Posts Tagged ‘Ph.D.’

A recent article at Inside Higher Ed attributes the continual attainment of Ph.D.s despite the lack of jobs as the result of search for “smugness,” stating in part:

Take two reasonably intelligent 25-year-olds, both with undergraduate degrees. One, Aphron, goes the way of Mammon, getting a job and spending the next decade as a salaryman — first at a low level, but by year 10 well-advanced in the hierarchy, doing pretty well. The other seeks a Ph.D. — call him Metis — and spends eight years lurking outside his dissertation director’s office followed by two years actually writing. The Economist would tell you that the Aphron is in materially better shape.

But what about spiritually? Ego-wise? Qua a fully-formed human being? There’s where the Metis, Ph.D., holds all the cards. Aphron spent 10 years getting and spending so as to fill the hole in his center. A decade out of school he careens from one excellent meal to the next, from one satisfying Caribbean vacation to another, from a well-heated home in January to a well-cooled one in July, no closer to fulfillment than when he started. Metis, however, has done something less than 1 percent of Americans have done — climbed the mountain of the academy and planted his flag. In conversations with Aphron he can parry chatter about the trouble with tax shelters with something high-minded about myxobacteria or heteroglossia or dark matter. Dark matter!

This reminds me of one of the skits on Kanye West’s The College Dropout:

My question is, can we also extend this explanation to the adjunctification of higher education?  Could it be that those without Ph.D.s, including the general public as well as our elected officials, argue for cutting education budgets as payback for our smugness?

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Even though I don’t typically take advantage of the flexibility offered by the academic lifestyle, I have made an exception this week for the NCAA tournament.  Watching Lehigh University’s loss to Kansas last night I heard the announcers note that Lehigh’s Zahir Carrington is a sociology major.  In itself, this fact is not particularly surprising since I imagine that sociology is one of the more common majors (along with communications and general studies) for athletes if for no other reason than its reputation as a “common sense” subject.  What makes Carrington unique, however, is that he hopes to become a sociology professor.  As noted by the announcers last night and in this Philadelphia Inquirer story, Carrington would like to play basketball in Europe after he graduates this spring.  Then, “”If basketball doesn’t work out, of course, I’m going to further advance my degree,” he said. “Get my master’s in sociology and eventually a Ph.D., and hopefully one day become a professor.””  I guess that if enough athletes major in sociology it makes sense that at least some of them will eventually become professors.

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Dissertation defenses are strange to me.  If your chair has done his or her job, there should be no question of whether or not you will pass.*  Even though the defense is discussed as a major milestone like finishing your M.A., completing your prelims, or passing your dissertation proposal defense, the experience itself is anti-climactic.  Like participating in graduation when you are not done with your degree requirements, people will want to call you “doctor” afterward.  Perhaps stubbornly, I still refuse to accept this label.  Of course, this is not out of modesty or a belief that I am no more accomplished than anybody else, it is because I am not done.  I expect that I will have a much greater sense of accomplishment when my revisions have been accepted by my chair and I turn in all of the necessary paperwork.

*I’m sure that there are a few departments that pride themselves on lulling Ph.D. candidates into a false sense of security and then nailing them with ridiculous questions at the defense, but I don’t think this is the norm.

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