The Academia Frustration – When experience doesn’t matter

Yes, the headline takes it away. This is going to be a rant on academics. I know I’m not the first one to be upset about that fact and I won’t be the last. I still feel the need to express my feelings. So live with it.

First off. I love being in academics. I made the transition from corporate to academics and don’t regret it. Teaching & education in general is very exciting, highly interesting and I wouldn’t want to miss a single class (in 3 years teaching I never did btw) I ever had.

So where does the frustration now come from? I’m glad you ask. As with most rants related to academics it comes from the beast within. Organization. Structures. Some of the worst vocabularies imaginable. Those organizational structures tell us that ‘real world experience’ is not important within academics. Why? Because you can’t print on a sheet of paper.

High Quality in academics comes from obtaining as many degrees as possible. That’s what defines the quality of your work. If you have a PhD you’re worth more than someone without. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t say people working at Universities and in education should not have PhDs. Of course it is important that people in academics continue their studies, educate themselves, strive for more knowledge. However I also think that this ‘real world experience’ should account for something. After all this is something many lecturers lack. A lot. Life is not all about studying theories it also about applying those theories and maybe even find new ones.

The lack of experience among lots of professors or lecturers is something that bothers me a lot. It does not only affect work among colleagues but also their lectures of course. If you don’t have ‘real world experience’ how should you prepare your students for this, I say it again, real world? By reading scholarly articles about how the real world should work? Of course it is crucial to understand how things should work. Nevertheless it is as crucial to understand how things really work “out there”.

I think that’s actually something most people agree on. Nothing new, right? The funny thing now is that lots of those degree collectors actually think they would know what’s going on. So many of my colleagues give me ‘advice’ or try to tell me what to do even though they don’t have the slightest idea whether their suggestions would work. I can evaluate that for myself – students however might not be able to see those flaws in their lecturer’s logic. And why should they? They expect to learn something from someone with, tada, experience.

Furthermore when I look at current university exams it is incredible how far off questions and the overall exam are. What I mean by far off? Some exams are way to easy for example. It’s even silly to sit down and waste time for that. Other exams on the other hand focus on learning everything by heart. That might make sense in some cases (I’m happy that my doctor for example had to study everything he knows by heart) – in others it doesn’t. Lecturers with experience should be able to distinguish and to understand when they have to focus on details and when on the bigger picture and then relate both.

That brings us back to the point: Experience vs. smart ass. Why are people with experience treated badly, being ignored or just not taken serious? Is it because the ‘real’ academics fear that someone motivated might shine light on their slow and inefficient work? Do they fear more competition? Not able of keeping up with an open environment?

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