In comments from a few days ago, JC bemoans the PhD graduation rate at his alma mater. I can relate—my dept has a pretty dismal attrition rate. And while on the face of things this might look like just one more way my dept excels in its suckitude, upon closer reflection I’m not so sure.
A lot of the people who don’t finish the program really shouldn’t finish—they get kicked out or wither away because they just can’t hack it. This is a good thing, ultimately. Depts aren’t doing people any favors by stringing them along when they have no hope of ever working in the profession.
And then there are the folks who bail because they’ve got something better going on. It was a pretty formative moment in my graduate education when I realized that the people who made it all the way through my program weren’t necessarily the smartest or the best philosophers. Often, they were the ones who stuck around because they had nothing better to do.
But there are also people—really good people—who don’t finish because many of our faculty members are perfectly happy to let good people fall through the cracks. I’ll save my bitching about those fuckers for another post.
Still, it’s sort of a mixed bag, the attrition thing.