Category Archives: should I get a phd?

December 7, 2009, 6:30 pm

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Epictetus warned us not to go to graduate school twenty centuries ago — even if we could always go to law school become tax men as a back-up:

Thus, some people, when they have seen a philosopher… wish to philosophize themselves.  Man, first consider what kind of business this is.  And then learn what your own nature is; can you bear it?… Do you suppose you can do these things and keep on eating and drinking and enthusing and sulking just as you do now?  You will have to go without sleep, labor, leave home, be despised by a slave, have everyone laugh at you, have the worse in everything, in jobs, in lawsuits, in every trifle.

-Encheiridion, 29.

November 20, 2009, 1:47 pm

Area of Specialization: *wink*

I’m surely taking the wrong lesson from this story of the self-unmasking of blogger and call girl Belle du Jour, who turned out to be Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a cancer researcher.

The lesson we’re supposed to take and the debate we’re supposed to have of course is the endless one about prostitution, criminality, and class, and Dr. Magnanti’s story is well worth reading for its discussion of all of those things.  But what caught my eye was the following:

I couldn’t find a professional job in my chosen field because I didn’t have my PhD yet.

Mom! I swear I thought adjuncting was the worst that could happen!

I’m also concerned that the APA will get wind of this, realize that it wouldn’t even have to change its acronym, and add new advertisements to the Jobs for Philosophers pamphlet in a down economy.

October 9, 2009, 6:27 pm

This being my only comment this season on the state of the academic job market in philosophy.

There’s something strange about the popular area of specialization this year:


September 22, 2009, 9:41 am

The specter of online education: it looms.

I once saw Joel Garreau give a talk in which he promised (promised!) that brick-and-mortar stores would soon be gone (gone!) because everybody (everybody!) would be doing all their shopping online. Big boxes, especially, were dinosaurs (dinosaurs!), he claimed. And one of the major challenges facing urbanists would be what to do with the empty shell of the discarded consumer landscape after all of the consumers had moved to Internet. Garreau told his rapt audience that this process of creative destruction would take less than a decade.*

That was eleven years ago. And Davis’s gigantic new Target, a palace to hyper-modern consumer culture, is slated to open in less than a month.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve long had doubts about the idea that online education will spell the death of brick-and-mortar colleges and universities. But this article, coupled with the…

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May 6, 2009, 11:57 am

Lies, Damn Lies

[Editor's note: Michael Elliot returns! Thanks, Michael, doing this.]

While I was a graduate student, I went to a meeting during which the Director of Graduate Studies was asked about the department’s “placement rate.” The DGS wanted to emphasize the positive, and so he stated that it was nearly one hundred percent: Everyone who had kept looking for a tenure-track position and not given up, he said, eventually found one.

Even I could see the fallacy of the argument: after two or three or four tries at landing a tenure-track professorship, most PhDs will find other kinds of paying work because, well, they need to be paid. (I didn’t bother to ask how such a badly managed department was actually keeping records to document this miraculous job placement.) I thought about this exchange when, in response to Mark Taylor’s antiestablishment polemic, Sunday’s New York Times

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