To Degree or Not to Degree: A Rant

(NOTE: Yes I appreciate the irony of this post immediately following one about critical thinking and argumentation. I said this was a rant, and I meant it.)

So I’m watching a stream today. I LOVE this stream. The person who does it is one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s smart, funny, kind, generous, etc. Today he said something on his stream which sparked a conversation with his more than 300 viewers that upset me. Now granted, he didn’t say it to be offensive, and he isn’t feeling well, but the conversation bothered me. A lot.

Let me start by saying that I have told my daughter numerous times that she doesn’t have to go to college if she doesn’t have to. I realize that in a time where people are convinced that the smartest and most successful go to college this is not a normal thing to say. However, I think it is important that she follow her dreams, loves what she does, and doesn’t let the creativity get smooshed out of her. The below video is my favorite TED Talk describing and speaking to exactly what I mean (Thank you, Ken Robinson. You’re an inspiration).

apple vs orangesThat being said. THAT BEING SAID… just because there are those who are educators, academics, therapists, doctors, and others our society considers “the most educated”, who get things wrong, are socially awkward, or like to one-up everyone, doesn’t mean that ALL of us are like that. Yes, D is for degree, so you don’t have to pay a ton of attention to get a piece of paper, nor do you have to learn all that much. Yes, there are tons of people who get degrees and then go work at Taco Bell for the rest of their lives. Yes, there are people who pay tons of money for 30+ years after school getting a degree in something they HATE cause their parents expected them to. And on and on. But in this conversation I saw people effectively defecate on education as a whole; the higher the degree the harder they raged against it. Only one other person bothered to say that he went to school for himself and he loved it… that social smarts and common sense are not the same as book smarts. I absolutely agree.

My opinion, which I expressed in chat but which I’m sure no one saw (hence my frustrated post here) is that a degree is not always just a piece of paper, just as those who do not have degrees are not always idiots. But, by ripping on those who have chosen academics as their path, regardless of the reason, these people are lowering themselves to the place those that degrade them live. You are no better. It is a choice. There is no “right” choice. There is only a “right for you” choice. People without degrees one-up others too. People without degrees can, and will, correct a statement with an inaccurate remark that is maddening. So what you’re effectively telling me is that if I have a degree, I can’t be human? Isn’t that the attitude you’re fighting? I’m not perfect, but I’m not claiming to be.

All I’m saying is I LOVE learning. I am STOKED to get my PhD because it will allow me to do the thing I want to do; teach graduate school. And WHY do I want to teach graduate school? To avoid, as much as possible, those who do not WANT to be in school. Here, the atmosphere is peaceful, we disagree without contempt (for the most part), and while we have the assholes who make everyone furious with their pompous nature, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. And I’m okay with that. I like a little bit of pompous with my cereal.

Also, to the one in chat who said that he ragequit college because his English teacher told him that ’empirical evidence’ is NOT just something you can observe with your five senses, she’s right. Good grief.

Define ‘Scholarly’

Chris Nitz Photo: Crushed by Knowledge If we objectively define ‘scholarly’ as “concerned with academic learning and research” (Dictionary.com,  2012), we find ourselves with a vague definition. We may be tempted to immediately think of left-brained academics. However, discrepancies in what must be considered academic may change that definition. If, for example, we define academics as pertaining to sciences or literacy, we end with a very different result than if we define academics as pertaining to any subject which facilitates the further development of a particular skill. Sir Ken Robinson (2006) notes that a major short coming of academics now is that we define academics much like the former, but would be served better to treat it as the latter.

Chris Nitz: A Keyboard Kind of LifeHowever, in writing, the target audience is the one that matters. As such, if you are writing to a group of social scientists, the expectation is that the prescribed protocol will be followed (Polkinghorne, 2007), and so on. In this way then, scholarly writing should be defined more along the lines of writing which facilitates the communication of critical thinking and rhetoric within a given field, using the prescribed masteries of that field. This allows for all subjects regardless of the paradigm currently subscribed to in academia.

References:

Dictionary.com (2012). ‘Scholarly’. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scholarly?s=t

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2007). Qualitative inquiry: validity issues in narrative writing. Qualitative Inquiry13(4), 472.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity.. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html