Monday, April 27, 2009

The Abysmal State Of Higher Education

From the NYT:
"Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

"The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages an educational system that has become a process of cloning. Faculty members 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 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."
Since college, I have always held the notion that all original ideas (short of the insane) have been spoken for. The kinds of theories and ideas that graduate students base their theses on are quite often mere critiques of other critiques of an original source.
"...his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations."
No one is going to come up with a new perception of Plato's dialogues or Kant's metaphysics. Those were the new ideas, and now we have reached the end of original thinking (see excerpt above) -- I am fully aware that I am making a very bold (and probably controversial) declaration on intellectualism. I think science is the only field in which there can be further discoveries and inventiveness. As for most other fields of knowledge, we are merely trying to perfect what it is that we already know.

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