Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Myth of the "Life of the Mind"

Thomas Benton at the Chronicle of Higher Education has written a thought provoking piece on the culture of humanities graduate schools and its resistance to bridging the gap between being practical and living the "life of the mind". Is it disconcerting that humanities graduate schools often neglect giving practical advise to their students regarding the difficulties inherent in getting a humanities teaching post? What are the responsibilities of professors/advisors? Is the professor/student paradigm in place at most institutions antiquarian? What if anything can/should be done?

1 comment:

  1. I take it that this isn't so much a question about how graduate schools prepare students but a question about how those of us who teach undergraduates help those with aspirations for post graduate work and an academic career.

    I teach at an undergraduate institution that regularly sends one to four students each year to graduate school in philosophy. We work intensively with students as early as they self-identify as interested in graduate school. We tell them the truth, i.e., that graduate school is difficult intellectually, personally, emotionally, financially and that not only is there no guarantee of a position at the end, there is a significant chance that there won't be a position at the end.

    Of course, the landscape is much more complicated than that - and that is part of what worries me about Thomas Benton's piece.

    But to return to my initial point. The responsibility for educating students about the academic job market and its probable future rests with teachers of undergraduates. Graduate programs - to my mind - should still stick to "the life of the mind,' when it comes to educating their students. They should stick to what they are experts at - teaching graduate students to be scholars and teachers in their field.


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