I have bemoaned repeatedly the nastiness that is closed access research journals. O quite appreciate the economics but while being poor may explain evil it does not excuse it. Rather, it indicts rich and poor alike for the apathy of not fixing the situation. One of the primary targets of my complaints is the journal SCIENCE, which raises social correct elitism to apoxic heights. The quality of their content for main stream, inherently uncontroversial research articles is unassailable, except for the stench of a form of simony that cries for nails and hammer.
Despite this, I note summaries of a couple of articles this week, note, after all, since SCIENCE is a subscription periodical and unless one pays their dues the real information is sequestered. The articles have to do with the on-going failure of the academic system, so the absence of detail is not pertinent under these conditions of little more than arrogant, disdainful admission of fully apparent rot.
The first deals with the re-engineering of undergraduate biology courses, [Link]
“to assess how far they have come in their efforts to improve undergraduate introductory biology courses, which are seen as a critical step toward raising the nation’s scientific literacy.”
The thing that is striking about this statement is the tacit, de facto concentration on biology 101. The casual observer would read this as an indication that knowledge of biology is the key scientific area for Joe and Jane Consumer. That would be inaccurate, as is the basic premise of the effort. The simple accuracy is that biology courses are “popular” today, as they have been for decades, if not centuries, because they are viewed as the simplest of introductory science courses.
The average college student takes almost no science courses. Some, notably business students, take no science courses, and few maths courses, which, despite their association, are not science. Most students take two or four science courses, almost all in the introductory level. Very few student minor in a science discipline, most as a convenience to a science major in a different discipline. The modern consumerist-capitalist Amerikan ideal of a liberal (broad) education is far from Capellan.
The fact is that for the average college student, the ones who go to college not to learn but to adhere to social expectations or plump a resume, the requirement of science courses is considered odious and punishing. Many delay the courses as long as possible so that one commonly sees the halls of introductory science courses populated with freshman would-be majors and minors, and senior others. The contrast is striking; bright young faces with straining attention to disciplinary pablum conjoined with apathetic, dilettante gray countenances wondering why they bothered to attend class. The requirement for this mass of bogishness to take a science course achieves the opposite of its intent, it alienates rather than illuminates. No amount of course improvement will change this. The effort is wasted because the basics of science have not been appliedbecause that would violate political correctness – and have, possibly, improbably, some effect.
The second piece has to do with a related rot in graduate nerd education, [Link]
“The commingling of graduate education and research in the United States has created a system that is the envy of the world in terms of research productivity. It’s also not a bad deal for the student, who typically doesn’t pay a penny to earn her Ph.D. But that wildly successful system comes at a high cost to both students, who end up providing their advisers with several years of skilled labor at below-market rates, and the profession, says Nobelist Roald Hoffmann. And it’s not sustainable, he argues, especially during tough economic times like these.”
Part of this is accurate. The average graduate student is indeed reduced to a form of servitude, in the form of either a research or a teaching assistantship. Both have pay scales considerably less than minimum wage if one includes the hours of unpaid effort subsumed tacitly into the proposition. And what is unsustainable about the whole program is its dishonesty with the graduate students themselves.
Almost all graduate students have some expectation of graduate shul being a path to an academic career. The actuality is that the fraction of failures of this aspiration is second only to those in popular entertainment. The sad accuracy is that once these students complete graduate shul, the strong majority who can live in the genteel poverty of that environment, the only continuation is more years of slightly reduced poverty as a post doctoral serf. The simple and previously noted mechanics are professors who have thirty (plus?) year careers and graduate one or two students a year.
Rot. Pure and simple. A system that pretends to educate while doing the opposite. The responsibility is not solely that of academia, however much they would be loathe for anyone outside to consider either its actuality or its treatment, so until that hurbis can be overcome, all that seems likely to result is more rot and ruin.