Thursday, May 24, 2007

Communication Breakdown

That piece from the Village Voice I mentioned yesterday was about the changing academic job market, and graduate student unionization as a response to those changes. As some you might already know, it recently became illegal for graduate students at private universities to form unions. That was a fight the Columbia students described in the Village Voice article lost.

Now, the main argument used publicly by anti-unionization people in academia--at Columbia and other places--was that grad school isn't work exactly. It's an apprenticeship. The teaching we do isn't cheap labor for the department. It's Teaching Experience! The research assistance work isn't cheap labor for our supervisors. It's Photocopying Experience! So, this line of thinking goes, it doesn't make any sense to see grad school as the kind of work that needs to be protected by any collective bargaining unit.

In this context, it's interesting to look at the reaction of some philosophers to that Village Voice article. A lot of people seemed to think it was "inflammatory." And here's one grad student's thoughts about why it's inflammatory:

But the worst part of the article is how dreary it makes grad school seem. What student advisers need to impress upon undergrads thinking of doing a PhD is that they must regard grad school as an end in itself, not merely as a means. It is most certainly not a long and arduous apprenticeship that naturally terminates in one's being admitted to the guild.

Look, this guy didn't get the idea of grad-school-in-philosophy-as-an-end-in-itself on his own. It's just plain responsible for advisors to tell students they absolutely cannot expect to get a job when you're done grad school. But how does that square with the idea of grad school as professional training, an idea that was supposed to justify denying students the right to organize?

Update: Links fixed! Sorry about that. My copying & pasting skillz are, shall we say, less than mad. --PGS


Anonymous said...

The links for "Teaching experience!" and "inflammatory" don't work. Any other readers noticing this, or just me?

Anonymous said...

Ahh, I figured it out. For some reason "http://" appears twice in the URL when you click the link, so if anyone else is experiencing this same problem just delete the second "http" and you can see the link.