Episode #25: The Grad School Mess with Leonard Cassuto

Peter Wood

Two weeks ago, Amity Shlaes and I discussed (among other topics) whether graduate school is a good investment. Today, I sit down with Leonard Cassuto to trace how graduate school became such a tangled web, and whether it can be straightened out.

Len is the author of The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It, published in 2015 by Harvard University Press. He also writes a column for the Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Graduate Advisor.” Len is a professor of English at Fordham University and the author of numerous books including Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories.

Len and I talk shop about graduate school statistics—the average time it takes to earn a Ph.D., whether the standards for dissertations are too high, and the numbers of newly minted Ph.D.s who can’t find academic jobs.

We also spar over the purpose of higher education and disagree about whether colleges are doing a good job of transmitting culture. (Len is much more optimistic than I am.)

At the end, I ask Len to name the best crime stories featuring graduate students. He shares a few pieces of fiction—and one crime story that really happened.

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