The [academic] job market is brutal, we all know that. Grad school is a gamble, and most people shouldn’t take it — a good thing to point out. But this business of “The Big Lie” … deliberately brainwashing students about the “life of the mind” in order to suck them into exploitative … careers…. simply isn’t true.
The lack of data, the bad career advice, the unrealistic expectations, all of these are not the product of some conspiracy, but of a poorly organized and often anarchic system that has developed without any overall plan at all. To improve it, we need to think about the systemic patterns that produce it, not seek out some tenured villains to blame it on.
Take the lack of placement statistics. [It’s not] that “Most departments will never willingly provide that information because it is radically against their interest to do so.” … They won’t provide that data because in most cases they don’t have it. Large graduate programs in the liberal arts are strikingly anarchic places…. It can be difficult to get a list of the graduate students who are enrolled, let alone those who aren’t around any more.