There's a discussion today over at Leiter Reports responding to a grad student's question about accepting a job in a "third world" country. To my dismay, it took exactly one comment for someone to mention how accepting such a job might "actually be better than coming from a crappy US university", and a second comment to note that, "you would be infinitely better off by teaching at the top university of a developing country, than by teaching at an average US college."
On the one hand, I understand that such stereotypes exist, and that the commenters on the Leiter thread are attempting to give the graduate student in question sound advice based on that such stereotypes exist--and I appreciate them attempting to give sound advice. On the other hand, I think it is really important to combat such stereotypes.
First, I think such stereotypes send a harmful, dismissive message to grad students and our colleagues in the discipline more broadly. For instance, consider the commenter in Basil Smith's recent thread who stated, "But (say the values inculcated in me by my graduate department) [are] only losers and idiots work at community colleges." Is this really the kind of discipline we want to work in? I hope not. Second, the stereotypes in question seem to me profoundly unfair to job-candidates. There are all kinds of reasons unrelated to merit or philosophical ability for why someone could end up working at a given type of school:
- A person may be a fine philosopher but come from a dysfunctional graduate program, or have a dysfunctional relationship with their advisor--both of which might have affected their initial placement on the job-market.
- Sometimes people end up in certain types of temporary jobs as a result of choices having little to nothing to do with merit [e.g. a desire to live in a city or country where one's spouse can work, etc.].
- The job-market itself is well-known to be crapshoot. Everyone says there are far too many good candidates for too few jobs--so the fact that someone gets a temporary job at type of institution rather than another may be largely a matter of luck.
Anyway, I honestly have no idea how common the aforementioned stereotypes are. All I can say is: please, let's be fair to our colleagues and job-candidates. Let's stop talking about "crappy schools" and the like, and try our best evaluate job-candidates on the basis of their accomplishments rather than stereotypes about their institutional affiliation.