grad school

Recently, David Fitch made a compelling argument for Ph.D pastors, as I related in this post. A couple of folks have asked me if I intend to go back to school for a Ph.D. In a word: no. Thomas H. Benton, that's his pen name, has some fascinating reflections on the academic world in an essay entitled, "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go!" His follow up comments are here. He recommends that only those who are independently wealthy undertake it as it means shirking normal adult responsibilities in order to compete for dwindling jobs. In short, he calls the academic system exploitative.

I was particularly intrigued by his comments about student motivations:
They are emerging from 16 years of institutional living: a clear, step-by-step process of advancement toward a goal, with measured outcomes, constant reinforcement and support, and clearly defined hierarchies. The world outside school seems so unstructured, ambiguous, difficult to navigate, and frightening.
How insightful! He identifies the shaping power of the systems that we live in and some core motivations. Academics are precisely geared to prey upon human brokenness- the chance to be important and please authority at some level through carefully explicit criteria. All you have to do is pay a price and be good enough......Just like church(?). It is a good example of how we must consider the ways in which bigger forces in our lives try to shape us: job, work, country, etc.

If there is one problem with the essay, I think it is that Benton seems to be speaking to white students' situation. There are nuances to minority voices holding seats in the academic world that he doesn't address; power issues left unexamined. Still, there is great merit to what he writes, and it is fascinating to consider at a time when churches care less and less about degrees and more about experience when hiring. What's your take?


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