Somewhat belatedly, I wanted to comment on the New York Times Op-Ed by Mark Taylor that addresses some of the flaws of the current academic system and proposes some solutions. The central problems that Taylor highlights in his article are that academic departments are too isolated from one another and from the world, and that there aren't enough academic positions for all of the people who are getting doctoral degrees these days. Taylor makes some very good points, but his article is strongly influenced by his experiences in a humanities department, and I am not sure how relevant his suggestions are for a science department.
Astronomy suffers from many of the same problems Taylor describes. There are far more graduate students and post-doctoral researchers than there are tenured professorial positions, and yet students are trained as if they were all to be professors. However, science students are often not paying their own tuition (it is paid by the grant of a supporting professor) and there are more options for science students outside of tenure-track positions because of the many sources of external funding that support scientific research. Unlike the humanities, there are a variety of scientific programming and research positions for graduates who are not seeking professorial positions. These positions are aligned with the education students receive through their doctoral research.
This isn't to say that there is not a major problem in scientific disciplines concerning the ratio of student positions to professional positions. Rather, it is that the problem may not be as closely tied to tenure and the longevity of tenured professors as in the humanities. The problem may be that professional positions available to graduating students are being occupied by the students themselves. Scientific research in the United States relies on a large pool of skilled labor. Currently, this labor is being bought at well under market price in the form of cheap graduate student researchers. If more of these positions were filled by full-time research professionals, we might have a healthier employment system for scientific academia.
The problem is that this raises the price of research in the United States and may result in a reduction in the total number of projects (and therefore, researchers) that can be supported. From the perspective of researchers, this may be a healthier state of affairs--to not be misled into spending 5-7 years underpaid as a graduate student only to find that the only way to continue to do what you've been trained to do is to continue to be underpaid. But unlike in the humanities, science graduate students usually have not accumulated debt beyond their undergraduate education and they have been supported (however cheaply) through this process. The solution, then, may simply be to ensure that prospective graduate students in science are well-informed about what employment prospects they should expect after they file their dissertation.