The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind’

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Thomas H. Benton writes:

One reason that graduate school is for the already privileged is that it is structurally dependent on people who are neither privileged nor connected. Wealthy students are not trapped by the system; they can take what they want from it, not feel pressured, and walk away at any point with minimal consequences. They do not have to obsess about whether some professor really likes them. If they are determined to become academics, they can select universities on the basis of reputation rather than money. They can focus on research rather than scrambling for time-consuming teaching and research assistantships to help pay the bills.

…She has even removed the Ph.D. from her résumé, with some pain, but she lives in dread that interviewers will ask what she has been doing for the last 12 years… she continues as an adjunct who qualifies for food stamps, increasingly isolating herself to avoid feelings of being judged. Her students have no idea that she is a prisoner of the graduate-school poverty trap.


Is it just me, or does graduate study resemble the cycle of abuse? People who have been abused become abusers. People who have got doctorates and still struggle to pay the rent groom others to enter graduate studies…

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent article! As a friend of many Ph.D. and Ph.D. candidates, it is amazing hoops they must go through to get the degree and then not even have a chance to work in their field! Most universities are closed educational systems, both ideologically as well as relationally (“It’s all in who you know and are connected to in the field.”) It is refreshing reading someone who is challenging and exposing the system from within the system. However, the note of futility at the end of the article makes me wonder if he too is not just raging against the machine.

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