Opinion

Does A Seemingly Corrupt Academic System Makes It Unworthy?


I came across this article in which a graduate student decides to leave academia just several months before the submission of his/her PhD. His/her frustration and acute appreciation that the academic/scholar system is inherently flawed by the constant drive to publish, the sclerotic hierarchy of untouchable professors and the ruthless exploitation of those at the base of the pyramid, has led him to give up.

Well, I understand all those concerns and I am personally affected by them. The fact that I am married with three small children, one of them with severe discapacity, limits me greatly as a scientist. I agree with a colleague who recently told me that the way to become a leading scientist or academic is really cruel and unjust, perhaps more than most professions, but that the system is corrupt does not take away the idealism of the academic enterprise.

If you really love politics, should you stop being a politician, even if the system is corrupt? Why not try to do whatever is in your power to make it better?

If you like banking and genuinely want to make a contribution to society, should you not do it?

The problem this article highlights is a deeper one than a problem with academia: our society has forgotten living according to high moral standards. It is more acute in academia though because by its nature this place is supposed to be idealistic and live by really high standards. Yes, standards are low in academia, so I understand this person’s frustration.

I do not claim academia is apt for everyone, but for those who have high ideals of scholarship, it is still a very rewarding and worthwhile path, even though the system may be corrupt in some aspects. Academic achievement should never be an end in itself, it must be the means for a better society. When academic achievement does not truly fulfils its role, it is not being true to itself. That is why we need people with high and strong ideals who are able to give their life for them. That is what is needed in academia and in every other sector of society: individuals who are able to truly live up to their high values regardless.

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Categories: Opinion

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7 replies »

  1. I recently changed fields and am now in business. I am still submitting my Phd thesis (I couldn’t throw away all that hard work), but academia will only change when mindless publishing stops becoming the measurement of progress/success. That won’t happen any time soon if ever. Whether or not published papers mean anything to anyone anywhere is never questioned. It is just about publishing. What some of these papers mean to the people suffering with HIV/AIDS for example… ‘the man on the street’… who cares. If an academic got a paper out of it that’s all that counts. The academic path has gone horribly horribly wrong and there is a declining number of positions in academia too, so the future of post-grad students that are not industry-ready is bleak (http://www.continental-philosophy.org/2013/09/13/the-adjunct-crisis-an-infographic-progressive-geographies/). I think we need to be real about what’s going in academia because people need to survive at the end of the day, buy homes, support their families, save for retirement, etc.

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    • Thanks very much Kavi for your insightful comment.

      I agree that there are fewer positions all the time and that the future of academia does not look too promising at the moment.

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  2. I recently changed fields and am now in business. At least in business people are upfront about being in it for the money and betterment of their quality of life. I am still submitting my Phd thesis (I couldn’t throw away all that hard work) but the only thing I will get out of it is the title of ‘Dr’. Academia will only change when mindless publishing stops becoming the measurement of progress/success. That won’t happen any time soon if ever. Whether or not published papers mean anything to anyone anywhere is never questioned. It is just about publishing. What some of these papers mean to the people suffering with HIV/AIDS for example… ‘the man on the street’… who cares. If an academic got a paper out of it that’s all that counts. The academic path has gone horribly horribly wrong and there is a declining number of positions in academia too, so the future of post-grad students that are not industry-ready is bleak (http://www.continental-philosophy.org/2013/09/13/the-adjunct-crisis-an-infographic-progressive-geographies/). I think we need to be real about what’s going in academia because people need to survive at the end of the day, buy homes, support their families, save for retirement, etc.

    Like

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