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post #31 of 165
I took up mba after working for probably 8 years not because I need a degree to further my career but because I just felt the need to, and working that long I got to really appreciate the stuff they were teaching specially compared to undergrad business school. not that I regret it, but I didn't graduate though- I think I lacked one elective course and the thesis. never needed the diploma anyway, and I was busy with stuff that I can't just leave so I just stopped.
post #32 of 165
Here's an article from the Economist from December 2010 that would seem to be relevant to this thread: "Doctoral degrees: The Disposable Academic - why doing a PhD is often a waste of time"

Essentially, it posits that there are too many PhDs for the positions available and that many of them are used as cheap labour by universities when there is really no hope that they will ever get a chance at a tenure track position. It's possibly not quite as bad as the article makes out, as a) not all PhD students want to get tenured positions at universities; b) life is competitive - the best PhD candidates will tend to get the best (ie tenure track) positions; and c) such part-time, sessional teaching or research work actually does suit some people as not everyone wants a full-time career (due to motherhood, other interests etc).

I do think, however, that there are too many people doing post-grad study at universities, both at the masters and doctoral levels. In fact, there are probably far too many people at university, full-stop.

Furthermore, I think that too many people move straight from an undergraduate degree into a postgrad degree, such as a coursework masters degree, without actually gaining any relevant work or life experience. What the f$( do most 21 year olds know about managing people, or managing a business and why are they doing an MBA straight out of undergrad?!?
post #33 of 165
Ugh...I'm in chemistry, and I concur. DON'T go to grad school unless you are insanely obsessed or facing long term unemployment and desperation. It's absolutely no guarantee of higher pay or a job of any kind. There are way too many PhDs thanks to massive job cuts ("You're Pfizered!"), the free labor for universities, profitable H-1Bs (foreigners) who pay universities higher tuition, and the understanding that if you just stick it out and serve your time at the Wheel of Pain, you will get your degree. Your soul will be crushed, your hair will have fallen out, and you will retain no social skills whatsoever, but you will have the piece of paper that makes you "overqualified" for 90% of lab positions and "too inexperienced" for the remaining 10%. Solution? Do a postdoc for 3 years! Hope it's better by then. No? Do another one! Rinse and repeat ad infinitium.

Not that I'm bitter or anything. plain.gif Also, there's a blog: http://chemjobber.blogspot.com
Edited by divitius - 7/27/11 at 5:18am
post #34 of 165
Unless you are obsessed by engineering or science, the best grad school bet is a masters degree. 2 years isn't that long, and it is an advanced degree.

But Dewey- what Manton is arguing isn't that we should shut down the PhD production line, but that the current system needs an overhaul. Even in the physical sciences there are just too many grad students for the academic positions available, even when the baby boomers retire.

The fact that we use grad students and postdocs as cheap labor ("all science is done by postdocs!" is true, by the way) doesn't help control the numbers that we produce.

The real problem in the physical sciences is that we the establishment can't seem to think of a career that isn't academic, so we don't prepare the students from day one to expect and desire a job outside academia.
post #35 of 165
IMO an integral part of overhauling the system involves strengthening the rigor of the pre-college experience. Far too much gets made of access, access, access, and not of quality.
post #36 of 165
Thread Starter 
I understand what some of you are saying about the downgrading of the status of the BA but I don't quite agree with all of your conclusions. What I think has happened is a few things.

First, the % of people in society who get BAs has dramatically increased. That has of course all by itself downgraded the value of the BA on the very simple principle that a glut of anything inevitably downgrades the value of that thing.

Second, for a number of reasons, including the necessity to accommodate large numbers of people who didn't used to be there, standards at most colleges fell. The quality and difficulty of the curriculum and teaching declined and grading got easier. Again, simple math: the more people you admit, the more dumb and mediocre people you admit. And you can then maintain your standards and flunk a lot of people and give a lot of other people Cs, but this will be upsetting to your paying customers and might have some other unpleasant consequences. So the natural reaction was just to make it easier for all. There is a conspiracy on campus to deny this but employers and everyone else know it and they treat a debauched degree accordingly.

Third has been the collapse of standards for various reasons, mostly driven by leftist ideology and "PC" (cue up Fuuma and holymadness to get a Two Minute Hate started against me for daring to say that). "Scholarship" and "learning" have become incredibly frivolous and everyone knows that too.

So, yes, a BA is not what it used to be. But it is still important, especially from the elite schools. That's because it is now used in a new way. Elite employers use an elite degree as a proxy for two things that they are not allowed to test or ask about: IQ and class. IQ is obvious. It's illegal for employers to test your IQ but it's legal for colleges. Hence when Goldman hires Harvard grads what they are really hiring is smart kids. And since Harvard is the most selective undergraduate school in the country, Goldman assumes (with good reason) that by hiring Harvard grads they are hiring, on average, the smartest kids in the world for that year, or at least the smartest kids that they can easily identify. Harvard admissions stamps that seal on the kid's forehead. It's pretty reliable. Harvard and all its sister colleges have completely revamped their business model into becoming human capital markers for elite institutions. Goldman does not care what you learned at Harvard and takes if for granted that you learned virtually nothing. It just doesn't matter. However, they want Harvard grads infinitely more than they want graduates of Michigan State who learned, presumably, the same amount (close to nothing).

This said, parents won't pay well into the six figures simply to validate their kids' SAT scores. Which brings me to the second function that elite colleges serve. They are class markers now. An Ivy (or comparable) degree is like what membership in an aristocratic family was 100+ years ago. It means You Belong. Or at least that you have a chance to belong, provided you act the right way, mouth the right opinions, navigate the right institutions, work reasonably hard, etc. But it opens the door to all those institutions and it teaches you how to act and what to think (and, crucially, what to say). Goldman is not hiring you out of Harvard merely because you are smart but also because Harvard will presumably have done a decent job of turning you into a Goldman (/Davos/Ford Foundation/MoMA/KleinerPerkins, etc.) type person. I.e., "our kind." This way the elite gets to remain an elite and claim to be meritocratic at the same time. To see that this works, consider how other elite schools that are much more purely meritocratic but not part of the cultural game, are much less successful as feeders to the Davos infrastructure. MIT and CalTech just don't do it to the same degree. You might make it to a quant desk somewhere but it's not like Harvard where elite employers will hire the entire class every year if they could.

Finally, on grad school, yes, all things being equal between two candidates, a grad degree can be a net plus. That is a far different thing than saying that a grad degree opens doors in its own right or that the ROI is sound. Most employers will prefer a person with a BA (younger, cheaper, easier to mold), especially an elite BA, to someone with a grad degree. They do not use grad degrees to sort the smart from the non-smart. They already have other ways to do that which are more reliable. Also, work experience counts for more than that second degree. It's either a plus, because it shows that you are accomplished and have a track record, or negative, because it's an indicator that you will want too much money. A second degree is just a cherry on top that might nudge the scale over someone else whose credentials, age, experience and salary requirements are already close to yours.

I am not here talking about an MBA which in certain finance and business careers is basically required if you want to get past a certain level. And law school is of course a totally different matter as well.
Edited by Manton - 7/27/11 at 9:29am
post #37 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

I This way the elite gets to remain an elite and claim to be meritocratic at the same time. To see that this works, consider how other elite schools that are much more purely meritocratic but not part of the cultural game, are much less successful as feeders to the Davos infrastructure. MIT and CalTech just don't do it to the same degree. You might make it to a quant desk somewhere but it's not like Harvard where elite employers will hire the entire class every year if they could.

Well, this seems scary. And rings true.
post #38 of 165
Even when I was an undergrad (in the late 90s), it was standard policy for professors to issue a blanket warning against going into a Ph.D. program in the humanities. Now I'm on the other side of the desk, and the job market's far worse (or it has been for the last two or three years). I'm really ambivalent when smart, eager students come to my office to ask about graduate studies. I do tell them to read those Thomas Benton articles (or they've read them already), but I kind of hate his shtick. I think that he pushing the whiny, hand-wringing buttons that really work for most folks in the humanities. And I also tell my students that it's not all one big nightmare, and some of us actually really enjoy grad school and end up with great jobs. On the other hand, I do think the Deresiewicz article in the Nation is spot on.
post #39 of 165
Thread Starter 
Well, "Benton's" point is that kids need to know the odds. They are lied to about their chances by a system that wants to use them. They just need to know the truth and make an informed decision.

Think of it this way. Every year some large number (I have no idea how large) of young people flock to LA to "make it" in Hollywood. A very small percentage of them succeed. Yet they try anyway because of "passion" and because the rewards can be stupendous. Meanwhile, as they wait for their "big break" they wait tables or do whatever to get by.

But the crucial point is, they know what they are getting in for. They know -- or should know, because the information is widely available and concealed by no one -- how long and terrible the odds are. Sure, most of them must believe that they will be the exception. But that is at worst a self-delusion. Moreover, they are not by and large paying for the privilege of being lied to about their chances, beyond taking the odd acting class or paying for 8x10 glossies.

You cannot, at present, say this about grad school. Kids go in not merely lacking the correct information but are encouraged with false hopes by those who profit from their delusions. And, crucially, many of them pay for the privilege of being deluded.
post #40 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

Third has been the collapse of standards for various reasons, mostly driven by leftist ideology and "PC" (cue up Fuuma and holymadness to get a Two Minute Hate started against me for daring to say that). "Scholarship" and "learning" have become incredibly frivolous and everyone knows that too.

I agree with most of your post and even this isn't necessarily untrue, but the rhetoric is tendentious and glib. You're right that "the more people you admit, the more dumb and mediocre people you admit." But the "leftist ideology" in question certainly includes the conviction that, hey, maybe we should actually try admitting women (I went to grad school at a school that went co-ed in the 70s), non-white folks, and poor folks. And, at least from my perspective, it's pretty clear that an effort toward basic equality in educational/vocational opportunity is worth the risk of a dip in academic standards. But the real issue is how to make admissions more capacious without sacrificing academic quality. I previously taught in the CUNY system, which was really crippled for a while by an experiment in complete open admissions. And even now and at more prestigious institutions, higher education needs to do more to balance out more diverse admissions with institutional support to make sure students who enter with less preparation can catch up. Probably just a matter of spending more money to back up our wholesome and benevolent leftist ideology fight[1].gif.
post #41 of 165
Thread Starter 
It goes well beyond "maybe we should admit women and blacks." That bridge was completely crossed 50 years ago and the first steps were taken 100 years ago. What actually happens today is a total, consuming obsession with "diversity" defined solely by skin color (and to a lesser extent national origin) coupled with an even more consuming obsession with ideological conformity. I am talking only about the humanities and social sciences, things are better in the natural sciences, which, in any case, I have a lot less experience with.
post #42 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manton View Post

It goes well beyond "maybe we should admit women and blacks." That bridge was completely crossed 50 years ago and the first steps were taken 100 years ago. What actually happens today is a total, consuming obsession with "diversity" defined solely by skin color (and to a lesser extent national origin) coupled with an even more consuming obsession with ideological conformity. I am talking only about the humanities and social sciences, things are better in the natural sciences, which, in any case, I have a lot less experience with.
Quote:
I went to grad school at a school that went co-ed in the 70s
post #43 of 165
Mods please rename thread to, "Don't Go Into Academia".

BA in econ is virtually worthless if you want a career as an economist. M.A. is slightly better, but you aren't an economist until you get the PH.D. In my case, BA's in international affairs and econ is serviceable though all my peers (and seniors) have MAs or MBAs. To move up and out to private sector I need to step up with another degree - I really don't know anyone successful in my field without an advanced degree.
post #44 of 165
The "ideological conformity" question is a complex and thorny one. I'm of several minds about this. First, there actually is more ideological diversity in my field than an outsider might initially suspect. At my own graduate institution, for example, a prominent right-leaning libertarian and a devout Christian are senior faculty members. And there are folks who are really hard to categorize ideologically who are big voices in the field (Stanley Fish and Walter Benn Michaels come to mind--that latter, BTW, has written polemically against the importance of race in American culture now).

But it is true as a whole that the humanities (and, in particular, my own discipline, English) leans pretty hard to the left. I think things get tricky when you try to parse out the extent to which this is a wholly external political apparatus that's attached itself (like a parasite, from your point of view) to an academic discipline and the extent to which this political leaning has become a very part of the discipline in a kind of procedural, methodological way (perhaps from your perspective, this would be even worse). In any case, I think the whole rhetoric of brain washing, etc., is often a red herring. Any educational procedure will look like brain-washing to those who disagree; I'm sure the Westminster Catechism would look like a total case of brain washing to someone who wasn't raised around Christianity. But more to the point: you'd be surprised at the internal backlash against the strong political commitments of the humanities that's taking place in recent years. This backlash has come in various forms--a return to questions of "pure" form, for example, in literary studies, or an attack against the so-called hermeneutics of suspicion that was so important for scholarship aimed toward political critique.
post #45 of 165
Thread Starter 
BTW, re: Dewey, I see his point (sort of) and share his concern but I am quite doubtful that producing more PhDs will accomplish what we both want to see.

On the one hand, sad but true, the universities are now and have been for a while the only stable home the humanities have in the modern world. Without them, it's not unreasonable to fear that the serious study of literature and philosophy might disappear or at least severely contract. Without the universities, I can't be sanguine that lots of young people are simply going to take up great books and serious study on their own.

On the other hand, so much of what passes for serious study today is such a freaking joke that neither can I be that sanguine about the universities actually helping the humanities thrive in any serious way.
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