by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column asks college graduates whether they really want to go to grad school.
Many college graduates think to themselves, “I don’t have any immediate job prospects that are attractive and I can easily get into grad school with the chance of eventually getting my PhD and then a tenured professorship; I guess that’s what I’ll do.”
If you know anyone in that situation, do him or her a big favor by suggesting a new book by Georgetown University philosophy professor Jason Brennan: Good Work If You Can Get It.
This year (at least before COVID-19 struck us), about 80,000 students were planning to begin doctoral programs, but, Brennan cautions, “most are destined for disappointment.” That is because only about 20 percent of those students will ever obtain any faculty position, much less the coveted tenured professorship at a good school. He wrote the book to guide the many would-be professors who are “clueless, naïve, and misinformed about what grad school and academia are really like.”
There has been a crying need for a book like this for many years.
Something needs to offset the perverse incentives that current professors have to encourage as many sharp students as possible to consider going for a PhD and the benefits it might bring. After all, grad students are themselves a valuable resource for senior faculty, who often give students an unrealistically optimistic view of the path ahead of them.
In the U.S., the PhD is poorly suited to students who thirst for self-discovery and personal enrichment.
It is a professional credential meant to train new college faculty. If you don’t relish the prospect of spending loads of time doing what faculty members are expected to do—teach, grade, counsel, and write, write, write—then you should try something else, Brennan advises.