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Please… no more “Don’t Go to Grad School” Articles

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A Latenight Rant by Peter

There is no genre more beloved by the old, lazy, and tenured than the “don’t go to grad school,” advice column that seem to spring up every other couple of months or two on the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed. Writing with nothing but the best paternal intentions, some tenured prof or another explains, with his hand gently patting our shoulder, that he has come to realize that there just aren’t jobs in X field and students really just shouldn’t apply for these PhD programs.

As a member of generation-fucked, I find these types of arguments frustrating. Let me rephrase that. I find them god-damn fucking frustrating. I encounter them mostly from academics, who make some series of arguments about why no one should follow them into graduate school. All the reasons why people say it is a bad idea to go into grad school (terrible job market, no social respect, you will simply be a source of cheap labor, etc…) are all true, of course, but turning them into reasons why you shouldn’t go into grad school misses the point.

Think about it this way: would any good progressive look out across the Rust Belt in 1985, fold their arms, and say (with a certain self-satisfied air of regret), “well I’ve always told Youngstown high school graduates that they shouldn’t go into the steel industry.”

Of course not. They would blame union-busting, and off-shoring, and leveraged buy-outs, and Reagan, and everything else. But they wouldn’t shift the blame onto the workers themselves, who should have known better than to go into that industry.

Obviously people who are considering a PhD or JD have more options than a steel worker did, but anyone who thinks that recent college graduates are just overflowing with good choices is just revealing their own generational entitlement (defined, for the purpose of this post, as anyone who came of age before the country went to the total shitter, especially those who took advantage of that non-shittiness to get good public education, and then gleefully grabbed up all those fun tax cuts and cushy tenured jobs).

What, prey tell, are those would-be English PhDs supposed to do? Journalism? Ha! We know they can’t do law school! Publishing? Not even worth joking about. Secondary school teaching? Not now, after NCLB/Michele Rhee/budget cuts/TFA/Scott Walker have all had a go at teachers. People don’t have interchangeable skills, (we all can’t just smoothly transition from excelling at languages since 7th grade into a career as a chemical engineer) and those of us who hoped to make a living on our writing, thinking, teaching, arguing, etc… don’t have a ton of options these days.

The problem with the “no one should go to grad school” articles are that they, unconsciously or not, shift the blame for the endemic joblessness onto the most vulnerable, those who are, or will soon be, unemployed. This is especially pernicious when these arguments come from tenured faculty who should be exactly the ones who have the greatest responsibility to try to fix the Academy. Implicitly, they accept conservative narratives about individual agency within capitalism. Rather than fight the real enemy (the corporate administrators, the Tea Party Governors, neoliberalism, etc…), they turn it into a moralistic argument about what some 22 year old should be doing. It all becomes a way to justify to themselves why they aren’t helping out the grad student union, or marching with OWS, or challenging their University President.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it often is a terrible idea to go to graduate school. It is generally a terrible idea to be young right now. But let’s not blame some poor kid who wants to dream that he might not have to be a barista for the rest of his life. The people we should be paying attention to are the university presidents, and politicians, and think tank “intellectuals” and everyone else who is destroying our educational system and our economy.

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Written by Peter Wirzbicki

May 29, 2012 at 23:18

Posted in Uncategorized

45 Responses

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  1. [...] have their Way will only get Whiter. Peter also offers up this “late-night rant”: Please… no more “Don’t Go to Grad School” Articles. Share this:EmailFacebookRedditTwitterTumblrMoreStumbleUponDiggPrintLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the [...]

  2. Bravo!

    Dr. Denise Youngblood Coleman

    May 30, 2012 at 00:16

  3. [...] have their Way will only get Whiter. Peter also offers up this “late-night rant”: Please… no more “Don’t Go to Grad School” Articles. Via (who else?) @zunguzungu. Share [...]

  4. Nicely put. Continue to follow both your passions, and the path of least resistance. Something usually works to in the end. After all, no on who ever sat on the sidelines ever won a game.

    And those of us who already got ours, do indeed have a responsibility to protect the opportunities of those who will come after us.

    Tony Waters

    May 30, 2012 at 00:41

  5. No. The rustbelt died because the industrial age was ending in America. Anyone getting into industrial production in 1985 would have been stupid. That has nothing to do with union-busting etc. I’m a liberal and I hate all that. But the cause was an economic change, and people had the responsibility to respond.

    Likewise grad school makes no economic sense right now. The economy is fucked and so are intellectual jobs; especially because the number of PhD in the social science outweighs the number of jobs available.

    So as a matter of personal agency, which is not some conservative myth but, accept it: a fact of life, it’s a stupid idea to go to grad school unless you know WHY you’re willing to go 50k+ into debt. and hopefully that reason involves making up the monetary losses you incur to go there.

    But at the end of the day the point is this: because there are NO good options right now, grad school isn’t a safe bet anymore so it’s a worse option than it was in the good ol days. There is nothing to lose right now. There is no job security anywhere.

    You might as well figure out a way to become your own boss doing something you love. Or, if not, at least make lots of money without going into so much debt.

    joe

    May 30, 2012 at 01:35

    • Exactly. The world is a very different place than it was in the 1960s-80s when the Baby Boom generation was fueling high government tax revenues and universities were expanding to accept in more and more young people. It’s not “university presidents, and politicians, and think tank ‘intellectuals'” destroying our education systems; it’s the brute facts of an aging population with its ever-increasing health costs and lowered tax base combined with our societies having reached the effective upper limit of the possible expansion of university students as a percentage of the population. Warnings concerning the perils of graduate school are what we need MORE of—and I say this as someone in the midst of a PhD in musicology—because no one should go into it unless they’re really sure of the consequences of what they’re getting into. And unfortunately I don’t think most people at present do.

      Melvin Backstrom

      May 30, 2012 at 20:22

    • If you’re telling people that, “you might as well figure out a way to become your own boss doing something you love” then you’re living in the same neoliberal fantasy-world as our politicians. The slow, inexorable march towards a full-unemployment economy started decades ago in the manufacturing sector and is now spreading to the service sector. You see it everyday: the rise of online retailers, automated checkout at the grocery store, itunes university… Hell, with recent advances in drone technology I have to wonder how long it will be until even the security guards are machines.

      So the question is how is someone supposed to start their own small business in this situation? Let’s leave aside the current capital strike and the notable unwillingness of banks to provide loans to small businesses. What’s a good business plan these days? Automating someone’s job. Of course, once you’ve automated that job, you’ve also made yourself redundant so you have to bounce from contract to contract just hoping that someone more capitalized with more workers doesn’t come along and take the ever dwindling supply of contracts from you.

      The problem is that, increasingly, there’s no one left to buy anything. We’re moving towards a dystopian future where 1% of the population controls all of the resources and uses a giant military-prison-industrial complex to keep the other 99% at bay. That one percent can only buy so much artisanal cheese, faberge eggs and $6,000 dresses…

      This is why individual agency is a myth. It’s what happens when baby boomers (who have the dumb luck to be born into an unprecedented, broad-based economic boom) mistake their good fortune for gumption and human value. Basically my response is: ‘what, you did what you were told, went to college, took out a thirty-year mortgage and eventually ended up owning your own house and retiring so you could live off of social security? you’re certainly tending towards the mean for your age and educational levels…’ For those of us in our twenties, the stakes should be clear: unless we radically re-imagine our economic order we might as well curl up and die.

      G

      May 31, 2012 at 02:35

      • so sad but true

        Kara

        May 31, 2012 at 19:22

    • the industrial “age” “ended”–if it ever ended– in america when industries left for more hospitable environments (i.e. less regulation, low pay). This was not written into the nature of things as your spooky passive voice suggests. It is the results of institutions and decisions that make these sorts of things possible and profitable–decisions aided and abetted precisely by selling the view that these sorts of changes are written into the nature of things, inevitable natural “causes” and hence not anything that could be the subject of political action and contestation. Politics begins with lost “causes” my dear liberal. As far as your contention that it would be “stupid” going into industrial production in 1985 or now–it seems you are unaware that the united states remains the largest (or 2nd largest depending on recent estimates) “industrial” economy in the world. That is to say, we produce, in factories and stuff, more than just about any country in the world (Financial Times has recently and disputably suggested that China has “nosed ahead” in 2011). So I’m not really sure who the stupid is here. Finally, my dear liberal, I can attest that there are PLENTY of jobs in higher education–education is consistently a growth sector. it is just that the jobs that are offered are consistently BAD jobs, jobs that pay *less* than working as an administrative assistant in the very department you teach at– that is, what’s available are adjunct positions. WHY? What are the “causes” is it because the “educational age” was ending in the US? Perhaps it’s because educational workers are protected by no unions. This allows for endlessly interesting arrangements to exploit “knowledge” workers. Universities–those bastions of liberalism– are cashing in by paying instructors (arguably their raison d’etre) nothing. Trust me, I would know. If they took the skyrocketing tuition and used just a bit of that to pay their teachers decently, there would be no “crisis” in higher education. This state of affairs is completely manufactured and supported by the cowardly complicity of “liberal” tenured professors who, like you, don’t know how to think about the “causes” of our “crisis.” There is no crisis, there are tons of jobs—they are just no comfortable middle-class making jobs. As a parting note, it is well known that, historically speaking, the proletarization of the “intellectuals” is an auspicious sign for the emergence of genuinely leftist politics–a politics let us recall, that doesn’t see any salient difference between liberals and neo-liberals.

      Debbie Goldgaber

      May 31, 2012 at 17:32

    • Education and the pursuit of knowledge is as old as Socrates–the analogy to the rust belt in 1985 just doesn’t work with scholarship. Hemlock may be a problem for academics, but thinking and scholarship is only imprecisely analogous to industrial cycles. I really like Max Weber’s 1917 essay “Science as Vocation” because it highlights the tensions that are always found in the academic life. But like the naysayers of today, he got it wrong when he implied that the scholarly life would disappear under the oppressive weight of the gloomy tenured professors who precede us.

      Tony Waters

      May 31, 2012 at 20:44

  6. The worst fears to which graduate school gives rise are fears about the future, which stem from both immediate concerns about funding (see Reason 17 ) and long-range concerns about the miserable job market (see Reason 8 ). But there is another fear pervasive in academe that runs counter to a central principle of modern democracy. It is the fear of speaking freely. Reason 75 saw the 2,000th comment posted on 100 Reasons, and all but a tiny fraction of those comments were posted anonymously. There is probably no American newspaper today that publishes more articles by writers using pseudonyms than the Chronicle of Higher of Education . Even Professor William Pannapacker , the patron saint of graduate-school realists (and a Harvard PhD), wrote his first columns warning people about graduate school using the pen name Thomas H. Benton . The author of a recent book about his experiences as a college instructor is known only as Professor X . Why? Why are academics—of all people—afraid of writing (and speaking) honestly about their profession? Why do so many of those who do express themselves feel compelled to do so anonymously? The answer lies in the staggering power imbalance between academics and the people who employ them. That imbalance is so great because of the crippling realities of the academic job market. The consequences of offending your colleagues and superiors in any way can be dire, because until you have tenure (see Reason 71 ) your employment is insecure; you are easily replaced. For the same reason, untenured college instructors often endure humiliating working conditions (see Reason 14 ). For graduate students who have not yet been hired for their first real jobs, developing a fear of saying the wrong thing is an essential success strategy. If you decide to go to graduate school , you should know that it may be a very long time before you will be comfortable expressing yourself about subjects of considerable importance to you.

    mercadee

    May 30, 2012 at 07:35

  7. [...] post calling for a moratorium on “don’t go to grad school” advice columns, along with a post that captures the [...]

  8. it’s ideology, stupid.

    felipe magalhães

    May 30, 2012 at 09:15

  9. I cannot express just how much *win* this is.

    I am currently putting together doctoral applications. I keep hearing the same thing, “but don’t you know there are no jobs for PhDs?” Yes, I do know that. However, do you think there are magical jobs out there for people without PhDs?

    It seems interesting to me that so many believe that people pursuing PhDs are somehow ignorant about the job market or are diluted about what life with a PhD is like. I would assume, based on my experience, that people pursuing doctorates are usually pretty smart and are well aware of the obstacles and tribulations associated with getting a doctorate and then getting a tenure track job. The prospective-PhDs that I know want a doctorate because they love to learn, they are passionate about their discipline and their research, love to teach and are willing to make great sacrifices to support those passions. They are not trying to get a job or somehow obtain fame, fortune and prestige. So, discouraging us with “but don’t you know there are no jobs for PhDs?” just isn’t helping anyone. It just adds more fuel to the crazy-people fire that says degrees and disciplines that don’t bank are “worthless,” which will slowly lead to the death of academia, particularly the humanities and social sciences.

    Angela VandenBroek

    May 30, 2012 at 09:28

    • I so agree with this. I’m older than the traditional university student, and my family thinks I am completely insane for pursuing a PhD. They think that somehow or another, I should find some sort of job and work at that for the next thirty years, even though my background is incomprehensible to most inhuman resources people.

      redirectingchaos

      January 8, 2013 at 14:53

  10. I totally buy this and love it. Except for one part: we (I mean human beings here) can have diverse and changable skills. Even the academics of the older generation are often hybrid types. My advisor in the English department has a Ph. D. in folklore; my classmates have ended up in PR, grant writing, test prep, technical writing, lots of stuff. The dropouts inscribe an even wider circle: some went to the sciences, one went into the foreign service…etc. etc. There’s a big difference between not wanting to do something else and not being able to. Is the transition smooth? Never. Is it the fault of the individual if it doesn’t work out? Not considering the superstructure of the academy, no. But it IS possible, and we’re better off if we remember that, even as we try to change the way the university treats its students.

    Parag

    May 30, 2012 at 10:18

  11. I am one of those old (age 45) tenured professors who tell their students about the realities of the market and remind them to meditate on what it means to hand over from six to ten years of a life for an uncertain future, and in many cases borrowing money to do so. Not one of us blame a single student. Not one. Sorry. it doesn’t happen. I note that you have no quotes in your piece. You know why? Because you won’t find anything that sounds like “this is your fault, young one.” You won’t even find a good quote that implies it. Second, not one of us is also not working on other fronts to change conditions for the better for those who decide for graduate school anyway. I note that you like talking about enemies. I don’t. I prefer to talk to my students about the rich intellectual lives that they can craft for themselves within, near, adjacent, and outside the academy. Since I was one of those students, and since my career was built within and without the academy, I can talk about what it means to change the narratives of ambition and success. I do not offer advice: I ask that a young human make an informed decision about what a successful and fulfilling life looks like. What it doesn’t look like is the immiseration that I hear about from students who have completed the research degree at my institution and who try to make their way along a road that was washed out by an economic storm quite a while ago. That path is blocked where it is not destroyed. How to make a new world? If you have to borrow money to pay a school for a job you may or may not have at the end of the climb–well, that is a sucker’s bet. You warn your reader up front in your title. It was late at night. You wrote a rant, and it has all of the logic of emotion. But, Peter, the takeaway is to stop reading those columns. You read them. You made of them what you did. You are moving forward in the best way you think advisable. Let others read and make their lives what they will. Let know one choose, wake up at 35 and then claim, “No one told me. I wasn’t told.”

    Old Tired'n'Lazy

    May 30, 2012 at 10:39

    • Yeah, I have to agree with this. When my professors have encouraged or discouraged me, they have always known where to lay the blame.

      Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

      May 31, 2012 at 14:01

  12. Great rant Peter. While I have had some sympathy for this idea in the past, you’ve expressed well why this is so much bullshit.

    Another thing many of these articles share is the faux survivor guilt that tenured professors express for being part of a generation that didn’t have to worry about getting a job. You are right to point out that the onus of responsibility for change in the academy absolutely falls on them. It seems to me that they should spend less time discouraging young people who want to read and think critically and more time adjusting their own academic practice to the changing realities of the job market. The only problem is that tenured professors are so inculcated with the values of the present scholarly system that they see success in very limited terms.

    The job market is dismal and there is a limited amount of immediate action we can take on that front, in the meantime, I think we also need to start thinking about graduate school as more than a vocational school for future scholars. There should be some pressure from below, on the part of students, forcing the tenured obsolete to change. As graduate students we are made to feel powerless on a number of fronts: by faculty who see us as disposable labor, by the “real” world who believes so much of our work is frivolous and pointless, by a constricting job market, and most importantly, by ourselves for believing what we are told.

    My favorite criticism though, is that graduate school delays the process of “growing up”. (What exactly does this mean in a society that worships youth?) Maybe so, but all for the better. Richard Poirier ended his essay “The War Against the Young” from 1968 with this line: “if young people are freeing themselves from a repressive myth of youth only to be absorbed into a repressive, even though modified, myth of adulthood, then youth in its best and truest form, of rebellion and hope, will have been lost to us, and we will have at last wasted some of the very best of ourselves.”

    eric

    May 30, 2012 at 10:47

  13. I agree with you that we shouldn’t blame the victim, but you can’t pretend the world isn’t the way it is either. Whether or not we like the state of affairs, the prudent choice for many students remains to skip graduate school. This is speaking as an until-recently undergrad; graduate school, for me, right now, would do nothing but increase my debt, lengthen the amount of time I had to spend out of the workforce, and provide no real boost to my pertinent skills. It would be different, say, if I were an engineer, but this is how it is for me and thousands of other young adults.

    Don’t get me wrong, we should absolutely work to change the system so it isn’t this way. But I can’t do that if I go to grad school right now.

    Seth W

    May 30, 2012 at 11:03

  14. Excellent post! Thank you for calling out colleagues who should be fighting all of the horrible educations policies, and fighting on multiple fronts. As a tenured sociology professor, I have seen first hand how difficult it is becoming even to get my students into graduate school. As dire as the situation is though (departments are seriously cutting down the number of admits and of course seeking students who “look good on paper” instead of taking chances on non traditional students), i can’t imagine telling them not to go for it.. The situation just makes me want to fight harder for them, not admonish them to “do something more practical.” Im pretty sure I would have had a terrible time getting to where i am now in the university had I graduated 2008 instead of 1992. There is a multifrontal attack on education(pushing for online classes, attacks on tenure, flexibilization of the workforce in general). The kinds of articles you refer to in your post feed into the “there is no alternative” mentality. No alternative? Look at Quebec and Chile!

    Kara

    May 30, 2012 at 11:54

  15. Well said – we hear this a lot (I am a graduate student) – usually it amounts to – “I’m through now – close the gates, close the gates!!” Graduate education is not just about jobs – it is also an end in itself. Society needs people who have thought about things deeply.

    gileswhitaker

    May 30, 2012 at 13:20

  16. Wow, That was awesome. Thank you.

    Stark

    May 30, 2012 at 13:30

  17. I agree completely with everything you’ve said. The inevitable “but” is this: if it hadn’t been for one of those articles, I genuinely would not have known just how fucked academia was, and it has fueled my decision to either not go to grad school, or at least to put it off for awhile.

    So many professors are doing students a disservice by actively encouraging them to chase their PhD dreams. A little counter-balance against the onslaught of encouragement is necessary. Hell — even my mother thinks I’m “insane” for settling for a less-than-fantastic office job right now when I could be living the “life of the mind.”

    It would be great if things changed, but it probably won’t change for my generation. It’s not as though we’re all going to be able to join hands and agree to not go to grad school to show ‘em that they can’t exploit cheap TA labor anymore.

    Again, I agree with everything you’ve said, but I also think that the hyperbolic wording of so many of those articles is necessary for keeping some people away from a dangerous road of disappointment.

    Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

    May 30, 2012 at 13:50

  18. Yep, when I finally got to meet an academic hero of mine that’s the advice I got… “try to find a job in administration!”

    BoEberle

    May 30, 2012 at 14:24

  19. [...] friend posted an article about tenured faculty discouraging people from going to graduate school and a discussion ensued about paying to go to grad school and other issues, which leads me to my [...]

  20. excellent clear-thinking piece.All it misses is the responsibility of academic Obama liberals who don’t dare demand money, (say for a WPA for academics: google my various articles on this). Oh my, Oliver Twist has asked for more!!

    Jesse Lemisch

    May 30, 2012 at 19:03

  21. Your argument seems to be, “these kids go to grad school because they have no options.” That’s a pretty awful rebuttal to the “don’t go to grad school” crowd. I’m sorry that you think some people are SO hemmed in by their incredibly limited skills that they are only qualified to get PhDs and become college professors.

    I think that you are rebutting an argument that isn’t really there. I don’t see examples of victim-blaming here; instead, these articles generally do exactly what you say a good progressive in Steeltown USA should do, which is blame all the bad factors at play. Indeed, you yourself close this essay by doing the same thing.

    But why extend the blame to the writers of this sort of article? Admonishing young people not to enter such an anemic field is not, ipso facto, blaming them or saying they “should have known better.” This is an example of people (the professors) who have information sharing it with those (the students) who don’t, and then making a recommendation based on their experience.

    The best of these articles, like the ones by “Thomas Hart Benton” in the Chronicle, don’t blame the students at all; they vociferously blame the academic system, which the students often have trouble understanding (because the academy purposely keeps them in the dark about things like placement rates, the real life of the adjunct, etc). The thinking is, if you are given more information about how hard it is to actually get one of those professorships, and about how broken academia is as an industry, you might choose not to go to grad school. More information is better than less. I find nothing wrong with that argument, nor do I think it shifts any blame to the students as you suggest. Everyone ought to be able to think clearly about a field they might want to work in; in this case, the leaders of the field shamefully withhold information a student ought to know in order to make an informed decision.

    If a student is still adamant that grad school and a tenured professorship are her only goals (or only options), at the very least she will know a little more about the world she is entering rather than aiming for something imaginary and then being horribly disillusioned.

    Winger

    May 30, 2012 at 19:48

  22. Great rant. Do what you want.

    Kimberly

    May 30, 2012 at 21:03

  23. Winger above got it right. Both sides (academia and students) are shifting the blame onto the other. In addition to revealing the critical data on placement rates, isn’t it the case that academia would be better off forging stronger links with industry, to create a channel whereby there is a better ‘guess’ / understanding as to the demand out in industry. By which measure they will know how many PhD programs to put out?

    simply me

    May 31, 2012 at 04:26

  24. Reblogged this on THE TASK and commented:
    THANK YOU. Of particular notice:

    “The problem with the “no one should go to grad school” articles are that they, unconsciously or not, shift the blame for the endemic joblessness onto the most vulnerable, those who are, or will soon be, unemployed. This is especially pernicious when these arguments come from tenured faculty who should be exactly the ones who have the greatest responsibility to try to fix the Academy. Implicitly, they accept conservative narratives about individual agency within capitalism. Rather than fight the real enemy (the corporate administrators, the Tea Party Governors, neoliberalism, etc…), they turn it into a moralistic argument about what some 22 year old should be doing.”

    Emily

    May 31, 2012 at 09:04

  25. As another tenured professor who’s been known to dispense job market advice on the interwebs, I really appreciate this rant.

    I HATE the don’t go to grad school essays, which generally appear to be from people who are also otherwise bitter about their jobs or their lives. And they’re the privileged ones. So there’s a tone of self-service and self-pity that is a little sickening coming from those quarters. Any tenured prof who isn’t grateful for his or her privileges is frankly deluded.

    That said, and contrary to my colleague above, every year I talk with PhD applicants or admits who have never had anyone explain the job market to them or the politics of post-PhD employment. Part of this is an effect of poor mentorship, which is more common than we want to admit.

    So I explain the situation to them, and say “don’t get a PhD if this isn’t the thing you’re most passionate about” but I also tell them I love my job, grad school can be a valuable experience if you go into it with your eyes open and make good choices, whether or not the story ends with tenure (which is a messed up narrative anyway). It is important to puncture that narrative because if you tell people only a certain percentage of them will wind up in TT positions, 100% of everyone will believe they’re going to be in that group.

    Honestly, the market wasn’t so great in the late 90s when I was coming out. We had the same conversations, just no blogosphere to circulate them. It’s gotten worse but it’s a structural problem and we should be addressing it that way.

    Jonathan

    May 31, 2012 at 09:34

  26. Nice piece Peter. I think the most pernicious thing about this genre of “do as I say, not as I did” writing is that it undercuts the good part of graduate school (and there are plenty of bad parts too of course, but there are important good parts). The good part to me is that even in the current difficult economic situation, the assertion that it is worthwhile to spend time pursuing intellectual inquiry is important to preserve. We owe it to those who have come before us in the arts and letters. And we owe it to future generations. Moreover, we should really be thinking about graduate school as part of a robust form of research and development: of the self, of the common good, of the economy, of government and politics. Who knows where the next innovations will come from? So we should be putting money into supporting all sorts of advanced research, even the stuff that seems, to outsiders and increasingly many elder insiders, as irrelevant, impractical, unutilitarian, beside the point in our current neoliberal economic and ideological situation.

    I think I shared some of your frustration when writing about the No More Plan B brouhaha a few months ago:

    http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/2012/01/04/522-roll-over-ranke-and-tell-hofstadter-the-news/

    and

    http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/2011/10/05/498-dont-know-much-about-history/

    All best,
    Michael

    Michael J. Kramer

    May 31, 2012 at 14:22

  27. Nice piece Peter. I think the most pernicious thing about this genre of “do as I say, not as I did” writing is that it undercuts the good part of graduate school (and there are plenty of bad parts too of course, but there are important good parts). The good part to me is that even in the current difficult economic situation, the assertion that it is worthwhile to spend time pursuing intellectual inquiry is important to preserve. We owe it to those who have come before us in the arts and letters. And we owe it to future generations. Moreover, we should really be thinking about graduate school as part of a robust form of research and development: of the self, of the common good, of the economy, of government and politics. Who knows where the next innovations will come from? So we should be putting money into supporting all sorts of advanced research, even the stuff that seems, to outsiders and increasingly many elder insiders, as irrelevant, impractical, unutilitarian, beside the point in our current neoliberal economic and ideological situation.

    I think I shared some of your frustration when writing about the No More Plan B brouhaha a few months ago:

    http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/2012/01/04/522-roll-over-ranke-and-tell-hofstadter-the-news/

    and

    http://www.michaeljkramer.net/cr/2011/10/05/498-dont-know-much-about-history/

    All best,
    Michael

    Culture Rover

    May 31, 2012 at 14:23

  28. [...] Peter mentioned, the constant stream of off-putting articles on grad school is annoying (enraging) for a [...]

    • I went straight from ugdrenrad to grad, and I have always been one of the youngest in my class. Because I knew exactly what I wanted to do (work in higher education), I knew that I needed a degree to do that (in the vast majority of cases), it didn’t make any sense to take time off. Yes, navigating being only slightly older (and in some cases, younger!) than my students was an occasional challenge, but I’ve also always been mature for my age, so most of the time, people didn’t even realize I was younger than them.I think grad school shouldn’t be used as an I can’t find anything else stop, or because it’s what you’re supposed to do next but if you truly know what it is you want to do, and getting that additional degree is a crucial ingredient, then go.

      Litzy

      June 19, 2012 at 17:46

  29. [...] Please… no more “Don’t Go to Grad School” Articles. [...]

  30. Reblogged this on (just a tiny) Piece of the Internet and commented:
    I read this article just now and was reminded of a post I made a while ago lamenting my decision to pursue an MPhil. I was instantly worried that someone, somewhere, might have interpreted it as ‘grad school sucks’ (I’m fairly certain it didn’t come off that way, but the internet is a magical place…). Lest anyone think that my current frustration with academia should be translated as ‘don’t go to grad school’, I would like to clarify that I made a decision that wasn’t right for *me* and that I think my frustrations with academia are not that it exists and people want to do it (that would be silly), but that academics aren’t trying to prove their worth to their fellow citizens. Academia and Grad School certainly generate research and students who are worth quite a lot to their fellow citizens; I think it’s the lack of outreach that has caused the ‘anti-intellectualism’ that is creeping in to our (dare I say it?) politics and mentality.
    This is a good article, and I definitely encourage those who feel the calling to absolutely go to Grad School.

    dativecempestre

    June 9, 2012 at 14:22

  31. [...] read this article from PhD Octopus just now and was reminded of a post I made a while ago lamenting my decision to [...]

  32. Thank goodness someone else wrote about this. Encouraging people to skip grad school is bad for the nation.

    Grad School Guru

    September 17, 2012 at 20:38

  33. Someone had to say it! I recently applied to a law diploma, and after some research as to what to expect, apparently the outlook is quite dire. It’s article after article about why you shouldn’t apply, and it’s really began to genuinely confuse me. I mean, is grad school really that bad?

    I’ll be sharing this article with a few of my friends who are also quite demoralized by the onslaught of “Don’t go to grad school” posts. It’s ridiculous really.

    Emma Tameside

    September 24, 2012 at 04:01

  34. [...] Wirzbicki, Peter.  “Please… no more ‘Don’t Go to Grad School’ Articles:  A Latenight Rant.”  PhD Octopus (blog).  29 May 2012.  http://phdoctopus.com/2012/05/29/please-no-more-dont-go-to-grad-school-articles/. [...]

  35. [...] “Please…No More ‘Don’t Go to Grad School’ Articles“ [...]

  36. Like my first-year social theory professor always said – “everything’s political”…

    Jae123

    April 15, 2013 at 13:25


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