APA Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy

Continuing its remarkable reform and modernization under its new Executive Director, Amy Ferrer, the American Philosophical Association has released a new version of the Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy.

They are to be commended for this effort. To be honest, I had no idea the APA had ever published such a thing, since in their own words the Guide had “languished” for many years. I’m very glad to see that they are again taking on their responsibility to keep track of what’s going on in the profession. Those seeking to enter philosophy, more than those already in it, will find the new Guide immensely useful.

It must be said that the Guide is fairly pedestrian. It was obviously compiled simply by soliciting information from graduate programs. There was not much effort to enforce consistency or completeness in the responses. Still, the Guide is valuable, especially in that it is a centralized and authoritative resouce, backed by the APA itself.

Of interest related to this venue, the Guide includes placement information for PhD programs. I am very happy about this. The main purpose of this site, as I note in the introduction, is to show that placement information can be reliably collected and compared, and thus to lobby the APA or some other authoritative body to take on this project.

Though it is an admirable first start, the Guide does not do a very good job of presenting useful placement information. It replicates all the inconsistency of the various departments’ own reporting on their placement pages. For instance, some departments report initial placements, while others report current positions. E.g., I don’t think a 2009 graduate is still in a “1Y” (one-year) position, as listed in one cases, or that a 2008 graduate was placed into a “tenured” position, as listed in another case. Also, there is no indication, since names are not used, whether programs are duplicating placements; e.g., reporting an initial placement in 2008 and a subsequent placement of the same individual in 2010. As a result, it is hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the placement records of different programs using the Guide.

The APA can improve its reporting if it starts collecting placement information prospectively, in a uniform and rigorous way. This would be much like Leiter’s placement threads, except that the reporting would be solicited, not voluntary, and thus much more complete. (I can imagine that the APA might have to note that a program “did not provide information,” as it does in the new Guide for other bits of information.)

Still, I want to stress that the Guide is much, much better than what the APA had done before–which is to say nothing at all. I hope to see continued publication and improvement of the Guide.

UPDATE: Other concerns have been raised over at Leiter’s blog here.

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Posted November 9, 2012 by David Marshall Miller in Uncategorized