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The implications for our graduate programs of such things as forking

February 4, 2012

We need to start teaching our graduate students differently.

“Many of these students,” the authors wrote, “will not find tenure-track positions teaching history in colleges and universities”—and it’s time to stop pretending otherwise. The job market “is what it is.” We face no “transient ‘crisis,'” but rather “the situation that we have lived with for two generations.”

That’s the president and executive director of the American Historical Association, quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Digital media and digital culture didn’t create the problem, though one sometimes thinks that one’s colleagues think so, so disdainful are some of them of the engagement with the present that does in fact pose a mortal threat to the traditional, now-nearly-useless, humanities PhD. Rather, digital media presents one of the solutions: digital humanists will be trained in things like database management; in online-community development; dare I say, in sophisticated coding?

Personally, I have a hope that the PhD itself will either transform so as not to include the kind of dissertation that now provides its ultimate certification, or will decrease so far and so visibly in usefulness that the people we hire will rarely have one. But if the structure of the ancient degree is to remain essentially the same, the concerns voiced in the linked article can no longer be ignored.

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