Phil Sandifer explains the PhD lottery

And why it is best avoided. Let it not be said that the man has never written anything sensible:

At the end of my last class of the semester, one of my best students – one who, out of some tragically misguided instinct, actually took a class with me a second time because he enjoyed it – came up to tell me that he’d had a good semester but didn’t think he was going to re-enroll next semester. I asked why, and he explained that he had a job lined up in the family business and just couldn’t justify the loans.

Years of defending academia and the value of a college education reared up inside of me, ready to make an impassioned speech. I wanted to tell him not to. And… I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Because he was right. I could not in good conscience tell one of my best students that it was worth the loans. And in hindsight, that was the moment I decided I was well and truly done with academia.

I had been going to take one last stab at the job market this fall. With the Flood book done and maybe one or two more articles in process, and maybe even a book deal on an edited version of my dissertation. Just to answer the question, one last time, of whether I could make it in academia.

Which is, as it happens, terribly silly. Academia is not a meritocracy. It’s a lottery, in which the grand prize – a tenure track position – is dangled over the heads of everybody so that we agree to work for the appalling wages that adjunct faculty get…. Meanwhile, the odds on tenure track appointments are astonishingly grim. It’s not unusual for a job to get five hundred applicants. There were, last year, maybe two dozen jobs in my field.

This lack of employability also tends to explain why educated SJWs have so much time to comment so prolifically at File 770 and elsewhere.

I find it very interesting that both Dr. Sandifer and I have reached precisely the same conclusion about higher education, despite our vastly different perspectives. Then again, we probably have very different ideas about the solution, as his likely involves increasing the demand whereas mine would involve eliminating the larger portion of the supply.

In any case, the best way to be done with academia is to avoid starting with it unless it is necessary for your job.