Assorted Links

Some articles that caught my eye in the last few days, including one about higher education that touched a nerve.

1. Why the Scientist Stereotype is Bad For Everyone, Especially Kids – An article that addresses the white, male, bearded, bespectacled, and awkward/deranged stereotype for scientists, as well as the misconception that science is boring. As usual, he argues for a paradigm shift that makes science fun and interesting and results in a better educated workforce.

2. Why Would We Want a Less Educated Nation/ Defending the PhD – A blog post by Claire Potter, Tenured Radical, that discusses some of the many issues of Humanities and Social Sciences PhD programs. Among them include the attrition rates, job markets, and resistance to change while also maintaining the insistence that those who do not achieve a tenure-track job are failures. In many ways, she is trying to appeal to education and intellectualism for its own sake as a way to create and perpetuate an educated society. Commenters universally critique her for being naive here, and the post does come across that way. Perhaps more insidiously, despite the (I believe) well intentioned nature of the post, it also comes across as somewhat condescending and as a self-help session for those people who already seek post-graduate degrees in the humanities. It does call for an expansion of the fields that hire PhDs, but not really encouraging more people to attain those degrees (at least right now). I am sympathetic to the plight–I am, after all, in it–but other than removing stigma of non-academic jobs and, to an extent, changing what is taught by PhD programs, most of the changes are on sectors not in academia.1

The case can be made that there would be a trickle-down effect that would eventually result in more people going to graduate school and yes, a better educated nation is an admirable goal. Yet, I suspect that there are a wide range of environmental and societal issues that must be addressed in order to lay the foundation for the changes that she calls for. So, yes, removing the stigma of non-academic work is necessary, but focusing on the highest level of education, without even looking at whether or not people actually want to go (particularly since we have been conditioned to consider school a drag) is naive.

1 She does manage to write the post without directly attacking Republican legislators, Fox News, or any of the other usual suspects for a case like this, but the attempt to stay high-minded actually feeds into the charges of naivete and condescension.

3. ‘Me too, Me too!’ – A look at some of the dedicated educational centers abroad that are trying to forge professional connections with the top universities in the world.

4. Spoiled Rotten – An article from the New Yorker that looks at the spoiled manner of “American” kids. There are some thought-provoking points here, but there are also some underlying assumptions that are not laid out.

5. A Few Words About Breasts – A piece written for Esquire in 1972 by the late Nora Ephron, republished online.

6. Men Can’t Have it All Either – A Response in the Atlantic to the story by Anne-Marie Slaughter that questions some of proposed changes that Slaughter proposes and points out that what Slaughter identifies as a woman’s issue is really an issue that affects both men and woman in the modern world.

7. Europe is on Big ATM, and Only the Few Know the Code – A post by Charlie Pierce that compares the formation of a central European Treasury to a system with no nations, but only banks.

8. EU Unveils its vision for the future of monetary union – A story about the future of the Monetary Union that sparked Pierce’s comment.

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