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INTRO My story: SCRIPTED living in education/academia

Discussion in 'Forum Introductions (Who are you!?)' started by touchance, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. touchance
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    touchance New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    I've read both books by MJ DeMarco for a while. However, because I am in a PhD program, the sunken cost was huge (at least in my mind) and I was reluctant to take any initiative to exit.
    Not meant to be ranting, but I feel like I am a poster child of SCRIPTED living, especially on the education side (getting one degree after another). Just wanted to show how SCRIPTED living has made my life what it is today. About a week ago, I had my FTM. I felt this was it, and I will not tolerate the system anymore or force myself to be compliant.
    I am in a field that is under the umbrella of medicine/health (sounds noble with the aim of "helping" vulnerable populations etc., but not in actual clinical practice so there is much less market demand). After graduating college, I got a master's degree, and then no job. At that time I was still "hopeful" and wanted to get a temporary research job so I can then get into a PhD program and be a professor (I know, naive, in academia it is all about who you know---VERY IMPORTANT to be really connected to big shots and also making sure they are willing to recommend you etc., and if you are able to get money from grants, and how many publications you have on your CV). I applied to many, especially the jobs around my school, and got various unfriendly responses. I'll give a couple examples. One time I was volunteering as a research assistant, and wasn't feeling well one day so called in sick. The supervisor emailed me back saying that my attitude was not right, by calling in sick. That was funny, since I was not paid anything, plus they didn't even teach me anything, just used me as free labor. They must have assumed that the free labor has to be happy and all joyful because there is no job guaranteed so better "win people over"? Another time I wanted to work for a professor, but she insisted that I didn't take her class so I was not prepared for her job, and she was not willing to train students because it would take too long. My master's degree was essentially useless. Oh, and then I never got into the PhD program in my master's school (after applying twice). But the alumni relations people do a very diligent job of tracking me down and asking for donations. After running out of luck, I had to go back to my home country (I am an international student studying in the U.S.) and work a menial research assistant job that paid peanuts and had no future prospects, which I left after 9 months and got into my current PhD program.
    So at this current PhD program, I got my full dose of how dysfunctional and fragmented modern day academia is. Students are essentially a disenfranchised group (plus my international status, so feeling more pushed aside and ignored). My program is interdisciplinary (read: no actual department and has to rely on other departments for money by paying students less and doing work that has nothing to do with their research interests), and my work experience has been chaotic at the best. Initially I was assigned (yup, no freedom to choose or do rotations since we don't even have an actual department!) to a senior professor in another department that is more distant from my research interests, and I worked for him for three years (the assistant professor in the team left after two years so I worked for another assistant professor), and then he retired and didn't care TF about where I would be going (in one summer he prevented me from going to an internship since he had some work for me, but actually that summer was as slow as F). And this arrangement is good according to my program, because skills are "transferrable" so content area doesn't matter. After three years I lost funding and it was really stressful when I sought another assistantship around the campus. My program didn't care either, since they said in the student handbook "funding after two years is not guaranteed". However, while American students had some opportunities from the public sector/government, for us it would be nothing if the school doesn't help. Also I am required to attend some federally funded trainee meetings even if I can never be a trainee due to citizenship status, and had to serve on student government and association positions even if I had no interest in those, just because my program is small and everybody has to take on some role. Anyway, I asked for at least 4 RA jobs and were either declined (for one of them I went through 4 rounds of interviews!) or never heard back. In the end my current boss emailed my program coordinator so I at least got some money in the end. It was a one-year contract, but after a few days I was told the contract was reduced to less than a year, since my boss didn't know about money prospects in the following year. It has been the most unhappy year because my husband also moved to another state last summer, and I worked alone, trying to make my dissertation work (another cobweb of distinctive academic politics), so I decided to leave my job on campus after the contract expires and move to where my husband lives. Last week I was told, that I have to pay double my tuition since I am international (out of state status) and my health insurance will be terminated. That was when my FTM occurred.
    I haven't realized so deeply how important money is, not in the sense that I can squander on fancy sports cars (won't judge if that's your goal), but my health (both physical and mental) and personal life have taken the toll. In the past few years, I had no time and no luck for friends because I was constantly stressed, and was also forced to separate from my husband a couple times for work or "career", and had developed chronic digestive issues. I just wanted to say that living the SCRIPTED life and having "hope" and think "time" would take care of it all is dangerous. It will not get better, only worse. And if you don't take control, what you already have is also going to be taken away.
    So here I am, ready to start a fresh chapter in my life. I am humbled by my experience and I hope to learn from all of you.
    Thank you.

    *Edit: I read the book a while ago and in this post I thought about FTE but wrote FTM. Anyway my words wouldn't count either way, will see how my execution goes.*
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2019
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  2. ZF Lee
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    ZF Lee Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Wow, what a tale!

    Welcome!

    Last semester, I humoured myself and attended a talk at my university for a 'leadership research community' across Australia. Turns out that it was a scheme to train students for a years or so to do GRANT WRITING.

    I face-palmed myself mentally.
    After having a look at your academic life, I feel so afraid now to look at my lecturers. Dunno what they themselves have gone through.:)

    Since you are in the health industry, will you be using your experience there to do something in the Fastlane? Or are you going to do something new?
     
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  3. touchance
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    touchance New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    It's funny how they label grant writing as "leadership", but I get it, money is scarce and grant writing is very important if you want to survive in academia. In my school there is an entrepreneurship fellowship that I applied for but didn't get in (probably due to my rec person not being a big shot in the school). Anyway sometimes they do it with the tech transfer office and IP people. But as students, you'd only be used one way or another, since whatever the school gets they will make use of it for their own branding. And the professors who own the technology/product/resources will get promoted and probably even media coverage. And for you? you get the "experience". My advice would be to just start outside of the system, because you are simply not "senior" enough to join the game.

    For business ideas, I am open to other fields. Surely it would be convenient for me to do something in the health/medical area, but it depends on whether I can identify a true market gap. If there isn't any that I'm aware of, then there is no use to force it. Because essentially the market is indifferent to my personal interests.

     
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  4. DonTriumph
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    DonTriumph Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    Last semester, I humoured myself and attended a talk at my university for a 'leadership research community' across Australia. Turns out that it was a scheme to train students for a years or so to do GRANT WRITING.
    [/QUOTE]

    Hmm... if I get it right, that's the funny thing about the academe. They use grand titles/names to their programs only to find out, it's really as simple as, like Grant Writing. (I think Grant Writing is a big task, but what would we expect when we read words like "leadership" We'll think of group activities where you are tasked to lead a group, or something exciting like that... then get tasked to Grant Writing?)

    In my case, we have a subject in our (college) degree called "Home, Community, and Personal Development". The goal is to... well, personal development.

    It's actually GREAT. The setting is classroom (as usual), but the professor is more interactive as we are asked to discover ourselves.

    Then there's this next subject, a "level 2" of Personal Development. It's called "Business and Executive Etiquette". What would you expect?

    To me, I expect something like we'll dressed in formal attire, taught how to act in a formal dinner, or just simply be interactively taught on business etiquette like how we are taught in Personal Development.

    But you know what's in that subject?

    We are to go to a computer lab, log-in on a "e-learning" site, click on a topic, listen to the narration for a few minutes (usually 1-3) then take a "quiz", which is a short 3 question quiz that can be easily answered.

    That's what we will repeatedly do in that subject... and we'll do that for 5 months!!

    I can't believe that hell.

    And this is not Slowlane. This is TURTLE-Lane!

    Anyway, I think I'm already ranting. My point is I observe that subjects tend to sound big, but in reality they're just all basics... and are taught very slowly. Like I can probably learn in an hour what they will teach in 2 weeks if I only self-studied the same subject.
     
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  5. touchance
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    touchance New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Hmm... if I get it right, that's the funny thing about the academe. They use grand titles/names to their programs only to find out, it's really as simple as, like Grant Writing. (I think Grant Writing is a big task, but what would we expect when we read words like "leadership" We'll think of group activities where you are tasked to lead a group, or something exciting like that... then get tasked to Grant Writing?)

    In my case, we have a subject in our (college) degree called "Home, Community, and Personal Development". The goal is to... well, personal development.

    It's actually GREAT. The setting is classroom (as usual), but the professor is more interactive as we are asked to discover ourselves.

    Then there's this next subject, a "level 2" of Personal Development. It's called "Business and Executive Etiquette". What would you expect?

    To me, I expect something like we'll dressed in formal attire, taught how to act in a formal dinner, or just simply be interactively taught on business etiquette like how we are taught in Personal Development.

    But you know what's in that subject?

    We are to go to a computer lab, log-in on a "e-learning" site, click on a topic, listen to the narration for a few minutes (usually 1-3) then take a "quiz", which is a short 3 question quiz that can be easily answered.

    That's what we will repeatedly do in that subject... and we'll do that for 5 months!!

    I can't believe that hell.

    And this is not Slowlane. This is TURTLE-Lane!

    Anyway, I think I'm already ranting. My point is I observe that subjects tend to sound big, but in reality they're just all basics... and are taught very slowly. Like I can probably learn in an hour what they will teach in 2 weeks if I only self-studied the same subject.[/QUOTE]
    Hmm... if I get it right, that's the funny thing about the academe. They use grand titles/names to their programs only to find out, it's really as simple as, like Grant Writing. (I think Grant Writing is a big task, but what would we expect when we read words like "leadership" We'll think of group activities where you are tasked to lead a group, or something exciting like that... then get tasked to Grant Writing?)

    In my case, we have a subject in our (college) degree called "Home, Community, and Personal Development". The goal is to... well, personal development.

    It's actually GREAT. The setting is classroom (as usual), but the professor is more interactive as we are asked to discover ourselves.

    Then there's this next subject, a "level 2" of Personal Development. It's called "Business and Executive Etiquette". What would you expect?

    To me, I expect something like we'll dressed in formal attire, taught how to act in a formal dinner, or just simply be interactively taught on business etiquette like how we are taught in Personal Development.

    But you know what's in that subject?

    We are to go to a computer lab, log-in on a "e-learning" site, click on a topic, listen to the narration for a few minutes (usually 1-3) then take a "quiz", which is a short 3 question quiz that can be easily answered.

    That's what we will repeatedly do in that subject... and we'll do that for 5 months!!

    I can't believe that hell.

    And this is not Slowlane. This is TURTLE-Lane!

    Anyway, I think I'm already ranting. My point is I observe that subjects tend to sound big, but in reality they're just all basics... and are taught very slowly. Like I can probably learn in an hour what they will teach in 2 weeks if I only self-studied the same subject.[/QUOTE]

    Ha, I am guessing both of you are still young (early to mid 20s, if I'm not mistaken), so haven't seen through the nature of academia/education yet. In this case, I might sound jaded and cynical. You are not ranting. I've been ranting, but I actually have a point, and I want people to steer away from the mistakes I made myself.

    Think of educational institutions as any other institutions, they may sound a bit more different from businesses because they are "non-profit" etc., but they still actually need to sustain themselves. Social resources are usually in the categories of money, reputation and connections (can reinforce each other) and educational institutions have incentives to pursue these as any other.

    For the quality of classes, it can be haphazard since at a specific time the classes offered might not align with any incentive for the goals mentioned above. I have found that some online MOOCs do an amazing job of teaching no BS real skills. These courses are tried hundreds of thousands of times by people taking them online across the world, so they are essentially pretty widely tested by the market. If an institution has a "star" MOOC course, it is a boost of its reputation over the world, so the process refines itself and the bad classes get weeded out. For classes that are taught locally on site, a majority of them can be of mediocre quality and in many cases there would be little to no punishment for that.

    That was the economics side of the issue. Some might say that higher education is not meant to prepare students to get real job skills and competitive in the market (which I think is just shielding the blame, since they market themselves in terms of job prospects all the time), and instead is about "enriching one's soul and finding spiritual compass etc.". I guess MJ had already addressed this in his book, that critical thinking is essentially blocked in today's educational system, but critical thinking is the basis of personal development. And what about deep thinking or real science? With constant outside pressure, it is really hard to balance out these ideals with the immediate need of cash etc. merely to survive.

    In either case, don't trust that just by getting a degree will get you anywhere in the labor market, or anything useful for personal development. :)

    I totally agree that educational institutions mostly fail to effectively teach real skills (e.g. being slow and boring). From my personal experience, I learn the fastest when I am faced with a project that needs to be carried out in x amount of time. I set the pace, and it doesn't work in a prearranged "sequence", but works best from going back and forth, searching info online, talking with other people (if there is a supportive community) and constantly refining it by trial and error.
     

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