a benton “the big lie” rejoinder


This will likely come as quite the surprise to my readers but I actually like James Mulholland’s rejoinder in the Chronicle to the Thomas Benton piece I linked to a few weeks back.

In it, Mulholland endorses the “life of the mind” and the idea that people should approach the humanities because they love what they do, regardless of the outcome. In many respects, that approach doesn’t work for me. I’m not a “regardless of the outcome” kind of person. The way I grew up (and the way I suspect many minority/working-class families operate), increasing levels of education corresponds to increasing levels of stability and wealth. So I’m not backing away from what I see to be a flawed system.

But what I like about Mulholland’s argument is that he proposes stripping away any idea that getting a PhD means any economic gain. He explicitly rejects the underlying premise of professor equaling middle-class life.

I appreciate that kind of honesty and I appreciate that our students in particular need people who bring that kind of passion to their work.

For the first time in two months, I’ve read a counterpoint to my side of the debate that isn’t putting down graduate students, telling them to suck it up, or minimizing the dreadful job situation. It’s a more positive take on things and, as a result, gives me some food for thought.


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