academia is a crock: part 2

on sunday i explained my evolving theory about why so many crazy people end up in academia. this is all grounded on a piece i heard by alain de botton (which i wrote about here) and my ongoing conversations with jason spicer.

when spencer and i talked, i broke the reality up into phases 1-5.

  1. academic jobs are attractive because you get to read, write, and do awesome research all while having absolute job security.
  2. the attractiveness created a massive demand problem. too many people wanted too few jobs.
  3. as a result, academic institutions have, over time, instituted a crazy gauntlet (the phd process) that is predicated on weeding people out. as phds have become more and more rigorous, fewer people make it through. in some ways, this balances the supply and demand.
  4. however, what the phd process has now become is insane. for years, you are continually training to critique everyone’s ideas (including your own) ruthlessly and without shame. then, after reading and critiquing everyone else in your field, you are left essentially on your own to come up with your own ideas.
  5. by the time you’re ready to apply for one of the few jobs in your field, you have been pruned and preened to destroy everyone and everything around you (via critique and your well-refined ability to go it alone) to achieve your goal.

and yet we wonder why so many professors and academic departments are fucking insane…