Hilda said loudly, "Zebbie! You never told me you went to Heidelberg."
"You never asked, Sharpie.
Zebadiah, was that where you took your doctorate?"
My husband grinned and sat down, still wearing sword. "No, another school ." "M.I.T.?" inquired Pop.
"Hardly. Pop, this should stay in the family. I undertook to prove that a man can get a doctorate from a major university without knowing anything and without adding anything whatever to human knowledge."
"1 think you have a degree in aerospace engineering," Pop said flatly. "I'll concede that I have the requisite hours. I hold two degrees-a baccalaureate in humane arts. . . meaning I squeaked through. . . and a doctorate from an old and prestigious school-a Ph.D. in education."
"Zebadiah! You wouldn't!" (I was horrified.)
"But I did, Deety. To prove that degrees per se are worthless. Often they are honorifics of true scientists or learned scholars or inspired teachers. Much more frequently they are false faces for overeducated jackasses."
Pop said, "You'll get no argument from me, Zeb. A doctorate is a union card to get a tenured job. It does not mean that the holder thereof is wise or learned."
"Yes, sir. I was taught it at my grandfather's knee-my Grandfather Zachariah, the man responsible for the initial 'Z' in the names of his male descendants. Deety, his influence on me was so strong that I must explain him- no, that's impossible; I must tell about him in order to explain me. . . and how I happened to take a worthless degree."
"I went to Manhattan and signed up for school again. Doctoral candidate. School of Education. Not serious at first, simply intending to use my veteran's benefits while enjoying the benefits of being a student-and devote most of my time to piling up cash to qualify for the trust. "I knew that the stupidest students, the silliest professors, and the worst bull courses are concentrated in schools of education. By signing for large class evening lectures and the unpopular eight am. classes I figured I could spend most of my time finding out how the stock market ticked. I did, by working there, before I risked a dime.
"Eventually I had to pick a research problem or give up the advantages of being a student. I was sick of a school in which the pie was all meringue and no filling but I stuck as I knew how to cope with courses in which the answers are matters of opinion and the opinion that counts is that of the professor. And how to cope with those large-class evening lectures: Buy the lecture notes. Read everything that professor ever published. Don't cut too often and when you do show up, get there early, sit front row center, be certain the prof catches your eye every time he looks your way-by never taking your eyes off him. Ask one question you know he can answer because you've picked it out of his published papers-and state your name in asking a question. Luckily 'Zebadiah Carter' is a name easy to remember. Family, I got straight 'A's' in both required courses and seminars. . . because I did not study 'education,' I studied professors of education.
"But I still had to make that 'original contribution to human knowledge' without which a candidate may not be awarded a doctor's degree in most so-called disciplines. . . and the few that don't require it are a tough row to hoe.
"I studied my faculty committee before letting myself be tied down to a research problem. . . not only reading everything each had published but also buying their publications or paying the library to make copies of out-of-print papers."
My husband took me by my shoulders. "Dejah Thoris, here follows the title of my dissertation. You can have your divorce on your own terms."
"Zebadiah, don't talk that way!"
"Then brace yourself. 'An Ad-Hoc Inquiry Concerning the Optimization of the Infrastructure of Primary Educational Institutions at the Interface Between Administration and Instruction, with Special Attention to Group Dynamics Desiderata."
"Zebbie! What does that mean?"
"It means nothing, Hilda."
"Zeb, quit kidding our ladies. Such a title would never be accepted."
"Jake, it seems certain that you have never taken a course in a school of education."
"Well. . . no. Teaching credentials are not required at university level but-"
"But me no 'huts,' Pop. I have a copy of my dissertation; you can check its authenticity. While that paper totally lacks meaning it is a literary gem in the sense in which a successful forging of an 'old master' is itself a work of art. It is loaded with buzz words. The average length of sentences is eightyone words. The average word length, discounting 'of,' 'a,' 'the,' and other syntactical particles, is eleven-plus letters in slightly under four syllables. The bibliography is longer than the dissertation and cites three papers of each member of my committee and four of the chairman, and those citations are quoted in part-while avoiding any mention of matters on which I knew that members of the committee held divergent (but equally stupid) opinions.
"But the best touch was to get permission to do field work in Europe and have it count toward time on campus; half the citations were in foreign languages, ranging from Finnish to Croatian-and the translated bits invariably agreed with the prejudices of my committee. It took careful quoting out of context to achieve this, but it had the advantage that the papers were unlikely to be on campus and my committee were not likely to go to the trouble of looking them up even if they were. Most of them weren't at home in other languages, even easy ones like French, German, and Spanish.
'Five months later I was awarded the degree of doctor of philosophy, summa cum laude, And that, dear ones, is the shameful story of my life, Anyone have the energy to go swimming?"
"Son, if there is a word of truth in that, it is indeed a shameful story.
" "Pop! That's not fair! Zebadiah used their rules-.-and outsmarted them!"
"I didn't say that Zeb had anything to be ashamed of. It is a commentary on American higher education. What Zeb claims to have written is no worse than trash I know is accepted as dissertations these days. His case is the only one I have encountered wherein an intelligent and able scholar-you, Zeb- set out to show that an 'earned' Ph.D. could be obtained from a famous institution-I know which one!-in exchange for deliberately meaningless pseudoresearch. The cases I have encountered have involved button-counting by stupid and humorless young persons under the supervision of stupid and humorless old fools. I see no way to stop it; the rot is too deep. The only answer is to chuck the system and start over." My father shrugged. "Impossible."
---Robert A. Heinlein. The Number of the Beast (1980)