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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Now, I “only” have a bachelor’s in Philosophy, I remember feeling something similar in the moments after I held my diploma. My smile faded like I was on the bus in The Graduate.

    “Now what?”

    Sigh. Good luck, for what it’s worth. I have a half-dozen half-formed thoughts (well, what else is new) about the cause of this issue (self-sorting! the multi-level marketing aspect of the humanities!) and what might be done in order to best address them (sadly, most of them have to do with society changing)… but I’ll chew on them throughout the day and see if I can’t make a three-fourths-formed thought or two.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      It’s a bit like that for me. Probably the same as most graduates, I have about 40% terror about what I will do with my life and 60% loaded with rocket fuel about getting out into the real world and accomplishing things.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      *bachelor fistbumps Jaybird* Mine’s a BBA majoring in accounting. Ugh!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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        says:

        Well, let’s go to the Family Feud.

        Ask 100 people what you can do with a degree in Accounting. It seems to me that the answer “become an accountant” would get the number one place there.

        Let’s ask the same about a degree in Philosophy (or most any “Humanities”)? The number one answer is going to be “Teach Philosophy” (or whatever the Humanities might have been).

        Nobody is going to say “get a job in IT. They need data entry folks who know how to type and if you’re not dumb, you’ll pick up on the various certs that will most help you once you cross the gossip threshold in the breakroom.”

        (Though, seriously, that’s one way to do it.)

        Much of the problem, of course, is that employers will tend to hire someone with a degree vaguely related to the job above someone with a degree in (Humanities) because… well, the job market sucks. Why take a risk on the person who has a degree completely unrelated to this drudgery when you’ve got a shot at someone who has a degree in it?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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        says:

        That may have come out wrong. In any case, if I had an accountant job that I needed to fill and I had two applicants, one who majored in it, one who majored in 18th Century French Literature, I know that I would probably leap at the chance to hire the accounting major.

        Why? Because my automatic assumption is that the 18th Century French Literature major would be unhappy in an accounting job and probably couldn’t do it anyway… or else they would have gotten a degree in accounting.

        And I say that as a philosophy major who ought to know better.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to North
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        says:

        I have a B.A. in math. My first job out of college was working for a different division of the same company I’d worked for one summer, so I certainly can’t attribute it to my degree. (There were a couple of other math majors, but the strong preference was for chemical engineers.)

        But, hypothetically, suppose you were a hiring manager looking for a junior programmer. You have a choice between a top math major (i.e. someone who’s demonstrated a capability for abstract thought, precise reasoning, and mastery of a variety of complex logical systems) and an average CS major (i.e. someone who already knows HTML). If you’re like the vast majority of them, you choose the second one because “I won’t have to pay to train him.” And, honestly, that’s not a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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        says:

        But what if you had to pick between an average CS major and a stellar Film Studies major (Germany and Italy, mostly, but some Austrian, French, and Belgian)?

        My immediate assumption, even though I know it’s unfair, is that the Film Studies guy will only be here until his Film Studies job, whatever that would be, comes through.

        I mean, what’s my goal as manager? What’s my time window? If it’s short, I can see why I’d want the CS guy. If it’s medium, I can see why I’d want the CS guy. If it’s long, I can see why I’d want the CS guy.

        Now, if I’m balancing that against, say, a math major? My time window changes things.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to North
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        says:

        You have a choice between a top math major (i.e. someone who’s demonstrated a capability for abstract thought, precise reasoning, and mastery of a variety of complex logical systems) and an average CS major (i.e. someone who already knows HTML). If you’re like the vast majority of them, you choose the second one because “I won’t have to pay to train him.”

        Really, it’s easy enough to train yourself to program that it’s perfectly reasonable for employers to reject out of hand those people who apply for programming jobs without knowing how. I’ll grant that it’s bad to reject out of hand anyone who doesn’t have a CS degree, but I’m skeptical that this is actually a major problem in the industry, given that I’ve worked with people with academic backgrounds in math, physics, chemistry, aerospace engineering. Honestly, I feel kind of like I wasted an opportunity by studying computer science when I could have studied something else and still got the same jobs.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to North
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        says:

        Brandon,
        I don’t get interviews because of my major.
        Mike,
        I had the opposite happen with a researcher:
        “Any degree but another CS! I cannot get them to do abstract math!”Report

  2. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    I wrote a very long and solipsistic response to this post and then deleted it because it (my comment) was too long and solipsistic. So I’ll write a shorter, but no less solipsistic, comment and say that the OP may very well be right, but I’m so close to the situation, having recently graduated, that I can’t (or I refuse to) think clearly about it all. For me, at any rate, grad school was a poor choice. That doesn’t mean it’s a poor choice for everyone, but I think the default approach to grad school ought to be not to go.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Pierre Corneille
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      says:

      I can understand that. It’s not the best idea to remove yourself from the job market for years for something that might well not pan out. Not to mention the damage it can do to a marriage with a normal person.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Fortunately, I met my now wife while I was in the final half-decade of grad school, and we got married (this July) right after I defended.

        I’m also fortunate that I have a temporary job prospect in which I can actually use my knowledge, and I’m thereby better off than some fellow grads, including those who are smarter and better historians than I am.

        I really do think grad school wasn’t for me, and I just shouldn’t’ve chosen it. But I chose it. In fact, I knew what I was getting into (I had already gotten a MA). So I have only myself to blame.Report

  3. Avatar Roger
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    says:

    “What is needed, it seems, are headhunters who specialize in making academics into productive members of society.”

    Good idea.

    The academic world is one which I never really interacted with — I am that guy that got a business degree to get a job… Yeah, that guy. First some questions…

    Why would anyone want to get a PHD in something like French history? What were they expecting to do with it? Or was it always about personal fulfillment? If so, do PHD’s feel personally fulfilled when graduating? I am really just asking, not trying to be a jerk.

    Is there something wrong with society when middle and upper middle class youths are not focused on being “productive members of society”?

    Some argue that college is more about signaling than learning. What does someone with eight or ten years invested in something like medieval French history signal?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger
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      says:

      1) People get PHd’s for tons of reasons. Having some experience in Academia, they may want to teach. Alternatively, they may want the prestige of being a college professor. Thirdly, they may simply want to hide from a horrid job climate, which they aren’t terribly good at getting a job in.

      2) No, not really. Government offers plenty of jobs that are basically “middle class welfare” (note: not all, obviously!)

      3) If they’re any good, it’s signaling that they’re a decent researcher. Of course, one could also signal that by spying on Chris-chan.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Roger
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      says:

      Good question, Roger. To be honest, for me, it was just that I’d worked labor jobs for years- stock boy, road crew, construction, factory, etc.- and had girlfriends saying, “Jeez, Rufus, you’re smart. Why don’t you do something with it?” Finally, I decided it was worth a shot. I love to read books all day. If it worked out, I’d have a sweet job reading books all day. And, if it didn’t, surely employers would see that I’m bright and can bust my ass on a long-term project and see it to completion. So far, the second part hasn’t happened. I’m pretty determined though. It is hard to convince HR people that I have transferable skills. The irony, of course, is that I’m arguing against the exact same sort of narrow credentialism that gets people into grad school in the first place!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        What’s your degree in?
        HR folks are mostly fools.
        The best thing to do is to have a working prototype (proof of concept)
        and find a hiring manager.

        If what you’re selling is “hey, I can write ad copy” — get something published in the local newspaper (keep the e-mailtrail for proof, it won’t be your byline).

        If you’re trying to sell “I can reorganize your life” — find a charity, and do it.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        I suspect we will experience generational learning — the next generation will not follow in the footsteps of this one.

        As a side comment, I wonder if this isn’t similar in some ways to what you see in the lower classes betting everything on a career in pro sports? The up side is awesome, everyone prods us on with platitudes about how anything is possible… And one out of a thousand grabs the brass ring.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        The best manager I ever hired had a degree in American history. I think he supplemented it with an MBA as he switched to business and consulting. I think he is now running commercial product development for a well known Swiss insurer.

        One reason I hired him is because he used his background to write and publish extremely perceptive critiques of the insurance industry. I could tell he “got it.”

        Just a thought… Are there ways you can leverage your abilities to publish on this or other sites to market yourself by writing on some of the industries you are interested in?

        No need to respond, just spitballing.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Kim: Good idea, thanks!

        Roger: It’s a bit more like a pyramid scheme- some people make it and they tend to have done many, many things right, so the people who don’t usually blame themselves for “failing” overlooking all of the things they accomplished along the way. I loved that world, but man were there some really insecure people with stunted personalities there!Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Roger: to answer your second question, I’m still figuring that one out. I have a few abilities that I’d like to make use of in the future. The first is that I actually have something of a knack for business ideas. I have more friends than I’d like to admit who have done well developing ideas I gave them, using business strategies that I suggested, or even just taking names or advertising plans that I helped work out.

        I like to say that I’m not “anti-business,” just really opposed to businesses that are run badly. At my current job, I am pretty sure exactly how to get that business back on track and have told them, but the management has this MBA mentality (sorry to put it that way!) that the answer is always to cut labor costs. And, besides, I’m just a dish washer, so they really don’t want to hear my suggestions! So, I’d either like to be the guy who comes in and says, “No, no, no! This is what you do!” or find some start up capital to develop one of my own ideas.

        Funny story: just last week, I went to a clothing designer friend for help making some dress clothes that I’ve designed for myself because I hate how boring men’s clothes are and she said, “Let me guess- you’ve had a whole lot of dudes wanting to make you these things for them too because they hate how boring men’s clothes are! I tell ya- we get ’em all the time in here!” Uh, no, but hmmmm…

        Secondly, I know that I can write. I’ve always known I was a writer in the same way that some people say they’ve always known they were gay. And, I’ve also had the same second thought, “Shit! Now what do I do? That’s a hard life to live!” Not that you’d know it from my output here (!) but I find it very easy to crank things out- books, plays, stories, screenplays, essays, etc. etc. Again, however, I have not a single lick of sense when it comes to making a go of it! It’s embarrassing how many times my breaks here could be explained by me stopping to write a play that I wanted to read but had no intention of having produced! I can see why so many creative people married partners who had all of the horse sense that they lacked!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Rufus,
        Ok, I’m probably not the person who should give this shpiel.
        But I’ll try.
        1) If you’re going to start a business (and being a good consultant is a business),
        know how to balance your own checkbook at home. Take a decent look at household expenses, figure out what you can cut. Now, it’s not that you need to cut, but you need to understand, very well, what can be cut. Because those are the exact skills you would be using in getting a fledgling business off the ground.
        Come to think of it: start a business teaching everyday people how to do better with their finances. Take a cut of their savings. If I was a manager, I’d rather hear how “person x who has taught personal finance wants to do businesses now” rather than “joe off the street thinks he can run your business better than you can.”

        2) As for writing? Write some science fiction short stories. See if Analog will publish them. If nothing else, they’re good for some good criticism.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Rufus,

        Sorry for the slow response. Right about the time I made my first comment, I noticed my basement was flooding around me. Spent the day fighting off the water. All is good. We probably needed new carpeting anyways.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Rufus,

        In business, my experience is that the initial rungs really screen for doers. People who can take a problem or set of orders and find a way of implementing them. Creativity and initiative are always important, but they really need initiative focused more on the “hows” and on solving minor glitches.

        The signals of success at this level are a history of accomplishments and successes. Doers who did a lot. Doers who overcame all odds.

        The later rungs look more and more for creative thinkers. People proving not just hows, but new whats. A PHD might be great at this, but only after she also learned how to get mundane shit done in business.

        In all honesty, PHDs were rare in my business. I know of one senior executive, but most of the others were pigeonholed in the Research Center (though these were still pretty cool jobs). These were screened for strong mathematical, economics and research backgrounds. It would be unlikely for a French history expert to stand out in the hiring field compared to more analytical types.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Roger
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          says:

          Roger,
          I really do appreciate all of the inside tips I’m getting in this thread. I would say that writing a dissertation is much more about the solving minor glitches part. You end up spending days and sometimes weeks tweaking footnotes and, well, doing a lot of mundane shit. I tended to do okay at it because I’m fairly detail-oriented and have no problem receiving criticism. I am less skilled at multitasking because I tend to be one of those types where each step needs to be done precisely before we move on to the next thing. My suspicion is that PhDs can do fine in a business environment, but need to have some real connections to get their foot in the door in the first place. I’ve heard of History PhDs who worked their way up to executive positions in companies, but they tended to also come from very well-connected families. Not saying this upsets me terribly- it’s just the way of the world really.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger
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      says:

      Is there something wrong with society when middle and upper middle class youths are not focused on being “productive members of society”?

      This seems like something that doesn’t really work as a rhetorical question, and it’s a question whose undefined terms sort of imply an answer. What is it to be “focused” or to fail to be? What is it to be a “productive member[] of society”? How many youths have to not be so focused for “youths” not to be “focused”? (Just any?) Your other questions seem to me to leave room for people to give answers that stem from their experience, but these categories seem far more dependent on your particular assumptions, Roger, since if “to be focused” can mean “I trust that if I get a degree, things will work out,” and “productive members of society” can mean “be an edged member of civil society adding value to the public discourse,” then perhaps the people who might not be described by some as focused on being a productive member of society could nevertheless accurately be described as being such. (Note: these are all ifs, the point being that the question fully depends on the assumptions and definitions of the terms that the questioner brings to the posing of the question. This makes this question completely unlike the question, “Why would anyone want to get a PHD in something like French history?”, and makes it hard to really think you’re only “asking” the question, not making a statement with it.)

      So I’d turn that particular question back to you, Roger: is there something wrong with society when middle and upper middle class youths are not focused on being “productive members of society? What are the meanings you take the critical operative terms in that question to have (including, how many youths must be not focused on that in order for ‘youths not to be focused on that,’ as it were – just any?)? And why is your answer correct?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        “edged” = “engaged”Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        It is indeed a thought starter, riffing on the “making academics into productive members of society” quote which Rufus introduced, possibly at least in part facetiously.

        I would define productive member of society as someone who added more value to themselves and others than they took out. Said another way, a person who solves more problems than they cause.

        Let us say that someone decides their life’s mission is to measure the diameter of sand grains along the Pacific coast. They find it worthwhile and fun to pick up grains all day and measure diameters. They keep careful records and measure millions of grains over a forty year period. however, nobody ever finds any value in the data. Commercially nobody will pay for the knowledge as it is not worth anything to them. Scientifically nobody is interested as it does not provide any data or lead to any explanations that people find valuable. The sand measurer enjoyed it though. Luckily his family and friends supported him (by doing something productive and exchanging it for food, shelter, health care and such.)

        However, he added no value to society in the eyes of his fellow human beings. He produced no food, created no goods or services that others would be willing to exchange for, he created no relevant scientific or technological knowledge (as revealed by lack of anyone showing any interest in his findings) at all. He might as well have just surfed all day like I enjoy doing (awesome experience, but in no way “productive.”)

        Long set up to say that a person getting an education in a field where nobody is willing to hire them for their experience has not become a productive member of society. He might as well have slept for half a decade, or surfed, or smoked weed, or measured sand, or read poetry.

        “So I’d turn that particular question back to you, Roger: is there something wrong with society when middle and upper middle class youths are not focused on being “productive members of society? What are the meanings you take the critical operative terms in that question to have (including, how many youths must be not focused on that in order for ‘youths not to be focused on that,’ as it were – just any?)? And why is your answer correct?”

        I would suggest that spending tens of thousands of dollars and multiple years to create experts at something nobody else wants, needs or is willing to pay for is indeed unproductive. It is an act of personal fulfillment and does add value, like surfing and reading poetry. However, it is in the end an act of consumption not production.

        My answer is correct to the extent that it is consistent internally, externally and empirically and to the extent it explains the situation better than alternative answers.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Sorry, I missed Rufus’ initial use of the phrase. To be clear, I have no problem with the phrase. But if we have no idea what it might mean for purposes of shared use, it doesn’t ultimately do much for us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        …Pretty dumb that I missed that since it was located in a quote in your comment. Sorry about that. In any case, it’s still a term that needs a definition in order to be useful.

        I’d also say that whether X is a problem, sure depends on whether your description of the situation captures what’s going on (bare facts, causes, etc.), but it also requires a value judgement that won’t be dependent on the facts exactly. I.e., if you were to lay out your understanding of a situation and we were to just stipulate that you have the situation correctly modeled, the question would remain of, if you’re saying there’s a problem therein, why it’s right to see it as a problem. That’s not right or wrong depending on how it matches up to facts (well, in the broader world it is), but as a primary matter, it’s dependent on whether you can justify your normative reasoning about the description of a set set of facts you offer, whether you’ve done so correctly or not. That’s the aspect of correctness in framing (some number [again: what number? just any?] of) youths pursuing humanities degrees that may have little objective value to (some number of) people that I was asking after.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        …Looking at your wording again, that even more the case if the diagnosis that there is “something wrong with society” when X is the case, than just if it’s “X is problem”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        It’s all good (normative claim)

        I agree that the answer to the question of whether something is wrong in society is a normative question and that depending upon a persons values they could answer it various ways. The same is true if I asked if it is wrong to kill babies.

        But let’s not get lost in moral philosophy.

        To the extent that people want to study medieval French history for their own personal enlightenment, it is an act of consumption. If that is what they want, then fine.

        To the extent people study French history thinking it will help them get a job and they are right, then it is productive. To the extent they think it will help and it does not, then it is a mistake, according to the person making the mistake.

        Do I think we “should” want millions of our brightest youths spending tens of thousands and years of their lives studying things which they later decide was a mistake? No.

        Do I think we should encourage youth to spend years of their lives studying something for the intrinsic value of consumption? No. The reason is that it makes us all less productive at serving each other. I do however support their freedom to do so. If it was my son I would explain the pros and cons and let him decide and I would back his decision as long as he did it with his eyes wide open. (He actually decided to hike the Appalachian Trail this year and I supported his decision, I did not call it an act of productivity though).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        So, a few answers here – that’s good. It has to be millions? I thought we were talking grad-level degrees, so I’m fairly sure that’s not the number, unless we’re talking cumulative over time.

        You also seem to continue not to say again that there’s something wrong with society if [condition X – millions of humanities grad students existing, perhaps] is the case. You now say that we simply shouldn’t affirmatively want that many – or indeed, any for whom it’s mistake to be pursuing that endeavor. That’s a really different claim (one I think few people would have much reason to disagree with). The number of French history PhD candidates that we affirmatively want to exist at any one time, i.e. that we’d be concerned about there being a lower number than, is going to be drastically lower than the number there would have to be before we would expect people not to see it as hyperbolically alarmist to say that there are so many that something is wrong with society. It’s a different claim entirely to say that there’s reason to think there’s something wrong with society if more than X number exist, though.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Yeah, but just to clarify, I never made a claim, I asked a question, albeit one which may have encapsulated some of my opinions on the topic.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        If we all agreed all along it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with society, that seems like a good conclusion to have made explicit. As I said, the question didn’t make much sense if you didn’t think that, under the definitions you would adopt for the terms you used, the answer was quite likely yes. I think it’s unlikely that you thought a lot of people other than you here thought the answer was yes, and you were asking in order to talk them out of the view.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        …but yes, actually I had a thought as I was writing that to go back and change “You also seem to continue not to say again…” to “You also seem to continue not to confirm that you think…”, and I just didn’t remember a the end to do so. I think it’s pretty clear you were implying you were pretty strongly inclined to think that, but to be scrupulous about it that’s what I should have said.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Michael,

        I was trying to get a discussion going on the topic of what is a productive member of society and the implications. So far I haven’t really heard from you.

        What are your thoughts on the phrase? Does too many people going into these fields lead to less productive members? Is it, on net a good thing or a bad thing? Why?Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Roger
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          says:

          Just to jump in here with something that I imagine will be a post at some point, I have a handful of friends who run their own businesses and do so with moderate success: they keep afloat, pay their bills, and live fairly comfortably. I’ve asked them how they got started and it’s fascinating to me how many of their stories start with, “First, I came to realize that I am unemployable…”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Can it ever be a good thing for “too many” of anything to exist? By definition, no, right. You are asking terrible questions about all of this, Roger.

        I’m not particularly inclined to share my views, because I don’t really have strong views about this. Generally, I regard the decision to prusue a track of academic study of any kind as relatively productive on the scale of decisions that people in the world at large, or our country at large, make. Further, in most cases I don’t think you’re going to have much success getting a person who thinks that their place in life is studying medieval texts to see that it’s really studying insurance spreadsheets in the short term. They have to learn by following their path. These assumptions lead me to take a hands-off attitude in terms of problematizing these decisions to be a student. I’m curious what you think is going wrong with this decisionmaking (is it something that is “wrong with society”?) if in fact too many people are enroll in programs of study you don’t approve of, and you think it’s a problem.

        My prescriptive view to the extent I hold one is that only really I’m concerned with a few things: 1. Trying to help people avoid decisions they’ll actually regret. I’m not concerned with their productivity; I’m concerned with their happiness. 2. In all fields, providing career services that focus on fostering paths inside and outside the traditional carrer path associated with the field, given that it must be assumed that not every graduate of any program will end up being a teacher or pure researcher in the field, and 3. Getting the message out about grad programs that there are ones from which you emerge having invested mostly time and living expenses (which would’ve probably have been greater on a non-student income in any case) because your slot was funded via grants and teaching fellowships, etc., and then there are those that you rack up tens of thousands of dollars of debt pursuing. People should be aware of the signal that is being sent with that divergence: do they think that the funded places in programs are offered to those who are thought most likely to go on to a career in the field, or in some other fashion. People should be aware of what kind of signal they are receiving based on what kind of enrollment offers they receive. As long as people have those necessary resources and information, I don’t tend to think there is a problem based on the numbers enrolling.

        However, I suspect you’d even view the number of funded places as too great still (but you have been very vague about when it;s the case that “too many” people enroll in certain kinds of academic programs. What’s important to note here is that, unless you actually object to any career-level study by young people of these fields at all, this really does all hinge on the numbers you prescribe. Do you want to be any more specific about how many are the right number of people to be having study various fields at various levels? Or are you only concerned when it rises into the “millions” overall in fields you take a dim view of?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        …I’m not questioning your motives in saying your questions are bad, by the way, Roger. I do think you’re honestly trying to advance a discussion, but you’re also doing so in a leading, Socratic way that rather clearly has a viewpoint of its own (which is okay, hence I’m not questioning your motives). It’s just the case that you’re formulating some real clunkers on this. The good questions you asked were the ones where you simply asked for information that you didn’t have from people who do (I.e. why might a person pursue a degree in French history?”).Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Michael,

        The conversation would flow easier if you quit trying to project what I really mean, or how everything I write proves I am a jerk. Let’s just take me jerk-hood as a given.

        “I’m curious what you think is going wrong with this decisionmaking (is it something that is “wrong with society”?) if in fact too many people are enroll in programs of study you don’t approve of, and you think it’s a problem.”

        I repeatedly said to the extent they found fulfillment in their education that it was similar to my son spending the year hiking or me retiring early to surf. It was value adding, but as an act of consumption, not production. I think learning about medieval Europe would be fascinating.

        “My prescriptive view to the extent I hold one is that only really I’m concerned with a few things: 1. Trying to help people avoid decisions they’ll actually regret. I’m not concerned with their productivity; I’m concerned with their happiness.”

        Again, note that I said something similar yesterday. I specifically said there was a problem with millions pursuing a path they later regret or view as a mistake.

        The deeper question is *what are the ramifications of encouraging people to do something fulfilling which detracts from them being productive?* I have consistently offered up openings to a less emotionally explosive example. Me surfing — or my son hiking all year — rather than being productive.

        To the extent society encourages people to surf, hike or get fulfilling educations which add no subsequent productivity value, is it a good or bad thing? How so? Does it lower our standards of living? Does it result in higher poverty rates and less productivity which can be applied to health care and better education for the needy?

        Personally, I selfishly chose to consume. I do however see collective action problems if everyone thought like me, my son and Rufus.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Roger,

        A few not very well organized thoughts of my own.

        Productivity is indisputably a great thing that we ought to encourage. At the same time, almost all of us like to take some downtime to just kick back, instead of always being productive. Somewhere there’s an approximately ideal balance, probably, both individually and socially, but the sum of the individual balances doesn’t necessarily equal the social balance.

        The end purpose of productivity is to consume. If we’re productive enough that we can afford to consume a year hiking, or early vacation to surf, I’d say we’re doing pretty well. But whether that “pretty well” is at the individual or the social level is a more complex question.

        Perhaps the issue isn’t whether the individual is consuming vs. being productive isn’t the important question, but who is paying for their consumption? Graduate school is a problem in this sense, as it is socially subsidized. If it’s primarily consumption value, that’s no more appropriate than society subsidizing hookers and blow. But it’s probably impossible to distinguish upon matriculation which grad students are an investment and which are ultimately just subsidized to consume–I can’t imagine any screening process that would make that clear; even just tightening up admissions standards to let in fewer people.

        Does this type of consumption (including grad school, hiking, and surfing) lower GDP? Undoubtedly, but that may just be a function of our imperfect measures of GDP. As I understand the idea of heaven, we have everything we need without having to work for it; pure consumption, no investment. What’s the GDP of heaven? How would we measure it? Why would it matter as more than a pure academic exercise?Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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          says:

          Actually, let me piggyback on James’s comment about productivity and consumption here because I don’t think they’re the best metric to use. Also I probably should clarify what I meant with my fairly tongue-in-cheek comment about productive members of society. The corporate world is increasingly asking for higher degrees from the people they hire, with the result that few of us are going to think it’s mere “personal fulfillment” to spend a few years not working and getting an MBA. The way I saw getting a PhD in History from the beginning was as a similar investment because either I would wind up teaching history, recording history, or using those skills in the corporate world. For a number of reasons, I am leaning towards the last option at the moment. What I was perhaps unprepared for was how many other people believe that what one does in graduate school is akin to sitting at the top of a mountain thinking of life. No, most of it is professional training. Actually, a great deal of professional training. My point was that those skills are transferable- to give just one example, one of my friends got a PhD on Heidegger and existentialism and is now quite busy as the head editor at a large corporation. My goal is to do something similar, which I’d imagine would turn my degree from ‘consumption’ to ‘production’. But the issue, as I see it, is one of marketing those skills, and not that it’s somehow self-indulgent to get a higher degree.

          James, I’m open to an explanation of how society subsidizes graduate school. In my case, I was working for the university as well and can quantify how much money I brought in versus how much my waived tuition took out.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        As I’ve said before, conversation is all about trying to re-create from words what someone really means, especially if it’s ambiguous. Asking questions that clearly point toward a particular belief by advancing loaded terminology but not making a statement about whether you yourself believe it is a quintessential case of being ambiguous about what you are saying, and I’m going to try to project about people’s meanings who do that here all day long every day (or to the extent I feel like doing it). You’re free to clarify your views in response; that’s what I’m trying to get people to do when I do that.

        Yes, we have a shared interest in trying to help people avoid making choices they’ll come to regret. But it’s *precisely* your framing of those choices as a broad problem in society that I’ve been interrogating this whole time, not a common sense view that we should help kids make decisionsthey won;t come to regret. I said, “…I’m concerned with a few things: 1. Trying to help people avoid decisions they’ll actually regret. I’m not concerned with their productivity; I’m concerned with their happiness.” You say: “…I specifically said there was a problem with millions pursuing a path they later regret or view as a mistake.” Those re actually very different statements. It’s exactly the contention signified in the bolded text that I’ve been critiquing the whole time. Phrases like “Is there something wrong with society when,” “is it a problem,” etc. It’s not that those are unreasonable views, but you’re not presenting them as views, you’re just insinuating the idea without making arguments for them. I’m pushing you to withdraw those characterizations or make arguments for them. It’s not really very noteworthy that we both agree that it would be good to help kids figure out their best paths through life without having to learn what it is by making major mistakes that they come to regret. What might be noteworthy would be certain ideas about the nature and gravity of a “problem” or defect that exists in society by virtue of the current state of affairs where those decisions and advice are concerned. Perhaps you hold a view about such a problem or defect, perhaps you don’t. It’s not unreasonable for me to have wondered whether you do after you phrased your question the way you did. If you want to lay out your views on this more than you already have, you can. It’s totally up to you.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Well said, James. I agree across the board. The question of who pays adds an important element to the discussion.

        It is one thing to choose consume rather than produce, to hike instead of work, it is another thing entirely when society subsidizes hiking.

        On a different tangent, are there any PHD programs that you guys are familiar with that are aimed at older individuals? Are they always aimed at young adults, or are there programs aimed at seniors? If not, why? Seems learning for learning’s sake is something for older generation too.

        This question is aimed at anyone still interested…Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Roger
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          says:

          It is one thing to choose consume rather than produce, to hike instead of work, it is another thing entirely when society subsidizes hiking.

          Dude, I wasn’t on welfare. I taught a good number of courses in that time. Whether you see that as “consuming” or “producing” is entirely irrelevant. I generated more money for the university than I took out. I also worked full-time while my ex-wife was in grad school and then she returned the favor. And yeah, I haven’t found a job consummate with my training in the two months since getting my degree, but the point of my post and the Times article as I take it is that a PhD in the humanities is nevertheless a process of professionalizing one’s skills and does prepare you for business life. At any rate, I’m attending a chamber of commerce networking lunch in a few weeks with business cards reading, “Real Name. Research, Analysis, Writing, Editing” and not “Real Name. Consuming.”Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Michael,

        I made my views real clear. Your attempts at constantly shifting the topic to me is really irritating. To the extent that you think your role in the comments sections is to explore what people (or what Roger) really means and project it back to them, then be prepared for me to avoid your comments all together.

        Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for that type of discussion. When you try to divert every comment I make to what I really mean and what a jerk I am, then you are just wasting my time. After all, we already know I am a jerk, right?Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @roger

        On a different tangent, are there any PHD programs that you guys are familiar with that are aimed at older individuals? Are they always aimed at young adults, or are there programs aimed at seniors? If not, why? Seems learning for learning’s sake is something for older generation too.

        Sorry I’ve just been popping in and out of this thread, but here’s my anecdotal (always anecdotal….I’m not a quantitative historian!) answer: the two programs I am familiar with (my MA and PHD, at two different schools) tended to get a wide range of students: those fresh out of college; those who had been in the workforce for a few years after college; those in mid 30s or early 40s who have/had families and may have already had a career of some sort but are changing paths; and those in their 50s and 60s who may have had their career and have grown children but are either pursuing another career or doing the program as part of a self-fulfillment thing (e.g., something they didn’t have time to do while raising a family).

        Now, the breakdowns have never, to my knowledge, been equal. To use made up numbers (but numbers that resonate with what I’ve observed) the breakdown might tend to the following: 30% fresh out of college, 45% 5 years (or so) out of college, 20% mid-life, 5% older than mid-life.

        Now, whether these programs are “aimed” at one age-cohort is a different matter. I can’t speak for other age cohorts, but my impression is that in theory, and probably practice, the people who have run the programs I’ve been in seem to be welcoming of all ages.* However, history (if one is pursuing a career in academia along the traditional research track) requires a large time investment, 5-10 years to get the degree,** followed 1 to 3 years of seasoning in the academic market before, if one is lucky, finding a tenure track job somewhere, followed again by 3-5 years process to get tenure. This time frame probably favors the young(er).

        I suppose my main takeaway in all this is that grad programs and the nature of the profession probably means that they’re aimed at younger persons, but not fresh-out-of-college persons.

        *Again, though, I’m on a limb presuming to speak for other cohorts’ experience. I knew

        **Some really do finish in 5 years, but I understand the average is around 7 and it’s not unusual at all for someone (like me) to take 10 years.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Thanks Pierre, that is interesting.

        It kind of ties in with the discussion too as we are circling the issue of how much of these credentials are about personal fulfillment vs a “productive career.” Considering the investment time, we can probably assume the oldies are not going it for a career.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @Roger,

        I think most Ph.D. programs are targeted at younger people. For one thing, as Pierre notes, it’s such a long time investment that it’s going to take a long time to pay off, so fewer older people are going to bother unless they’re doing it purely for consumption (in which case they should probably just take the classes and not worry about the degree). So there probably wouldn’t be much gain for schools/departments in focusing on such folks. Also, grad profs want to recreate themselves, to spawn like-minded folks out into the profession who are going to spread their gospel through numerous high-quality journal publications or books. A younger person will have more time to do that, so the profs will have a preference for youth.

        And I disagree a bit with Pierre about grad school not being so much for those fresh out college. In my experience–but keep in mind, I’m just one guy who went through grad school, so my experience may not be particularly generalizable–the top programs want the brightest stars, so the fresh grad with the great GPA and GRE scores, who’ve “demonstrated” how serious they are about grad school by not taking any career detours along the way, is the most attractive. I understand that, but find it problematic because as indisputably bright as those folks are, they sometimes lack sufficient breadth, both intellectually and from life experience.* But because top grad schools cherry pick those kids, the 2nd and 3rd tiers take a lot more folks like me, who demonstrate aptitude but do take detours. And some of those detours are long, so you do get some older people in those programs, 40s and even 50s, but not much more than that. But the programs aren’t necessarily geared toward them, just more welcoming.

        ____________________
        * I had a prof in grad school who’d gone straight from a B.A. in Women’s Studies to a J.D. where she focused on legal issues that affect women to a Ph.D. where she focused on Women’s Studies and Feminism. She knew that stuff inside and out, but was, to my mind, shockingly deficient in any knowledge outside that narrow field, and lacked the ability to make connections between that area and other fields. I also got damned sick of upper middle class kids–“trustafarian,” we called them–telling me what the poor really wanted. I had one dear friend (and still a dear friend) who announced that she didn’t want to be rich. I pointed out that she already was, and she denied it, pointing out that she was working and paying her own way through grad school. I agreed to that, but noted that her family was very much upper upper middle class, and as one of only two kids she couldn’t escape knowing that she was probably set for life no matter whether she finished grad school or not or ever had any kind of real career or not.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @rufus-f

        Dude, I wasn’t on welfare. I taught a good number of courses in that time… I generated more money for the university than I took out.

        That’s certainly a point to be taken into account. We (I) got careless in lumping all grad students together. I do have doubts about the actual financial value of TAs, folks like me who mostly did little more than grade tests and papers. Running discussion sections, I found, can range from the nearly valueless to the exceptionally valuable (I’m persuaded, based both on my knowledge of the relevant prof and my students’ evaluations, that the students in my Woman and Politics discussion section only learned anything at all from me, not from the actual instructor, but I was never persuaded that I had any value-added in my American Government discussion section).

        But those values are hard to pin down, and much depends on whether we see the reduction in teaching/grading load for the real faculty as socially productive. There are tenured faculty in grad programs who do little to no research, and the research in some fields is–to my mind–far less socially valuable than research in some other fields.

        But all that boils down to some grad students probably are consuming at taxpayers expense, but others aren’t. I won’t pretend I can say something very intelligent about proportions, though.

        As to those who actually teach classes as the instructor of record, they are certainly more productive (assuming they do a decent job at all), than graders and discussion section leaders.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        I am pretty sure nobody thought you were, Rufus.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Roger,

        1. You’re not a jerk;

        2. I haven’t said you’re a jerk;

        3. I haven’t diverted any topics in any way that had either the intent or effect of showing that you are a jerk.

        Yes, I’m always going to be trying to figure out what people really mean around here and talking about it. Sorry. You can respond to that however you please. (But: you weren’t real clear about your views about things being “wrong with society” in particular ways after you raised the topic. You were clear about other things, but moved away from that exact question after you were pressed on it.)Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        James, thanks for clarifying. I often forget that I went to a somewhat unique program in that we did a lot of teaching, after the first two years, and did quite a bit of course development. I taught my own courses, created them, picked the books, and did basically everything a faculty member would. I understand that some schools ask their grad students to do little of this.

        But, imagining that plenty of graduate programs let the students work on their dissertations and do a bit of TA work throughout, what I think would make them a legitimate investment for “society” would be to aim more at the professionalization aspect of the programs, with the idea that those who don’t become tenured profs (i.e. most of us) will go into corporate life. In a roundabout, unclear way, I was trying to suggest this in the post.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        I mean, the real waste of human capital, as I see it, is in training people for several years to develop their intellectual capacities and professional skills and then, at the end, telling them it’s either they get into academia or it’s off to the glue factory.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Oddly, according to my iPad, your last comment got misplaced in the thread, Rufus.

        Three thoughts…

        First, I don’t consider personal fulfillment as indulgent. To paraphrase James the point of production is consumption. Just saying…

        Second, we do need to consider opportunity costs. What could each of us have studied instead and would we have been more satisfied all things considered. I still have some regrets in my path chosen, or at least second thoughts.

        Third, I hate to even say it because people may jump on me for it, but sometimes progress in one direction does not translate into progress in another– indeed sometimes it can be regress. Let me clarify that I am talking about nobody in particular. But it is possible for a person to learn all the wrong things. There are certain ways of thinking in business which contradict certain ways of thinking in academia. I can give examples if people are interested.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        I just stumbled upon this article which addresses many of the issues Rufus hits on…

        http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/11/maybe-you-should-think-about-it/Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        But because top grad schools cherry pick those kids, the 2nd and 3rd tiers take a lot more folks like me, who demonstrate aptitude but do take detours. And some of those detours are long, so you do get some older people in those programs, 40s and even 50s, but not much more than that. But the programs aren’t necessarily geared toward them, just more welcoming.

        I think that is about right. And for the record, I was addressing only my own experiences (not generalizable, either), and my program is 2d or 3d tier (although it believes itself to be competitive to tier 1, and it sometimes corrupts and molds and misrepresents certain statistics to make it seem so, it really isn’t).*

        I also think what you say about TA’ing is spot on, at least according to my experience (Rufus’s seems to be very different). The only exception I can state is that the TA’s in my program often do a lot of the quasi-administrative stuff and are often the point of first contact. But even then, your point about whether or how much value is added is a good one. And sometimes we can indeed help students, but it’s wasteful, often to the point where TA’s are serving as screeners or intermediaries for professors. Ugh.

        *Please keep in mind that I am very disposed to seeing the bad side of it. As much as I fancy myself to be honest, the truth is, I am not unbiased.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Roger
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      says:

      @roger

      Why would anyone want to get a PHD in something like French history? What were they expecting to do with it? Or was it always about personal fulfillment? If so, do PHD’s feel personally fulfilled when graduating? I am really just asking, not trying to be a jerk.

      First of all, sorry to hear about your basement.

      Second, that’s a good question. My PHD is in US History, which is probably a little more obviously relevant (in some ways) than Medieval France is. [But then, who knows? If statists like me have our way, we’ll tighten up the ACA and bring us ever closer on the road to serfdom 🙂 ]

      Part of my bitter response to grad school is coming to terms with why, exactly, I would have wanted to do something like that. I don’t really have an answer and the answers I come up with have more to do with what I perceived my needs at the time to be and not with the intrinsic attraction to the subject matter.

      However, I don’t dislike history. Graduate study introduces one–or at least it introduced “me”–to a way of looking at history that I probably would not have encountered elsewhere. Before grad school, I was vaguely aware that historians disagreed on things and that on any given issue they tended to fall into certain camps, each one bringing something different to the table. Grad school introduced me to these traditions in greater depth and gave me a certain fluency in addressing them, although I’m not nearly the expert my suffix suggests I should be. There’s also a sense of artistry in history, similar to what I imagine literary authors, theater producers ( @newdealer ….are you listening?), and other artists take from their disciplines so that it is almost an end in itself.

      Is that worth spending the time and treasure in grad school necessary to appreciate all that? I don’t know., and my thoughts are contradictory. First, it’s possible–though for me it would’ve been much harder–to gain that appreciation without going to grad school. Second, I’m going to die some day,. and I might as well pursue what I enjoy. Third, the pathologies of academia are much more evident to me as an embittered post-graduate student than the “beauty” or “intrinsic value” of history. In fact, only now that I’m extricating myself from the maw am I beginning to appreciate and read history again (for a long time, I was focused only on my own dissertation topic).

      Fourth, the MA program I was in did pretty much everything I’m claiming for grad school. It was an extensive broadening of my intellectual horizons. The PHD program, not so much. That latter program was more like an “intensive” deepening of my intellectual engagement. I had to specialize in a way that really wasn’t as necessary or as time-consuming in my MA program, although in the MA program I had to specialize enough to write a thesis.

      This doesn’t fully answer your question why anyone would want to study history or French Medieval History. (You might as Jason Kuznicki. If I’m not mistaken, he studied early modern to modern French history, so I suppose he could comment on the appeal of that specific subject more directly.)Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Pierre Corneille
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        says:

        Thanks, Pierre

        It seems you wanted intellectual fulfillment and got it. Are you now happy with your decision?… Would you recommend a similar course to your younger brother if he were in similar shoes?Report

      • @roger

        I don’t have a younger brother. However, if I did, and he were in my shoes, I might recommend he get an MA, but not that he get a PHD. I would like to think, however, that I would give such advice only if he asked me. (Unsolicited advice is often advice poorly given, in my opinion and experience.)Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Pierre Corneille
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        says:

        Yeah, thanks Pierre. I was trying to ask what you would tell your past self if your past self asked.

        In hindsight, I kind of wish I had told myself to go to an elite university and pursue knowledge rather than just a career. I saw college as career prep, and was done with it all before my 22nd birthday.

        After that I spent most of my free time pursuing knowledge of just about anything other than business.

        The paths not taken. Oh well, it is all good.Report

  4. Avatar Jonathan McLeod
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    says:

    Teenage Head! Forgotten Rebels!

    Funnily enough, this dovetails with a Wednesday! post (assuming Chris approves) that I’ve never gotten around to finishing. I should do that. Also, when I was involved with a local Progressive Conservative riding association in the ’90s, one of the bigwigs claimed to have managed Teenage Head back in the day. He seemed pretty dialed-in to the second wave punk scene, so I had/have no reason to doubt him. But I do not remember his name.

    Sorry, that’s really not what this post is about. I’ll try to think of something useful to add.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    2-4-6-8 We Will Not Assimilate! 2-4-6-8 We Will Always citate!

    I’m also a proud holder of a “useless” graduate school degree and have pointed this out many times. I don’t think my MFA will ever bring me riches but I do enjoy the sense of accomplishment in getting it.

    Though to the anti-grad school crowd, I just imagine I sound like a dope.

    I think the bring problem is cultural stereotyping and the end of training programs. Everyone knows the old joke about how a Comp Lit PhD and a buck fifty gets you a cup of coffee. It seems to take a while and a stroke of luck to find employers that are willing to say “Maybe the woman with the art history degree can do this marketing job?” I also think that there is a bit of anti-intellectualism in the practical major and anti-grad school crowd. They discount the value of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and that it makes someone contemplative, respectful, and curious about the world. I love learning. I still do it out of school though I do yearn for being able to discuss the subjects and the seminar table. It is fun learning on my own but it is more fun to do it with other people. People also discount the idea of needing a professor or classroom setting for the study of the liberal arts and humanities. One supply-side management major told me he could study political philosophy on his own.

    The other problem is globalization and the Internet destroying the solid-middle class jobs that used to be held by liberal arts type. Law is in crisis. Media no longer needs paid critics except at a few publications. We know have major cities like Seattle that don’t have a daily newspaper. The old papers are acting as shells of their former self and there are the alt-weeklies but those are not doing so hot either. I imagine that The Stranger survives because of the Dan Savage brand power. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is a three times a week print edition now but around on-line, etc.

    In more gentle times, a lot of MAs in lit could have become local book critics or movie critics.

    I went to a small liberal-arts college. We did not have a business major or an engineering program or any of the other practical/vocational majors that dominate large universities like forsenics, nursing, accounting, etc. The grads for my school still do very well. I know some people who were or are still the stereotypical arts degree holders but most of my classmates became professionals and work in jobs like marketing, advertising, law, medicine, nursing, design, etc.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      You went to a new yorker college. That’s something a bit different than a small liberal arts college anywhere else.
      (I’ll give your college some credit: they bothered putting more than one race in their pictures).

      To speak up for the HR folks, they might be thinking that the person who spent so long being “impractical” might also be “flighty” (and not likely to spend tons of time doing something they don’t like.)Report

    • Avatar dhex in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      “I also think that there is a bit of anti-intellectualism in the practical major and anti-grad school crowd. They discount the value of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and that it makes someone contemplative, respectful, and curious about the world.”

      actually, thinking about this, i’ve come to the conclusion that for some it’s more like how people feel when they read a story about someone’s 7 million dollar penthouse for their dogs or retire at 29 or what have you.

      i think it’s seen as a conspicuous consumption of a luxury.Report

      • Avatar trumwill in reply to dhex
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        says:

        A luxury and sometimes a status symbol.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to dhex
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        says:

        and sometimes a status symbol

        Definitely. When I went to my 20th high school reunion, a number of people were eager to see me because I was the only one from our class who got a Ph.D. (and for various reasons including laziness I was not very close to the top of that class when we graduated). I guess I could have milked it a bit, but I was more fascinated by how many of them went out and started their own businesses. That includes the pretty but seemingly not-too-bright girl who bought a used dump truck after high school, started hauling from construction sites, and built it into a very successful fleet. I think that took a lot more drive, and more courage, than what I did, and yet being the owner of a dump truck company doesn’t confer as much status. And that doesn’t make much sense to me.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      I also think that there is a bit of anti-intellectualism in the practical major and anti-grad school crowd. They discount the value of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and that it makes someone contemplative, respectful, and curious about the world. I love learning. I still do it out of school though I do yearn for being able to discuss the subjects and the seminar table. It is fun learning on my own but it is more fun to do it with other people.

      You’re describing a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with having hobbies, but it’s not anti-intellectual to question the wisdom of devoting that much time and resource to a hobby, when your peers are devoting the same resources to an investment.Report

  6. Avatar David Ryan
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    says:

    “Don’t tell your mother I said this, but I think you’re stupid. I really do.”

    I related this to my wife this morning on our walk. My experience is that she’s pretty inured to the thoughtlessness with which parents often speak to their children, but when I told her this she was sure she hadn’t heard me right.

    Mostly I’m pleased with the discussion my post gave rise to, and this post to. But I do want to make it clear, I’m not anti-intellectual or anti learning for learning’s sake. After all, I have a BFA from a no-name public university.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to David Ryan
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      says:

      Your story is better than mine:

      When I told my mother that I was going to miss the mark for graduating With Honors, she told me that she had never even remotely expected me to graduate from college at all.

      She meant it as a compliment. I accepted it as one. It makes my wife mad.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve been hired into two general types of positions.

    The first is when I am filling a vacancy. Bob got promoted. Bob got fired. Bob quit. Bob died. Anyway, Bob was doing this job two weeks ago and now he’s not and we need you to be the new Bob and do what Bob did.

    In these positions, the expectations tend to be fairly explicit. They know what the job pretty much entails and what doing it looks like. They want Bob. Maybe a little better, but Bob… and, I’ve found, in these positions they want you to have credentials similar to Bob’s. If he had a degree in IT, they’ll want his replacement to have a degree in IT.

    The other positions I’ve been hired into are the “our team is growing from X to Y, find your niche” and in those positions, they tend to care a lot less about credentialism but team chemistry.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      And thinking about this some more, when Bob is being replaced, we’re talking about something that is as likely to be happening in recession as not (assuming Bob doing something particularly essential) and, as such, HR and management will be as conservative as possible.

      If the team is growing, this is something that is much more likely to happen in boom than in bust and so there’s much more likely to be a worker’s market going on.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      @jaybird

      The other positions I’ve been hired into are the “our team is growing from X to Y, find your niche” and in those positions, they tend to care a lot less about credentialism but team chemistry.

      A few years back our college created an institute for health studies, and I was put on the hiring committee. None of us knew what such a thing should even look like–totally clueless. One candidate we interviewed gave us an explicit vision, which didn’t impress us. Another one admitted she didn’t know, either, but had a track record of building up new programs in different areas, so she got the job.

      I’m not sure how that fits into your typology, but I find it an instructive story.Report

  8. Avatar Vimax In Canada
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    says:

    I do agree with all of the concepts you have introduced for your post. They are very convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for beginners. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.Report

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