Monday, January 31, 2011

Academic Performance Continued

Anti-Climacus linked to this interview that ties in with FLG's point this morning.

So the problem is, faculty would like you, and I’m no different, faculty would like you to validate their pathetic lives by taking their classes very, very seriously. But you’re not going to get a job taking classes. You’re going to try to get a job as an independent researcher who has their own ideas who is able to make his or her own ideas clear to someone in writing, and the sooner you start being able to do that, the sooner you will start to make that transition. So I’ve noticed that in the second or third year of graduate school there is something approaching an inversion where the people who were the real stars in the first or second year, who managed to make the faculty smile and pat them on the head and say, “Good student! Here’s a biscuit!” are the ones who after their second or third year are thinking, “You know, I’m going to take more classes” where the other people, and frankly I was one of the other people, were thinking “you know classes are sort of boring I’m going to try and write some stuff on my own”, those are the ones who end up succeeding. So the stars the first or second year, a lot of them don’t finish their thesis and they don’t get a job. So be a good cheer. If you feel like an oddball, if you’re someone who’s working on research and taking the classes, yes, getting through the classes, that’s fine. But you’re not going to get a job taking classes; you’re going to get a job doing research. Start working on writing, start working on your dissertation as soon as you can.

Now, maybe the ones who switch to research aren't all supercreative, but they're better off than the ones who are getting the biscuits.

6 comments:

The Ancient said...

Not quite so fast! He then goes on to say, apropos of the dissertation:

Now you look and there are 4 different people on the committee. Maybe they don’t like each other very much, maybe they don’t even talk to each other so they communicate only through you, where you bring a draft to one, and they give you corrections, you make the changes and the other one says change all that back. Well what you need to do is have them talk to each other. But what you really need to do is recognize that a done dissertation is good. Just finish what they say, don’t let them use you as a pawn in a personal war that for them goes back 10 years. Just get the work finished, and once you’re in a position to have it done, then you can work on a book where you won’t have to please four masters who are
making different demands on your time, and the way to do that is the third piece of advice which is, don’t read, write.


[Emphasis added.]

To me it looks like he's saying it's "biscuits all the way down."

(After which, if you're lucky, there will be enough of you left to write a real book.)

FLG said...

Ah, might be biscuits all the way down, but those biscuits are deleterious to the student, which is my point.

Miss Self-Important said...

I think you're still talking as if creativity is an autocthonous being that lives inside each of us and is killed a little bit by each external imposition on our wills. If that were true, the greatest and truest creative geniuses of our time would be infants, since their minds have yet to be bent to the disciplining demands of civilization.

Also, according to this prognosis, I will be the greatest scholar in my department since I am at present the most bored by my courses and also the most mediocre student in them.

Andrew Stevens said...

Yeah, I'm with MSI. I'm just not seeing your argument here. It's not like you can't write stuff on your own and still do well in your classes.

FLG said...

Reposting a comment from the other post here:
Jeff said...

I understand where FLG is coming from here, because D.C. is packed with well-educated people whose conventional ambitions have rarely left them free to pursue their own notions outside the usual Biscuit Reward Program, even if they lead to dead ends. A Washingtonian's hobbies are more likely to involve some sort of systematic or group activity, like team sports, than a pastime that leaves them alone with their own thoughts for extended periods, like gardening, fixing cars, mastering a musical instrument, etc. The exceptions to my (potentially offensive) sweeping generalization tend to be the ones who run things, drive new ideas, and affect others; the rest of well-educated Washington works for them.

Look at American University's recent attempt to brand itself "home of the wonks." Hey, you're never gonna be a Senator or Secretary of State, so why aim high? Come here; we'll equip you to be an adequate staffer in someone's office. As insipid as the campaign is, it's also not unwise, because our education system isn't half bad at creating competent, uncreative biscuit-chasers. But such people aren't innovators or leaders--or even, at the end of the day, terribly interesting.

David said...

Jeff..."A Washingtonian's hobbies are more likely to involve some sort of systematic or group activity, like team sports, than a pastime that leaves them alone with their own thoughts for extended periods... The exceptions to my (potentially offensive) sweeping generalization tend to be the ones who run things, drive new ideas, and affect others"

I was at the Museum of the American Indian several years ago, and there was a temporary exhibit featuring the jewelry and other work of Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell...really fine stuff, not that I'm any judge. It struck me at the time that it was probably *extremely rare* for a Senator or Congressman to pursue a serious hobby not directly connected to he pursuit of political power.

 
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