What is the purpose of graduate education?

This is not a post filled with answers or grandiose visions - but rather questions - all under the umbrella of the ultimate goal or purpose of graduate school.

The first pitfall/assumption is that I think I know what the purpose of graduate school - and it's the reason I'm on this journey of advanced degrees. And, of course, and at least I'll openly admit it, I think many others' answers to the question about a purpose for grad school are just plan wrong, stupid and misguided. (Sorry peers.)

I came to graduate school to learn to think and read critically. I wanted to really learn how to write - I had heard professors grumble about undergrads and even grad students who couldn't compose a coherent sentence. I did not want to be one of those students. I wanted to expand my knowledge, my frameworks of understanding, my mind to it's absolute limits. I wanted to lie awake at night trying to reason out problems. I wanted to read everything I could about as much as possible. I wanted guidance in research, instruction and practice in methodology, and competent and capable scholars to help push the boundaries of what I thought I knew. I wanted to have others around me who were so in love with what they were studying and writing and reading about that you could feel and taste it. I had high expectations for grad school.

It has recently come out of my blind spot that there are many others who come to graduate studies just for the hell of it, because there isn't anything else going on and it sounds like a good enough idea. They did okay and even really well in their undergrad and they figure that grad school can't be all that much harder. They come to grad school with expectations that I can only rationalize or conceptualize as nothing more than a checklist. Tell me what classes to take and how many. In the courses give me a syllabus with everything spelled out so I can know what to do. Check, check, check - give me my degree.

At first I reasoned that I was right and those others were wrong. Then it dawned on me that for some they are truly only looking for an advanced, practitioner degree. That makes sense to me - but I still don't think that should be the only reason to return to school for graduate work.

But here I am, still frustrated. I'm looking for a community of scholars, who like to think and do so critically, who enjoy the world of ideas and want to change the world. I do not want a check list degree.

And neither should anyone else.

Maybe we should separate it out and have three different types of graduate programs: one for serious scholars, practitioner focused, and the diploma factories for folks who just want a line on their resume.

What think ye? What's the purpose?


  1. I truly liked your comments.... You are my dream student !!!

  2. [...] What is the purpose of graduate education? [...]


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