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Graduate Students and Professors: Who innovates; who conserves?

CollectionsTransmission of academic values in Asian Studies workshop (2009)
Title: Graduate Students and Professors: Who innovates; who conserves?
Author(s): Reid, Anthony
Cribb, Robert
Keywords: generations, Jane Drakard, Ruurdje Laarhoven, gender, Southeast Asian Studies, Indonesia, early modern, globalisation, competition, ANU, UCLA, NUS, Singapore, United States
Date published: 2011
Publisher: The Australia-Netherlands Research Collaboration (ANRC)
Citation: Reid, A. (2011). Graduate Students and Professors: Who innovates; who conserves? In R. Cribb (Ed.), Transmission of academic values in Asian Studies: workshop proceedings. Canberra: Australia-Netherlands Research Collaboration
Description: 
Academic teaching is always a transaction between generations - the cutting edge of change, one might think. Yet universities remain among the most conservative of our institutions, relying a great deal on their legitimating function rather than innovation in their handling of new knowledge. At their worst (and this is a temptation all of us have felt, I suspect), academics appear more interested in reproducing themselves in a new generation, ensuring that a particular kind of approach continues, than in responding to the extraordinary changes of the times. To some extent the process by which graduate students are recruited from around the world reinforces that tendency. The graduate student or his advisor on the other side of the world is likely to be attracted to work that the potential superisor did 10 years earlier, in time to be published and cycled into teaching. In my case work of the 1960s attracted students from Japan and elsewhere in the 1970s and eighties; work on the revolutionary 1940s done in the 1970s attracted students in the 1980s. Only in the 1990s did I get a couple of students working on early modern Southeast Asia (Jane Drakard and Ruurdje Laarhoven) which I had already been working on for nearly 20 years. Whereas undergraduate teaching often forces one into new areas, there is a tendency for graduate teaching to pull one back. Academic teaching is always a transaction between generations - the cutting edge of change, one might think. Yet universities remain among the most conservative of our institutions, relying a great deal on their legitimating function rather than innovation in their handling of new knowledge. At their worst (and this is a temptation all of us have felt, I suspect), academics appear more interested in reproducing themselves in a new generation, ensuring that a particular kind of approach continues, than in responding to the extraordinary changes of the times. To some extent the process by which graduate students are recruited from around the world reinforces that tendency. The graduate student or his advisor on the other side of the world is likely to be attracted to work that the potential superisor did 10 years earlier, in time to be published and cycled into teaching. In my case work of the 1960s attracted students from Japan and elsewhere in the 1970s and eighties; work on the revolutionary 1940s done in the 1970s attracted students in the 1980s. Only in the 1990s did I get a couple of students working on early modern Southeast Asia (Jane Drakard and Ruurdje Laarhoven) which I had already been working on for nearly 20 years. Whereas undergraduate teaching often forces one into new areas, there is a tendency for graduate teaching to pull one back. These thoughts will reflect on the relation between graduate students and their teachers on the basis of personal experience rather than theory.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/116961
ISBN: 978-1-74076-225-0

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