Passing Go

My dissertation is finished, turned in, waiting to be read and critiqued. Now that it is out of my hands I am asked in the morning what I am doing in the afternoon, in the afternoon I am asked what I will be doing the next day. I can only answer that I am planning, that I am structuring a future for myself and that I am looking for other goals to shoot down.

When I come to the end of something I am never as completely pleased with myself as I probably should be. Turning in my dissertation did not give me a good feeling, I did not feel like an accomplished person or someone worthy of praise. So long I am actually able to complete something, this something loses its attraction of having been a difficult task. If I can do it and if many other people have done it then is not as courageous a deed as I had wished when I began. That is the silly thing about me… I am never completely happy with what I have done. I want to keep reaching more goals, mastering different facets of life, becoming a better person and worker. I need to learn to take a deep breath and enjoy the end of a long road.

I am taking my leave from academia. I need to grow and do different things – I feel excited about applying my academic skills in a non-academic setting. I am currently looking for an opportunity to do so – if you read this, please wish me (in all secrecy) the best of luck.

I have, however, been waiting for the chance to start writing for fun again. This blog is my playground and I have an extended recess and, if I am allowed to do as I please, the coming days, weeks and months will see a flurry of content.

want to go to grad school?

When I asked my Professors (both as an undergrad and as a Masters student) for advice about graduate school I generally received one reaction and it usually had to do with the word “passion“. If I wasn’t passionate about philosophy, if I didn’t want to eat breakfast while reading philosophy, if I didn’t want to shower while reciting sound arguments, if I didn’t want to do battle over my favorite philosophy of language theory than I shouldn’t go to graduate school. The quip, “I live, eat and breathe philosophy”, was something I heard once. It left me with the impression that people who went to graduate school were people that wept at night because of the physiological impossibility of having sweet romantic intercourse with their books. What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t find good advice and heard nothing less than people expressing how proud they were of their “passion.”

If there are people out there looking for some helpful advice there currently is a discussion at A Philosophy Job Market Blog that is helpful. Don’t forget to read the comments to these posts because there are people who disagree –

Advice points 1 and 2 can be found here.

Advice point 3 can be found here.

I don’t want to give people the impression that I don’t recite sound arguments while showering because not only do I recite, I sing.

politics and education

Before this week I had never purchased and read a book written by a politician. Without turning the front cover one can intuit that the politician, through this book, is trying to sell her/himself. I ignored this reasonable “intuition” and went ahead and started reading Barack Obama’s, The Audacity of Hope. Senator Obama is trying to sell himself with this book and trying to make the reader comfortable with his way of thinking about politics. Not that this is a bad thing but might as well call a duck a duck. Obama’s book is a duck… uuh, I mean – he wrote about himself so that you will like him and that is what politicians do. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in reading Senator Obama’s view of politics in the US but be prepared to not be shocked, offended or enlightened. That being said, I’m not writing a book review but am responding to his section on education in the chapter titled, “Opportunity.”

Senator Obama has a very sympathetic view towards education. He wants to lower tuition costs, to increase grants to students and research programs, and to increase teacher’s salaries (based on performance). I agree that these things should be done and that education should be more of a priority in our government’s spending. What struck me was why he thought spending should be increased and what he expected from this increase in spending. It boils down to a direct relationship between education and the economy. Increased government spending in learning is not so much an investment in the people as it is an investment in our economy. Nicely funded research programs stocked with well educated students will help keep the US competitive in the global economy. The more people we have entering engineering/physics/computer science programs the better chance innovative companies will be created – companies that will keep our economy afloat. Tax payers and politicians are meant to be soothed by the idea that money spent on education will have a high return.

Education = money. More education = more money. While reading this I was having flashbacks of reading Marx’s Communist Manifesto. I had a bearded man in the back of my head telling me that in a capitalistic society every institution finds its value in its monetary productiveness, that every relation is a monetary relation and that education is valuable if and only if it has a high return. Areas of study that don’t have a direct translation to the marketplace are devalued. Obama isn’t concerned if we stay competitive in literature, philosophy or the study of history (etc.) because these areas of study have no monetary worth. He even suggests that high school teachers of math and science should be paid more because what they teach has (yet again, monetary) worth.

Not that this is particularly anything new. Anyone studying in the Humanities at a University in the US knows the feeling of having to pay an ever increasing tuition, seeing their department experience cuts and walking past brand new buildings dedicated to the sciences. It is also happening in Germany.

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To give Senator Obama some slack I highly doubt that any of the other candidates view education as something that deserves government spending because it is in itself valuable. I voted for the guy in my state’s primary and, if given the chance, will vote for him again. I am just incredibly turned off by this view of education and despair the future of our humanities.