Grad Schools. Go to them.

I read this article from PhD Octopus just now and was reminded of a post I made a while ago lamenting my decision to pursue an MPhil. I was instantly worried that someone, somewhere, might have interpreted it as ‘grad school sucks’ (I’m fairly certain it didn’t come off that way, but the internet is a magical place…) Lest anyone think that my current frustration with academia should be translated as ‘don’t go to grad school’, I would like to clarify that I made a decision that wasn’t right for me and that I think my frustrations with academia are not that it exists and people want to do it (that would be silly), but that academics often don’t try to show their worth to their fellow citizens. Academia and Grad School certainly generate research and students who are worth quite a lot to their fellow citizens; I think it’s the lack of outreach that has caused the ‘anti-intellectualism’ that is creeping in to our (dare I say it?) politics and mentality. And hey, if you’re the lucky person who manages to get paid to study Greek Vowels for the rest of your life and you love every second of it, then I think you’ve probably done well.

This is a good article, and I definitely encourage those who feel the calling to absolutely go to Grad School. (I hope at least 5 people twitched at the use of a split infinitive there. Call it masochism, but I find it helpful to intentionally (here I go again) defy prescriptive rules that I sill find myself trying to correct.)

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4 comments on “Grad Schools. Go to them.

  1. John Cowan says:

    Well, I’ve been out of the grad-school loop for decades, and I left for personal reasons unrelated to a crappy job market. But it seems to me the most practical thing that tenured faculty could do (not as individuals, necessarily, but as a whole) is to abandon tenure and go for negotiated contracts instead, like everyone else in the working world (except, indeed, those like me with “at will” employment). If there is no room to hire youngsters, make room.

    • Interesting. With only 5 years experience in academia, I don’t have a lot of room to comment on the pay and hiring of profs and what works best, but that does sound appealing. Lots of room for new and fresh ideas, energy, and interdisciplinary work. Also incentive to stay motivated, interested, and active.

  2. crissamj says:

    While I’m pretty sure I’m not going to grad school, I do want academia and intelluctualism to have more of a presence in society. It politics, it seems it’s best to appeal to people’s emotions, not the issues at hand. Kind of afraid what our society will turn into if we (well…people in power) keep pandering to fears and emotions instead of rationality.

    • Yeah, Grad School is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, nor is it an environment that is best suited to bring out the talents of everyone. It certainly hasn’t been my cup of tea, and the things that i’m actually good at don’t get much practice. So I very much respect the no-grad school decision. As to intellectualism and society, someone (in a Chronicle article? I’ll be really embarrassed if it was in the article this post is about) said that we’ve started to focus on education as though it were job training, which seems at first to be a good idea, but on further investigation misses the point of an education. Education is meant to make thinkers – people with agile minds able to bring a multitude of different skills to the table in the work force and to their fellow citizens. We’ve devalued those subjects which are best adapted to doing this in favor of what seems to be a business training model. This creates, in essence, a population that has the innate sense that you can only do the job you’re trained for. However, someone with a broader education who is used to looking at problems in creative ways and using interdisciplinary skills will find that the job market has many opportunities they can fit into with a little bit of creative thinking. I think, ultimately, that it’s this shift of focus from the ‘thinking’ classes (humanities) that has caused the wave of anti-intellectualism. We’ve created people who know how to do a job, but they don’t know how to think.

      Broadly, generally speaking, and subject to numerous counter-examples. But I think if I were to boil down my philosophy of liberal education and its effect on society, that’s how I would state it.

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