« on: November 05, 2013, 07:03:46 pm »
We see it teaching undergrads, my colleagues, I mean. They come to biobeers Friday night and bitch about their students who, being /upperclassmen/ in Biology can't seem to keep track of the fundamentals. We talk about how some people are just not ready for college. When shit goes down, like breeches of academic integrity, /we're/ the ones who come down hard. The professors are soft in comparison. I mean, who wants their students to fail? But that would actually render the meaning of our degrees worthless, and so we're hard asses, and everyone hates us because college isn't grade school, and your ACT/SAT scores don't mean shit.
And for the people who have it together, there's still this mentality to learn to the test, to worry endlessly about grades, in short, a self-sustained self-destructive bent towards their creativity. And that doesn't disappear for grad students always either. I have colleagues who are /still/ worried about grades, who concern themselves over tests. I tell them, you're in grad school, as long as you pass your classes and take something away from them, no one cares about your grades. Your research is the important thing. But the necessity of grades has been drilled into skulls so hard that the overachievers from even /my/ generation, which was mostly done with elementary education by the time NCLB was created, are still stuck in that. I thankfully let it go.
I'm seeing a shift, where undergrad is becoming a continuation of high school, and grad school is becoming Undergrad:Advanced Courses. You see this with the proliferation of MBAs, with master's degrees that don't actually require a thesis, just /another big exam/. You know what? We know how to test. Not even /undergrads/ should be taking tests. Make them write papers, make them give presentations, make them work on collaborative projects. Tests are useless piles of bollocks. I'm trying to head off a rant because I actually have a class right now where we have two exams. They're essay exams, and they require actual research and the topics are relevant but they're /still fucking exams/. There's no peer review allowed, no collaboration...what kind of scientist writes anything of more than trivial worth and doesn't have someone else take a look? What kind of worth is that? So I'm about right pissed about it. Even my prelim, quickly approaching, is feeling more and more like yet another pointless hurdle. And yesterday I talked with one of my professors about it. Traditionally, the prelim is an oral and written defense of your past knowledge, where you are grilled on your understanding and ability to think. In large schools it's usually for thinning students, because the program takes on way way too many students to support and assumes most will fail out. My school has a small PhD program, where professors are very selective about taking on students. Therefore, the prelim is only a chance for the committee to assess their advisee's knowledge and ability, and consider remediation in areas where they need improvement.
But we don't have the traditional oral/written defense with random questions. We have to write a paper. A. FUCKING. PAPER. Mind you, a rather large research paper which reviews a topic that the committee chooses. But it's still a FUCKING TEST. I talked yesterday with this professor who's on my committee and HE AGREED that it's a hoop, though he mentioned it does help assess writing ability. Do I get to talk to people about it? NO. Do I get to discuss my ideas with faculty. NO FUCKING NO. Whatever. Then I get to stand up in front of the committee and defend the fucking thing, which is like the traditional prelim but still not because they're supposed to ask me questions surrounding the subject matter of the paper. The likely conclusion will be that I pass with revisions, since no one has as of yet been booted from the program over it, since it's just a formality, since even PhD programs seem to have fallen to the dumb fucking hoops syndrome. And then this paper that I spend 8 weeks of my life on will end up sitting in some file drawer for all of eternity since it was just a DUMB FUCKING HOOP that I have to jump through before I can write my research proposal and actually sink into doing the only thing that really matters, which is my research.