I liked college and graduate school, and I like them even more in retrospect since the behavior of some faculty at places I have been since has been so poor. Yet I have friends from college and even graduate school who use words like “trauma” and “gulag” to refer to our alma mater. I would never have said that and I suppose it means I am tough – something I have been told before and not understood, but which I understand now.
When I was in graduate school, many people were up in arms because in their view, the program did not “professionalize” us enough. This was not my experience or my view, in terms of gaining knowledge, practical savvy, information, and skills. Except that we, or at least I, did not learn to expect to be a professor, or to think of ourselves as future professors.
It was a given that one’s academic career would end with the Ph.D., since there were no jobs. It was perhaps for this reason that some of my advisors did not deem it necessary that one think of oneself as a professional or develop a research program one could take seriously. That is why I have a penchant for these issues now in graduate education.
This is perhaps the random fault of random people in my subfield, because I did learn to publish in graduate school. Taking course after required course outside my field of interest and writing competent seminar papers, the professors would say work on this, ask me questions if you need to, and send it off. I learned how to get things ready and publish them, but at the same time I was learning to continue to write for others, as another, not as myself.
My dissertation director did not think it expedient to consider what one really wanted to do and how one really wanted to define oneself. One should simply pick a topic in which one had some background and write something internally consistent. It did not matter whether this was well researched or not, because the point was not that one had an academic future but that one was running out of T.A. time. One needed to produce something readable which would take up a ream of paper and thus at least get one’s degree before retiring to one’s next career … or so was “practicality” presented to me.
This was years ago, when the in state students were not considered as bright as the imports with Ivy League B.A.’s and women were not expected to go on the job market in a serious way. It was at a large institution where many people really did get bogged down at the dissertation level and really did need to make a decision and get something done, and where the professors were overloaded with hordes of students – even graduate students came in hordes. These things, I think, explain the phenomenon, at least to a large extent. What do you think?