“Teaching Ph.D.’s How to Reach Out” – Brilliant article by Leonard Cassuto

Whenever I tell people I’m doing a second MA in Classics and getting a teaching cert., I’m usually greeted with a puzzled expression. People wonder why I’m not choosing to do a PhD. Well, first and foremost, I’m just not as passionate about historical linguistics as one needs to be to pursue a PhD in it. But a very large part of it is because I couldn’t answer the question of why anyone should care about my topic. I wrote an angsty post about this a while ago that I’m not linking to because I’m trying to bury it as deeply in my archives as I possibly can.

But the point remains. I’m a Classicst, and that was a dwindling degree 50 years ago. People were fed up with its exclusivity and its elitism, and no one was bothering to make any of the information accessible to the public. Furthermore, the public was left to its misconceptions, mocked for having them, and no one bothered to teach the public otherwise. The claim is that specialist information is too difficult for others to grasp, and it requires lots of training to handle it properly. In other words, the ‘public’ is too ‘stupid’ to handle the information. Wrong. The academics are just shit at explaining it. Of course there are lots of things that are difficult to grasp unless you have built up a prior knowledge of the information, but academics are supposed to be smart. I’m sure we should be able to figure out a way to do it.

This is essentially what academia sounds like to my non-specialist family:
Me: “I’m going to study oifweaofja”
Family: “What?”
Me: “Oh, it’s just lskjfoiew, you know, oifweaofja derived from lskjfoiew”
Family: “Yeah, still don’t understand. And people are going to pay you to do this?”
Me: “Well…yeah, sort of. It’s difficult to get funding, because not a lot of people care about oifweaofja”
Family: “Really? No one cares about that thing that no one understands, so they’re not going to pay you to do it? *Shock*”

Which is why I think this guy is on to a really awesome idea. Because if we want to pursue our specialist degrees, we’re going to have to make them relevant.

“Teaching Ph.D.’s How to Reach Out” by Leonard Cassuto



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