The Last Professor - Stanley Fish Blog - NYTimes.com
discussion on the changing attitiudes of higher learning
In previous columns and in a recent book I have argued that higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a direct and designed relationship between its activities and measurable effects [sic] in the world.
The sad truth is acadaemia is now a pragmatic, utilitarian enterprise, populated by those who measure and observe and produce - but there once was a place where learning meant inquiry, explanation and understanding.Professionalization in the academy | Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec 2009
Louis Menand outlines the changes afoot with regard to graduate education (and education in general?) and notes the danger of losing academia's contributions to social criticism and reflection.
The following excerpts, from the third and fourth chapters and his conclusion, probe the professionalization of a research-oriented professoriate and the practice and consequences of contemporary doctoral education, and the resulting implications for liberal-arts colleges, universities, and the wider society.
Quote: "A college student who has some interest in further education, but who is unsure whether she wants a career as a professor, is not going to risk investing eight or more years finding out"Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Why you should stick to the sciences.
"If you cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you; it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is entirely your fault."
"As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:  You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.... It's hard to tell young people that universities recognize that their idealism and energy — and lack of information — are an exploitable resource. For universities, the impact of graduate programs on the lives of those students is an acceptable externality, like dumping toxins into a river. If you cannot find a tenure-track position, your university will no longer court you; it will pretend you do not exist and will act as if your unemployability is entirely your fault. It will make you feel ashamed, and you will probably just disappear, convinced it's right rather than that the game was rigged from the beginning."Op-Ed Contributor - End the University as We Know It - NYTimes.com
The dirty secret of higher education is that without underpaid graduate students to help in laboratories and with teaching, universities couldn’t conduct research or even instruct their growing undergraduate populations. That’s one of the main reasons we still encourage people to enroll in doctoral programs. It is simply cheaper to provide graduate students with modest stipends and adjuncts with as little as $5,000 a course — with no benefits — than it is to hire full-time professors. In other words, young people enroll in graduate programs, work hard for subsistence pay and assume huge debt burdens, all because of the illusory promise of faculty appointments. But their economical presence, coupled with the intransigence of tenure, ensures that there will always be too many candidates for too few openings.
Our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.” Unfortunately this mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization.
Research and publication has become more and more about less and less. Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages faculty members to cultivate those students whose futures they envision as identical to their own pasts, even though their tenures will stand in the way of these students having futures as full professors.The Last Professor - Stanley Fish Blog - NYTimes.com
<<higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a direct and designed relationship between its activities and measurable effects in the world.>>
"Except in a few private wealthy universities, the splendid and supported irrelevance of humanist inquiry for its own sake is already a thing of the past."