Graduate Education Reform

Some common themes in the literature regarding graduate education reform range from getting rid of the perception that the only goal of earning a PhD in the humanities is a traditional tenure track position at a university since there are few positions available, incorporating multidisciplinary approaches for better collaboration across departments, and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral degree mostly because of cost.

Paul Jay and Gerald Graff emphasize that corporations are recognizing the value of humanities training in the corporate world since having skills grounded in the humanities promote better communication and better analysis of a given situation or problem.  If only there could be round-table discussions in the business place as to how Locke or Mill would handle disgruntled workers about to strike, fairness in the workplace would be more pronounced. In my opinion, educational reform needs to occur across all disciplines and not just in the humanities departments, but also in business and the sciences where some humanities training is necessary in order generate those philosophical discussions to promote more analysis on what is ethical especially in the workplace since that is where we all hope to be at some point.

Anthony Grafton and Jim Grossman both suggest that there be “No More Plan B” regarding the ultimate intellectual desire of a tenured post in academia.  Instead, grad students should be made well aware that that tenured positions are further narrowing and that a life of scholarship can and does exist outside of an academic institution. Humanities departments need reform in order to train new generations of knowledge workers/scholars to work in interdisciplinary contexts by way of limiting “dinosaur” research methodologies that espouse academic “en-vogue views” as Bethany Nowviskie, the Director of Digital Research & Scholarship at the University of Virginia, proposes. Her view that more funding for humanities organizations to initiate multidisciplinary collaboration for new curricula with a primary focus on not just the archival, but also the digital and open-access, is entirely necessary to bring about revision. Also, Nowviskie’s approach to a curriculum reform regarding intellectual property, publishing and scholarly communication, collaboration among disciplines, and how peer review and promotion are assessed is a necessary beginning.

Limiting the amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral degree, as suggested by Russell Berman, a comparative literature professor at Stanford, will not help reform the curriculum in humanities’ departments so that students can be better prepared for careers inside or outside of the academy. Humanities’ candidates need more knowledge, not less time to complete a degree, if interdisciplinary methods are introduced into the curricula. Berman is correct in that graduate education is becoming more unaffordable.  Although most candidates receive some form of institutional or grant funding to complete their degrees, not all do.  Today, with unemployment soaring in our rapidly changing global economy, many are going back to grad school to gain more knowledge in order to advance their careers or to entirely recreate themselves. With funding at a competitive high, close scrutiny of the soaring costs of higher education needs to be a part of humanities’ reform as well as the curricular.




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