November 05, 2009
I believe science has some fundamental flaws. Why else would an instrument of progress continue to perpetuate archaic practices like academic hazing? I understand some professors believe in the "value" of preliminary exams -- that science requires lifelong learning. Other professors may believe the experience helps you to think on your feet. But if preliminary exams were so crucial to success, why aren't they standardized? The Bar Exam is. The Medical Licensing Exam is. And while every doctoral student is working on one specific aspect of one specific project, the degree is the same for all members of the same department. So why are the preliminary exams so variable? Why is one student put through hell and another has the faculty planning a celebration before the exam is over? Scientists are suppose to be hyper-aware of bias and make every attempt to minimize it. I'm starting to worry that science is more of a "do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do" type of discipline. How else can I justify the demoralization of students as a means to measure progress in the program?