Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

From Slate: How to Fix Humanities Grad School

The always insightful William Pannapacker (who also writes under the pen name of Thomas H. Benton) is at it again with an article that just makes you nod your head in agreement and wonder why the hell these changes aren’t happening faster. Read the whole thing, seriously. A few choice quotes:

“Prospective undergraduates and their parents should be able to choose institutions on the basis of who is actually doing the teaching: tenured faculty with a long-term relationship to the institution and the protections of academic freedom (necessary for honest grading), or an army of transient, ill-paid, hired-at-the-last-minute adjuncts and graduate students without terminal degrees who are retained primarily on the basis of high evaluation scores from students (traded for high grades and low expectations).”

“Independently verified information about individual graduate programs should be made freely available online. That information should include acceptance rates, financial support, teaching requirements, time-to-degree, attrition rates, and, most important, job placement, accounting for every graduate with specific details. (No more claiming that a visiting assistant professor—an academic temp—is “successfully placed.”) ”

“Graduate programs must stop stigmatizing everything besides tenure-track positions at research universities that almost no one will get. They should cultivate an “alternative academic” sensibility by redesigning graduate school as professional training, including internships and networking opportunities, and working with other departments and programs, including partnerships with other institutions, granting agencies, government, and business to cultivate humanists who are prepared for hybrid careers in technology (“the digital humanities”), research, consulting, fundraising, publishing, and ethical leadership. ”

“Even the more privileged students I mentioned earlier—and the ones who are not seeking traditional employment—could do a lot of good by refusing to support the current academic labor system. It exists because so many of us who care about the humanities and higher education in a sincere, idealistic way have been passively complicit with the destruction of both. You don’t have to return to school this fall, but the academic labor system depends on it. ”

“In order to reform higher education, many of us will have to leave it, perhaps temporarily, but with the conviction that the fields of human activity and values we care about—history, literature, philosophy, languages, religion, and the arts—will be more likely to flourish outside of academe than in it. As more and more people are learning, universities do not have a monopoly on the “life of the mind.”


One comment on “From Slate: How to Fix Humanities Grad School

  1. sleepschmeep
    August 1, 2011

    You’ve probably already seen it, but I’ve got to say that I think jsench has really articulated some of the counterargument that’s been welling up inside of me every time I read one of Benton’s/Pannapacker’s articles:

    It’s one of those questions that I’m too tired to handle this late at night, but he does make some great points, especially regarding transparency and accountability for the sake of prospective students. But I’m also troubled that while his arguments make sense, it seems to me that they also serve to perpetuate existing socioeconomic/racial/gender divides already in place in academia.

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2011 by in (post) Grad life and tagged , , .
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