Sunday, September 12, 2010

Get While the Getting's Gullible

Hoooo boy!

If you are enrolled in a graduate degree program, have been enrolled in a graduate degree program, or are thinking about enrolling in a graduate degree program, y'all should read this one. The thesis (academics love their theses) is simple: Higher education is a ponzi scheme.

As a double-strength faculty brat (psychology and journalism, in case you were wondering), this is heresy. According to the family gospel, you Go Forth, Interest Yourself (morbidly) in something arcane, write a thesis on said arcana, score a tenure track job straight out of grad school, get tenure, then toil for 40 years before retiring (early) on a cushy retirement package. And, in fact, this is exactly what my folks have done.

But times change. And when I think about degree programs such as the MFA in creative writing, the MM and DMA in early music, and the PhD in musicology (all of which I've thought, fleetingly, of pursuing), I conclude that the casualness with which institutions of higher learning accept new students in these ever-narrowing, ever more harrowing fields is, well....criminal.

It's a pyramid scheme! Professors need students to justify their existence. Students -qualified only to replicate themselves- need more students in their turn. Everyone passes the buck! And the problem just keeps getting worse: more and more students, fewer and fewer jobs. A friend of mine just landed one of only 37 musicology professorships available worldwide this year (to hundreds and hundreds of qualified PhDs).

It's a one year gig. Visiting professorship, half salary. And she is a lucky, lucky dog.


wombat said...

I wouldn't disagree, but I would add that, in fields like ours that aren't an MBA or a law or medical degree for example, which is to say which are preparation to join a more limited group of peers, graduate education serves a very important purpose for networking and self-advertising. If they don't know you're there, they won't hire you, and a good way to let them know you're there is by studying along side or under them.

wombat said...

I assumed that SLP would be similar, but maybe that's less true. There are a lot more of you people than I ever knew before...

Anne said...

You're right, Ms. Janey, at least for music (I contest creative writing and musicology). But I still harbor the old fashioned notion that grad school should be preparing you for some kind of career. If it's a freelance career, the dept. needs to be realistic about the opportunities available to you and train you in the work required to take advantage of them. If it's something that's preparing you to teach at the college level and that's pretty much it, there needs to be a realistic assessment of how many of those positions are available.

(SLP degrees are a different animal. It's the kind of job where they call your references AFTER you start working. Pretty much you could be dead body with a degree and they would hire you.)