Purely academics

13 12 2005
 
 
I am writing now from one of the most beautiful libraries i have ever
been in. The Doe library at UC Berkeley. The high ceiling is a
romanesque style woodcarving, reminiscent of Santa Maria Magiore
Bascilica in
Rome ( which i think i have pics of in my Rome photo album), the
intricate side panels are inscribed with the names of academic greats
such as
Goethe, Darwin, Kant etc.

San Francisco: one of the most intelligent and educated locales in the
world. Unfortunately i’m only hear for a couple of days.
I have decided to use my very limited in san francisco in a different
manner to the rest of my travels. Rather than see the city i am
dedicating my time to seeing two of the best universities for
psychology in the world. Stanford and University of California,
Berkeley where i am now writing this. Both these universities are in
proximity to San Francisco and are ranked 1st and 3rd in psychology in
the US and are both in the top 5 in the world. Given there are
literally hundreds of US universities this is no mean feat. Also
considering australia does not have a single psych department in the
top 300 it is worth seeing the disparity.

 However although this library is grand it’s still a library, it has
the same function, and the same potential for me to fill that function
as the monash uni library.Coming here and seeing the place with my own eyes has robbed Berkeley of the romantic and  almost mystical reverence i
held it in.
It’s made me realise that it’s still just a university. At university
what is more important than the surroundings is the ideas – which means you spend alot of time (supposedly) reading, and one of the
wonderful things about reading is that you can do it anywhere. I
remember reading at Humboldt university in Berlin at the same park as
karl marx once studied and formulated his ideas.. It felt like reading
a book anywhere else. Ok so the library here at berkeley has the
original texts of mark twain – whoop de doo.
I can gain the same insight by reading a copy  – and its much less
hassle to gain access to. Romantic notions aside post-grad study in melbourne would be just as beneficial. Although in practice the intelectual calibre of both pupils and staff may not match up to these Ivy-League institutions, after a clear eyed weighing up of the utility of both options, post-graduate study in australia (melbourne?) seems a clear winner.


 

It is not long now until i return back to melbourne and whilst the
travel has been a remarkable experience i am keen to get back to
australia. I’m beginning to focus on what lies ahead of me when i get
back, and what i will be doing. Hence the checking out post graduate
options . Although these two particular institutions may be hard to get into there are other less prestigous institutions with powerhouse psych departments like – university michigan, anne arbor or purdue or penn state. I’m already keen to get back and throw myself into life back
in Oz.  . It’s good to know that i don’t want it anyway – as it means i’ll never have to look back and rue a missed opportunity. That said (and in spite scottie’s experience) i do seriously regret not studying at least a large part of undergrad at a US university.

Leaving aside Business systems (horrible) and my other arts subjects
(wonderful), in psychology, I’ve spent my undergrad fairly
understimulated by psychology and have not really been
pushed intelectually.
Psychology at monash does not  reward creative ideas or new
approaches, or even academic curiosity but instead rewards how anally
one can
follow the set proforma of a lab
report. A monkey with a labotamy knows what the answers to ther
lab report are within half an hour of reading the material, and all
classes report on the same material. Therefore everyone has exactly the
same answers, and just copies off one another meaning their is no difference in the essential content of these lab reports. This is an arbitrary
proforma which changes every few years.  Their is no room for
creativity or true expression or insight in the restrictive setting of
a lab report. The most important thing about a lab
report (i’m not joking or exagerating – really!) is the formatting.

That is, the margins, the text spacing, the font used, when italics are used,
having indents for the secound line of any references and the use and
placing of comma’s and full-stops in the bibliography. i’m not joking
it makes the difference between a credit and a high distinction ( i
know from experience!). The labs are so simple that the content for
every report will be identical. So rather than being able to read more
wideley
in psychology i have had to try to spend mundane time trying to
differentiate my essay from the thousand other identical essays.
 This is hardly the academic setting which fosters an academic
curiosity for the wonders of
psychology and nor does it stimulate a creative mind and it provides
minimal room for the expression of new ideas. It sets lab reports where
i know the content and concepts within half an hour and the report will
take 15-20 hours because i am competing with obsesive-compulsive
perfectionists. So i look forward to the exams where i can at least
differentiate myself from the great unwashed by remembering the
theories we are supposed to have studied all semester (not the 2 days
before). But how does this show creativity, and intelligence – it
simply shows that i can mindlesslyparrot someone elses ideas with more
accuracy than the next mindless parrot. A necessary skill and what
exams are supposed to test but what about intelligence and creativity?

The academic psychologists have set up an institution to remake
themselves – the dinosaurs who espoused behaviourism for more that 50
years, and would have
continued to do so if it were not for someone outside psychology (a
linguist called Noam Chomsky) who showed them how obviously full of
crap they all were. To know how great an indictment this is against
psychology i’m going to simplify it:
Psychology is the study of what goes on in ones head. Behaviourism is a
theory which said that NOTHING goes on inside ones head – or nothing
important anyway – instead a person does in not because of thoughts
they have EVERYTHING is due to external events and previous
experiences. Ie. Humans are simply creatures of stimulus and response
incapable of their own actions. Now think about that for a moment..
isn’t it inherrently obvious that there is something going on inside
ones head? Well this was the most popular theory in psychology for 50
years. – I think this is the the type of psychologist monash is trying
to create- a stimulus/response automaton who could believe in such an
inadequate theory as behaviorism if that was the crap he was spoonfed
and told to
regurgitate.

Rather than make psych interesting monash has made it a tedious and
mundane labour which is simply a means to an end.
I know it would have been harder at a US uni but i think i would have
enjoyed the extra stimulation of being asked to actually think. Also in
case you think this is a rant of sour grapes –  I have a High
Distinction average in psychology,  i’ve been sent letters of
congratulations from the vice-dean for my academic excellence in
psychology. I say this
not to big-note myself but to show that this is not just a sour-grapes
biased rant of someone who couldn’t work within their tedious
system.It’s not
because i haven’t been able to conform to their orthodoxy that i
complain but because their system could have been so much better and
made study so much more interesting.

I’m going to stop the digression there even though i haven’t
articulated it properly- its a sore point which i could harp on about
for hours.  Post-graduate education should not be like undergraduate( I
hope).

On another academic note i re-realised a discouraging prospect which i
had somehow
managed to supress from consciousness whilst i’ve been traveling- it’s
still 2 years untill i undertake postgraduate study. And then it will
be another 2-6 years of study after that. This means that if i want to
become a doctor in psychology (which i do) i’m looking at another 8
YEARS of study!!!!  All the sponteneity i’ve been enjoying these last
few months, choosing what country i’m going to be in on a whim is
coming to an end and now i know what i’m going to be doing for the next
8 years. Thats juxtaposition gives me a feeling i cant quite describe –
like anxiety which sits in my belly. Heres my life for the next 8 years
people:

2006 –     Finish both Business Systems and Arts(psych) Bachelor
degree’s
2007 –     Honours
2008-2012  Phd or DPsych.

That is  sooooo long! I mean  i wouldn’t finish till i’m nearly 30! 8
years ago i was 14.. I just hope that the style of education
drastically improves as i move into post-grad. This would mean i spend
the rest of any remote
semblance of youth at a university. I wouldn’te get out ‘into the
world’ until i was already middle aged! What about doing other things
in life? Why have they made it such a long and arduous process! My
father only had to do the equivalent of 1 year post grad to begin
practicing psychology! And his tertiary education was FREE. I’d have to
come out this and then pay back tens of thousands in deferred tuition
fee’s. So yes a bit of a crisis going on but i know i’ll do it anyway.
What it does mean though is that i can’t wait until i finish university
to look at other life goals. I’ll have to get a move on with these
whilst still at uni.

Moving on.. yes i will soon be returning to Melbourne.
Someone once said something like: "you shall reach the end of your
travels, when
you return home and know this place for the first time". I know what
that means now. Traveling europe has given me insight not just into
other
cultures and forieghn cities but also given me perspective on
melbourne. It is near impossible to judge a city when you cannot
compare it to anythhing in your own experience. So before traveling to
other cities i was unable to accurately guage my native city. Now
however i have traveled to many of the famous cities around the world
and
am now truly aware of how lucky i am to live in melbourne – one of the
greatest cities on earth. Melbourne with its warm sunny summers, sandy
beaches,  oodles of festivals and culture, high standard of living,
clean, cheap – just an awesome place to live. Granted it has some
shortcomings – but overall i will come home loving melbourne more than
ever.

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3 responses

13 12 2005
Darpy

interesting post, made for a good read.you will find post grad much different, in fact i think you will realise 2 things in light of this post.1. you are only limited by your own imagination. you decide what you do and this is where ability is shown2. large institutions and supposed number 1 rankings dont mean squat. it is the people that make an institution. ask someone if they have heard of Habermas, Zizek, Nussbaum et al then ask then what institution they are attached to? i bet 10x more could tell u they know the name than can tell u where they come from.personally, totally against psych, but then again, each to their own. i enjoy your posts

14 12 2005
liannehogno

hey tom, can i just say although i didn\’t really catch the whole drift of your blog, i am 30 with a son almost 14, and believe me you are going to race up to 30 faster than you can say holy toledo batman. like my dad always said to me, \’the years are going to pass by whether you study or not, so would you rather be 30 with education, or 30 and still doing the same old\’…..well unfortunately when i was 15 i knew everything already so i am now 30 and a checkout chick. Don\’t let this happen to you!! lol! You might as well get it done while you still have the brain for it cos once you stop using it it\’s so hard to go back – coming from someone who falls asleep at TAFE in full view of all, yes sad i know.good luck!

14 12 2005
How youuuu doing

Plus. I\’m here in Melbourne. \’Nuff said.

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