Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just to Prove that I'm a Person Too

Bear with me while I climb back on to my hobby horse, and take her for a little canter. Remember that old Leiter peice from the Chronicle I linked to a while back? On the whole, it's a really good piece about how crappy the market was back in the bad old days. But then, there's this one weird paragraph:
Competition for jobs may be fierce, but it is not hopeless. This past academic year, 1997-98, departments at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Michigan, Minnesota, and Northwestern all hired rookie candidates -- though in each case the candidate hired came from one of the top 15 graduate programs in the field.

Um, okay. So the very best candidates from the very best departments got jobs. What to conclude from this?

That's the first point worth making: Overall job-market statistics are misleading, because they reflect not only how the graduates of top programs fare, but also how the graduates of less-distinguished programs fare.

What now? Overall job market stats are somehow misleading because they reflect the overall job-market? Would they be less misleading if they just ignored candidates from lower-ranked schools? This is sort of like conservatives saying that if you can afford good health insurance, American has the best healthcare on the world. I mean, yeah. If you ignore the 40 million or so uninsured people, you can argue America has a pretty good healthcare system. And if you ignore all the philosophy grad students least likely to get jobs, the job market doesn't look so bad either.

As I say, this is sort of out of place in Leiter's piece, which is otherwise really good. And as I've said before, I think Leiter's a lot better than most at trying to give prospective grad students a candid take on the job market. But still, this one paragraph captures a weird strain of bad faith that's out there. (You can see it lurking on the sidelines of this Brian Weatherson post.)

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