The Dilemmas of Graduate Education

Brainstorm_bousquetMark Taylor's op-ed on graduate education in the NYT has generated a lot of discussion. One of the more critical responses has been from Marc Bousquet, author of How the University Works, in The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Why golly, the problem with the university is that there aren’t enough teaching positions out there to employ all of our excess doctorates Mark C. Taylor says: “Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist).” Because there are just too many folks with Ph.D.‘s out there, “there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.”

Um, nope. Wrong. The New York Times loves this bad theory and has been pushing it for decades, but the reality is clear.

In fact, there are plenty of teaching positions to absorb all of the “excess doctorates” out there. At least 70 percent of the faculty are nontenurable. In many fields, most of the faculty don’t hold a Ph.D. and aren’t studying for one. By changing their hiring patterns over the course of a few years New York or California — either one — alone could absorb most of the “excess” doctorates in many fields.

Bousquet follows up in The Valve:

If you think I’ve been hard on Mark C. Taylor and the New York Times for their “hey! I went to graduate school, therefore” theories of higher education, you should consider that bad journalism and bad leadership have real consequences for people I care about, like Jamie Owen Daniel and the young fellow pictured below the fold.

In point of fact: I was rather tame by comparison to pretty much everyone else who actually knows anything about academic labor, especially the always-blistering Historiann and Jonathan Rees. Even the guy over at Savage Minds who wants to agree with Taylor admits, “this op-ed sucks.”

I answered most of the responses in the comments portion of the original post, such as where to find the data.

Among the excellent responses, I felt one deserved a post of its own. It went something like this: “well, if demand for education is rising, and tuition is soaring, where does the money go, if not to the faculty?”

For that, I promised to reprint this post from before I joined Brainstorm.