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Topic: Doctoring the Doctorate
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Doctoring the Doctorate
Posted: Jun 2, 2013 10:27 PM
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From INSDIE HIGHER ED, Friday, May 24, 2013. See
Doctoring the Doctorate

By Colleen Flaherty

Hoping to help Ph.D.s secure jobs and challenge old notions about
academe, Stanford University will encourage and pay for humanities
graduate students to pursue careers as high school teachers, starting
next year.

The plan consists of a new course offering that will expose graduate
students to humanities issues in high school pedagogy and curriculum,
and a promise by the School of Humanities and Sciences to fully fund
each humanities Ph.D. admitted to the competitive Stanford Teacher
Education Program in the Graduate School of Education.

"Many of our students are superb teachers and committed to the
transmission as well as the production of knowledge, and our society
needs good teachers at all levels," said Debra Satz, senior associate
dean for the humanities and arts, in an e-mail interview. Although
not a traditional career path for Ph.D.s in the U.S., where teaching
is "undervalued," she added, "In Europe, it is much more common for
high school teachers and others to have advanced degrees."

The news came during a Faculty Senate panel discussion last week
organized by Russell Berman, professor of comparative literature and
German studies and a leading voice in the national dialogue on
reforming doctoral education.

Professors in other disciplines also shared ideas and concerns about
doctoral education during the discussion, which Berman said was
requested by senate members. Stanford is already a leader in reform,
including its challenge to humanities departments last year to cut
their time-to-degree to five years in exchange for year-round
graduate student funding; Berman also advocated for change during his
recent term as president of the Modern Language Association, and
still chairs an organization task force on the matter. Funding
Ph.D.s' teaching certification is one way to address what's wrong
with the doctoral process, he said, starting with professors'
expectations for their graduate students.

"What I hear again and again from graduate students is that they're
interested in careers others than faculty careers - they just don't
want their advisers to find out about it," he said. "They sense
advisers will cease to support them if they signal career plans
[outside the academy] or maybe don't want to be researchers."

Satz said she didn't know how many students ultimately would apply
for and be accepted to the teaching program, which costs about
$40,000 per year, but that there was already great interest among
graduate students; 40 attended a meeting she organized on teaching
high school earlier this year. Events to publicize the new course, to
be offered next winter, will be held in the fall, she said.

In a lean academic job market with creeping time-to-degree and
student debt, graduate education has to change, said Berman;
departments must not only support alternative career paths, but
better-prepare students for such routes. And it's not just a
humanities problem. Berman said he was surprised to hear during the
panel that elements of the so-called "crisis of the humanities"
weren't specific to the field.

Bob Simoni, professor of biology, said that two years ago the
department capped graduate students' funding at 5.5 years, amid
concerns that some were taking too long. Although some professors
objected to the policy that bans them from funding students even with
their own grant money, Simoni said most faculty ultimately supported
the measure and have worked to get students out in that time period.
Students also select a thesis lab earlier in their program to
accommodate the new timeline.

Jim Plummer, dean of engineering, also raised concerns about Ph.D.s
who were "parked" in postdoctoral positions, displacing graduate
students who might enter the program - despite the fact that most
graduates in the field eventually move on to jobs in industry, not

"Mostly, it was setting the stage for discussions that will
continue," Plummer said of the panel. Raymond Levitt, Faculty Senate
chair and professor of engineering, agreed that there was broad
interest in continuing the conversation in detail next year.

Although Berman believes doctoral reform will continue to germinate
at the department level, he said there's value in continuing to
discuss it across the disciplines - and the time is ripe for change.
With the impact of technology on instruction and the realities of the
academic job market, he said, "We're in a very flexible moment for
higher education."
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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