Thursday, April 30, 2009

The University

A million years ago (or so it feels) I was a graduate student in a doctoral program. For two years, the year I applied to grad school and my first year in it, I was absolutely sure of what I wanted to do. In my second year, my dedication began to waver. By the third, I knew that while I liked what I was doing fine most days, I didn't like it enough on enough days to do it forever and to live anywhere I might get a job. So I left. Periodically, The New York Times runs and article about the lack of jobs in the academy or some Op Ed about something in the university and it reminds me I did the right thing, for me. Today I read on Op Ed from a few days ago that reminded me once again. It's aptly titled The End of the University As We Know It, and it's mixture of critical diagnosis, mixed-bag recommendations and breezy arrogance put me right back in grad school. Not in a classroom, but at a party where some guy is talking something about hermeneutics and the idea of the self, maybe in immigrant communities.

Still, the Op-Ed is well worth reading, and I'm all for that Water discipline the author (Mark Taylor) recommends, but something about the tone of it put me off. Or maybe it's his boasting that he doesn't have his students write papers but "develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games." What does that mean anyway? That students don't have to organize their analytic treatments into a cohesive essay because they're using hypertext? When I do get nostalgic for grad school, I like to remember the projects I got lost in, no hypertext required. Then again, I'm so old school.

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