I came across this article in which a graduate student decides to leave academia just several months before the submission of his/her PhD. His/her frustration and acute appreciation that the academic/scholar system is inherently flawed by the constant drive to publish, the sclerotic hierarchy of untouchable professors and the ruthless exploitation of those at the base of the pyramid, has led him to give up.
Well, I understand all those concerns and I am personally affected by them. The fact that I am married with three small children, one of them with severe discapacity, limits me greatly as a scientist. I agree with a colleague who recently told me that the way to become a leading scientist or academic is really cruel and unjust, perhaps more than most professions, but that the system is corrupt does not take away the idealism of the academic enterprise.
If you really love politics, should you stop being a politician, even if the system is corrupt? Why not try to do whatever is in your power to make it better?
If you like banking and genuinely want to make a contribution to society, should you not do it?
The problem this article highlights is a deeper one than a problem with academia: our society has forgotten living according to high moral standards. It is more acute in academia though because by its nature this place is supposed to be idealistic and live by really high standards. Yes, standards are low in academia, so I understand this person’s frustration.
I do not claim academia is apt for everyone, but for those who have high ideals of scholarship, it is still a very rewarding and worthwhile path, even though the system may be corrupt in some aspects. Academic achievement should never be an end in itself, it must be the means for a better society. When academic achievement does not truly fulfils its role, it is not being true to itself. That is why we need people with high and strong ideals who are able to give their life for them. That is what is needed in academia and in every other sector of society: individuals who are able to truly live up to their high values regardless.