This is Your Brain On Awesome Thoughts on the world from a student of the mind

28Dec/10

Some sobering words on modern-day academia

I hope everyone has been having a fantastic holiday, I know I've spent most of my time eating, drinking, and generally doing things that don't involve writing blog posts or being productive.  To that extent , perhaps it is most fitting that I mention this article that recently showed up in the Economist.

I feel like quite a few of you all are, or plan to be, PhD candidates, and while this article isn't technically about science, it certainly has some pointed words for the academic world in which we all immerse ourselves.

The article takes a new look at the life and worth of PhD students, and I suspect that many would take issue with the stance that the author has on the value of higher education in this world.  The author notes that, while PhDs were once seen to be an impressive feat of one's life, the recent explosion in programs offering them has cheapened their worth in modern day society.  While this may not be true across the board, it is certainly the case that specific academic disciplines are rife with recruits looking to pursue higher education, oftentimes with unrealistic expectations about what their extra training will afford them in the future.

With a society that is becoming increasingly focused on specialization and operating in an incredibly fast environment, one might argue that the skills that are often taught in PhDs aren't as applicable to the real world as we'd like to think they are.  Certainly, in-depth research and writing are impressive feats, but in the world of blogs and instant communication, are they really what is most important?

As usual, I feel a bit conflicted about these kinds of articles, but I can't help but agree with the basic premise that they take.  The world is a rapidly changing place, and it is certainly possible that even our most well-respected academic institutions haven't been able to keep up.

I'm going to hold off on throwing any more of my own opinion out there, since I'd rather the article speak for itself.  I'm looking forward to seeing how you all feel about this.

via The Economist

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