03 July 2010

Clouds, clocks, and graduate curricula

From Almond and Genco (World Politics, 1977):
The stress on
reductionist explanation, quantification, and formalization has also
led to an overloading of graduate curricula. If a political scientist
must be a staistician, psychologist, and sociologist, then some of the
traditional curriculum has to be set aside in order to make room for
these newer disciplines and techniques. Anyone who has taught in a
major graduate department of political science in the last twenty
years will recall this inexorable process of narrowing and
technicizing of the curriculum; the foreign-language requirements have
been reduced, the field examination requirements have dropped from
five to four to three, perhaps even to two."
Whig historiography is always noxious, but so too is its opposite--what I suppose we might as well call jeremiad historiography. Clearly, the adherents of a waxing paradigm will always be Whigs and the partisans of the status quo--or, especially, of the just-recently-displaced status quo--will always be Jeremiahs.

But without meaning any offense to my colleagues in political theory and comparative politics, the thought of having to prepare myself for comprehensive examinations in those fields in addition to IR and American government fills me with despair. I am sure they would be equally dismayed by the idea that they would have to master the minutiae of bureaucratic politics, the presidency literature, or the democratic interdemocratic peace in addition to subjects they more naturally care about.

Five comprehensive exams! The literature was much smaller, but the essays must have been much shorter or the standards much lower.

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