Sanding our assholes with 150 grit.

New American Super Hero -- the PhD

http://www.fortune.com/fortune/articles/0,15114,1081269,00.html

Somehow, I doubt that education is going to put Americans back on the map and solidify the middle class.

I really doubt a PhD is the ticket to financial security or American pre-eminence.

WTF are the wealthy trying to say? That only the uneducated buffoons are being thrashed by the economy?

If some of us really believe that we are where we are because of merit or scholarship--well, I've got news for you--that's not it.
Permalink Mr. Snuffalufagus 
August 3rd, 2005
Hmm, now who is it round here who has a PhD? I'm sure they mentioned it once briefly in passing...

*ahem*
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 3rd, 2005
I think it was Albert...someone...

or was it Allan?
Permalink Jesus H Christ 
August 3rd, 2005
I'm not the only one here.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 3rd, 2005
But I can assure you, it's no guarantee to a sweet paycheck.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 3rd, 2005
I've got a PhD (Phat Dick). But all it's gotten me was 3 kids.
Permalink Cowboy coder 
August 4th, 2005
...was that a PhD in biology?
Permalink Almost H. Anonymous 
August 4th, 2005
Cowboy Rider - nice one. I always thought PhD stood for "Piled higher and deeper".

Anyway, back to the topic...

Personally I think the education system in the US is a complete joke. Very often we have bad teachers who are still allowed to teach. I ended up having to retake algebra in high school because my junior high teacher did such a bad job. It wasn't just me - everyone in my class who had this teacher was in the same boat.

Then there's these so-called "tests" that schools are how forced to have their students take. Now they're going to spend more time learning to take a test than actually understanding the subject matter.

We don't value education very much, which is shown by the fact that we see teaching as a menial job. By contrast, teachers in Japan and China are highly respected.
Permalink QADude 
August 4th, 2005
Although the teaching methods in Japan are nothing to write home about.

My PhD didn't do much for me, although I know a bit about water wave modelling. Great conversation at parties that one.
Permalink Joel Goodwin 
August 4th, 2005
From my brief stint in an American university it seemed to be a lot easier to get a batchelor's degree than it was in the UK. Some of the classes I had to take seemed to be more basic than the A-Levels I took; all the maths classes -- calculus, and so forth -- were just going over things I'd already done two years previously, and English was almost laughable.  You could also take a whole bunch of irrelevant easy classes to get credit -- Philosophy 101, anyone?
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
"From my brief stint in an American university it seemed to be a lot easier to get a batchelor's degree than it was in the UK."

Or maybe grade inflation just ran faster than your ability to age? Since "equal rights" turned into "equal results", everybody should get a university degree, right? What are the numbers now for higher education in the UK? Over 40% goes to university, up from 5% 20 years ago? And it would be very, very politically incorrect to assume that should not be a full 100% right?

Don't get me wrong. Education for all is great, but progressively lowering the bar util everybody gets a PhD isn't exactly what is going to light up the bright sparks.
Permalink Just me (Sir to you) 
August 4th, 2005
"Or maybe grade inflation just ran faster than your ability to age?"

I dunno -- this was about 15 years ago, back in the days when going to university was still the exception rather than the norm, and it was all free. The US courses just seemd to be set at the same "difficulty" as the A-Levels I'd already taken...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
I felt the same way going from an American private school to an American public school.

All Universities aren't the same. Not in England, and not in the US.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 4th, 2005
The Fortune article appears to be more cries for the nanny state to subsidize things. It advocates an increase in government research subsidies to $110 billion, providing the innovation that companies can't manage but want to profit from, among other things.
Permalink Tayssir John Gabbour 
August 4th, 2005
"the U.S. standard of living [..] could stall or even begin to decline"

Avoiding it going into freefall will be an achievement, IMO.
Permalink  
August 4th, 2005
Nope, no PhD, merely a Master's in CompSci.

As in 1957, when Sputnik went up, I believe America's strength is in her engineers and manufacturing capability. If the PhD's will serve in that realm, we may really have something.

But America's disconnect between its colleges and industry is quite large right now. I don't see PhD's in that environment making much difference.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 4th, 2005
<< The US courses just seemd to be set at the same "difficulty" as the A-Levels I'd already taken...>>

which university? i noticed that there's a great disparity in difficulty levels between schools up here in canada...
Permalink Kenny 
August 4th, 2005
Mostly at FAU -- http://www.broward.fau.edu/davie.html -- although I also did some courses at the neighbouring community college -- http://www.broward.edu/ext/CampusDisplay.jsp?Name=1 -- to allow me to work in the computer lab and planetarium.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
> The US courses just seemd to be set at the same "difficulty" as the A-Levels I'd already taken

High schools, and undergraduate courses, in North America don't specialize/narrow your curriculum to nearly the same extent as in the UK (i.e. they're a wider range of courses, but to a shallower level).
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 4th, 2005
"...don't specialize/narrow your curriculum to nearly the same extent..."

That's what puzzled me the most. I was doing a CS degree, but actual CS courses seemed to form a very small part of my study. I can kind of see that some non-core subjects would be good to broaden your horizons, but I think it's a bit of overkill to do so many.

I hope med schools don't work the same way; I'd hate to get treated by a doctor in the US and find out that he'd actually spent two thirds of his time studying philosophy, history of art, and German. :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
+++I hope med schools don't work the same way; I'd hate to get treated by a doctor in the US and find out that he'd actually spent two thirds of his time studying philosophy, history of art, and German. :)+++

Pre-med certainly is. Your doctor in the US probably studied ceramics and underwater basket weaving for his undergrad.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Someone said yesterday that becoming a medical doctor takes 8 years of (post-secondary, presumably) study. North American courses or students do or can become thoroughly specialized eventually ... perhaps in the 2nd or 3rd year of an undergraduate course, perhaps later.
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 4th, 2005
The third year of an undergrad major is about where the real meat of the topic kicks in.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
Which is total crap. Partly to blame are high schools that don't prepare kids for college AT ALL, partly to blame are lax admission criteria, and partly to blame is revenue-grubbing required-but-useless courses in degree programs.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Hell, highchool prepares you for neither college nor life - its only real function seems to be to babysit a bunch of hormone laden bored adolescents.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
If the movies have taught me anything, it's that highschool is a time for highjinks, parties, dick and fart jokes, angst, girls from the wrong side of town falling in love with preppies, and more dick and fart jokes.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
That's because of:

a) horrible, permissive parenting by ignorant Gen X'ers
b) jaded, broken, burned-out school faculty
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
That pretty well sums it up, I think.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
muppet, #1 on your list extends back to self-absorbed Baby Boomers. The 70's was the "Me" decade, a time when many Gen X'ers were born, right as their parents couldn't care less. They were too busy discovering themselves to realize they had kids to take care of, and now those values have gone into the lame ass Gen X parents who are equally crappy.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
>> You could also take a whole bunch of irrelevant easy classes to get credit -- Philosophy 101, anyone?

Sorry, Mat, but if you found an introductory philosophy class (I presume a survey class?) irrelevant for an advanced education, that probably speaks more about you than the class. Alternatively, it may simply have been a bad class.

More importantly, if you found it easy, then that was a choice you made, and I would venture, a poor choice. Did you do any original readings of any philosophers? Did you find their positions and arguments "easy"? It is easy to pass almost any intro or even mid level philosophy course with a decent grade if that's your goal and you're reasonably bright. The phrase "lead a horse to water" comes to mind.
Permalink Mongo 
August 4th, 2005
Well Aaron you're absolutely right, it all starts somewhere, but this generation is particularly poor. I mean, there are any number of news stories about parents defending their children's *criminal* behavior and lamenting the poor (read: completely appropriate) response of the school officials who have to contain and attempt to 'educate' these degenerates.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Yup, and it really needs to end somewhere, too. Or at least improve a little.

I just hope it's sooner, rather than later.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
I'm just lucky that my kid is a complete genius with perfect manners. I think that if I somehow raised a child anything like many of her classmates, I'd be forced to strangle her to death out of principle.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
I'd think you'd rather remove the source of the problem. It'd do more good in the long run, right?

Kinda like Vogon poetry. Some would rather die than listen to it. The smart would rather have the author die.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
August 4th, 2005
> I'm just lucky that my kid is a complete genius with perfect manners.

I can imagine muppet's little girl in middle school, raising some hell. The school has to call home:

"My little girl? Why she's a complete genius with perfect manners. What a poor response from you, school!"

;-)
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 4th, 2005
Ha.

The reason she's so well behaved is that inappropriate behavior is dealt with immediately and with finality.

:P
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
So she's dead then? You have our sympathies.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 4th, 2005
Yes finality and death are one-for-one synonymns.

You're hilarious, you should pursue a stand-up career and stop wasting your time here with us.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Sorry, my bad. I shouldn't joke about death of children. At least I didn't suggest eating her...
Permalink AllanL5 
August 4th, 2005
"You're hilarious, you should pursue a stand-up career and stop wasting your time here with us."

And you should take your own advice and remove whatever rod it is you have rammed up your ass... The phrase "dealt with... with finality" does rather have overtones of menace, you know.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
No it just means that once a rule is put down it's the rule. No negotiation, no repeal, no compromise. Lots of parents make a "rule" only to relax it the next day when it's inconvenient to enforce.

Homey don't play that.

If you read menace into it that's YOUR bias, not my problem.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Yes, I think we actually understood that in reality you HADN'T killed your daughter, but the phrase you used is not a million miles from ominous:

Evil Genius: James Bond has been a thorn in my side for too long!
Henchman: Yes, boss. What would you like me to do?
Evil Genius: Deal with him... with finality.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
That's why they teach you about context clues in the second grade. If you're not taking the piss right now, you're a sad, sorry individual. I can't believe you'd seriously try to argue this point.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
>I can kind of see that some non-core subjects would be good to broaden your horizons, but I think it's a bit of overkill to do so many.<

Funny, my local college calls all the classes everyone has to take the "core curriculum."

>I hope med schools don't work the same way; I'd hate to get treated by a doctor in the US and find out that he'd actually spent two thirds of his time studying philosophy, history of art, and German.<

Nope, med school is graduate school, and as muppet pointed out, as an undergrand you still have to take 50% crap. As a graduate student (after you've done your mandatory "I went to college" 4 years) it's much more specialized.

In general, college is 50% general courses and 50% courses in your major over 4 years.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 4th, 2005
"That's why they teach you about context clues in the second grade. If you're not taking the piss right now, you're a sad, sorry individual. I can't believe you'd seriously try to argue this point"

No, you're missing the point. Allan made a humorous comment based on the fact that your turn of phrase could equally apply to having someone assassinated or something, you decided to complain about what you percieved as a lack of a sense of humour on his part, I told you to stop being uptight, and then you started wandering off the beaten path claiming that only a moron would choose to deliberately misinterpret a sentence for comic effect, when in fact it's probably one of the most common seeds for humour. The phrase was taken out of context on purpose, and doing so requires that the person making the joke understood the original context. "Your expectations were confounded, and from thence the humour arose."
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
No Mat, that's not what happened.

Allan made a lousy joke, and I sarcastically commented on his lack of comedic talent.

Then you proceeded to argue (ostensibly on Allan's behalf) as if his interpretation for humorous effect could in fact be serious, given the definition (or at least common usage) of "finality".

Then I told you that you're an idiot for arguing as if it could ever seriously be taken that way.

Have you suffered some sort of stroke, or something? Because you seem to be just *slightly* out of phase with the rest of reality. I've noticed a trend in many of the discussions on this board where you seem to misinterpret everything *just so*.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
But only for comic effect, muppet. I make very few serious points, enjoy arguing for the sake of it, and you make a particularly fine target...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
I only have 2.5 years of community college, and I'm a super hero. There is a even a short film in which I (the BigJigger), along with my sidekick the Notorious V.I.C., battle a gang of breakdancing-ninja-mercenaries in order to save a damsel from the evil-yet-irrestible-lady-charmer Eli.

I'll have to see if I can get a copy of it.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 4th, 2005
Hmm. As I recall it, my original intent had been to point out that you're dealing with a child. With a child, there are very few things that have "finality", as you called it. Usually things (lessons, behavior modification, whatever) get repeated -- if not on a daily basis (because of your superior talents as a parent, I salute you) then on a monthly or half-yearly basis.

But things do repeat.

Except death. Death is very final. Of course, I knew you didn't mean death, you crazy guy -- at least not physical death. The death of her soul, that gentle questing spirit that can so easily be quashed beneath over-bearing parental ideas of finality, perhaps, but I'm sure you didn't mean that either.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 4th, 2005
No Mat I don't buy that it's for humour's sake. You quite genuinely appear to have some problem. Even if for humour's sake, you're quite poor at delivering the "joke", which in and of itself is a psychology issue.
Permalink muppet 
August 4th, 2005
Wow, you've sussed me out good and proper there. How did you get to be so perceptive that you can deduce the thought processes and mental state of someone with an entirely different cultural frame of reference just through a few throwaway comments on a pointless internet message board?

Oh, wait, you didn't.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
And, of course you know why engineers can't tell jokes timing.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 4th, 2005
There are two things to remember if you want to be a successful entertainer. One, always leave your audience wanting more;
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 4th, 2005
Yeh, right...
Permalink Rick Tang 
August 4th, 2005
'you're quite poor at delivering the "joke"'

For the record, I thought Mat's joke was fucking hilarious!
Permalink  
August 4th, 2005
For a dollar, you can finger her.
Permalink Bob Saget 
August 4th, 2005
There has been a huge glut of PhDs in the past, and now that the supply is drying up, businesses get to pay market prices. Therefore they howl for government bailouts. Your PhD program is going to take several years to complete. Will the difference in salary between a BS and a PhD cover the 7 years (average length to complete PhD) of lost wages and expenses?

Much post-baccalauriate research has moved from theoretical stuff to short-term applied research. Even government funding for research is becoming short term stuff. Add that to significant restrictions on foreign student admissions in the wake of 911 and the pool of candidates for doctoral programs is way down. Therefore the cost of hiring PhDs is going to approach market value.
Permalink Peter 
August 4th, 2005
"And only two months earlier a Chinese company most Americans had never heard of took over the personal computer business formerly owned&#8212;and mismanaged into billions of dollars of losses&#8212;by the great IBM... We&#8217;re not building human capital the way we used to. Our primary and secondary schools are falling behind the rest of the world&#8217;s."

Except Lenovo is moving to California to be closer to the Anerican engineers who design these computers.

The sole reason Lenovo is bought this was that their manufacturing costs were lower than IBMs, and education doesn't lower manufacturing costs.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 4th, 2005
> Lenovo is moving to California

Mark, do you have a source for this? I can't find anything about it, and I think it's an interesting decision.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 4th, 2005
http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20041209.html
"It also got Lenovo to move its global headquarters to the U.S. and accept an American CEO and 10,000 U.S. employees, which will have to change the way Lenovo runs its global business. ... "While IBM will still have design input on future PC products and those products will continue to carry the IBM brand for five years."

http://news.com.com/IBM+sells+PC+group+to+Lenovo/2100-1042_3-5482284.html?tag=st_lh

"The combined venture will have roughly 10,000 IBM employees and 9,200 Lenovo employees. It will be headquartered in New York, with operations in Beijing and in Raleigh, N.C. ... He added that IBM's R&D center in Japan will continue to be important to the company.

...

"We believe a joint-venture structure in PCs makes sense between the companies, as the buyer would collaborate with IBM design teams for a period of a few years and the buyer would assume control of manufacturing," Steven Fortuna, an analyst with Prudential Equity Group, wrote in a report Tuesday.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_19/b3932113_mz063.htm
"The 30-member executive staff is split down the middle. Headquarters will be near IBM's in New York."
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 4th, 2005
Sorry, not California, New York.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 4th, 2005
"education doesn't lower manufacturing costs"

I'd say it can. Intelligent design of products and manufacturing processes can lead to more efficient operations with fewer steps, less wastage, and lower costs in energy, people and raw materials.
Permalink Ian Boys 
August 5th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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