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QJJIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES?' f. B. WOOLCOCK, B.V.Sc, Ph.D.f James S. Ackerman, in contributing to a series of papers, "The Future of the Humanities," identifies a current challenge to higher education —the existence of two intellectual styles, objective analysis and the "engaged style" [I]. Put simply, the former aims for objectivity, the teacher and researcher being uncommitted personally to the material under examination. In contrast to this style, which has been the predominant attitude in science for most of the twentieth century, is "engagement," in which an investigator is unashamedly influenced by his own strong convictions . This conflict of style, says Ackerman, is widening the breach between the older and younger generations in the universities. He continues : "Since the age of objective analysis has defined its functions in terms of techniques rather than of principles, the aim of higher education has been simply to train students to perform effectively. What they should perform and why have not been discussed seriously; each individual is expected to decide this for himself. So the growing adolescent is assigned the most crucial decision of all: to determine the purpose of the whole educational enterprise—and without the encouragement of his teachers." Students trained in the sciences are not likely to dispute this sad commentary on their training; nor are their teachers if they are honest. But even sadder is the failure of this deficiency to be remedied the further one takes one's education. The thesis of this paper is that graduate training in the sciences, including the biomedical sciences, is seriously defective because of its failure to encourage the young mind to probe the ethos and purpose of scientific endeavour in general and the student's own field of interest in particular. It is suggested that this defect has developed because universities and graduate-student supervisors themselves have given insufficient consideration to these issues. *This article was submitted as an entry in the first Perspectives Writing Award competition for authors 35 years old or younger. tDepartment of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 246 I J. B. Woolcock ¦ Chiis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? An Analysis of the Problem Dr. Bernard Dixon, in discussing the learning of the scientific craft, has commented that "with the growth of science as an organised profession has come the conveyor-belt system of turning out scientists" [2]. He quotes Professor Freddie Jevons as observing that "studying science becomes stenography plus memorisation." Michael Polanyi refers to the "Republic of Science" [3]; others talk of "the science game" [4]. Indeed books abound on how to join the conveyor belt, to become a member of the republic, to play the game. One recent publication "Graduate School in the Sciences: Entrance, Survival and Careers," deals extensively with "academic gamesmanship" and "life in the academic salt mines"—plenty of valuable information to ensure that the aspiring scientist survives on the conveyor belt and is delivered at the end for successful postdoctoral sale [5]. Yet there is not one sentence to encourage the scientific novitiate to give some thought to the nature ofthe whole enterprise on which he is embarking. The "most crucial decision" of Ackerman's is left unanswered even after 3, 5, or 7 years at graduate school. H. J. Müller has made some trenchant comments on the value of much of our current educational systems [6]. Writing as a teacher, he considers that because our actual objective is really no more than to make students replicas of ourselves we should give more thought to our own designs for living and learning. He goes on to say that a new elitism now exists—"the rise of a professional elite engaged in what a technological society dignifies as the 'knowledge industry.' " The twin results of this development have been the production of much more knowledge and more emphasis on transmitting that knowledge to students. Students in turn may be so occupied with mastering new material that opportunity for independent enquiry may be minimal. "In what is now called the 'educational process' learning may in effect be less an active verb than a noun meaning memory." What are the reasons for the failure of the current educational...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 246-259
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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