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Hanging Out and Talking

Yesterday, we talked in class about the old expectations of how a doctoral student progressed. Our professor currently is in his 60's and so has the historical view point that explains some of the underlying assumptions behind the traditional doctoral program.

Doctoral students literally were once expected to show up, hang out, wait on their major professors, do a lot of reading, take all of the professor's classes, and drink together. You literally were mentored into a culture and joined it by living it. You made coffee (even if you were male) and read ALL of an author's work. Literally, you hung out and talked with people informally. After a time, your major professor decided you'd read enough and talked enough (and drunk enough Scotch) to start writing your dissertation.

So, we end up with an unexamined assumption in higher education that somehow, students need to socialize together outside of class as well as discuss in class. This gives us difficulty when we think about both distance-delivered doctoral classes as well as commuter students. Somehow, as I've noted before, such non-traditional situations are looked upon by many academics as less rigorous, although they often cannot say why.

This gets at the aspect of mentoring and acculturation that are presumed to be part of a doctoral program. Somehow, we need to create academics through not only class but also this nebulous cloud of epistemic practices that surround members of the academy. With the increasing number of working, older adults who are returning to school, we need to consider what is an essential aspect of being a well-educated academic. Do we need to remake people who are already actively teaching in the academy? Do we need to change people who are functional practitioners in their fields who want to increase their already existing skills?