A modest question: Should we abolish the PhD degree?

Russell Turpin deafbox@hotmail.com
Tue, 28 Aug 2001 20:41:10 -0500

Jim Whitehead asks:
> If you know of a better vetting mechanism for determining 
> whether someone is capable of doing original research, 
> I'd like to know about it. ..

Why not look at the papers they publish? 

And then:
> Why do you separate paper writing from the PhD 
> process? For me they were inseparable.

You make my point for me. If they are so inseparable,
what is the point of anything else? I suspect that you
were fortunate. A lot of PhD students find there is 
significant work turning published papers into a thesis, 
and managing their way -- and their committee -- 
through the process. And not all of it has to do with 
learning all there is about a specific topic.

> If you think about differences between our civilization, 
> and those that came before (the Romans being perhaps
> the closest analog), the University stands out. Unlike 
> *every* prior civilization, ours has a widely replicated
> institution whose mission is to create new knowledge 
> as a public good, and educate the populace about that 
> research. ..

I'm not arguing against the University. I merely raised
a question about how it structures the lower rungs of 
its career ladder.