Thursday, December 24, 2009

Are Canadian philosophy PhDs discriminated against?

This article won't tell you.

This is incredibly simple and shoddy inference. Groarke and Fenske note that seven-in-ten faculty in (English) Canadian philosophy departments have PhDs from outside of Canada. Of the third that have Canadian PhDs, half are from the UofT. They find that this holds more or less across the country.

From these findings, they infer that there is discrimination against Canadian PhDs. Their inference is unsupported by their data.
Suppose I conducted a study, and I told you the following:

A recent study of hiring by the federal government across all departments for all positions outside of the capital region found that only .1% of hires had a degree from University XYZ. Clearly, this points towards discrimination against graduates of University XYZ. In the words of Groarke and Fenske, they're "educationally handicapped."

Now, what if I told you that University XYZ was the University of Prince Edward Island or Université de Ste-Anne? Given that these universities probably account for .1% of graduates, you'd rightly infer that I was making poor inferences. And you'd be correct.

Groarke and Fenske are doing exactly the same thing. They don't know or do not present data on what percentage of philosophy PhDs are produced by Canadian schools each year. Despite not knowing this, they provide explanations, proffer advice to other philosophers on matters of morality, and make policy recommendations. And they do so without the simplest of convincing evidence. Let's be clear: Groarke and Fenske accuse their colleagues of discrimination and malfeasance without the simplest of credible evidence.

I trust that this kind of inference isn't representative of Canadian philosophers, but if it is then any problems in hiring aren't due to discrimination.

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