by syaffolee

The Grad Student’s Soapbox

I recently had a conversation with someone who seemed disillusioned and discontented with the way higher education (specifically on the graduate level) is conducted in the States. Too much academics and not enough of the practical side of things, he complains. I could only shrug and say, that’s how things are here. What did you expect anyway? I could only suggest that he tough it out and get his degree–afterwards, he could do whatever he wanted. No one’s stopping him even if all the professors make it out to be that academics is the only way to go.

There is more than one path than the one straight towards academia and I take comfort in the fact that if one thing doesn’t pan out, there are always alternatives. But I usually keep that bit to myself. For some people, talk of anything other than academia is heresy and is grounds for the accusation of being an unserious student. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that if you admit to having a life outside of lab, everyone will start thinking that you are a slacker.

Anyways, I do understand the other student’s viewpoints and complaints. He has children to care for. A student with a spouse and kids will normally place his or her family first (unless they are like those wacko people who actually brag about how little time they spend with their family in favor of all-nighters at work) and must think of the practicalities ahead of obsessive pursuits of knowledge. I’m not saying that the obsessive pursuit of knowledge is bad–there are times when it’s very, very good–but the kind of lifestyle and philosophy perpetuated by those with this mindset is incompatible with students concerned with more mundane matters.

Well, you might huff, that’s the reason for the decline of education in America. Students only care about getting by, not getting enlightened. People are too concerned about obtaining a job rather than learning anything. And all I can say to that is, if “sensible employment” and “learning” were on a Venn diagram, you’d get fewer disgruntled students if the two overlapped a bit more.