Scu is right about the series in the Chronicle called “Academic Bait and Switch.” I must admit that I skimmed parts and then just stopped reading. Scu writes:
[T]he real annoyance with the series is I feel that the pseudonym shouldn’t be Henry Adams, but should rather be Holden Caulfield. Seriously, we have five parts, coming in at around 7,717 words, and everyone described in it is a phoney, a jerk, a sycophant. In his entire time at grad school, he never had a professor that he found insightful? In his years teaching undergraduates as a TA, he never had a student that who surprised and delighted him? I’m glad that in general the author seems to like several of his fellow graduate students (though they are often too sycophantic for him. He remains the only truth teller, the only academic dare devil), and most of the positive intellectual benefits you get out of grad school comes from your peers.
I think that’s about right. The title of the articles is tellingly lame. And what in there was revealing at all? We’ve known for years that grad students are ill-prepared for TA’ing, and we generally do a poor job of educating these future educators. (A side note, though: what would be adequate preparation? I read this as a typical complaint about things that people find nerve racking and for which there could be no way to “prepare” before the leap in front of all those eyes on you. Remember the first time you drove a car alone? The first time you stepped out in front of a large crowd to give a speech or lecture? We are endlessly claiming there isn’t enough preparation for things that … you …prepare …for … by …. doing.) And OMG, to learn that academics have egos! I can’t help but think that this person was, excuse the expression, the typical type of student who is never happy with anything, always blames others for his or her problems, and then wonders why the people he keeps complaining about won’t work the phones to get him or her a job.
Could we do more for teaching? Yes, but would we have colleges get rid of TAs and thus make a lot of these programs economically unfeasible? It’s a cliche to say that you learn more from your fellow grad students anyway than you do from your profs, and that’s largely true. Did he or she scare off all of his brighter friends? Was he the type of person that people enjoyed watching get eaten alive by the prof they warned everyone else about? It makes me wonder. Make your own luck, as the great Two-Face says…