Saturday, October 31, 2009

Graduate Studies


There was a very interesting article, The Ph.D. Problem, in Harvard Magazine detailing many of the problems in the pursuit of higher academic education. The content of the essay is disheartening, though not unrealistic.

While I remain cynical where politics of academia are concerned, research is an absolute necessity. This article focuses on the area of humanities, but general complaints (length of degree, job security, overspecialisation, exclusivity) about the process of graduate education could be applied to other departments.

“…if doctoral education in English were a cartoon character, then about 30 years ago, it zoomed straight off a cliff, went into a terrifying fall, grabbed a branch on the way down, and has been clinging to that branch ever since…the result of this is a kind of normalization of what in any other context would seem to be a plainly inefficient and intolerable process.”

(I actually think this is a metaphor that can be applied to chronic mental illnesses where unhealthy living is accepted because the normality of the distribution of life events has been shifted due to stagnation.)

“An estimate of the total elapsed time from college graduation to tenure [in humanities] would be somewhere between 15 and 20 years. It is a lengthy apprenticeship.”

“Job satisfaction is actually higher among Ph.D.s with non-academic careers than it is among academics, partly because spousal problems—commuting marriages—are not as great outside academia.”

“…there is a huge social inefficiency in taking people of high intelligence and devoting resources to training them in programs that half will never complete and for jobs that most will not get.”

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