PhD programs

17 August 2010

What’s Not Up, Doc? Ph.D. Programs Getting Dissed

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango & Ph.D.-Program Conscientious Objector; photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Lots of dirt being dished about Ph.D. programs these days. Take this amusing quicky critique: “The Illustrated Guide To a Ph.D.”

For a more elaborate evisceration, read “The Ph.D. Problem” by Prof. Louis Menand in the November-December 2009 issue of Harvard Magazine. Here’s a quote from that diatribe that bullseyes some of my professors at Harvard and in business school:

“Professors are not themselves, for the most part, terribly practical people, and practical skills are not what they are trained to teach. They are trained to teach people to do what they do and to know what they know. Those skills and that knowledge are not self-evidently transferable… and then, at the end of a long, expensive, and highly single-minded process of credentialization, they are asked to perform tasks for which they have had no training whatsoever: to teach their fields to non-specialists, to connect what they teach to issues that students are likely to confront in the world outside the university, to be interdisciplinary, to write for a general audience, to justify their work to people outside their discipline and outside the academy.”

Now, I work with a few great Ph.D.’s. And as a professor who loves teaching but wishes he got paid more for it, I’m often tempted to enter a doctoral program. But articles like the above inoculate me from catching the Ph.D. bug. That and the thought of spending five years in near-solitary captivity so I may get a piece of paper that lets me do pretty much what I’m doing now but with more academic politics.

Hmm, maybe I’ll try being the CEO of a Silicon Valley tech company instead. It pays a whole lot better, and it seems like they’ll hire any clown for the gig. So forget the Ph.D. — HP here I come!


Related article: Why I Won’t Get a PhD: Exhibit 1A

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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