, but have to tell the school about four months in advance if I'm coming back. It worked for what I needed it for, a temporary job, but it'd be awful for anyone who really wanted to work in the profession. And I have it much better than the humanity people, they make less than I do and would be lucky to even get a full-time position. I'm also in the sciences, so I can GTFO out academics and make some money if I want.

Another interesting point is using China as a model. I think most everyone in science would say that we shouldn take China's example, at least wholesale. There are really significant problems with the Chinese system, and they are not exactly dominating the US in science innovation. The top Chinese students still come to the US for grad school, and the top Chinese companies hire a lot of Americans to try and absorb some of the innovation that the American system is still the best at teaching.
post #13 of 165
Thread Starter 
No one seriously thinks we should replicate they Chinese system. What they want is for the US to produce HS and college grads as competent in science and math as China does, and attract such students to science and engineering careers in numbers closer to the % that China does. The real way to do that is not to replicate the Chinese system but to replicate the Chinese population.
post #14 of 165
I read some of these articles a while ago, and they crushed me. If I attend a PhD school, it will either be after I become wealthy, or insanely desperate.

From what I've been reading, the bullshit economics of grad school cover law school as well (which crushes me yet again). I suppose I'll have to stop at my MA for now (if I even manage to finish that!)
post #15 of 165
Manton, why don't you make the distinction that one should be very careful about going to graduate school to pursue a career in academia? Now an MBA or Masters in Economics for the hell of it with no plan on where you want it to take you could still be a waste of time and money but no where as bad as these articles cited in this thread.

I have absolutely no interest in a PhD for my field of choice, so a lot of the arguments here seem irrelevant. I think a bit more explanation of the kinds of graduate programs needs to be made in your OP to be more helpful to a reader.
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