This time we’re doing two weeks together. Why? I got infected with covid and so all my plans and normal activities have completely gone out the window. It was not a particularly severe case though but it’s still been quite disruptive.
This week we’re starting off with an impressive picture of a snow leopard which was taken in Mongolia.
I’ve seen this in quite a few places, it’s a piece arguing that PhD training needs to be reformed. Now I’m not saying that PhD training (or universities in general) are perfect, they’re not. There are many things that can be improved but I don’t think this article is on the right track. In my opinion, many of the sort of issues that the article talks about are neither failings of PhD nor university education but a failure of society and expectations. A degree at any level is not supposed to prepare people for jobs. It’s supposed to provide domain-specific knowledge while building general skills in critical thinking, research and learning. It’s up to employers to provide job-specific training. There is also a problem of credential inflation where even basic jobs now require a degree, no matter how unnecessary that is. Furthermore, while I fully agree that we should value PhD graduates and that they can help find solutions to various problems, I think framing that as a key role of PhD training is sorely misguided. I say that because we don’t need more solutions! Look at the biggest problem of today – global warming. We already have renewable energy options, we know how to build public transport, we know how to make food more sustainable, we know we can cut back on consumption. The problems are not scientific, they are political. There is no political will to make the necessary changes. Most other big problems, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, censorship, human rights, equality and so on, those are all political problems that we can, in principle, solve today.
It links back to an article on Inside Higher Ed by Lynn Talton about better structure in one’s work life. Specifically it brought up three main topics that shouldn’t be neglected; “Getting Involved in Something Outside Your Research,” “Exploring Research Beyond Your Specialty” and “Prioritizing and Planning Your Development as a Professional.” These are all things that I agree are really good to do but which I don’t think are given the attention they deserve.Continue reading →
It seems a graph in UCT’s student newspaper, Varsity Newspaper, has caused quite a bit of a stir after publishing a pie chart with the title, “UCT votes on most attractive race.” (Story on News24 and iol.)
With South Africa’s extreme sensitivity to racial issues it didn’t take long for people to start denouncing the paper. According to News24:
Some Twitter users, including human rights activist Zackie Achmat, voiced their disapproval. @ZackieAchmat referred to the chart as “racist nonsense”. Another user, @ednake89 tweeted “this is the kind of bullshit UCT’s Varsity newspaper publishes”.
Weekends are generally rather slow but for anyone that does visit, here are a few interesting titbits. Links cover UCT, Voyager space probes, Pakistan blasphemy case and criminal justice in South Africa. Continue reading →