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College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Dissertationacknowledge

Acknowledgements Section of My Dissertation


    To future generations of graduate students: While taking a break from editing this dissertation, I walked into the Szymanski library to sift through the Insurgent Sociologist journals I saw scattered about.  Initially, I thought they were leftover from the Critical Sociologist office, but blood spatters on the cover of one of the journals dramatically indicated that these had once been in Al Szymanski's own office.  This revelation drives home the toll that academic life can take on idealistic individuals.
    I liken the process of graduate school to a story I recall regarding a psychology experiment.  In this tale, the experimenters were testing the stamina of rats to survive in a pool of water with no escape.  In one group of rats, researchers would toss them in the pool and test how long they survived before drowning.  In the other group, the rats were held tightly until they stopped struggling in the researcher's grip.  Then, the second group suffered the same fate as the first, but what the researchers found was not unexpected.  The group of rats that were restrained first did not last as long in the pool and drowned more quickly than the rats not subjected to the same treatment.  Whether this tale is true or not, like any myth, it has a certain moral and applicability.
    Graduate school in particular, and academia in general, have the decided effect of gripping their participants until they stop struggling.  Behavior and academic pursuits that do not fit neatly within the boundaries of the academy are met with strong constraints, both structural and personal.  The spaces between words in an abstract become more important than the content of the work (even this essay necessitated editing for length due to Graduate School style requirements!).  Rules trample the personal biographies of the individuals participating in the system.  Intellectual creations atrophy under the weight of bureaucratic demands, while trivial, uninspired output floods the libraries.
    As C. Wright Mills contends, we must situate our own biography in the structure of social life.  Academia impresses upon us the culture of civility and deference to authority.  Violating these values in an effort to assert your rights and protect your sanity results in a tighter grip over your options.  Struggling, in many cases, only makes it worse.  For many, the cessation of struggle is the most appealing option, but it is not the only route.  While academia attempts to socialize the student to fit the mold of capitalist society, it really, in the case of the most aware, sharpens the students' ability to chose battles carefully and identify the inner workings of the system they are confronting.  As we move through the system, we have two options.  One is to become the square peg that is fashioned to fit in the round hole.  The second is to keep our edge and widen the hole for others who must pass through.
    All of this takes effort, effort that could be expended on more meaningful endeavors: making music, spending time with family and friends, creating something unique with our hands and minds, helping make others' lives easier and more fulfilling, slowing the headlong rush to collective misery, or simply taking time to think.  Instead, we jump hurdles that have little to do with the world outside these walls, believing ourselves to be somehow more informed or adept at understanding the world around us, when obligations do not really allow us to truly confront the world around us.  During all of this, the people that really matter disappear, and the time you could have spent with them is wasted like a cool breeze blowing outside when you are too weary to muster the energy to leave a stagnant room.  The pursuit of knowledge should not be such a dark art.  If we are to make it better, we must stick together and share the burden of living!  Best wishes to those that follow.




Version Before the Graduate School Demanded Cuts

To future generations of graduate students:

    While taking a break from editing this dissertation, I walked into the Szymanski library to sift through the Insurgent Sociologists I saw scattered about.  Initially, I thought they were leftover from the Critical Sociologist office, but blood spatters on the cover of one of the journals dramatically indicated that these had once been in Al Szymanski's own office.  This revelation drives home the toll that academic life can take on idealistic individuals.
    I liken the process of graduate school to a story I recall regarding a psychology experiment.  In this tale, the experimenters were testing the stamina of rats to survive in a pool of water with no escape.  In one group of rats, researchers would toss them in the pool and test how long they survived before drowning.  In the other group, the rats were held tightly until they stopped struggling in the researcher's grip.  Then, the second group suffered the same fate as the first, but what the researchers found was not unexpected.  The group of rats that were restrained first did not last as long in the pool and drowned more quickly than the rats not subjected to the same treatment.  Whether this tale is true or not, like any myth, it has a certain moral and applicability.
    Graduate school in particular and academia in general have the decided effect of gripping its participants until they stop struggling.  Behavior and academic pursuits that do not fit neatly within the boundaries of the academy are met with strong constraints, both structural and personal.
    While I have attempted to stick to my ideals, it is inevitable that I have softened over the years, and the same occupation that brings me the greatest joy is also the source of my greatest disillusionment over the course of the past decade.  As C. Wright Mills contends, we must situate our own biography in the structure of social life.  
    Personally, I have lost a great deal in the pursuit of graduate studies.  Aside from the years that have washed by, all of my living grandparents past away.  My idealism has faded only to be replaced with a jaded disposition.  The struggle to complete academic requirements, has torn me from what is truly important in life.  Friends and family have suffered terrible hardships, and I have been cloistered in my office, chained to a computer by banal academic requirements.
    The ridiculous nature of some aspects of academia has to be witnessed to be believed.  Education is not now, nor may have it ever been, the actual pursuit of enlightenment.  Educational institutions are glorified job training centers that rarely ask the students to question the external forces pressing upon their lives, let alone people half a world away.  Education is solidly grounded in the economic realities of the capitalist world-economy.  Profit and the ruthless pursuit of efficiency, economic or otherwise, takes precedence over a deeper understanding of the world around us.  The spaces between words in an abstract become more important than the content of the work.  Rules trample the personal biographies of the individuals participating in the system.  Intellectual creations atrophy under the weight of bureaucratic demands, while trivial, uninspired academic output floods the libraries.  Struggling, in many cases, only makes it worse.
    Academia impresses upon us the culture of civility and deference to authority.  Violating these values in an effort to assert your rights and protect your sanity results in a tighter grip over your options.  For many, the cessation of struggle is the most appealing option, but it is not the only route.  While academia attempts to socialize the student to fit the mold of capitalist society, it really, in the case of the most aware, sharpens the students' ability to chose battles carefully and identify the inner workings of the system they are confronting.  As we move through the system, we have two options.  One is to become the square peg that is fashioned to fit in the round hole.  The second is to keep our edge and widen the hole for others who must pass through.  In reality, even the most steadfast are shaped and shape the process they are involved in.
    All of this takes effort, effort that could be expended on more meaningful endeavors: making music, spending time with family and friends, creating something unique with our hands and minds, helping make others' lives easier and more fulfilling, slowing the headlong rush to collective misery, or simply taking time to think.  Instead, we jump hurdles that have little to do with the world outside these walls, believing ourselves to be somehow more informed or adept at understanding the world around us, when obligations do not really allow us to truly confront the world around us.  During all of this, the people that really matter disappear, and the time you could have spent with them is wasted like a cool breeze blowing outside when you are too weary to muster the energy to leave a stagnant room.
    The pursuit of knowledge should not be such a dark art.  If you are to make it better, you must stick together and share the burden of living!