Thursday, January 9, 2014
Bloomberg op-ed: Can't Get Tenure? Then Get a Real Job, by Megan McArdle:
[A]cademia is now one of the most exploitative labor markets in the world. It’s not quite up there with Hollywood and Broadway in taking kids with a dream and encouraging them to waste the formative decade(s) of their work life chasing after a brass ring that they’re vanishingly unlikely to get, then dumping them on the job market with fewer employment prospects than they had at 22. But it certainly seems to be trying to catch up.
As I’ve remarked before, it’s not surprising that so many academics believe that the American workplace is a desperately oppressive and exploitative environment in which employers can endlessly abuse workers without fear of reprisal, or of losing the workers. That’s a pretty accurate description of the job market for academic labor ... until you have tenure. ...
If we want the job market to get better for academics, then graduate programs have to admit fewer students. A lot fewer.
The “tournament model” of employment, in which a lucky few win the lottery while most people scrape by on very little, is a cruel and unattractive way to run a business. But it is cruelest in glamor industries such as the arts. Growing up on the Upper West Side, before it became the exclusive province of the wealthy, I inevitably met a lot of the people this model destroyed. The worst off were the folks who’d kept getting just a taste of success -- a minor part in a Broadway show, a critically acclaimed performance at a second-tier festival. Those folks kept waiting until their late 30s or early 40s for success and security that never arrived. By the time it was clear it never would, they were broke, and trying to start another career at a time when most people are heading into their peak earnings years. And the slow crushing of hope over a process of decades often did something tragic to their souls.