Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

In Defense of the Humanities (or, Kotsko Hulks Out)

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Before the Pop Culture Lunch yesterday some of our grad students were teasing me for my somewhat jaundiced view of graduate education in the humanities. (And this, despite my actually telling people to go, given certain conditions!) In that vein let me link to Heather Horn’s relatively compelling but imperfect defense of the economic rationality of the humanities Ph.D. in The Atlantic:

So what’s the deal that most twenty-somethings are taking when they say “yes” to an offer of admission? They’re taking five years of, let’s say, $20,000, studying something they’re truly passionate about, for a shot at a tenure-track position five to seven years down the line, and a shot at a tenured position in the long run with unbeatable benefits and job security. The downside is that it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll actually wind up with that job in the end. In other words, they’re accepting five years of pretty decent, if low-paying, security with a whole lot of questions once those five years are up.

This article seems to have prompted a fairly wide-ranging discussion of the economics of graduate school on Twitter, which I’ve partially Storified here more or less entirely for the purposes of recording Adam Kotsko’s excellent rant on the subject. Some highlights:

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