Too grad school

From a report written as part of the University of Washington‘s Re-envisioning the Ph.D. project (they have a lot of interesting stuff on their site):

I wanted to add this, a “too” list: Graduate school is too expensive, graduate school is too impersonal. It focuses people down a narrow path. It discourages social interaction. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to connect in ways that are good multidisciplinarily, it doesn’t provide enough opportunities to fit into the global economy and global technology. It’s the Ted Kaczynski at the back of his research lab kind of thing.

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  1. Posted 6/17/2003 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Phew… now I don’t feel too bad about dropping out. ;)

  2. Posted 6/18/2003 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Aren’t programs like Informatics at UB attempting to tackle these precise issues? If you look at a majority of the social science programs, this definition of grad school may be true. If you look at some of the newer and more innovative programs that have been developed, it is quite apparent that the creators of the program have at least “attempted” to confront these problems.

  3. Posted 6/18/2003 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny you should say that. I think the MI–which is really an M.A. only in name–it was envisioned more along the lines of an MBA. That is, next year we’ll have classes that are 40-50 people in size. It will still be possible to work in more of a tutorial setting with profs, etc., if students take the initiative to do so. But I think it will miss something of the traditional graduate experience.

    On her blog, Anne Galloway talks about this as being akin to getting “jumped in” to a gang (that is: proving you can get beaten–often severely–before being inducted). I don’t think that this is something that we should aspire to, of course, but I also know that there is something in the socialization process that is different for graduate school.

    So yes, the MI program definitely doesn’t have these failings. On the other hand, they are talking about Ph.D. programs, and I fear that the MI gives students very little preparation for completing a Ph.D. That’s not its aim, of course. Like the JD, MBA, or MPA, it is meant to be a “terminal degree.” And I think it would be fair to say the same types of programs are less likely to hit on the faults mentioned in the above quote.

  4. Posted 6/19/2003 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Is graduate education, education in general, about what knowledge you accumulate? Who do you become during your graduate education? Is that even a considered part of the process? How does the knowledge you accumulate and learn to handle also provide ways of interfacing with the world outside? This quote from Wendell Berry is something I wonder about:

    “The knowledge of most university experts is self-centered–committed to their own advancement in their careers and therefore, indifferent to the effects of the work they’re doing or going to do. And they’re usually not committed to any community.

    There’s a difference between thinking about problems and having problems. Where experts are thinking about problems, the people who have the problems are usually absent, are not even well represented. The only way out of this is for the teacher, the person of learning, the researcher, the intellectual, the artist, the scientist, to make common cause with a community. They must commit themselves to a community in such a way that they share the fate of that community–participate in its losses and trials and griefs and hardships and pleasures and joys and satisfactions, so that they don’t have this ridiculous immunity that they now have in their specializations and careers. Then they’d begin to learn something. New knowledge would come from that, and it would be better than ‘information.'” – Wendell Berry

    (I enjoy the design of this site, btw.)

  5. Posted 6/20/2003 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Interesting – thanks! And incidentally, I hope I didn’t suggest anywhere in my post that being jumped in to academia is fun – it sucks – but I am capable of understanding the social, i.e. collective, benefits of induction rites, including hazing …

    I remember one professor saying: “PhDs comprise less than 1% of the total population. What makes you think they’ll make it easy to join their club?”

    In the days when clergy were pretty much the only ones who could read and write, the “defense” of one’s accumulated knowledge was very flexible and largely informal. However, after the advent of the printing press, and the increase in literacy, “people of knowledge” began to devise ways of demonstrating it that were beyond the reach of the masses: and here we have the birth of the dissertation, replete with citation rules, and a formal defense.

    Of course this really doesn’t have much to do with your post ;) Well, actually, it might be interesting to follow through with this historical process of power and access …

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