But one that I'd like to see more specific data about is a trend whereby the PhD and inventive variants are promoted as good bets for working in various unnamed industries or libraries. Aren't librarians having trouble finding work? What kinds of industries? What kinds of foundation work? The articles I've seen tout 3 or so success stories as the wave of the future, but what are the facts?
Sometimes the Ph.D. is promoted as an enrichment degree so valuable even if you don't get a job, you'll be glad you spent 10 years doing it, which might be true if you are independently wealthy or retired.
Sometimes they even propose expanding or creating new degrees that don't have the expectation of university teaching at the end of it, as in the recent kerfuffle at Cornell. The descriptions of what exactly graduates would do are both uplifting and stunningly vague, as though even those proposing the degree don't have much of a concept beyond mad critical thinking and research skilz--good in themselves, but how about specifics?
Sometimes, it's not only an enrichment but something you owe it to the world to treat as a calling:
To sustain scholarly inquiry, we need scholars around the country and world engaged in research and capable of critically assessing each other’s work. We need to ensure that humanities graduates at all levels — in K-12 schools, museums, local societies, media, universities, and government — have the space and time to engage in scholarship and be part of the conversation.Well, yes. Yes, we do need scholars. Let me add the important corollary that scholars need to eat, and have health insurance, and maybe a place to live and a car to drive, even if you're not counting expensive, frivolous extras like having children.
The article goes on to say we need to address supply and demand:
On the demand side, we must expand the number of tenure-line positions in the humanities across the nation and resist the deprofessionalization of teachers and professors.Well, done and done, then!
I should not be so cynical about this, but it is crazymaking to read something like this--"we must expand"--when none of this, none, zip, nada is in the power of ordinary academics to do. We can try, but we do not control the money. Let me repeat: We do not control the money. We have little say over how it is spent, how salaries or research funds are allocated, and did I mention having no control whatever over allocations from the state or Board of Regents or whoever determines the university's budget? For most of us, simply retaining a line when someone retires instead of having it snatched back by central administration is cause for feasting and dancing around a sacred idol.
When I was little and saw Peter Pan, there was a scene where Tinkerbell was dying and we all had to clap our hands and believe if we wanted to make her well. Without more facts, these articles seem to me to be saying "clap your hands if you believe, and you will make it so." I wish these confident assertions were true, but I want some investigative reporting rather than opinion pieces to tell me how they might be.