Saturday, August 31, 2013

PhD: So What Does it Really Stand For?

English: TU Delft PhD Defense committee
TU Delft PhD Defense committee (Wikipedia)

If PhD students are the working class of academic research - and paid accordingly - what needs to change?

Recently, during some particularly thorough literature research, I stumbled on a list of alternative interpretations of the acronym PhD
Most were funny: protein has degraded, parents have doubts. But one froze my face in a bittersweet grimace: paid half of what I deserve.

When I was still a rookie PhD student, I read with outrage an Economist article entitled the disposable academic, which argued that doing a PhD is mostly needless.

Lately, I've come to think of the PhD as more of a heavily spicy meal. It doesn't matter how much you enjoy the process, once you're done, you still have half of the pain ahead.

The years of academic slog to work your way up to a full tenure slot (professorship? ha - dream on!) are not much different from the work of a PhD in terms of relentless benchwork (pipetting hand disease) and unceasing literature research (pound head on desk), served on a fixed menu with professional uncertainty (please hire: desperate). All of which result in, if not professorship, then potential heavy drinking.

PhD students and postdocs are the working class of academic research and paid accordingly. Although postgraduates are crucial to the generation, discussion and dissemination of knowledge, 50% pay (i.e half of what they deserve) is standard for PhDs in natural sciences and not even guaranteed in the arts and humanities.

It's depressing to think that the overall salary of a PhD candidate is less than the cost of much lab equipment. Lab devices are meant to last years - but, hell, what about the work of PhD students in a system where knowledge is incremental?

There could be several reasons for this discrepancy. Equipment and consumables are costly and have a substantial impact on future budget setting.

The number of PhDs, meanwhile, is inflated and international competition is fierce. PhD candidates are earning a degree, which shouldn't come for free, and demands motivation and not a little self-denial - including financially.

PhD candidates are at their infancy in science and being trained to do something different from their education to date - lessons in theory combined with practical labwork - as they move into more independent, innovative research.

And contributing to the advancement of knowledge requires a certain naive idealism, right? But does this mean it's okay to exploit highly educated individuals (probably heavily in debt)? No.

The possible solutions are simple. The most obvious is: raise the salary of PhD students. A remedy for the resulting scarcity of resources would be stricter selection so that only the best candidates started a PhD.

Realistically though, this is never going to happen. It's not because policymakers are greedy but because it would mean a reduction of PhDs and thus a slowdown of science.

A second option wouldn't hinder research, and might even enhance it: cut the salary of professors by half. If there are solid reasons for PhDs being paid half of what they deserve, then the same hold good for professors. They too are doing something different from their previous jobs.

After tenure, natural scientists move out of the lab and into an office from where they supervise the research of their team members. The knowledge acquired before (both theoretical and practical) still counts, but the job looks quite different.

Political and managerial skills are equally essential, and nurtured for the sake of tenure, not science.

Top-tier staff write proposals, manage funds and coordinate subaltern research units and are sometimes scarcely involved with the generation, presentation and discussion of results which is the core purpose of science.

Some department chairs merely take note of advancements generated from the institutes they preside over, but co-author papers nonetheless.

Wages of these academic administrators, then, don't deserve to sit even at 50%. And however grim this may sound to today's professors and those postdocs close to a permanent role, the benefits might appeal to future professors much more.

Reduction in salaries for tenured staff will create new professorial appointments and reduce the imbalance between the number of temporary researchers and professors, while smaller research units will favour better supervision of PhD candidates and reduce fixed costs.

Today's professors probably already earn too little, after so many years of being underpaid. As one reader wrote in response to that Economist article: "The PhD student is someone who forgoes current income in order to forgo future income."

But if some of the surplus resulting from a slash in professorial salaries flowed down to PhDs and postdocs, then entry level professors would be put in a better financial position.

In this light, cuts to science funding (like those we have seen recently in the US) could be an opportunity. Will they slow down scientific advancement? Most probably, yes.

But here is a chance for the elite to rethink the way science is done and stop placing merit only on the levels of grant money they gain, the papers they publish, and the prestige they acquire, but instead taking a closer look at the predicament of those who prop this community up.

Advocates of competition see it as a positive outcome of the current shortage of funding and resources. But to defend job insecurity as the main incentive to scientific advancement is offensive.

Science would benefit more from a harmonious coexistence of its members than by favouring ruthless competition.

Jorge Cham, creator of the wittily depressing PhD Comics series, revealed that a major motivation for his sketches was to give solace to fellow PhDs struggling as he did through their postgraduate years.

He interprets the acronym as piled higher and deeper. You might think of the paper bulk on your desk, but I believe he had something else in mind.

PhD actually stands for philosophiae doctor, or doctor of philosophy. As we say in my native Italian: prendila con filosofia (take it easy, take it as it comes). And waiting for a change in the current system, or for a global PhD manifesto to emerge, one cannot take it any other way.

This blog was written by a current PhD student in Italy
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What It Takes to Be a Teacher

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
by Gregory V Diehl

"Intellect" is intangible, and therefore not something which can be directly observed.

Its workings must be inferred by its measurable physical effects. We can get a sense of ways in which intelligence obviously does not work.

We can build numerous positive correlations which show obvious patterns and general trends. But as soon as we attempt to zero in on it and describe it as succinctly as we might describe the parts and processes of an internal combustion engine, it eludes us again with real live demonstrations of human behavior which don't quite fit the theory.

But in exactly the same manner which the position of a planet might be deduced by the observation of its gravitational influence on surrounding bodies, every teacher can make educated guesses about the inner workings of a student's mind by careful observation of a student's physical actions and words.

In education, information is presented to learners through the use of visible and audible symbols (such as written and spoken words, or physical gestures) with associated meanings.

But these demonstrations only take on significance when the student has a mind capable of recognizing the meanings of the symbols presented, and this can only be done through sufficient logical capacity and readily accessible memory.

A mind which categorizes every individual idea or activity as completely new and unrelated to the memories of previous experiences cannot learn new tasks or skills. Logic and memory are the glue which bind random data into a cohesive structure, and make learning possible.

Therefore, every teacher ought to focus on strengthen and expanding the logical capacity of every student they encounter.

In instructing language, this means learning the relevant patterns of sentence structure and the conjugations of verbs.

These grammatical principles are applied intuitively to every new vocabulary word through the use of logic, whether or not the student has ever actually heard or seen that new word in use.

If not for logical categorization of information, every new word and iteration would have to be learned by rote as merely an arbitrary and unrelated list of facts or labels.

Patterns such as this can be represented through the use of logical syllogisms, such as if A is a subset of B, and B is a subset of C, then A must therefore be a subset of C.

True education and sharpening of intelligence happens through the enhancement of the understanding of such principles, whereas list-based learning involves no use of logical capacity, and only relies on the occupation of space in memory banks.

This distinction may seem small, but it makes all the difference in the world.

I've seen countless examples of would-be students who insist that they would love to learn music, math, or any number of esoteric skills, but feel that they lack natural ability or talent in those fields.

They may wish to travel the world, but have never identified themselves as strong "language learners," regardless of their proficiency in other domains, and so on.

While clearly some people are born with a stronger disposition for learning some subjects than others, I believe anything can be learned by anyone, so long as a qualified instructor can find a suitable way to compare a new type of knowledge and understanding with some other form of information already maintained by the student, and so long as the student maintains strong enough reasoning capacity.

If intelligence and all its applications can be summarized as products of the ability to reason correctly, the knowledge acquired from the use of reason, and the precision use of the body's various motor functions deriving from this knowledge, it follows that an optimized model of education will break down the informational constructs comprising any skill set into something already relatable and familiar to a student.

By turning the unfamiliar into something familiar via metaphor and comparison, students can more easily adopt the required information into an established logical structure, rather than create a new one from the ground up.

This task requires that a teacher or explainer of information first identify what sort of information and patterns their student is already familiar with, and compare them effectively with the subject being taught. This is not a task for the lazy or dispassionate teacher.

Focus on principle when dealing with learners of any age.

"Smart" is an arbitrary general designation unless it accurately reflects a person's ability to take in superior information and disregard outdated ideas. Intelligence is more a measure of psychological fluidity and consistent categorization than anything else.

A teacher facilitates this process through the controlled release of the appropriate pieces of information in a sequence tailored to the temperament of his student, with continually feedback from direct interaction.

A caretaker of children makes it his first priority to promote the capacity for reason and rapid adaptation, knowing that everything else more visible on surface display is a downstream derivative of these traits.

The capacity to reason is the only thing which allows for an integrated understanding of life, and which weaves together seemingly unrelated fields of knowledge.

More important than how linguistically gifted, logical, or diverse a student's mind may be, no true learning can occur without first the presence of a genuine desire to learn.

Likewise, no matter how mentally forsaken a student may appear to be, incredible amounts of growth can almost always be achieved by someone with the will to learn.

Therefore, the job description of an effective teacher is never limited to just explaining the logic and facts of the subject of focus; it is to inspire students to want to learn.

It's as much an emotional process as it is an intellectual one. It requires the development of bravery and confidence in the face of the unknown and intimidating. Learners need inspiration in the form of a real life human role model.

Many children feel themselves stupid, or incapable of learning certain skills or subjects.

Many adults believe that the adoption of large amounts of new data is impossible past childhood. Good teachers take time to learn where these students' strengths lie, and find a creative way to link the development of new knowledge to what they already know and care about.

Almost everyone past a certain age has something which they've learned to excel at despite initial obstacles. Reminding them of these things can give them the perspective needed to envision how the new tasks and processes will come to be easy for them as well.

But again, this can only happen when the teacher has a personal interest in the emotional lives and interests of his students.

Teaching is definitely not for everyone, but for some people it seems to be the only way to sustain a purposeful life. It's the social role they were born to fill, and they naturally shift toward positions of nurturing and guidance over others.

It's about being the right kind of person more than it is about any particular type of talent, and natural teachers usually find themselves in educational and mentorship roles well before ever getting their first job in the field.

It can be frustratingly different every day, and present you with situations for which there is no formulaic response or solution. In that way, it's one of the most adventurous professions in the world, and it can easily break the spirit wear on the patience of anyone ill-suited to take up the mantle.

How do you know if teaching is the right path for you?

It depends. Do you find the workings of the human mind fascinating? Do you have a natural knack for seeing the process of intellectual and emotional growth in yourself and others? Do you have a way with words and a talent for demonstrating how things work?

Can you easily empathize with others and imagine the world from their present point of view? Is your most basic instinctual drive to strengthen rather than prey upon the weak? Does the idea of contributing to the improvement of the human race excite you like nothing else?

If you've even read this far, you probably already have a good idea of who you are and where your destiny lies.

When you enter the field, you'll probably notice there are two diametrically opposite philosophies concerning education.

The dominant philosophy on the scene, likely throughout the world, is that a teacher is merely a cog in a larger machine, whose only purpose is to throw information and discipline at students.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is the way it always is or will always be. The remnant minority are those who understand and celebrate the unique and personal craft each teacher brings to the table when they take on the role of professional educator.

Make it your personal mission to find these types of people, or you will come to hate your job and yourself for compromising your principles and become the anti-embodiment of your true values.

Hone your craft. Teaching is as much an art as it is a science.

The way you think, talk, gesticulate, and otherwise choose to express yourself becomes an integral part of the quality of your performance. It becomes your trademark and personal brand appeal.

Maybe you're not fortunate enough to be in a market where your services are fully appreciated. Either work the best you can with what you have or head elsewhere. In a world where educators are still massively underappreciated, you are also necessarily, to an extent, an entrepreneur.

If you do it right, you never stop learning about learning. Teaching is way too broad of a pastime to be put in a box by reigning custom.

You'll go into it armed with an innate disposition and passion for explanation, but real experience with an endless variety of students and circumstances is what will turn you into a master.

Enjoy the ride as you learn to navigate the system and work within the expectations of the culture around you. Education is, in some ways, among the most controversial and controlled career fields in the world, and because of this it needs progressive thinkers to push it in the right direction.

The pay and hours can be hugely variable depending on the specific nature of the educational endeavor you choose to pursue, but the personal rewards will be unmatched by any other course of action if you find the right kind of person for teaching.

By many, you will be ignored and unappreciated, but by those whose lives you really influence you will be a hero.

You won't ever have to wonder again if your life has had any meaningful impact on the world, because you will know that, at least for those who minds you impacted, the world will be forever different.

Enabled Youth is a youth mentoring, development, and coaching service run by Gregory Diehl. It is dedicated to helping young people live up to their highest potentials.

Gregory is a professionally certified youth mentor, coach, and international educator with experience with children in seven countries. He helps children and teenagers unlock their highest potentials and achieve personal success against the many trials of the world.

Through his coaching practice, he also helps parents connect more deeply with their children and create harmony at home.

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What Does It Take to Become a Teaching Assistant?

Teaching Assistant Orientation (TAO) 2012
Teaching Assistant Orientation (TAO) 2012 (Photo credit: Vandy CFT)
by Adam D Johnson

There's nothing quite like knowing you've made a huge impact on a child's life, and as a teacher or teaching assistant you are helping to shape their future and get them to be the best they can be.

Becoming a teaching assistant (TA) isn't as difficult as you may think ... additional qualifications like a PGCE are not necessarily a prerequisite that you need to attain.

That said, it's not a complete free-for-all either - here's what it takes to become a TA:

A Passion for Teaching

If you're planning to go down this career path you should really want to work with children and show complete dedication to increasing their ability to learn.

Don't try to get into this profession for money or the holidays - the enjoyment and satisfaction of knowing you've made a difference is far more important than that.

If this isn't your main motivator, there's always a chance you are likely to end up hating the role and you could potentially impede the children's education. You can easily project your attitude onto young children, and if you love assisting their learning they are much more likely to engage.

Skills and Education

Unlike teachers, a teaching assistant only really needs GCSEs, with good pass grades in Maths and English. If you are helping with teaching higher education then this should extend to the appropriate qualifications such as A-Levels or BTECs.

It's not necessarily a requisite, but it will help if you're at least on the same level as your students! More importantly though, you will also need to have the ability to communicate well with children and convey instructions in a clear, easy-to-understand manner.


A very important skill you will need to have is the ability to work with the teacher - assisting them with classroom management. Much like a teacher, your job doesn't end when the lesson does.

Your tasks may range from dealing with difficult children and giving extra support, to helping anyone who is struggling, passing out resources and setting up the classroom.


Previous experience with children will definitely help you to gain interviews in the first place, but again, this is not essential. Everyone has the innate ability to pass on knowledge to the next generation, so don't worry if your experience is low.

If you have children, then you have experience - simple! However, if you would like to work in the same school as your child you should talk to the head teacher. They might be able to facilitate this or it could actually be forbidden, depending on the school policy.

Legal Clearance

Last, but not least, you will also need to undergo checks with the Disclosure and Barring Scheme (formerly known as CRB checks) in order to work closely with children, but the expense for this can often be reclaimed or covered by your employer.

Benefits of being a Teaching Assistant

As a TA you don't have all the stress and worry that teachers get as the grades aren't a reflection on you; however you do get to enjoy the same holidays. Most positions are flexible, offering part-time or full-time work, making it a brilliant role if you have young children or other commitments.

There is also no reason for teaching assistants to do long hours before and after school, which is why many work at the same school their own child goes to. The experience you gain through teaching assistant jobs can give you a huge advantage if you do plan on going on to become a teacher.

If you've been reading this thinking "that's me!" then all you have to do to make your dream a reality is to start applying for teaching assistant jobs. There are plenty of places that can help you with the application process, so as long as you think you've got what it takes, then go for it!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Guiding the Outliers in Education

evil genius
evil genius (Photo credit: crza)
by Gregory V Diehl

Every society on earth functions under some form of hierarchical structure ... and the closer to the top you are the more power you have over your fellow man.

Whether the people in the positions of highest authority achieved their status through delusions of noble birth and supernatural intervention, violent conquest, or legitimate leadership ability is irrelevant.

For most people, the temptation of suddenly ruling over the lives of others is too much. How can you know your true character until you've been placed in such a position?

Of course, hierarchies of authority don't just exist as deities, political figures, police officers, and religious figureheads. We all defer to someone for many of the choices affecting our lives.

Most of the time, the authority we give up is voluntary, like when choosing to work as part of a company and taking orders from someone higher up. Every time we hire a specialist to solve a problem we cannot do on our own, we defer to their authority on the subject and trust their judgment.

Although, sometimes authority is taken from us without consent by bullies, criminals, and anyone who makes choices for us without asking permission.

Children, by nature of their initial physical and intellectual feebleness, are always under the authority of others in society. Anyone who produces an offspring or enters a line of work involving children will find themselves holding great power. Sadly, many are not ready to wield this power.

They become short-tempered and begin to act childish themselves when they can't effectively control a group.

Teachers are among the greatest offenders, as we've all seen adults, who should not even be given domain over a single child, attempting to chaotically enforce law and order over groups of many.

Attempting to teach in groups can be difficult.

It requires a totally different approach and dynamic than individual instruction. Large groups, like more than 30 students at a time, are a totally different experience than the personalized interaction that happens when working with only one or a few learners.

Due to time constraints and the respective mental differences among all the students participating, one has to streamline whatever is being explained into an extremely generic presentation that will, hopefully, reach some of the people paying attention.

However, anytime I instruct a larger group of individuals, I find that there are always a few who stick out from the group for one reason or another.

They think differently, or react with a different level of enthusiasm toward the material being presented. They might come into the class with an innately superior grasp of the material, or they just pick up what I am trying to say much faster.

If I were a simple-minded and traditional teacher, these outliers would serve as a diversion for the rest of the class.

They'd be problematic because I would have to devote time I didn't have toward implementing a different approach specifically for them - an approach that would be lost on the remaining majority of the class.

Traditional teachers ignore the specialness of these statistical anomalies, and treat them like one of the crowd. This is a massive disservice to these unique students, and, in the long run, it debilitates what they might contribute to civilization.

I've learned to take a more progressive approach to this intellectual imbalance.

I don't cast out the outliers, nor encourage them to become more like the group for simplicity's sake. I make leaders out of them. I capitalize on their superiority by showcasing them to the rest of the class as shining examples of what they should strive toward. I develop the day's lesson around these very students, based on what I think they can handle and in turn convey to the rest of the class.

Instead of keeping them on the outside, I make them the center of attention in the hopes that everyone else will begin to see them as the new standard and start to change themselves and their conceptions of "normal."

I'm seldom disappointed in the effectiveness of this method of determining the focus of education.

These outliers and anomalies are everywhere in society. As culture has progressed, these uncommon men and women have become more accepted and celebrated for the new standards they introduce into the old mold of the world.

Those born as anomalies are still frequently encouraged to abandon their unusual traits and become more like the statistical average. Commoners fear what they do not understand or cannot themselves accomplish, and so uncommoners are made to conform.

To reverse this trend, the figureheads given authority over the developing children of the world will have to instill a superior level of confidence in the outliers from the onset of their traits. This is the responsibility that authority brings: the power to shape the structure of the human world.

In the long run, I hope the mainstream mentalities of the world can work to become more like the outsiders and weirdos who look at things a little differently.

I know this can only happen when we've changed the fundamental structure of education to celebrate the individual instead of asking him to conform to general standards.

But for now, people in positions of authority can make the choice to devote the necessary time and effort toward the outliers that will help them capitalize on their uniqueness, and resist the social pull toward averageness.

Enabled Youth is a youth mentoring, development, and coaching service run by Gregory V. Diehl. It is dedicated to helping young people live up to their highest potentials.

Gregory is a professionally certified youth mentor, coach, and international educator with experience with children in seven countries. He helps children and teenagers unlock their highest potentials and achieve personal success against the many trials of the world.

Through his coaching practice, he also helps parents connect more deeply with their children and create harmony at home.

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The Next Stage of Schooling

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...
"Lehrer-Student", Rostock (Wikipedia)
by Gregory V Diehl

Education is the process through which an individual mind gains understanding of principles of change, or cause and effect relationships in reality.

This differs from training, which is usually just the presentation of conclusions derived from understanding these principles.

Education is foremost about gaining an understanding of a system of correlated information. Training is foremost about how to apply information.

To put it one way: Training is memorizing the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.

Education is understanding the laws of planetary motion which allow you to arrive at that fact.

Consider a mechanic who understands the principles of combustion and the construction of the engine which makes the car work compared to the driver who only needs to know how to turn the steering wheel and which pedal makes it stop.

Or the difference between a music theorist and a musical performer. One intimately understands the mathematics and tonal relationships of harmony; the other can follow instructions on command and produce intended notes at the right time on a given instrument.

In fact, at some point in history, the terms "musician" and "musical performer" carried these similar but distinct meanings respectively.

Much of what is typically called "education" around the world is actually just training in a specific set of skills or cultural values.

For example, if you look what is called "religious education", it usually amounts to little more than training a child or recent convert in how to speak, dress, pray, and act in accordance with that religion's list of rules and values. Rarely is there any real education on major cosmological principles of change.

Or consider the concept of etiquette. It is training to condition a child to shake a stranger's hand when they meet for the first time, or to tuck in their shirt at a formal occasional. While these practices certainly serve their purposes, most are totally arbitrary and esoteric.

Training to perform a task is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It's a necessary part of navigating the modern world with its constantly shifting technologies and methodologies. The problem comes when training replaces education.

The majority of educational institutions around the world specialize in teaching children how to act, not how to think. This creates adults who lack character, ambition, intellectual integrity, and an ever-expanding sense of identity.

Another thing to consider is ...

It should come as no surprise that learning is not strictly an intellectual process. The ability to learn is dependent upon a student's level of curiosity, patience, dedication, and sense of self-worth.

These are all powerful emotional forces which cannot be neglected and ignored if true education is to be accomplished.

Under natural settings, it would be the duty of parents, family members, and other friendly older figures in a young person's life to ensure the development of these healthy emotional capacities until they reach adulthood.

Under traditional schooling, children are taken away from their parents for the majority of the day and left to develop under the unfamiliar eyes of state-appointed strangers simultaneously tasked with keeping dozens of other children in line.

It is a physical impossibility for these types of teachers to act as an instigator of the necessary emotional tools inherent to healthy education and human development.

A proper education must be entirely voluntary ...

... and initiated by the curiosity of the student to learn the particular information at hand. A five-year-old will not learn how to read without the desire to know how to read. A teenager will not learn algebra or chemistry without a desire to understand them.

This desire can either come from a fear of negative consequences from not learning them ("bad grades", punishment, parental and social scorn, the pathological fear of being perpetually stuck flipping burgers to make ends meet), or a genuine enthusiasm for gaining new knowledge and abilities.

The inescapable conclusion is that a teacher must become a specialist in creating either fear or enthusiasm in children.

A proper educator should be emotionally qualified to nurture the development of these basic humanities in the age range of children they choose to work with.

In other words, if you wouldn't trust them to raise your children for you, should you really trust them to be their primary emotional influences?

Let's take a look at the educational options available to most people:

Public school

Public school is almost universally poorly funded. This means there are never enough teachers or learning materials to satisfy the multitudes of students.

Furthermore, because public school is funded through taxation and not free market voluntary exchange, it is not subject to a proprietary incentive to continually be improving and optimizing its services.

Because it is designed and implemented by the whim of the majority and their elected officials, public schools can never cater to any form of outliers. They are designed for the average person to be able to produce easily quantifiable results and prepare them for college admissions.

Private school

Private schools are prohibitively expensive for most parents, if for no other reason than the fact that the taxes for public school must still be paid whether or not it is ever attended.

While generally superior to lackluster public schooling, the quality of education in private schools can vary widely depending upon the limitations and biases of the methodology upon which it is based.

They can even create a sense of privilege and entitlement over students who had to go to "regular" school.


Homeschooling, while not particularly expensive, comes with a major opportunity cost that is impossible for many parents to bear. If both parents work full time, homeschooling is impossible.

It also depends entirely on the parents' abilities as instructors, which is a role many are not prepared to play past early childhood for their own kids. If proper attention is not taken to keep the children involved in social activities, it can be very isolating for them.

Finally, while homeschooling is gaining in popularity, it is still at a point where it does not carry the same social merit as having attending an "official" schooling institution.

Private lessons & tutoring

Individual private instructors are available for almost any subject imaginable. They come in all levels of quality and cost. Because they are seen as supplementary, their effectiveness if often limited by a child's primary obligation to complete their traditional schooling matters first.

The education from these types of teachers usually happens in short sporadic sessions (such as an hour or two a week) so a continuity of thought and progress is difficult to achieve.

As with homeschooling, the social merit of taking guitar lessons or learning calculus from a tutor instead of a class is erroneously considered very low.


Finally, humanity's oldest form of education. Self-education occurs every day through tools like books, videos, images, audio, and good old-fashioned trial and error. Technology has made self-education on any topic a viable option for anyone in the developed world.

However, significant self-education requires a student who is intensely naturally driven to learn and expand their knowledge.

There is also no live external guide or influence to help a budding mind through trouble spots, incite further curiosity, or aim their attention in new directions they would never see on their own.

While self-education is a powerful tool in the right hands, it can never compare to having a second set of eyes to show us what our biases fail to see.

It should also go without saying that, except to other self-educators, it will never carry much weight in the world to say you read about something in a book rather than learned it in a classroom.

So ...

Why do most schools and educational institutions fail to teach their students how to think? Why are the fundamental emotional components of learning hardly ever addressed by conventional educators?

The simple truth is that there are thousands of naturally qualified and experienced individuals across North America, Europe, and the rest of the world who could be amazing assets to developing children and their parents.

You will never hear about these people because they do not fit the reigning social mold for what a teacher is supposed to look like. They come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, each specializing in their own unique form of mentoring influence.

The best thing a caring parent can do for their children is to be there for them physically, emotionally, and intellectually during their formative years. However, as children get older, they will naturally start to reach out beyond the boundaries of what any single set of parents can provide for them.

This is why additional mentors, guides, coaches, and substitute older siblings are so important to the developing mind and personality of a child.

Human history is riddled with social and technological revolutions.

It happened when our hunter ancestors adopted agriculture as their primary means of acquiring food. It happened when we began to use electric light or the automobile. It's happening now with the way we raise our kids and share the dearth of human knowledge acquired in generations past.

The revolution of decentralized education may change the world more than any other revolution prior. It could fundamentally change human culture as we know it.

We live now in the age of information, where experts are everywhere and anyone with a laptop can access the majority of knowledge ever discovered. Anyone who wants to learn something will find a way to learn it.

But what we are still lacking is a large proportion of people capable of catering to the emotional needs of children and students as they grow. We have no one to challenge us, comfort us, and push us to where we did not know we could go.

Who do you want guiding your children? Someone who relies upon a series of increasing threats to keep them focused and moving along the path society chose for them? Or someone who uses their emotional and intellectual expertise to encourage them along a developmental journey tailored individually for their temperament and interests?

The school of the future isn't a school at all. It's a network for connecting the right coaches and mentors with the right students.

Its function is to enable every individual learner to determine their own intellectual path according to their natural strengths and interests, and to provide the emotional influence and encouragement necessary to make this happen.

Since no two individual minds are exactly identical, the decentralization and degeneralization of education is the only way to make this happen.

When the first priority in education becomes teaching people how to think and helping them choose for themselves what they are most interested in learning, human societies around the world are bound to undergo massive progressive change.

We may even make major leaps in ending the various social problems and forms of strife created by populations becoming obsessed with asserting and preserving their training through violent conquest of superficially different people.

We may open countless new doorways to philosophical & economic exchange, scientific advancement, and broadening of narrow human mindsets.

It's impossible to see just how amazing and far-reaching this paradigm shift may be in regards to creating a world of greater peace, prosperity, freedom, and overall happiness.

Enabled Youth is a youth mentoring, development, and coaching service run by Gregory Diehl. It is dedicated to helping young people live up to their highest potentials.

Gregory is a professionally certified youth mentor, coach, and international educator with experience with children in seven countries. He helps children and teenagers unlock their highest potentials and achieve personal success against the many trials of the world.

Through his coaching practice, he also helps parents connect more deeply with their children and create harmony at home.

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Putting Maths on the Map With the Four Colour Theorem

English: A map of the USA demonstrating the fo...
A map of the USA demonstrating the four colour theorem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Adrian Dudek, Australian National University

Recently, as a community ambassador for ANU Student Equity, I took to a local secondary school to talk maths with a small group of students.

The goal? To give them an enjoyable mathematical experience and a glimpse at what maths is all about.

I started by asking them what they thought about maths.

The response was that they didn’t much care for sums - a calculator was more likely to pursue such a career. I knew I had to snap this misconception that “maths” was another way to say “dull arithmetic” and I had to do it fast - iPhones were starting to appear under the desks.

A colouring exercise

“Draw a map of Australia,” I told them. “Outline the states, and then colour the states in. Oh, but don’t let any two adjacent states be the same colour - it wouldn’t look very nice.” They coloured happily, naively thinking themselves free of having to do any maths.

After walking around the classroom admiring their handiwork, I asked them the following question:
What is the least number of colours needed to colour in Australia this way?
They were pretty quick here, even though some had gone mad with the visible spectrum whereas others had been a bit more conservative. After a short amount of time, the class agreed on the answer as three:

I congratulated them on their work before giving them the following two exercises.

1. Invent a country (with states) where the minimal number of colours needed is four. Swap with a classmate and get them to colour it in.
2. Invent another country where the minimal number of colours needed is five. Swap your map with a classmate and get them to colour it in.

Well, the students had a blast creating and naming their own countries. They challenged their friends in the first exercise, as the way to colour was not always obvious.

The following is the simplest example of a map that requires four colours:


The second exercise went exactly as I had hoped. There was some conflict: it turned out that even though the minimal number of colours was intended to be five, students were colouring in the maps correctly using only four.

One by one, we drew up each student’s map on the board and took turns showing that, in fact, each of them could be filled correctly using only four colours. Madness! I let them have another failed attempt, before letting them in on a well known mathematical theorem.

The four colour theorem

You never need more than four colours to colour in the regions of a map, such that any two adjacent regions are differently coloured.

We also have to stipulate that adjacent regions are those that share an edge, so regions that meet at a point are not deemed to be adjacent.

Wikimedia Commons

“This is probably the first example of real mathematics you’ve ever seen,” I told them. “Maths is about ideas, not arithmetic.” They wanted to know a bit more about it.

We talked about how, in 1852, a mathematician called Francis Guthrie was colouring in the different counties of England, and noticed that only four colours were needed. He wrote this in a letter to his brother Frederick, who passed it on to another mathematician.

For over a century, different mathematicians would fail in their attempts to prove the four colour theorem. But in 1976, Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken finally succeeded.

Upon asking the students how one might prove this mighty theorem, there was a suggestion we could draw every possible map and then colour them in using only four colours.

I shut them down quickly with the following fact: there are infinitely possible maps. So how did they prove it?

The idea behind the proof

The four colour theorem serves as the first major mathematical theorem to be proved using a computer. Of course, there are some stunning ideas behind the computation.

To show that there are no maps that need more than four colours, Appel and Haken turned to reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity), the greatest weapon the mathematician has. Here’s how it works:

If we want to prove that something is true, we instead assume that it is false and show that the rest of maths goes bad. That is, by assuming falsity, we encounter contradictions to already known truths. This tells us that our original assumption is incorrect, and that what we want to prove must be true.

Appel and Haken used this idea as follows. They assumed to the contrary, that there was some map out there which required more than four colours. They then showed that this rogue map was not allowed to contain within it one of 1,936 special, smaller maps.

Appel and Haken then showed that any map has to contain one of these special smaller maps and so appeared the contradiction.

There was a lot of checking to be done in the proof, so Appel and Haken wrote a computer program to do most of the working. As such, the four colour theorem was the first major mathematical theorem to be proved using a computer.

The doubts

The computer plays the biggest role in the proof and so there were concerns about the truth of this theorem, as it’s essentially impossible to verify by hand. As such, there were many sceptics.

In 1975, as an April Fool’s joke, the American mathematics writer Martin Gardner spread around a proposed counterexample to the four colour theorem. It took 24 years (and a lot of computer time) to show that only four colours were needed.

Even today, despite enjoying widespread academic acceptance, there are still sceptics who doubt the four colour theorem.

Can you come up with a counter-example?

Adrian Dudek does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

France to Post a “Secularism Charter” in Every School

Français : Vincent Peillon lors du Banquet Rép...
Vincent Peillon (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Schools Improvement Net:

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon has announced a plan to post a “secularism charter in every [educational] establishment” by the end of September. This is from the National Secular Society

The document would appear in a prominent place in every school, and remind teachers and pupils of a list of secular, Republican principles.

“Everyone has a right to their opinions,” Peillon told French journalists on Monday. “But not to dispute lessons or miss classes [for religious reasons],” he added.

The minister insisted, however, that the project should not “turn into an obsession with Islam".

"The vast majority of our Muslim compatriots are convinced of the benefits of secularism,” he added.

The project has provoked a mixed reaction in France, with some questioning the application of secular principles, and others claiming the measure doesn’t go far enough in enforcing France’s particularly strict church-state separation.

“The reality is that in the last few years, the Left has singularly lacked courage in the difficult struggle to defend secularism,” said Michèle Tabarot, a centre-right opposition UMP deputy. “This decision is totally in keeping with the pussyfooting image of this government.”

For his part, Philippe Tournier, Secretary-General of France’s union of headteachers, told Europe 1 radio he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, but worried about its implementation.

“The intentions are absolutely positive, but the essential thing still remains - putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said.

Peillon’s predecessor as Education Minister, however, Luc Chatel from the opposition UMP party, expressed his tentative support for the charter. “Any time we can give children a point of reference as to what the Republic is, and what our values are, that’s a good thing,” he told France Info radio on Monday.

This isn’t the first time in recent months that Peillon has caused controversy with a project to reinforce France’s secular values in its schools. In April, The Local reported how the education minister showed parliament his plans for school pupils to debate “secular morality” for one hour every week.

“Teaching and sharing the values of the Republic is a responsibility for each school,” Peillon said at the time.

Would you support a move like this in the UK - do you think it would benefit education - or do you think religious institutions bring much to the UK educational landscape? Please share in the comments or on twitter …
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When Is the Right Time to Start Graduate School?

2009 Graduate School Commencement 001
2009 Graduate School Commencement (Photo credit: pennstatenews)
by Laura S Morrison

There are many factors to consider when beginning graduate school, including finances, emotional preparedness, other significant time commitments such as family, and focus and motivation.

If you're debating about whether to take the plunge, here are four things to consider:

1. Money

America's student loan debt is currently in the trillions. Yikes! Do you have savings? Will your family gift you a portion of your tuition? Will you be working during graduate school?

Can you obtain grants, scholarships, fellowships, and / or teaching assistantships? What is the average return on investment from grad school for graduates in your field?

All of these factors should play a role in your decision whether to start soon or delay the process for a year or two.

2. Sanity

What have you been doing recently? If you've been in active duty, college, or in some other kind of demanding job or situation, you might need a break before stepping into the high-intensity grind that is grad school. But just how long a break you require is up to you.

If you can afford it, taking the summer - or even a month - off before grad school might do the trick. Others need longer to decompress.

And still others know that if they step off the hamster wheel, chances are good that they'll never get back on. These are the people that need to keep the momentum going and proceed straight to school.

The tricky part? Only you know what you need. Spend some time considering what's really going to benefit you in the long run.

3. Other commitments

A young, single individual who's financially stable has a good chance of being able to devote him or herself exclusively to graduate studies. Those juggling partners, kids, and perhaps even a job may have a more difficult time of it.

That's absolutely not to say that people in committed relationships with offspring shouldn't go back to graduate school - only that they should be well aware of what they're getting into.

For those people, a graduate program that may increase their earning ability might actually be a very wise decision in the long run.

4. Focus and motivation

Do you know exactly what you want to study? Do you have a good sense of how you'll apply it to a career post-graduation (while knowing that of course can shift)? Do you have a good track record of finishing projects? You're probably a good candidate for grad school.

Are you unsure of what you want to study, but you know you want more initials after your name? Are you looking for a way out of unemployment? Do you tend to start things and leave them half-finished?

It might be advisable for you to delay graduate school - a significant investment of time, energy, and money - until you have clarity regarding what you want to study and motivation to finish the degree.

Visit and find a graduate program that is right for you!

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Tips for Online Students: How to Ask a Question

E-learning short courses
E-learning short courses (Photo credit: London College of Fashion short courses)
by Brandy L Ross-Jenkins

Getting Started

When you are new to online learning there can be a lot to learn, and fast!

As an online student you will be taking on some additional responsibilities for your time and your academic work.

One of your greatest resources is your instructor. Asking for help or communicating with an instructor can be very intimidating, especially for a new student.

Before You Email

Many times instructors will post important information in the course announcements, the syllabus, or perhaps send out a welcome email at the start of class. Chances are that many of your questions will already be answered there.

Be sure to spend some time reviewing your class and the materials right away. You will feel much more at ease with your environment.

How to Ask a Question

Instructors love to help students. We are here to help you succeed! In order to help us help you, we need you to be as specific as possible. If you simply say "I need help" or "I don't understand" it doesn't give us much to work with.

Begin your email by stating the assignment, unit, or reading that you are working with. Then follow up with the question. Tell your instructor what you don't understand or what outcome you are looking for.

A Poor Email:
Professor Smith,
I am so confused and I don't understand what I am supposed to do! Help me!
Student Jones

Unless Professor Smith is a mind reader, chances are he or she doesn't know either! What are you working on? Where are you in the classroom? What is the obstacle holding you back?

In this scenario, your instructor will have to ask you follow up questions for more information, which will only delay you getting the help you need.

A better way to approach the issue:

Professor Smith,
I am having trouble with the Unit 4 discussion. Are the instructions asking for two responses to classmates, or three?
Student Jones

This is very clear and concise. Professor Smith will know how exactly how to respond, meaning you will get a clear answer right away.

Following Up

Most faculty members are quite diligent in responding to student emails right away. However, there are a myriad of reasons you may not get the speedy response you hoped for.

The very first thing to do is review your syllabus, the course announcements, and if applicable your instructor's biography.

Look for information on contacting the instructor. Did you use their preferred means of communication? (note, increasingly the preferred means of communication will be a messaging tool in the classroom and not email). Is there a stated expectation of how long you should wait before a response?

If there is no expectation outlined in the course materials, wait 48 hours and then you may follow up with your instructor for a response.

What you want to avoid here is multiple emails a day, or sending emails hours later asking if your instructor received your message. This is inefficient for both students and instructors.

Instructors as Resources

Remember, your instructor is key to your success. You never have to feel timid or apologize for asking questions. It is our role to support you and help you navigate the course successfully. We want to help you! Asking questions is a great way to enrich your learning experience.

Brandy L. Ross-Jenkins

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Scramble to Fill University Places Risks Flood of Useless Professionals

Academic? (Photo credit: tim ellis)
by Schools Improvement Net:

Universities risk “letting loose on society” young professionals who are technically qualified but “barely know their stuff”, experts claimed as it emerged that entry requirements are being slashed.

This is from the Sunday Times …

More than a week after A-level results were published, the scramble to fill undergraduate places on courses as varied as engineering, law and English literature is leading to “bargain basement” offers in clearing.

Students who were a few marks away from failing their A-levels are eligible to join honours degree courses for which requirements at the start of this year’s admissions round were as high as BBB.

Sixth-formers who scored as little as two E grades at A-level my now be admitted to highly academic degree courses.

Experts warned that students with limited academic ability would drop out of courses, wasting tuition fees of £9,000 a year. One warned that degree standards could be compromised and that universities risked “letting loose on society” professionals who met only basic technical qualifications.

… weeks before the start of the academic year, a reporter posing as a sixth-former was told by Bedfordshire University in Luton that most courses with places still available, including law and electrical engineering, would accept two E grades.

At Anglia Ruskin University, a reporter was told that two E grades could secure a place on biomedical sciences or English courses.

Buckinghamshire New University in High Wycombe and Falmouth University said two Es were sufficient to study the arts courses still available through clearing, dependent on the quality of the students’ previous work.

Swansea Metropolitan said there were “lots of courses” that would take students with two E grades and suggested psychology, while staff at Trinity St David, also in Wales, said: “Take your pick.”

Should we be concerned that places on these courses are being offered to students with 2 E grades? Tell us what you think in the comments or via twitter …
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Want Your Child to do Well in Class? Make Them Walk to School! Pupils’ Cognitive Performance Improves if They go by Foot Over Car

Walk to School Day 2011, Henrico, Virginia
Walk to School Day 2011, Henrico, Virginia (Photo credit: VaDOT)
by Schools Improvement Net:

Encouraging your teenager to walk to school can help them do better in class - especially if they’re female. This is from the Daily Mail …

A study has suggested that a pupil’s cognitive performance may be improved if they walk to school rather than be driven in, and girls are more likely to benefit from this than boys.

The new research, published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found performance at school among teenage girls who take a walk to the classroom is better than those who travel by bus or car.

Females who took 15 minutes or longer to walk in outperformed those who live in closer proximity.

The University of Granada, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Zaragoza and the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid embarked on the joint project and discovered the link between physical activity and performance in class.

Researchers used a sample of 1,700 boys and girls aged between 13 and 18 in five Spanish cities through the Food and Assessment of the Nutritional Status of Spanish Adolescents study.

The authors outlined that plasticity of the brain is greatest in teenage years. They wrote that during adolescence, ‘the plasticity of the brain is greater than at any other time of life, which makes it the opportune period to stimulate cognitive function.’

However this is also the period of life where physical activity declines most, too, and this is greatest in girls. Therefore researchers outlined that: ‘Inactive adolescents could be missing out on a very important stimulus to improve their learning and cognitive performance.’

Dr Frank Eves, a Chartered Psychologist, suggests there are two points that urge caution about the potentially interesting result, reported the British Psychological Society.

‘The study suggests not only that active travel may be related to cognitive performance in girls but also that greater effects may occur for durations of 15 minutes of more,’ he said.

But Dr Eves pointed out that while the improvement seemed to correlate directly with the increased activity pre-school, circumstances surrounding the lifestyles and upbringing of those girls that walked to school could also have a bearing on how well the girls performed.

That is to say, it is not certain that the increased activity is the sole factor in the improved results.

‘The data are cross-sectional and do not allow any interpretation in terms of the direction of the effect. It is quite possible that parents who actively encourage their daughters to be healthy - i.e. get sufficient physical activity - also actively encourage them with their school work'.

Dr Eves also noted that increased walking had been seen to improve cognitive function in elderly women too. But Dr Eves says that more experimental studies are required to truly assess the benefits of walking on mental health. 

If the basis of this article is correct, and we already know girls are lagging behind in exercise at school, might one option be to include walking within the school day, instead, perhaps, of trying to get girls to participate in PE? Let us know what you think in the comments or on twitter …
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Research Paper Topics: Write What Interests You

Research Bar
Research Bar (Photo: Rice-Aron Library)
by Patrick Regoniel, PhD

While browsing the internet for research paper topics, you may find yourself stuck and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available to you.

How will you be able to avoid information overload? Which research topics will you explore? What will you write about?

You have that mistaken notion that once you sit there in front of the computer, the answer will come. But you keep on your endless browsing with no clear direction in mind.

Sometimes you find yourself opening your emails, reading blogs, stumbles around interesting and not-so-interesting websites, playing games, or chatting with your friends. All of these in the hope that you might bump into something and come up with your research topic.

Why is this so? The reason is that you have not asked yourself first about what really interests you. What are those things that excite you or get your attention. In other words, write about those topics that gain your interest. But how will you know those things that interest you?

Here are steps on how to identify what you really want and at the same time arrive at topics that are worth pursuing.

Materials Needed

  • clean sheet of bond paper
  • pencil
  • marking pen
  • post-it note
  • a wall or anything you can post notes


Step 1. Make a list

Get a clean sheet of bond paper and pencil. Make a rapid list of words you have in mind. Anything goes. It could be a word or a phrase that represents an idea.

You need not make your list orderly. Write at the center, at the sides, at the bottom, anywhere you want. Just think and write freely. Do this for at least 30 minutes or until you have filled up the whole sheet.

It is best to do this on those times that you find your mind most active. Research findings on the human faculty reveal that those times come between 9 to 11:30 in the morning. The time, of course, varies between persons. So, suit yourself and find which time of the day works best for you.

Step 2. Identify which ones are measurable

If you have finished your statistics course, you should be able to spot which of those in your list are variables. Variables are those items that you can measure or are measurable.

Using a marking pen, write those words legibly and large enough to be seen from a distance on small (2.5 x 3") post-it notes. Post these words or phrases on a wall, a blackboard, whiteboard, or anything to hold your post-it notes. Leave it there for a while.

Step 3. Ponder the words or phrases on the wall

Pause for a few minutes and ponder the words or phrases you have posted on the wall. Bring together related words by removing them from the wall and putting them close together.

These will be the themes of your research paper. Each theme should have at least three words or phrases in it. Ponder which theme is most relevant to your field.

Step 4. Select from the group of themes

Which theme appeals to you most? Select one and isolate from the rest.

Step 5. Identify the cause and effect from the words or phrases in the theme

Arrange the words in the theme you have selected. Find out which one causes the other. Now, you have your dependent and independent variables. The effect is/are the dependent variable/s while the cause is/are the independent variable/s.

Step 6. Explore your research topic

You are now ready to undertake your literature review. Search the internet for related studies using the set of dependent and independent variables you have identified.

This should prime you up to narrow down further your research paper topic. As you go along reading related studies, be flexible. Your research topic will evolve and get refined through time. For more practical tips on research-related topics, visit

Article Source:,_PhD

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis) - What is a “weekend”?

by Jessica Misener, BuzzFeed Staff:

1. Telling children you’re in the 25th grade


2. It’s been at least 10 years since you had a “real” weekend

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


3. Realizing your vocabulary is permanently scattered with words like “problematic” and “ontological” and “hegemony”

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


4. Coming up with all of your good ideas in the shower …

Coming up with all of your good ideas in the shower...
… and no good ideas during your oral defense.


5. Going to parties and everyone’s just standing around talking about their research

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)
… because none of you are in touch with pop culture in the slightest.


6. When your undergrads ask constantly, “Is this going to be on the exam?”

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


7. Your average dinner is a bag of frozen vegetables topped with leftover shredded cheese and hot sauce

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


8. When someone claims that being in a doctoral program isn’t “the same thing as having a real job”

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


9. Trying to date another Ph.D. student

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


10. Unironically referring to the library or the lab as “home”

Unironically referring to the library or the lab as "home."


11. … and feeling ultra-guilty anytime you try to relax

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


12. Finding an old paper you wrote your first year of grad school

Finding an old paper you wrote your first year of grad school:


13. Realizing where most of your stipend went

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


14. When master’s degree students complain about their workload, you’re just like

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


15. Trying to make non-academic small talk with your advisor at a reception

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


16. When all of your colleagues are married, and you’re just like

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


17. Feeling some degree of “impostor syndrome” at least once a day

Feeling some degree of "impostor syndrome" at least once a day.
… as in, you’re just waiting for someone to realize that they made a HUGE mistake letting you into your program and to swiftly kick you out.


18. When someone asks you for the 357th time what your dissertation is about

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


19. How you feel when your annual conference is in


20. Seeing someone on your dissertation committee outside of school


21. Grading your undergrads’ papers

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


22. When someone asks how “writing” is going

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


23. Trying to say something romantic to your significant other after a long day of coursework

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


24. Explaining to your friends with 9-to-5 jobs why you can’t go out on Friday night

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)


25. When ANYONE asks you what your plan is after you graduate

25 Deeply Painful Ph.D. Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)