Thomas Sowell

It is fascinating to see people accusing others of things that they themselves are doing, especially when their own sins are worse.

Academics love to say that businesses are not paying enough to people who work for them. But where in business are there people who are paid absolutely nothing for strenuous work that involves risks to their health?

In academia, that situation is common. It is called college football. How often have you watched a big-time college football game without seeing someone limping off the field or being carried off the field?

College athletes are not to be paid because this is an "amateur" sport. But football coaches are not only paid, they are often paid higher salaries than the presidents of their own universities. Some make over a million dollars a year.

Academics also like to accuse businesses of consumer fraud. There is indeed fraud in business, as in every other aspect of human life -- including academia.

When my academic career began, half a century ago, I read up on the academic market and discovered that there was a chronic over-supply of people trained to be historians. There were not nearly enough academic posts available for people who had spent years acquiring Ph.D.s in history, and the few openings that there were for new Ph.D.s paid the kind of salaries you could get for doing work requiring a lot less education.

My own pay as a beginning instructor in economics was not high but it was certainly higher than that for beginning historians.

Now, 50 years later, there is a long feature article in the February 17th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education on the chronic over-supply of historians. Worse yet, leading university history departments are resisting demands that they keep track of what happens to their students after they get their Ph.D.s -- and inform prospective Ph.D.s of what the market is like.

If any business operated this way, selling customers something that was very costly in time and money, and which the sellers knew in advance was almost certain to disappoint their expectations, academics would be bursting with indignation -- and demanding full disclosure to the customers, if not criminal prosecutions.

But The Chronicle of Higher Education reports "faculty resistance" to collecting and publishing information on what happens to a university's history Ph.D.s after they leave the ivy-covered walls with high hopes and low prospects.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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