A great article discussing the current state of our "elite" U.S educational institutions and the ramifications of our over dependence on them.
It was not long ago that I graduated from a top 5 university. Though, while on my quest for an astrophysics degree, establishing a profound understanding of the content I was studying yielded to to the overbearing desire to reach the "finish line". The motivation that propelled me through the final marathon mile of my tenure was the idea of conquering a series of constant pushing forces: problem sets, deadlines, exams, and lab reports. The material evaded me ever so slightly as I memorized just enough to mitigate the burden of academic servitude and achieve the rank of a graduate. Surely, jumping through these hoops was just a membership ritual, I thought.
Ultimately, adding a prestigious University of Chicago degree to my resume, being branded as an astrophysics graduate, and validating my intellect were stakes held at the other end of the stage. I assumed my liberation from this institution would thrust the doors of authentic science open, that once validated I would be led to a world of genuine scientific research and inclusive exploration.
However, as I progress throughout my post collegiate career, I observe a degree of scientists submitting to base urges: egotism, elitism, and self promotion. According to the rubric of the "elite" universities, these individuals are excelling. For elite universities over-stress the importance of accumulating accolades and necessitate one constantly validating their scientific worth through obligatory publications. Cohesive collaboration towards selfless discovery occasionally takes a back seat, and the will to self brand discoveries and maximize personal exposure in scientific journals reigns supreme.
In a broader sense, there is a general perception of participation in science as a privilege, where only a selective elite class of individuals are granted access to the bountiful depths of scientific knowledge or offered the opportunity to pursue scientific careers. This perception, whether factual or not, can alienate a curious general population that desires to engage with and understand science. Moreover, this perception can discourage potential scientists that may have experienced a less refined path through academia, via lack of available resources or other circumstantial difficulties, from joining the scientific community and potentially offering vital and unique contributions.
Throughout the duration of my scientific career I intend to rekindle the pursuit of genuine science and reconnect with the natural world. My hope is that the urge to personally thrive will yield to pure curiosity and untainted scientific discovery, and that I can share this passion with others.