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Laurie Shrage
Somerville, MA
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I teach at a “minority-majority” university, where most of my students are Latino/a and/or black. Students who ask me for advice about going to graduate school in philosophy are generally our top philosophy majors. Like Prof. Bar On, I want them to make this decision with their eyes open, but before discouraging them, I try to find out why they are considering an MA or PhD program in Philosophy. I ask all students seeking my advice about their choice of an advanced degree field, even those who are seeking advanced degrees in medicine or law. Once I’m somewhat convinced that their choice of field for an advanced degree makes sense in light of their career goals and earnings expectations, I ask them about other options they have considered, and especially if they would be passing up potentially more promising opportunities in order to pursue an MA or PhD in philosophy. Some of our students have second majors, and I especially ask those students to discuss with their professors in these other fields what opportunities might exist. While it would be good for Philosophy to attract the best and brightest students I have, I see my primary obligation to be to my students, and so I to try to help them make the choice that is best for them. My general advice to my mostly low-income students is not to go into debt to get a humanities PhD. If they can get a fellowship that covers tuition and living expenses at a good graduate program for four to five years, this is typically better than the minimum-wage job they usually can expect to get with their philosophy BA for the near future. At least while continuing their education, they will pick up job skills and knowledge that should ultimately help them find rewarding work. I believe training in Philosophy is great preparation for many kinds of work, and I agree with Prof. Bar On’s suggestion that the APA should follow the lead of the AHA and MLA and investigate how graduate training in our discipline can better prepare students for multiple career paths.
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Sep 20, 2015