Previous page Table of Contents Next Page

Editor's Corner

Are there too many Ph.D.'s in archaeology? Or is the question really, Are the Ph.D.s trained in the vast majority of graduate programs likely to obtain meaningful employment in the academy? If the answer is no, is what they are learning in these programs going to serve them well in the increasingly primary market of the contract field? Joseph Schuldenrein examines these and other questions in a very interesting report on a conference held recently at Barnard College in this issue's Insights column. The conference offered a wide spectrum of opinion from the private sector, the academy, museums, and government service on just what kinds of training archaeologists need to create their careers in these difficult times. Some of the most interesting commentary came from graduate students facing the realities of the job market with a mixture of confidence, optimism, and resignation. The report can be read at a number of levels, but the one that captured my attention was only obliquely mentioned: the ethical issue of producing many more Ph.D.s than are remotely likely to get academic employment. I have had colleagues argue that graduate programs should declare a moratorium on admissions for varying lengths of time. Others argue that as long as programs honestly inform students at the start of their graduate careers that the chances of obtaining that dream job are very small, we have discharged our ethical duties and can keep our programs running. I imagine that while most of us feel the ethical pinch in continuing to produce students, we are also very aware of the consequences of allowing this ethical concern to come to the attention of predatory administrators with cost-cutting agendas. Schuldenrein and others suggest that a middle ground would be to retool aspects of our programs to provide our students with some of the very different skills they need to succeed in the contract world. This too may prove impractical for most of us, but it may be a sensible option for some programs to pursue. One thing is certain in all of this: we as a discipline must take this question seriously over the next decade and develop some acceptable responses. If we don't, someone else will do it for us, and it's quite likely we won't like the results.