This Academic Life
"Tools"Actual quotation from an e-mail from a student:

"[Professor Z] was concerned, more or less, that the course we design may be great, may be intellectually stimulating, but may fall short on providing me with the "tools" I need to get a job. "If you want to read a lot of great books on topic X and talk about them that's nice, but it won't help you when you get done with school." The criticism is legitimate but a bit ironic."

[The "course" referenced is a directed reading / independent study course that the student and I have been discussing for some months now, revolving largely around issues of explanation in the social sciences. In other words, your basic meat-and-potatoes epistemology course.]

Aargh. Since when is graduate education primarily about getting a job??

From elsewhere in the student's e-mail: "Everything they told me grad school was good for had nothing to do with class: networking, meeting folks, internships, etc.…I came back to graduate school to be challenged and educated by my peers and professors about topics I am deeply concerned about. But I assumed that [this school] would, because of the personal experiences of professors in their respective fields, alert me to the "tools" I needed to be successful when I graduated. So I'm a bit frustrated. I feel as if a lot of that responsibility has been hoisted upon me and it is not at all clear just what it is I'm supposed to be getting from my [graduate school] experience that will actually be of use when I get done."

This student has apparently figured out from his end what I have been figuring out from my end: most of what we teach in our courses for the MA students is basically irrelevant to their career plans. So the question remains: do prospective employers expect students graduating with an MA to have learned something useful? If we aren't teaching it, what kind of racket are we running here?

I think that the racket may be much bigger than us. The racket may be the very concept of the professional MA itself. And barring a major seismic shift in how hiring is done in the field of "practical IR," it shows no signs of abating.

[Posted with ecto]

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"Academia als Beruf," or, an occasional record of the various aspects of my life as an academic. Written by "21stCWeber," an arrogant handle I know…but I must confess that I do want to be Weber when and if I grow up :-)



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