Academic identity in different times

In ‘old’ Finnish movies one line has long been in my mind. The scene where it was a farm in rural Finland, where a teacher with a MA came to town. The lady of the farm house asked, accordingly: “saisiko maister kahvia?” (would Master like to have coffee). This kind of old courtesy and politeness that becomes with an academic education, is not the most favorable way of presenting oneself in postmodern Finland, where discourse of equality prevails.

Another quote from the world of entertainment, that bears somewhat similar worldview, but with a contemporary twist, comes from an american tv-series “Big Bang Theory”. The scene goes following: the university principal (or dean or something like that) visits his scholars, greeting everyone by their title and name – doctor Cooper, doctor Hofstader, doctor Guthrapali, MISTER Wolowitz (apologies for the fans of the show, if names are incorrectly). The catch is that other main male characters in the show have Doctoral degrees, but one has ‘only’ Masters degree. Scene continues with MISTER Wolowitz replying discretely: “I have a Masters degree”; to which the principal replies: “don’t we all”.

In a time where an academic degree is not so rare anymore, the competition for distinquished title has increased. Moreover, in the job market you won’t necessary get any extra points by being ‘just’ a Master of something. Many people have merits, but for the merits to be effective, you have to show that your merits are extraordinary and they have relevance in that certain situation – more than the merits of others. For now a doctoral degree is still a merit that is distinquishable – and it should be. If it would not be, the requirements for degree could be questioned; it should take effort that stands from the group to become a Doctor of something.

My way of becoming Doctor of something (PhD) is just months from completing, hopefully by December, if not late November. Then I would be Doctor, but not the kind that helps people. Just a kind of doctor that speaks difficult words and makes no sense to others than his near colleagues.


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