- Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education: Preparing Stewards of the Discipline
The book, Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education: Preparing Stewards of the Discipline, is the first work produced through the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID). Arguing that the role of doctoral education is to prepare stewards, that is, to "educate and prepare those to whom we can entrust the vigor, quality, and integrity of the field" (p. 5), those working in the CID teamed with 84 departments across six disciplines (mathematics, chemistry, neuroscience, education, history, and English) to ask professionals from each to consider the question, "What would be the best way to structure doctoral education in your field?" (p. 9).
In responding to the question of the purpose of doctoral education and how to structure it to produce stewards of the field, the book advocates mastering the skills of generation, conservation, and transformation. Generation pertains to the ability of degree recipients to conduct research. Conservation is the grasp of the history and other canonical or fundamental ideas of the discipline. Transformation includes the communication of ideas and teaching but also refers to application.
This book is a compilation of essays written by experts from each of the six disciplines in response to prompts listed above, along with several commentaries. As a singular entity, the book is a slightly different construct than many edited volumes. The chapters all address the same issue but delve deeply into the intricacies of the specific disciplines, at times perhaps too far to interest readers from other disciplines. The richness of detail, though, is required to get a full flavor of the commonalities of approach (and challenges) we share in spite of our differences.
The authors do themselves and their fields great credit through the depth of their reflection, often demonstrating how what are thought to be disciplinary strengths can act as weaknesses. For scholars in the field of higher education, discipline can come to mean something on the level of a control variable. This book serves as an important corrective to that temptation, pushing us to see that, in spite of institutionally constructed divides and turf wars, there is much we can learn from one another.
The value of examining one's own field and department or program—a requirement for responding to this question—should not be underestimated. [End Page 322] My own program just underwent such a process, starting with the question: "What should all students completing their respective degree programs know and be able to do?" It has been highly successful, creating a stronger cohesiveness to the program. Such an approach pushes faculty to consider the seamlessness that must exist in a program, in the face of faculty desires for autonomy, to ensure that future disciplinary stewards have the tools and the knowledge needed for the future. This is the volume's real strength: to persuade the reader to consider what it would take to develop stewards of a given field and what attributes those stewards should possess, then to encourage programs to ensure that they make any changes required to support that end.
Despite its inherent virtues, the book does have a few weaknesses, many self-realized by those in the CID or the volume's commentary authors (making the commentaries themselves particularly valuable). Golde appropriately notes that, by virtue of selecting leading scholars as essayists, this book misses the perspectives of newer scholars, many of whom might have a stronger grasp of the current shortcomings of graduate education today. If newer faculty or graduate students are the most likely to understand our current shortcomings, as several in the book argue, then the logic of including only disciplinary leaders in the dialogue is misplaced.
The order of the book also is somewhat unusual, in that the editors put the commentary chapters before the disciplinary explorations. The effect is a bit disconcerting, as the authors of those commentaries must spend time telling us about the chapters ahead to draw...