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  1. #31
    Senior Member sofmarhof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott N Denver View Post
    Realistically, most people aren't particularly intellectually inclined or interested. IN__'s, make up like what ~8% of the US population. Plenty of people, think TJ's, look to school for challenge and future earning potential. To most people, who really cares about the deeper subtleties of, say, roman philosophy and its impact on daily roman life, cause its all about the toga party and keggers baby! I'm not saying I care for or respect that, I don't, but that is how plenty of people think. ES's far outnumber IN's, and business and liberal arts students far outnumber math or physics majors.
    There's another issue, though. That many people who are intellectually inclined will find that universities are not the right place for them, either. I swear every day I spend here makes me dumber.

  2. #32
    Senior Member Scott N Denver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    If I interpreted your message correctly, as a physics student you did not have to conform to your professor's expectations as much as a liberal arts student. Would you say that as a general rule, the social and a the political aspect of academia in the exact sciences as well as mathematics is less pronounced than it is in the Liberal arts? If so, why is that the case? Could it be chiefly because the culture of these academic disciplines focuses on exact matters where success can be evaluated with a non-ambiguous agenda; that is, it is more or less clear what constitutes quality work. As a result, the professor's personal opinion has little influence over how the student's work will be judged as its not as open to interpretation as the liberal arts evaluative agenda is.
    In short, there was virtually no discussion of philosophy, opinion, interpretation, etc. Nor is there any need. As much philosophy as I ever recall us getting was "Your quantum mechanics book spends 2 pages in an appendix listing various potential interpretations of "what is happening" in quantum mechanical systems. We're not going to spend any time on that, but you can read that appendix if you want."

    We spent basically all of our time cranking out math to arrive at relevant physics equations. Once in a while there might be a probably-boring picture to look at, for example "Fig 1.a shows a collection of scattered point particles and the position vector which identifies their location relevant to the indicated origin."

    Again, I never dealt with liberal arts graduate programs, nor even met any LA grad students at the time. I can't speak for what their situation is like, only from what I here from others.

    That linked article about LA grad school resembling a cult was very interesting though.

    What you said about: "Could it be chiefly because the culture of these academic disciplines focuses on exact matters where success can be evaluated with a non-ambiguous agenda; that is, it is more or less clear what constitutes quality work. As a result, the professor's personal opinion has little influence over how the student's work will be judged as its not as open to interpretation as the liberal arts evaluative agenda is. "
    definitely makes sense to me. To get advanced degrees people do research. That research gets evaluated. "Did you measure this?" "Did you calculate that?" "Did you consider the possibility that ___?" "How did you exclude the possibility that ___?" Lots of using technical equipment, technical measuring equipment, trying different things, seeing what works, trying to optimize what works, etc. And your thesis committee is composed of several experts in your field, so you can't BS or bluff them.

  3. #33
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    -Universities reinforce the myth that staying in school for as long as possible is the true path to the American dream.
    -They are able to do so successfully because the public is generally stupid and does not question the most prestigious institutions of the nation, also because university officials are outstanding propagandists: they learned the art of persuasion in their scholarly career and PhD training by constantly publishing and debating with other scholars.
    -University officials successfully misled the public into thinking they have good intentions for society, but the reality is that they have a contemptuous attitude for the 'ordinary people' and seek to create a community insulated from the mainstream society. By doing this, they effectively abandoned their duties and responsibilities as citizens of the mainstream society.
    -The university communities manage to survive today by employing deft manipulation techniques that are endemic to religious and political cults. They employ the famous 'whoever is not with me is against me rhetoric' to convince the graduate students and other aficionados to do all in their power to serve the interests of the institution by convincing them that they have no other options in life.
    Thanks for the bullet points. You may need to consider a nonacademic writing style when writing for those outside your field.

    As a grad student I agree with your points here, to a degree. In some fields and for some career paths though, it is necessary to get the graduate degree (as in you are not hirable without it). I'm thinking science in particular, since I'm not familiar with the others. This is why I'm in grad school now.

    Really though I think many careers would be better served by college than university (I think in the states you only have college - here university is highly "academic" whereas college teaches you real skills also rather than theory alone.) The theory won't help you much other than impressing potential employers (if it does). University is definitely not for everyone or even the majority, and I think it's a shame that it's pushed so hard in high schools. For example, we had easier "college"-directed classes vs "uni"-directed classes - if you were smart enough it was assumed you would go to university.

    Going to university for the learning experience alone I can understand, but it would not be my preference as the vast majority of it can be learned much more easily and cheaply by independent study.
    -end of thread-

  4. #34
    Member Aimee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    The 'Not Hot for a teacher' thread is getting more hits and replies than mine, what!?
    Because it will take me days to fully read and then process what you have written! :-) I mean this as no criticism. I was actually excited that I could say something concisely enough that I would actually post a response instead of writing at length and then saving as a draft to cut down and edit later. Then it never gets sent. I was wondering why no one talks to me on this forum and then I realized it's because I write so much and then never hit the send button.

    I find your topic fascinating and will respond later. Your posting is one I will have to come back to in order to completely read. This topic is of great interest to me. I was just pondering going back to school to get my PhD. However, it is a decision not to be undertaken lightly.

    -From one long-winded one to another ;-D

  5. #35
    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post

    Going to university for the learning experience alone I can understand, but it would not be my preference as the vast majority of it can be learned much more easily and cheaply by independent study.
    bingo +1

    I actually see college a little differently than SW.

    1. Though college did start with religious reasons, move towards the secular (progressive period), and move towards the masses (GI bill), modern USA college functions best as a "half way house" for rich kids. In this sense, modern college was "designed" to be a luxury expense.

    2. When everyone can point at where the rich kids started their own success (after college), the middle class think that, "if only I sacrifice everything to send my child to college!" ...not realizing that the rich kid would have been successful for other reasons than just going to the "half way house for rich kids".

    3. These collective middle class thus legislate, save their whole lives and take advantage of any opportunity to send their middle class children to these "half way houses for the rich".

    4. These half way houses were never really designed to be places of learning. It was part of the "rich justification package". Part of the fluff that went on top of the real reasons people are successful in life: created opportunities, connections, capital, time, and self study when necessary. Why is it moral for me to be rich? well im college educated, I dress nicely, I have impeccable manners and I speak eloquently.

    You see this today as the 1 in a billion "little miss marketing major" who lists her interests in the advertising club and DIK sorority. If she ever gets a job/is successful it will be for the "real reasons" I already listed under #4. Its all just part of creating the image of being someone who can afford to go to the "half way house for rich kids".

    5. "But most kids who go to college arent rich! Babylon Candle!" BINGO! What happens when you turn a luxury item into something mass produced and label it as the key to success?
    --people spend beyond their means
    --people put all of their faith in this item
    --the people who sell it have to keep the game going!
    --they keep it going by dumbing down undergrad and then selling everyone on grad school!

    So where does that leave us?
    --every level that gets sold as "everyone needs to get here!" gets dumbed down and the level above it gets oversold (highschool dumbed down, then it was college, soon it will be grad school etc)
    --Its an arms race the middle class will always be trying to set up their kids on an equal footing as the rich kids, but the rich kids will just respond by going to expensive MBA/Law etc
    --school was NEVER about learning. Private scholarship, patron-ship and private sector research is where that stuff happens.

    Oh god im cynical!

  6. #36
    Senior Member sofmarhof's Avatar
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    Babylon Candle, you are so right.

    However, as much as universities were never about really teaching every student, in a way more learning happened in the non-egalitarian past, among those who cared to learn. Those who didn't care about their studies were allowed to not care while the intellectual types were free to really think instead of being dragged down in the panic to catch the stragglers up. (Well, I wasn't there, but that's how it seems to me.) Now, hardly any real thinking goes on in an undergraduate university, although students on average value learning more. I'm pretty sure everyone my age is going to have a massive quarter-life crisis in about 7 years.

  7. #37
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Btw, let's remember that the first degree-granting university was born in Bologna. So limiting the perspective to what is university nowadays in the US cannot really answer the question: what is the institutional essence of a university.
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  8. #38
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Btw, let's remember that the first degree-granting university was born in Bologna. So limiting the perspective to what is university nowadays in the US cannot really answer the question: what is the institutional essence of a university.
    My discussion wasn't about strictly the U.S universitities, though part of it was. The main message is that the University is an institution or a social organization just like the communist party or the church. They have their own political ambitions that do not emphasize educating the public. They don't because the success of the careers of scholars depends on how well received their ideas are rather than the quality of their teaching. They have spent much of their lives on their scholarly discipline and almost all of their professional training emphasizes that discipline only. Thus, due to the cultural values of the university, its difficult to imagine that such an environment will generate many professionals deeply committed to the learning of students.

    This seems to me, applies to most, if not all major universities throughout the world barring the few idiosyncratic, private institutions. The title of my thread was not 'what is the institutional essence of a university?' but, the assertion that the essence of a university is institutional or that the university is an institution.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

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  9. #39
    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sofmarhof View Post
    Babylon Candle, you are so right.

    However, as much as universities were never about really teaching every student, in a way more learning happened in the non-egalitarian past, among those who cared to learn. Those who didn't care about their studies were allowed to not care while the intellectual types were free to really think instead of being dragged down in the panic to catch the stragglers up. (Well, I wasn't there, but that's how it seems to me.) Now, hardly any real thinking goes on in an undergraduate university, although students on average value learning more. I'm pretty sure everyone my age is going to have a massive quarter-life crisis in about 7 years.
    oh thank god somebody else gets it! That is exactly my point! Its not that the "rich kids only" universities were full of smarter people, its that no one really cared about the learning standards (because it didnt matter for the rich kids!). This then allowed the few kids who liked learning to REALLY LEARN. Now, because its been sold as this savior commodity to the masses who put themselves in debt to buy what should be a luxury item (a half way house for rich kids), its become important to focus on how the entire class is doing. Thus the whole thing gets dumbed down, theres grade inflation and less real learning goes on.

    Look at how in the old UK it was seen as "low class" to study business or anything "useful". The upper class studied classics, philosophy, politics, science, etc. At least some of them ended up interested in learning for its own sake! In fact, a majority of great science work in the past 600 years was done by rich people who had nothing to do all day, but sit around and do private scholarship for their own entertainment. The idea that people ever actually went to college to be educated en masse is a modern myth.

    I think this is also where credentialism comes from. Once the middle class realized that college wasnt the real key to why the rich were so rich, they freaked out and sought to save this commodity they'd spent their life savings on: their kid's "credentials".


    PS: if anyone doesnt quite understand what i mean by the modern "half way house for rich kids", Ill gladly explain further

  10. #40
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    My discussion wasn't about strictly the U.S universitities, though part of it was. The main message is that the University is an institution or a social organization just like the communist party or the church. They have their own political ambitions that do not emphasize educating the public. They don't because the success of the careers of scholars depends on how well received their ideas are rather than the quality of their teaching. They have spent much of their lives on their scholarly discipline and almost all of their professional training emphasizes that discipline only. Thus, due to the cultural values of the university, its difficult to imagine that such an environment will generate many professionals deeply committed to the learning of students.

    This seems to me, applies to most, if not all major universities throughout the world barring the few idiosyncratic, private institutions. The title of my thread was not 'what is the institutional essence of a university?' but, the assertion that the essence of a university is institutional or that the university is an institution.
    Right, I agree with most of it. I don't think, though, that makes the students less likely to learn. Exams are still really difficult, thus students are forced to learn if they want to pass. Btw, I Babylon Candle, what about places where universities are almost free of charge? My parents didn't have to spend any of their life-savings to send me to university; in fact, I managed and manage to pay all the (small - around 500 € per year) tuition-fees and all my further expenses by working part-time. Actually if I add scolarships and the like, I end up with a net balance of +1000 € a year.
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

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