Let's draw the trilogy close with a realization I made last Friday, while participating in a seminar session for PhD students. Let's link for the last time to The Chronicle of Higher Education and Thomas H. Benton's three columns suggesting that people should not pursue an academic career, unless they are willing to live in relative poverty, insecurity and misery for the rest of their lives, or they are one of those privileged few with the right connections, wealth, and/or independence without a need to support anyone else.
Previously, I had presumed that there are some differences between university systems in the United States and in Europe. I was, however, speaking nonsense as it turns out that there are no real differences. Students in the graduate school do teach undergraduates in Europe. Graduate programs in Europe do seem to be "structurally dependent on people who are neither privileged nor connected", to borrow Benton's disturbing observation, evidenced in Finland by the need of PhD students to work as adjuncts, doing whatever odd jobs they can find at the university or anywhere else to support themselves. And as I have now personally witnessed, given enough time, all of this does turn PhD students into cranky, disillusioned, and depressed lot, both in the USA (according to the link 54 percent of graduate students felt so depressed they had a hard time functioning during the previous year) and in Finland (according to the linked study 26 percent of all university students, both graduate and undergraduate, had problems with their mental health; English summary of the study begins on page 70).
At least I finally know why I wanted to continue my studies:
PhD Comics November 8th, 2000
Link to the original
Come Easter, and I try to write more cheerful posts next month.
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