Re: “So You Want To Get a PhD in the Humanities”

I don’t like linking to videos, but this one is right on the money. If anyone can find a transcript, please paste it in the comments:

So you want to get a PhD in the humanities

The main point of parody is the student, not the bitter and cynical professor. The student thinks she’s all that from having written one two “A” papers, despite getting a C in other coursework. She thinks she can write a dissertation on a general theme. She knows the name of a scholar or two, and that’s… it.

I can safely tell you that there are students like this who are getting straight A’s and are actually competent in their field who still have no business going to grad school right away. The childishness underlying their motivation is simply not acceptable, and they don’t have enough general knowledge to warrant putting them in front of a class of any sort. There is a certain worldliness necessary for teaching, and it used to not be an issue, because overgrown babies couldn’t simply rack up straight A’s. Our system now has no way of discriminating between people of a certain maturity and kids who can jump hurdles mindlessly. It’s a serious problem at certain grad schools; in other schools, the students are too worldy, too professional, not hungry enough for knowledge.


  1. In a certain sense the professors are culpable too, though. Bloom speaks at length on the issue of how these men and women shirked from their duty to uphold the integrity of their institutions. It isn’t as if he is the top authority on the issue, but there is substance to what he says. I don’t know if the same holds true today: I think lots of college profs really stand for the ‘flowering of the individual,’ which really means that his efforts to make sense of chaos will be for the most part self-directed.

  2. I’m wryly amused by this because I have seen students like the lass in the video in my own contemporaries when I was over at you-know-where. The educational system as a whole (even where I am) is about producing the As and mindlessly playing the system. It neglects the fact that there are people who are intelligent and capable but whose grades do not reflect that same capability, insightfulness and so on. On the one hand, I can understand the cynical professor’s point of view. On the other hand, there is nothing more I’m fit for other than academia, so I’m competing with chits and young bucks like the student in the clip for a place. It’s disheartening because I’ve been on both sides of the divide and it is depressing. Knowing what the undergrads are like, I let them do as they please. But do that, and the department isn’t happy. Keep a tight rein on the students and try to educate them seriously, they complain to the department, and the department comes down hard on you. Either way, it is between a rock and a hard place.

    Then again, you know all this already.

  3. Sadly I have seen many students who simply memorize information and spout out dissertations without any kind of analytical thought process and expect to get an “A”. I guess it’s their experience that when they have done this in the past with other professors it has worked so when they find someone in which it does not work with they are surprised and “throw their tantrum” so to speak.
    Their pride blinds them as yo the true value of their work.
    All the best,

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