Quitting academia?

When discussing how faith affects one’s participation in academics, the question inevitably arises about when and if quitting is appropriate. When one gets to do academics well – i.e., do the research we love, teach those enthusiastic about our topic, have the freedom of being or own boss, etc. – it’s the dream vocation: “the place where my passions and the world’s needs intersect.” (Frederick Buechner). But most of the time, it’s not this way (as the quit lit has told us): even for those who’ve achieved tenure.

When is the cost of academia (time, money, stress, etc) too much for one’s faith, health, family, etc? Not only Christians ask this, but so do people of all faiths and even those who would not claim to be spiritual but merely interested in wellness. So if many people are asking the questions of whether academia is good, why is it so hard to quit?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a wonderful article explaining Why It’s so Hard to Leave (Debra Erickson). To give you a small indication of the wisdom she shares, she cites perceived sunk costs and the nature of the PhD – training you only to do academic work and networking only with academics – as some of the reasons that leaving academia is so hard.

For those who have ever wondered about quitting, or about why intelligent people stay in a system where it’s so hard to succeed well, Erickson’s article is a very helpful read.