Ph.D. Problems

The following letter was printed in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle this past Wednesday. I think it’s funny as hell, given the errors in fact present in it, but it also lacks almost any semblance of logic. It is reprinted here without permission of the Chronicle, so if they have a problem, they need to contact me. The letter was written (as is) by Jack Clarkson of West Yellowstone, Mont.:

Although I was not a history major while in high school, I can reflect back upon our American history. Turns out, there were no Ph.D.s on the trio of ships that sailed to the Americas to establish our first colonies. I could not find any Ph.D.s that signed the Declaration of Independence. We have never in our history had a Ph.D. for president.

The West was settled and populated by ordinary men and women, no Ph.D.s there. None of our astronauts have been Ph.D.s, Wall Street is not populated by Ph.D.s either. We have been in two world wars, the Spanish American War, the police action in Korea, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and now the War on Terror which is currently taking place in Afghanistan and Iraq. I read the papers, and watch the news, I do not hear of any Ph.D.s who are fighting for our country in those theaters. Outside of the medical field, I do not recall any really famous Ph.D.s or any Ph.D.s who have made significant contributions to our society.

To tout the doctorate as some kind of mantel that is bestowed upon the most learned and the most sagacious members of our society, and that their contribution is somehow more significant than those with less formal education is an error made by those who would teach us that education is an end unto itself.

The old adage is: Those who can “do,” those who can’t “teach.” It sure rings true if you look at the history of our country.

Now, I’m not usually one to nitpick others, and I’m not about to start with Mr. Clarkson. However, I think he needs to get his facts straight and learn the basics of a solid argument (versus an all-out anti-academic rant) before he deigns to share his opinion with the public again. Responses?


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