Coventry thoughts on knowledge and research

I wrote this quite a while back (March 2017!), but didn’t publish it then. My next focus is going to be on a similar topic, so this is worth posting now:


Could conventional theories of knowledge be completely misleading? I am beginning to feel like this is probably the case…

UK universities have become obsessed with the idea of critical thinking, particularly within subjects which offer very little else in the way of employability to students, and I would argue that the definition normally propounded is so wooly as to be nearly useless. The examples cited as good critical thinking are real enough, and often very clever and insightful, but they are also diverse enough as to be hard to assign to a single category of thinking.

I then started thinking about Coventry University’s push to have more staff with doctorates, and questioned the true value of this. I have a PhD (or really!) but feel quite strongly that other than some practical lab skills (which I barely use), improved communication skills, and the positives that come from an experience that was so tough that the feeling during much of it is that you can only come out stronger, I struggle to see the unique value of a PhD. In fact I often equate PhDs with that third point, but yet realise that many of the best researchers love what they are doing so much that this cannot be the case by definition.

This has led me to question whether the whole scheme of academia isn’t just a mix of a giant ponzi scheme of privilege that is currently ballooning towards a burstable bubble, and an excuse for some clever people to do their hobby, with marginal value to others, as a job!

Perhaps I’m a bit cynical. Well, yes I am a bit cynical, but I truly think that primary knowledge and secondary curiosity are invaluable. For me, they are a significant part of what gives life meaning, and I despair slightly at our online world where primary experience has almost no place, but secondary curiosity is settled so easy as to almost devalue information…

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