Re: Education, business and work/last thought for me

Wade Tarzia (tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU)
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 09:07:25 -0400

>...The idea that education is a form of social capital
>(using Ron's analogy) that cannot diminish through distribution does not
>cross their minds. The idea that a liberal education is personally
>liberating doesn't carry a lot of weight either. ... (HJMartin)

--- Agreed. And I also have an addendum. (My last on this thread, I
hope!). Just a final observation about the link between business and
education. I note that engineering students are sometimes *told* more or
less what they will study as graduate students, especially when they are
linked with professors who are themselves linked to industry or specific
research tied to government proposals (i.e., many engineering profs.) I
started seeing this when I noted -- intuitively -- that the
student-professor relationship weren't always as relaxed and friendly as I
recalled my and my fellow students being with our English and anthro
professors. Purely a subjective reaction, utterly untrustworthy, I
suppose, yet if pushed I'd stand by this impression. Later I heard in
several cases how grad student projects were shifted to suit a corporate
project or grant. They were not happy about this. Imagine yourself in the
midst of fieldwork in the jungle, and your advisor arranges a helicopter
extraction to send you to work on a project in a another area entirely (but
for which your training would allow you to do that work) -- all because the
prof. needed help on his grant or was responding to a corporate project! I
was fairly astounded by this comparative lack of academic freedom (not a
slavery of thought, understand, but one of project), but heard it was not

But you are obligated to tell me how this happens also in anthropology or
other areas in the humanties at times! It just hasn't been my own

Before I get flamed by someone here mated to an engineer or raised by
engineers or raising them, friends with one, or a broad-minded engineer
interested in anthropology (welcome!) (have I covered all angles?), let me
emphasize that I do NOT see this as an insidious plot or evidence for
wickedness in engineering depts. Thank you, by the way, for my word
processor and the B747 that flew me to my fieldwork, and the anesthesia
unit in my oral surgeon's office! (and I also add, need not be engineering
-- could be any dept. heavily grant-driven or doing co-op programs with
business). However, engineering as "applied science" (ideas to
[commercial] reality, as the slogans go...) is naturally driven by these
influences. Students, and profs., are pushed and pulled by the tides of
the economy and sometimes by specific businesses and government agencies.
They are well-compensated monetarily and job-wise, but I decided that I
will settle (did settle) for having the right to be unemployed in the
research area of my choice! That sounds disgustingly American, I guess,
but there it is. -- wade