Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, May 28, 2010

reforming the humanities PhD

Views: A New Humanities Ph.D. - Inside Higher Ed:

Humanities education needs to do more than change the shape of the dissertation, legitimate non-academic jobs, or validate academic jobs that are not tenure-track teaching posts. The crisis in academic humanities, brought on by years of focus on nothing but turning out professor-wannabes, has to be addressed long before the job-placement stage. Long before the dissertation stage. We need to train Ph.D. students differently from the first day of graduate school.

If we value the humanities enough to teach them at the undergraduate level, if we believe that humanities education produces thoughtful, critical, self-aware global citizens, then we need to recognize that advanced training in the humanities cannot be simply the province of aspiring tenure-track faculty members. If there’s no prospect of a tenure-track job in the humanities, and humanities graduate programs train students for nothing but tenure-track jobs, how long can these programs be sustainable?

The current job crisis may be just the impetus graduate humanities education needs in order to recognize that what it has to offer is essential to this democracy, and essential to training leaders in a whole range of fields, far beyond academics.


  • Item: Who actually wants to hire a newly minted humanities PhD, other than an academic department? What fields really require academic training over the extensive job experience those new PhDs could have gotten if they'd spent their twenties and early thirties working instead of studying and TAing? And when will a PhD ever be more valuable than job experience, outside academia?

  • Whoops! I apologize for conflating the degree with its holder in my last question.

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