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Don't Go to Grad School

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Manton, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    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.
     
  2. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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  3. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    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.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    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.
     
  5. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    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.
     
  6. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    It's not so much brain washing (though that, or some low grade version does go on) as it is vigorous self-selection and an even more vigorous discouragement of dissenters from even trying to enter the field.

    And, yes, I am aware that certain war horse professors, when they get older, tend to get a little unorthodox. They are eminent enough that they can get away with it. But from what I can see, this has no effect whatsoever on the mainstream of their discipline and no effect at all on their institutions. All the lower-down people are less smart and have more to lose. They stay on message. Also, these schools are by now 50% admin or more, and in my experience "staff" is more ideologically pure and full of zeal than faculty.

    Also, funny that you mention Fish. Yeah, I appreciate to some small degree the extent to which he has become a bit iconoclastic, not to say moved right. But I can't forget the much larger extent to which he was an absolute Titan and Dynamo and Vanguard of the effort to radicalize and politicize literature throughout the 1980s and beyond. Thing is, 90% of the MLA types revere and follow the old Fish (some without even realizing it) and most don't even know that he has changed a little. Many of those who do know think the changes amount to selling out and they resent him for it and still much prefer the old Fish.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  7. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    Heh, in my very tiny nook within academia, Fish is like the oedipal father we revere and/or want to topple.
     
  8. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    FWIW, Harvard is not the most selective undergraduate college. A couple service academies, Julliard, and Cooper Union were more selective last time I saw.
     
  9. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Cooper Union? No way.

    Julliard, maybe, actually it makes sense, but that's not what we are talking about here.

    I know something about the service academies and while they are very selective the admission process is so different that it's not really comparable. Grades and SAT scores are lower -- and more than a little lower -- than at the Ivies because the government is looking at other things that Ivies care very little about. Also, of course, employers cannot recruit those kids out of school.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  10. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    I wouldn't be surprised if Cooper Union had one of the absolute lowest admissions rates in the country because it's awesome at what it does and it's free.
     
  11. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    wow, sorry edina
     
  12. Cognacad

    Cognacad Senior member

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    Depends on the field and such, I suppose. I largely agree with what has been said, but if you get a doctorate in clinical psychology for instance (and psych is usually considered a humanity), then making well for yourself shouldn't be too difficult.
     
  13. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    manton - i think that one of your central premises, that most students getting into humanities graduate schools aren't aware of what a racket the institutions they attend are, is off. every professor i talked to about going to graduate school opened the conversation with 'don't do it.'
     
  14. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Maybe the professors say that, but do the admins? Bursars?

    It is said, but the way that Vegas or the state lotto says "Of course, not everyone wins." It's not a genuine attempt to discourage but rather a way of covering one's ass and assuaging the conscience.
     
  15. Teger

    Teger Senior member

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    it's true - even a public university is a business, and the administration needs warm bodies to either work as slave labor or pay tuition, so they always have a vested incentive to bring more people in, regardless of what happens to those people after they graduate. that said, when I was interested in graduate school I didn't talk to the administration - I talked to my professors - and they painted a sobering and realistic picture. that said, is there anything that wrong with my plan? I get to go to graduate school for free, and I look at it at as a good opportunity: I can either transition into a PhD program (if I can get into a top one/if I even want to), or I can use the resources available to segue into a good job where an MA is a requirement - something I've basically already done. graduate school to me is like life in small: it's not a guarantor of success, but an opportunity you can use to help or hurt you. if people think it is, they're probably stupid.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  16. erictheobscure

    erictheobscure Senior member

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    What I tell students is probably closer to this. But virtually all the professors I know--and most of my professors when I was an undergrad--genuinely and seriously discouraged students from pursuing a Ph.D. in the humanities.

    Not sure that any of my students go around asking admins if they should go into academia.
     
  17. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, it's the admins more than the profs who benefit from the system. I guess it is dumb to ask admins whether you should go but admins are responsible for "marketing" (and don't think they don't market) and their marketing encourages people to go.

    Profs should be aware of the way the system now works and should, if they are being decent, tell students how the system is rigged against them. I don't think they do this to the extent and in the detail that they should.
     
  18. arced

    arced Senior member

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    A lot of professor try to have this conversation, but it's a shitty conversation to have (and it doesn't make you popular). You're basically killing a student's dream by telling her that s/he can't become what sitting in front of him/her. The other problems is that for every professor that has 'the conversation' the student can and will easily find a professor who will encourage him/her to go.
     
  19. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yes, Benton says that. Students just move on until they find someone who will tell them what they want to hear.

    I know the conversation can be difficult. Not that I have many of them but occasionally people will ask me "How can I do this, that or the other career thing?" And I always tell the truth to the best of my ability.
     

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