Academia needs to suffer the philosopher’s death

The philosopher’s death.

To metaphorically (kinda) die to be born anew. The necessary step on a long via crucis of reinvention.

The old mystery teachings spoke about it, alchemy made the concept immortal.

After all, it’s a common thought isn’t it? In essence, the desire to reinvent oneself.

In psychological terms, this can be best explained by Mr. Dabrowski and his very handy model of psychological maturity.

In Dabrowski model of positive disintegration, you as a human being has the possibility of becoming a more functional human with responsability and other cool traits after surviving a series of crisis, or disintegrations as Dabrowski puts it.

The key in making use of such crisis relies in the ability to progressively increase the amount of conscious self observation you make during, and after each crisis.

Eventually you progress from a place where such disintegrations are spontaneous, and random, to a place where they are organized and kinda self-directed.

How this ties in with academia?

The main workforce in academia aren’t the advisors (teachers) but the students and the quasi-permanent staff called post docs.

Academia seem to generate enough hate in its workforce to spawn a site called 100 reasons not to go to academia.

If this is warranted or not, I shall not discuss here in detail, although there is ample evidence from where this hatred comes from: Lack of prospects after the PhD, elitist leanings, the very real possibilty of reduced earnings after a PhD, the ways how a post doc can mess with your employment prospects, and the fact that no one knows what will be the future of the post doc position.

So, academia by nature is resistant to change, and has not catched the memo that if you mistreat your workforce enough, eventually they start leaving.

That coupled with the increasing lack of fund money, (worldwide phenomenon by the way) means that academia is facing a major global crisis, and is being carried to the intensive care unit.

To survive, it will need to rethink its production ethos, the meaning of what means to be a grad student, and if it’s really necessary for a scientist to be a trainee for almost ten years, this time being the average length of grad school.

It’s a big deal of change, and surely for some of the old school (maybe fossilized) professors, it will be a kind of death.

But right now it’s what academia most need in order to reinvent itself and escape a more through disintegration that may leave something integrate, but unrecognizable in place.

And perhaps even worse.

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