Jack of Some Trades, Master of One

wnu

Bart:  Look at me, I’m a grad student. I’m 30 years old and I made $600 last year.
Marge:  Bart, don’t make fun of grad students. They just made a terrible life choice.

Disdain for graduate students strikes me as a uniquely American phenomenon. In Germany, and I suspect many other nations, it is not at all uncommon or disparaged for those who choose to go to university to continue their schooling into their late 20s or early 30s. But any American plugging along in academia at that ripe age is looked at like a leper at a cuddle party. There are exceptions: doctors are generally appreciated until the medical bill arrives and lawyers are tolerated as a necessary evil. But those seeking an advanced degree that does not in itself qualify one for some specific trade are dabblers, dawdling with minutiae that will never escape the shade of the ivory tower.

I will not deny that I share this bias to a certain extent. When I am outed as a graduate student, I’m quick to mention that I am fully, gainfully employed and shift the subject to the weather or “them Bears”. It’s not that I’m ashamed of being in graduate school or dislike what I do; despite Marge Simpson’s assertion, it’s actually been one of the better life choices I’ve made. It’s more the fact that there are plenty of graduate students who are there to prolong the aresponsible life or put off the workaday routine for another year or six. I simply have no desire or energy to distinguish myself from that flavor of student, so I avoid the topic altogether.

Excised.

March 13, 2009 8:01 am

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