Lower education

In the spirit of Dan's post below about how the economy is affecting his job, I'd like to say a couple of words about how the job market is affecting academia. I am a graduate student in philosophy, and have a child who seems for some reason (maybe Dan could give some medical reason for this) to like it when there is food on the table. I plan to go out on the job market two years from now, and the prospects are terrifying. Hundreds of jobs listed this year in the field were withdrawn (including two by my university). It is widely predicted that next year will be worse. Endowments are shrinking, hiring freezes are everywhere. At my university, there will be furlough days for employees. Older professors who might have retired are hanging on to their tenured jobs, waiting for their retirement accounts to bounce back.

I do hope that some of the investment made by the Obama administration will be in higher education, as he did indicate during the campaign. I don't imagine it will be a big part of the stimulus package -- it would take too long to pay off, no? But it is an investment that would reap dividends, years down the road.

Of course, I can't make that argument for my particular department. Investing in philosophy will not help the long term health of the economy. I've always been discouraged by the fact that, if an asteroid is coming to earth, and a small group is rocketed away to save the human race, a philosopher probably will not be mong them.

I can say, though, that if there weren't already too many people with PhDs and no job to show for it, there certainly will be soon. Everyone I know is talking about what else to do (sommelier?). We probably can't do what we've trained to do.


  1. I had never thought of measuring one's worth by whether or not they rocket you to safety before the asteroid strikes. For some reason, I would probably get elbowed out of my slot my some snot-nosed Nobel naureate.

  2. Elizabeth, if it is employment in academia you are worried about go abroad for a few years. You can almost assuredly get a teaching post in Philosophy in an African University, or you can teach English in a host of countries. Or you can join adjunct hell and teach Phil. 101 in a host of community colleges in New Jersey.