Self Help

Disciplined Minds A Critical Look at Sala - Jeff Schmidt

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Matheus Puppe

· 112 min read

Here is a summary of the book Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt:

  • The book argues that professionals today are generally unhappy and dissatisfied in their careers. Though they seem successful on the outside, many feel unfulfilled and burned out. The root cause is a lack of control over the “political” component of their work.

  • Professionals expect their work to be meaningful and make a difference, but instead find themselves in subordinate roles where they do not significantly shape the world. Professional schools and jobs pressure people to accept these roles and not question the goals and priorities of the work.

  • The book sees professional education as a battle over individuals’ identity and values. Schools and employers push professionals to compromise their ideals and commitment to social change. The book calls on students and professionals to question the goals of their work and education, both for their own well-being and society’s.

  • The author argues graduate and professional schools systematically “grind down” students’ spirit through a “cold-blooded” process that produces “obedient thinkers”—professionals who do as they’re told without questioning why. Students and professionals who care about social issues and justice often struggle or drop out.

  • The book aims to show how professionals can resist pressures to abandon their values, maintain their identity and commitment to positive social change, and find more fulfilling work. The author sees these issues as essential to individual happiness and societal well-being.

  • In summary, the book is a critique of the professional system, especially education, and a call for professionals to think critically about the goals and political impact of their work rather than accept subordinate roles without question. Meaningful, ethical work and social responsibility are seen as crucially important.

The author observes that people on the subway in New York City read a wide variety of materials during their commute, reflecting their diverse interests and independent thinking. However, commuters on suburban trains heading into Manhattan, consisting largely of professionals, read only the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The author finds this lack of diversity spooky and troubling.

The author argues that this suggests professionals, despite seeing themselves as independent thinkers, act like a herd. They consume and absorb the same narrow sets of information. The author implies this reflects a lack of independent or critical thinking, especially regarding their work. Professionals are primarily focused on serving the interests of corporate hierarchies, not challenging them. The political nature of their work and the system that trains them leads professionals to avoid dissent and cultivate a false sense of objectivity and political neutrality. The author wrote the book to expose and address this problem.

The key points are:

  1. Professionals see themselves as independent thinkers but often act like a herd.

  2. Professionals absorb and pass on narrowly defined information that serves corporate interests.

  3. The political nature of professional work and training encourages conformity and discourages dissent.

  4. Professionals cultivate a false sense of objectivity to mask the political interests they serve.

  5. The author aims to expose the lack of independent thinking in professions to force change.

The summary touches on the major themes around professionals as politically subordinate individuals who serve to extend corporate control and power. Their education and training help produce this result by favoring uncritical employees who don’t challenge existing hierarchies and systems. The author argues for recognizing the political nature of professions to liberate professionals and benefit society and democracy.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key points and arguments the author is making based on their observations? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand the summary in any way.

  • The author argues that professionals are not necessarily independent or creative thinkers. Evidence from the Vietnam War era shows that professionals were actually more likely to support the government’s position in the war. Polls found that those with more education were much less likely to support withdrawing US troops from Vietnam.

  • The author says this is not surprising, as professionals typically have more formal education. Professionals also tend to exhibit an attitude of confidence in the system and a reluctance to question authority. This “professional attitude” is most prominently on display in the workplace, where professionals have the most influence over important decisions.

  • The author argues that while a professional’s attitude may have little effect outside of work, it has a huge impact through the daily decisions they make on the job. The attitudes and decisions of professionals in their work roles shape society much more than their personal views or voting behavior.

  • The author suggests that there is a common stereotype of professionals as independent, open-minded thinkers. But evidence shows professionals actually tend to be more ideologically cautious and supportive of the status quo. Their education and social position make them invested in the system.

  • The key evidence for the author’s argument comes from public opinion data during the Vietnam War showing the correlation between more education and support for the war. The author says this reflects the broader tendency of professionals to be less critical of authority and the system that provides their status. Their professional role and “professional attitude” leads them to make decisions that reinforce the existing hierarchy and power structures.

The summary covers the author’s main argument that professionals are not independent or radical thinkers, the evidence used to support this argument, explanations for why professionals tend to support the status quo, and the implications of the “professional attitude” in shaping society through the decisions professionals make in their work roles. The key points are clearly and concisely articulated in the summary.

The author defines “society” as the set of relationships among individuals, indicated by words like supervisor-employee, friend-colleague, organization member, etc. Without these relationships, there is no society. So when the author refers to shaping society, he means affecting these relationships - strengthening or weakening groups relative to each other.

Public opinion polls show professionals tend to be more liberal than nonprofessionals on some social issues. But the author argues this does not mean professionals are more progressive. First, professionals tend to be authoritarian in their social visions and not support greater democracy. Second, the polls focus on broad social questions, not workplace attitudes, where professionals exert the most influence. At work, most professionals are conservative. They are tolerant of distant social criticism but intolerant of challenges to their own work.

The author focuses on professionals’ views on “immediate” issues that directly affect society, especially workplace issues and issues that question the system. He says while some activist professionals oppose the mainstream, most professionals share corporate executives’ views. Only about 5% of college professors, among the most liberal professionals, are left of the mainstream.

The author defines ideology as thought that justifies action, including routine activity and gut reactions. Your ideology determines how you view the actions of leaders, protesters, bosses, coworkers, and yourself. Work is increasingly ideological, especially as jobs have shifted to offices where work involves design, analysis, writing, etc. Employers have always scrutinized attitudes to maintain discipline. But now, for some jobs, your view of the world affects the work itself. These jobs require ideological discipline - adherence to an assigned point of view. Professionals get these ideological workforce jobs.

The author’s thesis is that professionals depend heavily on the corporate system and internalize its values. Their careers and status rely on following orders and not upsetting power. So they exercise ideological discipline, accepting and promoting the values that justify their employers and society’s structures of authority. Their conservatism shows in their intolerance of challenges to their own work and in their authoritarian views on “immediate” issues.

  • Professionals are deemed qualified based not just on technical knowledge but also on attitude, specifically the attitude to work within an assigned ideological framework. Tests of technical knowledge also test for the right attitude.

  • The qualifying attitude is an uncritical, subordinate one that allows professionals to follow their employers’ ideological lead. This produces obedient, intellecual workers who can be trusted to work safely within an ideology. The timidity of today’s educated workers is deliberate.

  • As work has become more ideological, the professional cadre has grown. In the U.S., the ratio of professionals to total workers has risen from 1 in 20 in 1920 to nearly 1 in 6 today. Professionals are the fastest growing occupational group.

  • Professionals include lawyers, teachers, nurses, doctors, psychologists, engineers, scientists, professors, and media personalities. They do not include executives, technicians, or unskilled workers. Most professionals are salaried employees, not free practitioners. The analysis applies to professionals worldwide.

  • A system that divides workers into those trusted with ideology and those not trusted with it takes ideology very seriously. Ideology is central to the system. Professionals must demonstrate the right ideological attitude to be trusted and advance.

  • The Soviet Union is an example. It did not jam English-language propaganda broadcasts because professionals who understood English were ideologically reliable. They were expected to know the U.S. viewpoint to answer it, not be caught off guard by it. The broadcasts prepped this ideological cadre.

  • In sum, professionals must adopt their employers’ ideology to be deemed qualified and advance in their careers. Technical knowledge and skills are not enough. A subordinate, uncritical attitude is required. This produces an obedient cadre of intellectual workers who can be trusted to operate within and advance the dominant ideology.

The key ideas in the passage are:

  1. Professionals play an ideological role in society. They help apply and advance the ideologies of the organizations they work for. Understanding this role is important for individuals coping with and confronting powerful institutions.

  2. Becoming a professional involves being subjected to ideological scrutiny. Professional training aims to produce obedient professionals who will prioritize carrying out their assignments over questioning them.

  3. The example of physics shows that professional training promotes a subordinate attitude, even in fields seen as politically neutral. Training in other fields, like psychology, also aims to instill subordination.

  4. Conflicts between students and faculty in professional training often reflect the push for subordination. Students who question the ideological role expected of them face punishment.

  5. The story of Elizabeth in graduate psychology illustrates how the push for subordination operates. Her supervisor criticized her in inconsistent and unhelpful ways to force her into a subordinate position rather than help her become a good therapist. His goal was to make her obedient rather than competent.

  6. Understanding the politics of professional qualification and practice is important for strengthening individuals and society. It helps in coping with and confronting powerful institutions as well as in working with professionals.

In summary, the key argument is that professional training and practice serve ideological and political purposes, including the reproduction of systems of subordination. Examining the qualification process and student-faculty conflicts reveals the hidden curriculum of subordination underlying professional education. Understanding this politics of the professions is vital for individuals and social change.

  • Elizabeth began a clinical psychology PhD program and worked at the university clinic. Her first supervisor frequently criticized her in vague, unhelpful ways that severely damaged her self-esteem and confidence.

  • After a year and a half, Elizabeth moved to another supervisor, but by this point she was far behind in her training, depressed, lethargic, and felt like a failure in all areas of her life. She ultimately left the PhD program with a master’s degree.

  • Elizabeth realized the clinic had a narrow view of the “ideal” therapist and made life very difficult for students who didn’t conform to that view. The clinic claimed to be eclectic but actually pushed students to adopt their supervisor’s preferred orientation. Independent thought was discouraged.

  • The clinic also showed prejudice against women, especially those who got married or had children. The department assumed these women were not serious about their careers.

  • Elizabeth notes that while her school had significant problems, the issues were not unique to that school. Many training programs pressure students to conform and discourage independent thinking.

  • Elizabeth argues that the problems came down to a demand for “ideological discipline” - students had to adopt the beliefs and attitudes of their supervisors and faculty to succeed, regardless of their own views or the evidence. The successful students were the “brownnosers” who didn’t challenge the system.

  • In summary, the account illustrates how the politics of professional education and the demand to conform to narrow views of the “ideal” professional can damage students and discourage independent thinking. The problems reflect the demand for professionals to serve elite interests.

  1. Professional training aims to produce professionals who are politically conservative and obedient to authority. Though formal education does not necessarily make people radical, a lack of formal education does not necessarily make people conservative either.

  2. The process of professional training is tumultuous. Students enter with their own ideals about the promise of professional work. Training often forces students to change their identities in brutal ways.

  3. Chapters 8-10 show how a seemingly neutral selection process based on objective exams produces professionals with the desired political values and compliant behaviors.

  4. Chapter 11 applies the analysis to college entrance exams like the SAT. These also show political and cultural biases, not just cultural ones.

  5. Chapter 12 shows how the system discourages those it rejects to prevent them from being insubordinate in the jobs left to them. The system uses “neutral” tactics to dissuade the nonprofessional.

  6. Chapter 13 catalogs the compliant behaviors instilled in professionals. Chapters 14-16 offer strategies for resisting the system.

  7. The analysis shows the supposed political neutrality of professional training is a myth. The values and behaviors it instills match what professionals need for their jobs.

  8. The analysis explains real-world situations, not just provides a theory. It shows how professional qualifications connect to professional work and roles in society.

  9. The book focuses on most professionals, not managers or employers. Though employers often start as professionals, their roles differ. Employers can assess professional standards and sit on related committees. They consider professional compliance in hiring in ways most professionals do not.

  10. As professionals grow as a workforce, concerns over bias in their training and selection intensify. This analysis finds the process not politically neutral. Weeding out and adjustment to values are not neutral. Even supposedly objective qualifying exams have politics.

  11. The analysis is valid because it illuminates actual situations, not just because it provides a consistent theory. It helps make sense of the realities of professional life and work.

  • Professionals are distinguished from nonprofessionals primarily by their formal education and credentials, not necessarily by greater skill or expertise.

  • Nonprofessionals often resent professionals because nonprofessionals feel they have valuable skills and experience that are ignored due to their lack of credentials. Professionals are given authority and status that is not always warranted by their actual ability.

  • Examples: Skilled workers and technicians often have a better understanding of production than engineers and scientists but their input is not taken seriously. Educational aides and legal aides have skills comparable to teachers and lawyers but little authority. Nurses and medical technicians have skills comparable to doctors but play a subordinate role.

  • Secretaries, assistants and other workers frequently do much of the work of professionals but are not allowed to exercise their skills independently due to the tyranny of credentials.

  • The system encourages nonprofessionals to obtain credentials themselves to advance, even if much of the required education seems irrelevant to the actual job.

  • If much of the education required for credentials is truly irrelevant, it is foolish for employers to insist on hiring professionals based primarily on their credentials.

  • In summary, the distinction between professionals and nonprofessionals has more to do with credentials and status than actual ability. Nonprofessionals resent their subordinate role and see much of professional education as an unnecessary “obstacle course.” The system perpetuates this by pushing nonprofessionals to obtain credentials, even if much required education is irrelevant.

Employers value professionals because they can be trusted to uphold the status quo through their work. Professionals demonstrate an internalized willingness to follow orders and not challenge the built-in ideologies of their fields.

For example, teachers are expected to present an official curriculum in an “objective” manner, even though that curriculum promotes a particular set of values and attitudes. Questioning the curriculum is seen as “getting political,” while incompetence is often ignored. Teachers are trusted to instill the “hidden curriculum” through their interactions with students.

Police officers enforce the “spirit of the law,” not just the letter of the law. They target “attitude crimes” that violate social hierarchies and the status quo, even if they do not violate the law itself. Officers who challenge the law’s bias are reprimanded, while those who follow orders are valued.

Psychiatrists and psychologists treat mental health issues that often arise from societal problems. However, the mainstream mental health system aims to adjust patients to the society that causes their problems. Professionals who try to sharpen patients’ critiques of society are seen as “political,” while those who promote “well adjustment” to social norms are trusted. The fields frame nonconformity and struggle as illnesses to be cured.

In sum, employers value professionals for upholding the status quo and defending prevailing power structures, not just for their skills or credentials. Professionals demonstrate a willingness to follow orders and not challenge the ideologies built into their fields. Those who do raise questions are reprimanded for “getting political.”

The passage argues that professions and professional training serve to disguise ideological control and the maintenance of power structures as neutral, apolitical practices. According to the passage, professions require creative, open-ended work that cannot be entirely prescribed or manualized. As a result, professionals must be ideologically indoctrinated to act in the interests of their employers and the status quo. Professional training and credentialing processes instill the ideologies and values that will guide professionals’ discretionary judgments. The passage points out several examples of “expert opinions” and research that clearly favored powerful interests, showing how professions can uphold the system.

The key points in the summary are:

  1. Professions require creative, open-ended work that cannot be fully prescribed.

  2. Professionals must be ideologically trained to make judgments that serve employers and the status quo.

  3. Professional training and credentialing instill ideologies and values that guide professionals’ discretion.

  4. Examples show how “expert opinions” and research can favor powerful interests.

  5. Professions disguise ideological control and maintenance of power as apolitical.

The summary condenses the essence of the passage’s argument regarding how and why professions function to uphold the existing social order and concentrate power. The examples are omitted from the summary, but the key points about the role of ideology and discretion in professions are captured. Overall, this summary should give the reader a sense of the passage’s central perspective on professions as a mechanism of power in society.

  • Nonprofessionals often feel mistreated by their employers because they are primarily required to mechanically implement instructions. Professionals, on the other hand, also implement their employers’ attitudes and ideologies in their work.

  • Nonprofessionals add little ideological value to their work and are often forbidden from being creative. They are treated like machines that simply implement orders. Professionals, however, are required to be creative in applying their employers’ ideologies, even if they lack control over the ideologies themselves.

  • Professionals are ideological workers who are trusted to apply their employers’ ideologies to new problems and situations without constant supervision. However, professionals themselves do not create these ideologies and have little control over them. They are “obedient thinkers” who exercise “playpen creativity” and “playpen critical thinking” within the confines set by their employers.

  • Professionals see the social, political and moral issues beneath the surface of their technical work. They ensure that every detail of their work advances their employers’ interests and ideologies. This makes their work grueling. The product of professional labor is inherently political.

  • Nonprofessionals often get in trouble for failing to consider these underlying issues and making decisions that do not advance their employers’ interests. Professionals, especially lawyers, make the political component of their work more visible. But most professionals quietly exercise technical skills while also serving political and ideological ends.

  • In summary, professionals differ from nonprofessionals in that they propagate and apply ideologies and serve political interests, not just implement mechanical orders. But professionals themselves typically lack control over the ideologies and interests they are employed to advance. They exercise creativity and critical thinking, but only within strict limits set by their employers.

  1. Lawyers prioritize political and ideological skills over technical knowledge. Law schools focus on teaching students to think like lawyers, not on technical law knowledge. Even top law students need bar review courses to learn the law to pass the bar exam.

  2. Elite law firms want ideologically skilled lawyers, not those with merely technical knowledge. They need lawyers who can make creative legal arguments, sway public opinion, and negotiate secret settlement clauses to protect powerful clients. technical legal knowledge is easily learned on the job.

  3. Lawyers have a negative public image because they lack socially useful skills. They are seen as takers, not givers. Many do pro bono work to compensate.

  4. Journalists also rely heavily on ideological skills. Their writing contains implicit messages that reflect their publications’ viewpoints. For example, the NYT described the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as destroying a garage, while the WSJ called it an attack on American commerce. The NYT described Columbus’s voyage as one of “discovery” rather than conquest.

  5. Professionals in psychology, health care, and other fields also rely more on ideological skills than technical skills. They frequently serve the interests of power rather than the public good. For example, many psychologists pathologize dissent; health care is often more focused on corporate profits than patients; and scientific research is often influenced more by corporate funding than the pursuit of truth.

In summary, while professionals are typically perceived as exercising specialized technical skills for the public good, in reality they rely heavily on ideological skills to serve the interests of the powerful. Lawyers exemplify this, as they have little useful technical skill yet are adept at using law and persuasion to benefit their elite clients. Journalism, health care, psychology, and even science are also prone to prioritizing the agendas of the powerful over the public interest. Technical knowledge takes a back seat to the ability to adopt and serve assigned ideologies.

  • Bernard Kalb, a veteran journalist, was hired in 1984 as the spokesperson for the State Department, demonstrating how professionals can readily transfer between fields. Professionals share a common ideological discipline and outlook that makes them interchangeable.

  • Jury duty provides a glimpse into professional selection and indoctrination. Jurors go through an ideological assessment and those selected are told to judge based only on the facts, not the law itself. However, jurors have more freedom than professionals to question and criticize the ideological framework they are given. Some juries exercise “nullification of the law” to find defendants not guilty even when the law has clearly been violated. The government tries to prevent jurors from knowing they have this right.

  • Jurors’ behavior ranges from outright obedience to principled dissent to place-knowing dissent, similar to professionals. Activists argue jurors and professionals have a responsibility to judge the laws and goals they are recruited to serve.

  • The values and attitudes central to professional work are usually conferred through a middle-class upbringing, not easily learned or imitated. Thus, employers are often duped by “inadvertent satirists” - nonprofessionals who can imitate the outward signs of professionalism but lack the proper ideological orientation. Two cases are described: a self-trained pastor who fooled a congregation but was exposed by his odd sermons, and a self-trained lawyer prosecuted for incompetence.

  • These cases show professionals are selected and promoted more for their values and attitudes than for their knowledge and skills. Their primary qualification is willingness to apply knowledge and skills within accepted ideological limits. Technical knowledge alone does not make a professional.

• Technical knowledge and credentials are not the only or even the primary sign of a professional. Attitudes, values, insight, and ability also matter greatly.

• Many people work as professionals without proper credentials by faking their backgrounds. Estimates suggest there are many such impostors, though few are caught. They tend to get caught due to eccentric behavior or discrepancies in records, not poor performance.

• Impostors can be quite successful by combining knowledge from non-professional experience with the proper attitudes and values. They pick fields they know and impersonate the values and traits expected of professionals.

• Examples:

› Daniel Morgan practiced as a successful lawyer for years without a degree or bar exam by wearing the right clothes and adopting the proper manner. He was exposed after moving into personal injury law and rejecting a settlement, not due to poor performance.

› Bob Harris worked as a trusted meteorologist for major media outlets with fake degrees. He was only exposed after an anonymous tip.

› Barry Allan Vinocur worked as a doctor and published researcher without a degree. He was caught after using the title “MD” without a degree, not due to poor performance. Colleagues praised his skill and dedication.

› Investigations revealed many fake doctors continue to practice undetected. Impostors received praise from colleagues even after exposure.

› Real professionals gain crucial training through study at universities, not just workplace experience. This allows them to gain technical knowledge and professional attitudes in an isolated setting.

• In summary, values, attitudes, and ability—not just technical knowledge—define a professional. Many impostors achieve professional success by adopting these traits, though they lack credentials. Exposure tends to happen due to irregularities, not poor performance, as impostors can thrive with the proper values and skills.

The university system serves an important function in society by indoctrinating students into the culture and values of their chosen field. However, students often view the university as separate from the “real world.” In reality, the university system trains professionals to serve the status quo and existing power structures.

The example of Harvard Law School shows how elite institutions transform idealistic students into professionals who serve powerful corporate interests. In general, the requirements for professional credentials reflect the social role that professionals play, not just the skills of the job.

To understand how universities produce professionals who serve certain social roles, it is important to first understand those social roles. The example of physicists shows that their role depends on who controls their work. Physicists in industry and government directly serve those institutions, while university physicists have more autonomy but still largely serve existing power structures.

An examination of a typical university physics department shows that its research and training of graduate students serves to reproduce existing social relations and hierarchies. The harsh qualifying examinations that weed out graduate students instill an acceptance of fierce competition and inequality.

In summary, the university system is not separate from the “real world” but works to train professionals to serve the status quo. The social role of any professional field depends on who controls the work, and that role is reflected in the requirements for joining the profession. The example of physics shows how even university work that appears autonomous still serves to reproduce existing social structures.

  • Scientists often claim to be “self-directed” in their work but in reality, most scientists get their research topics assigned by their employers.

  • New PhD recipients typically take temporary postdoctoral positions where they assist established professors with ongoing research projects and have little say over research topics.

  • Industrial scientists get research topics from their companies based on the companies’ goals to develop new profitable products or fulfill government contracts. Scientists at GE’s research lab, for example, undertake work that “promises both to advance knowledge and to pay off for General Electric” but in practice, “pay off for General Electric” is the top priority. The scientists adjust their interests to match the companies’ needs.

  • Industrial scientists have little power to choose their own research topics or question their assignments. They can try tactics like asking which of their current projects to drop to take on a new one or working on their own projects in their spare time but have limited options.

  • Government scientists also have little freedom to choose or question their research topics. Legislation has been proposed to give government and industrial scientists more protection to speak out about the social value or risks of their work.

  • The ideal industrial or government scientist uncritically accepts the research topics and direction given without questioning the social implications. University scientists, on the other hand, supposedly have more freedom to choose their own research topics based on their personal interests and curiosity.

In summary, scientists in industry, government, and universities are not as “self-directed” as often claimed. Most get their research topics assigned based on the needs and priorities of their employers. Only university scientists supposedly have the freedom to follow their own research interests, though even they face significant constraints. The myth of the self-directed scientist obscures the realities of who determines and directs most scientific work.

  • University scientists claim they pursue their own intellectual interests freely. However, their research is largely funded by the federal government which influences the direction and topics of research.

  • The government spends billions of dollars funding university research each year, especially in fields like physics. This funding inevitably shapes the type and areas of research that scientists undertake. Professors often have to tailor their interests to match those of funding agencies in order to get grants and funding.

  • The government understands that its funding influences university research. Reports from agencies like the National Science Foundation acknowledge that funding from particular agencies directs research in universities. Professors often get into areas of research because funding is available, not because of their own interests.

  • University scientists do not always recognize the extent of outside influence on their work. They like to see themselves as independent but often end up carrying out research directed by funding agencies. Professors rationalize this by saying they are doing research they are interested in, even if it is funded by groups like the military.

  • Mechanisms like the “unsolicited proposal” give the appearance of professor control but often just reflect sponsor priorities. Professors propose research that they think will get funded, not necessarily what they find most interesting. Discussions with agencies often lead professors to request funding in areas the agencies want to support.

  • “Grantsmen” professors are focused on getting funding and building large research groups more than solving particular problems. Even research fully funded by groups like the military can seem professor-directed, but often just fulfills sponsor goals.

  • In summary, while professors claim independence, the government funding system exerts a great deal of control over the direction of university research. Professors have to satisfy sponsor priorities to get the funding and resources they need. The government understands this dynamic even if professors do not fully recognize the influence.

After World War II, the U.S. government funded a lot of basic research through agencies like the Office of Naval Research (ONR), established in 1946. The ONR funds unsolicited research proposals from academics, who choose their own research topics. However, the ONR publicizes its research interests so professors can tailor their proposals accordingly.

Other agencies like the Army Research Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, National Science Foundation, and NASA also fund a lot of unsolicited research by making their interests known. For example, the Army Research Office publishes its research interests in detail to guide proposal submissions. The National Science Foundation’s funding guide describes specific areas of interest.

These agencies maintain close relationships with researchers to help shape research. For example, the ONR has program officers who work with researchers at all stages. Agencies encourage informal correspondence with researchers before they submit proposals. The Air Force and Navy also have summer programs to expose professors and students to research topics that interest them.

Program officers at these agencies stay on top of research progress and trends in their fields. They review proposals, select those that meet agency needs, and monitor funded research. Peer review by outside scientists helps evaluate proposals, but program officers ultimately choose which to fund based on agency goals. They work closely with grant recipients.

While military agencies were used as examples, the points apply to government funding agencies in general. Their names can be misleading, as their goals depend on overall government needs, not just the agency’s nominal area of interest. For instance, the Department of Energy funds a lot of weapons and physics research, while the National Science Foundation directs funding to technologically or militarily promising areas - despite its name suggesting a patron of pure science. In the end, these agencies have a shared purpose to fund research in the national interest.

So in summary, government funding agencies strongly shape university research through close guidance and monitoring - despite an outward appearance of simply funding unsolicited research. Their influence depends on their position funding basic research, setting strategic goals, and maintaining relationships with scientists.

  1. The US government funds a significant amount of research in physics and other sciences through agencies like the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

  2. The government coordinates research across these agencies to meet national goals, especially military and security goals. There are formal mechanisms for political and economic intervention in research agendas.

  3. Funding for university research projects often shifts between agencies for bureaucratic convenience. This shows the agencies have common goals. Scientists are aware their work serves government and military goals, though they avoid openly admitting this.

  4. Scientists are very careful in how they describe the funding and support for their research to avoid appearing as “servants of the system.” They prefer to say an agency like “NSF” funds them rather than “the government.”

  5. While scientists have some freedom to set their research agendas, their freedom is limited by the government’s interests. They have more freedom than many other professions, like teachers, nurses, and social workers, but less than fully independent professions like artists.

  6. Most scientists and professionals are salaried employees of institutions like universities, corporations, and government agencies. Only a minority, like independent filmmakers and artists, are fully self-employed.

  7. In summary, while scientists value their intellectual freedom and independence, most work as salaried employees serving the interests of their employers and funders, especially the US government and military. Their research agendas are shaped by the government’s goals, even if they avoid openly admitting this.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key points and arguments presented in the passage? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

Here is a summary of the key points from pp. 151-152:

  1. Physics research at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is typical of physics research in the U.S. in three ways:
  • Most funding comes from the federal government (77% nationally, 85% at UCI).

  • Significant funding comes from military agencies.

  • The three most heavily funded subfields are condensed matter physics, plasma physics, and particle physics. These subfields receive the most federal funding nationally. They account for most professors, researchers, postdocs, grad students, and PhDs at UCI.

  1. UCI’s physics research, like most university physics research, focuses on basic research rather than applied research. Basic research aims to determine physical mechanisms, while applied research applies known mechanisms.

  2. Although it is easy to see that UCI’s physics research serves the needs of the government funders, the author wants to go further. The author wants to show exactly how the government’s social goals and technological needs shape the direction of UCI’s physics research. The details of the physics research will reveal how funders’ interests guide the research.

  3. In summary, physics research at UCI is typical of U.S. university physics research in its reliance on federal funding, especially from the military. The research concentrates on three subfields that receive the most federal funding nationally. Although the research is basic rather than applied, it aims to serve the government funders’ social goals and technological needs. The author will give specific examples to demonstrate this.

  • Research titles and descriptions usually portray the work as abstract and detached from practical goals. This portrayal helps lend prestige to the research and makes it seem like a pure pursuit of knowledge.

  • However, the social origins and goals of research are often obscured. Even researchers themselves are sometimes unaware of these origins and goals. Grant proposals also obscure the motivating interests behind the research.

  • It is difficult to obtain information on the social goals behind government funding of research. Descriptions of the research from the researchers themselves conceal these goals. However, when funding agency descriptions are available, they reveal the social origins and significance.

  • Examples are given from condensed matter physics and plasma physics research at UC Irvine. Researchers described their work in very technical terms that obscured the social origins and goals. But funding agency descriptions revealed connections to weapons, surveillance, and military technologies.

  • Federal agencies that funded the research, like the Air Force and Army, were motivated by the potential applications of the work. Theoretical work was often funded by military agencies, while experimental work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

  • The key point is that research is often portrayed as detached and curiosity-driven when in reality it is tied to social, political and technological interests and goals. The origins and significance of research are frequently concealed, even from the researchers themselves at times. But funding agency descriptions can reveal these obscured connections.

  • The researchers were studying energy storage devices that could accumulate and release electron energy quickly. They had some initial promising results with a small-scale experiment. They planned to evaluate other methods to produce short intense radiation pulses. However, they did not specify why they wanted to produce such radiation pulses.

  • In contrast, the funding agency directly stated that the objective was to develop ultra high power sources to simulate nuclear weapons effects. Such simulation allowed the development of real-world systems in the laboratory since nuclear weapons tests were banned. The ability to simulate nuclear weapons effects allowed the government to get around nuclear test ban treaties and continue developing nuclear war technology.

  • Professor Gregory Benford received an Army grant to study coherent radiation from relativistic beam-plasma instabilities. The Army was interested in this to obtain high power mm and sub-mm radiation that could be used for target detection in poor visibility. The research was relevant for programs at various Department of Defense laboratories. The region around 1 mm wavelength was best for target detection and guiding weapons in poor visibility.

  • The Naval Research Laboratory was also interested in mm-wavelength radiation for applications like surveillance radars, electronic warfare, battlefield target designators, and plasma heating devices. The Air Force sponsored similar research for potential directed energy weapons, electronics countermeasures, and large area surveillance systems.

  • Professor Gerard Van Hoven received an Air Force grant to do 3D modeling of solar activity. The goal was to develop solar activity forecasts to provide warnings about space weather that could degrade Air Force systems. The Navy was also interested in space weather research due to potential impacts on command, control, communication and computer systems.

  • Professors Norman Rostoker and Amnum Fisher received a Navy grant to study plasma-controlled collective ion acceleration. The Navy wanted quantitative information on generating intense ion beams up to 1 GeV for directed energy applications, radiation sources, and new energy sources.

  • In summary, the university research programs in plasma physics and condensed matter physics largely existed to serve the short-term and long-term technological needs of dominant sectors of society, like the military. The professors were essentially part of the military, though in an academic role. They exploited the positive public image of university professors to obscure the military applications of their research.

  • Most scientific research is funded by industry or government. Scientists rely on these sponsors and typically serve their interests.

  • Scientific research involves many small decisions and choices of direction. Sponsors transfer their biases and priorities to the scientists they fund in order to influence the direction and impact of the research. They do this by hiring scientists who understand and share their interests and priorities.

  • Scientists who are aware of and share their sponsors’ interests are called “creative professionals.” They have internalized the right values, priorities and sense of importance to do work that meets their sponsors’ needs. Sponsors describe their overall goals but rely on scientists to propose specific research projects that align with those goals.

  • Mainstream scientific thinking already aligns with establishment interests, as shown in the ideologies or paradigms that scientists absorb during training. The paradigms guide all aspects of scientific work and are chosen based on values and social factors, not objective criteria. The values of social elites dominate.

  • Through paradigms and sponsors’ priorities, social forces direct most scientific work. Scientists see themselves as nonpartisan but rarely challenge the ideologies built into their research. They avoid disputes over paradigms and accept the status quo.

  • In summary, the scientific research system produces professionals who serve the interests of their elite sponsors, not objective truth or social good. Their work is directed in line with establishment priorities, though most individual scientists do not recognize these influences.

  • Professional scientists tend to adhere uncritically to the accepted paradigms and models of reality in their field. They do not question the social and political functions of their work.

  • Many scientists are employed by institutions linked to the military-industrial complex but do not raise questions about the societal role and impact of their work. They cannot claim ignorance about their employers’ interests and goals. They do not challenge or question these interests and goals. They concentrate on carrying out their assigned work without questioning the dominant paradigms. In this way, they demonstrate an internalized willingness to follow directions on the most important issues.

  • Like other professionals, scientists maintain ideological discipline in their work. They follow the dominant paradigms and work toward assigned goals without criticism. They may disagree with particular decisions but typically go along with them, complaining only privately that the decisions were “political” rather than “scientific.” Such complaints wrongly suggest that “pure” science is possible.

  • Most scientists do not start their careers aiming to work for big business or the military. However, their professional training encourages them to adjust their interests to serve those in power. The training process instills in them a willingness and ability to follow orders on the most significant matters.

  • There is a hierarchy of status between theoretical and experimental physicists. Theorists, who work with abstract symbols, are more respected than experimenters, who work with concrete things. This hierarchy reflects and reinforces divisions in the field. Theorists receive special respect and prestige. The sources of this hierarchy and division are complex and deeply rooted in the culture and politics of science.

The key ideas are that scientists are professionals who adhere to dominant paradigms; that they typically work for powerful institutions but do not question the societal role and impact of their work; that their training fosters compliance to the priorities of those in power; and that there are hierarchical divisions within science, such as that between theorists and experimenters in physics.

  • There is a disparity in status between theorists and experimenters in physics and other fields like economics, linguistics, and sociology. Theorists are afforded higher prestige.
  • This hierarchy has historical precedents, like the higher status of priests compared to craftsmen in the Dark Ages. The material basis for the persistence of this hierarchy in physics is unclear.
  • The number of physicists in the U.S. and the ratio of theorists to experimenters does not explain the status difference. Salaries are also comparable.
  • Intellectual freedom enjoyed by some elite theorists does not explain the hierarchy among rank-and-file theorists and experimenters who mostly just apply accepted paradigms.
  • Much research involves fine-tuning existing paradigms, but this is done by both theorists and experimenters, so it does not contribute to their status difference.
  • The importance or difficulty of the work also does not seem to adequately explain the hierarchy. Both theory and experiment are crucial and intellectually challenging. The perception that theory is more difficult is mistaken.
  • The source of this mistaken perception lies in the division of labor in society between mental and manual work, which creates a hierarchy in which non-laborers control the labor of others.

In summary, there does not seem to be a clear material basis for the higher status afforded to theorists compared to experimenters. The perception that theoretical work is inherently more prestigious or intellectually taxing is mistaken and arises from broader social structures, not the nature of the work itself.

  • Society is organized in a hierarchical manner, with those who own and control employing institutions at the top and laborers at the bottom. This hierarchy shapes the culture and values of society. Work that resembles the activity of those at the top is granted higher status, while work resembling that of laborers is granted lower status.

  • This explains why rank-and-file theorists have higher status than rank-and-file experimenters, even though they do equally important and intellectually difficult work. The culture values the symbolic, intellectual work of theorists over the manual work of experimenters.

  • The hierarchical division of labor leads to extreme specialization. In large physics experiments, hundreds of scientists from many institutions collaborate, with each individual focused on a narrow task. Individual initiative and creativity are discouraged. Authority is distributed in a strict hierarchy, with professors at the top and graduate students at the bottom.

  • The division of labor provides economic and political benefits to employers. Economically, it allows for efficient mass production and lower wages. Politically, it allows management to maintain control over employees by limiting their knowledge and skills. However, it can reduce employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity. Some companies have eased up on strict division of labor to increase employee empowerment and engagement.

  • The division of labor strips employees of power by making them easy to replace and limiting their sense of accomplishment. It also limits their understanding of what they are producing. This discourages challenges to management’s authority and control over work organization and design.

  • There is a historical trend toward an increasingly fine division of labor that distances all employees, including professionals, from high-level decision making. Professionals face increasing specialization through training and on the job, especially in large organizations.

In summary, the hierarchical division of labor in society grants status and power to those at the top while limiting the autonomy, satisfaction, and societal participation of those at the bottom. This has significant consequences for work organization and culture.

Nonprofessional workers, like secretaries, clerks and assistants, tend to be dissatisfied with their jobs and lower social status compared to professionals. This is not due to pay differences but rather the nature of the work itself. Nonprofessional work typically involves routine, repetitive tasks with little autonomy, creativity or meaning. Workers have little control or influence over what they produce or how they produce it.

Christopher Winks, an office worker, describes his first day at a new job transcribing legal documents. He finds the work mindless, boring, and pointless. The office environment is cramped, claustrophobic and unhealthy. After a few minutes, he feels he has learned everything there is to know about the job. The work splits his mind from his body, causing physical pains and frustration. He sees the job as “inhuman” and “wage labor.”

For nonprofessionals, work is typically just a means to earn money, not a source of satisfaction or meaning. The powerlessness and lack of fulfillment lead to high stress, anxiety and a desire to escape the situation. Nonprofessionals dream of the autonomy, creativity, sense of purpose, and work-life balance offered by professional jobs. They want to feel in control of and connected to the purpose of their work. Professional work offers not just higher pay but a more fulfilling work experience overall.

In summary, nonprofessional workers tend to be dissatisfied with their powerless position in the organizational hierarchy and the unfulfilling nature of their work. They aspire to the more autonomous and meaningful work of professionals. Money alone does not make up for the lack of fulfillment and control in nonprofessional jobs. Escapes from work are a sign of the deep frustrations in the nonprofessional experience.

  • Workers desire the dignity and autonomy that professionals enjoy, such as having control over their work and being respected. However, most workers do not have the opportunity to become professionals.

  • Employment agencies and career training programs exploit workers’ desire for professional status by advertising jobs and programs as “careers” and “opportunities” even though most do not actually lead to professional work. They appeal to workers frustrated with their jobs.

  • The American Dream traditionally promised that hard work and perseverance could lead to success and escaping working-class life. However, as large corporations have dominated the economy, fewer workers see a real opportunity to start their own business. This diminishing opportunity could threaten the corporations if not offset.

  • The ideology of individual opportunity protects the system by giving workers the hope of escape and eliciting their support. Even exploited workers may support the system because they see opportunity as their only hope for a better life. The more desperate workers are, the more they may defend the system that provides the opportunity.

  • Corporations now promote the opportunity to advance within the company rather than compete against it. However, work is often organized in ways that make advancement difficult, and credentials and education are often required for better jobs. This channels workers’ efforts into serving the corporations by developing valuable skills. The paper chase for credentials and degrees has become popular.

  • The shift to finding opportunity within corporations sustains the ideology of opportunity and generates support for the system. It also directs workers’ efforts toward benefiting corporations.

  • The number of professional positions is limited, so while the ideology of opportunity is promoted, opportunity is not actually available to most. Competition for these jobs adds to the difficulties of those who have already lost family businesses. For most workers, despite pursuing self-improvement, higher-level jobs remain out of reach.

The key ideas are that the ideology of individual opportunity is used to elicit workers’ support for a system that actually provides little opportunity, and workers’ efforts to pursue opportunity through professional status and corporate advancement primarily benefit the corporations rather than the workers themselves.

  • Many people are dissatisfied with their jobs and limited opportunities for advancement. The path to career progression has been narrowly defined and standardized, limiting people’s options. The pursuit of opportunity has been rationalized and institutionalized.

  • A person’s access to education and job opportunities has significant implications for their well-being and longevity. There are major health and lifespan disparities between socioeconomic classes. Professionals tend to live the longest and healthiest lives. Education level is the biggest predictor of health and well-being.

  • There is intense competition for limited opportunities to advance in careers. This leads to disputes over affirmative action and perceptions of “reverse discrimination.” The notion that minorities are “stealing” opportunities from whites is a racist myth that obscures the reality of limited opportunity in the system itself.

  • Those who fail to advance in their careers often blame themselves or minorities and women. They fail to question the flawed standards and system that ration access to opportunity. Merit is not an objective or politically neutral concept. Standards for qualification reflect the interests of those in power.

  • In summary, a narrow, standardized path for career opportunity coupled with limited access breeds dissatisfaction, conflict, and unhealthy victim-blaming. The root issues are systemic, not individual faults or reverse discrimination. A broader, more equitable distribution of opportunity and power is needed.

The key ideas are that opportunity is scarce and unequally distributed in the current system, leading to negative social and health consequences. Victim-blaming others is a counterproductive reaction that obscures the real issues. Systemic changes are needed to open up and distribute opportunity and power more broadly.

• Standards for professional qualification reflect the interests and values of dominant groups in society. The criteria for becoming a doctor traditionally favored middle-class white males.

• Affirmative action programs aim to counter this bias and open up opportunities for underrepresented groups like minorities, women, and the working class.

• While affirmative action increases opportunities for individuals in these groups, its greater benefit is producing professionals who can counter prejudices against and better serve these groups.

• For professions like medicine, technical skills alone do not determine how well professionals serve society. A doctor’s attitude, values, and outlook significantly impact the care and service provided. Doctors who share the values and concerns of the working class, for example, are better able to address the social causes of health issues.

• Judging standards for professional qualification requires adopting a particular viewpoint. The author adopts the viewpoint of underrepresented groups, especially the working class. From this view, the traditional criteria for becoming a doctor have favored a conservative outlook that blames individuals for health issues rather than recognizing social causes. Affirmative action aims to counter this by producing doctors with a more progressive outlook.

• While opportunity is important, the main issue is what kinds of professionals result and how they function in and serve society. Simply increasing opportunity means little if it does not also change the types of professionals produced. The key question is whether criteria help yield professionals able and willing to serve the needs and interests of underrepresented groups.

• For medicine in particular, the main point of controversy focuses on medical school admissions. The admissions criteria and process significantly determine the overall qualifications and outlook of the doctors produced. Strict, traditional criteria have tended to yield doctors with a more conservative, elitist outlook, while affirmative action aims for doctors with a more progressive, egalitarian outlook.

The key conclusion is that we must evaluate standards for professional qualification based on the kinds of professionals they produce and the way those professionals function in and serve society. For underrepresented groups, the main issue is whether the standards yield professionals attuned and able to address their particular interests and needs. From this viewpoint, traditional standards have often fallen short, favoring a more elite, conservative outlook. Affirmative action seeks to remedy this by producing professionals with a more progressive, egalitarian outlook.

  • Doctors and medical students tend to be politically conservative and support the status quo. This is not due to any overt political bias in the admission process but is an unintended effect of the way students are selected as “most qualified.” This orientation fails to serve the interests of the underrepresented majority in society.

  • Affirmative action admission criteria are more likely to produce doctors who are oriented to serving the underrepresented majority. This is because minority and disadvantaged students admitted through affirmative action are less politically conservative on average. However, admitting students from disadvantaged backgrounds is not enough on its own. The standard admission criteria can still select disadvantaged students in a way that produces conservative doctors.

  • The author argues that political orientation, not just technical skills, is actually an important factor in determining who is deemed qualified as a professional. Professionals face strong pressure to be politically cautious and support the establishment. The notion that professionals are selected and evaluated based solely on “merit” is a myth. In reality, the system favors candidates with a political orientation that supports the status quo.

  • The “red versus expert” debate in China’s Cultural Revolution raised the issue of whether the attitudes and values of professionals should be emphasized over their technical expertise. American intellectuals have strongly condemned China’s treatment of professionals during this period. However, they fail to understand that this debate was really about challenging the conservative politics that pervade the work of professionals. The debate represented a rebellion against this conservatism, not an attempt to “inject” politics where none existed before.

  • In summary, the author argues for recognizing the political nature of the professional qualification process and fighting against the bias in favor of the status quo and against the interests of the underrepresented majority. Affirmative action represents one approach to mitigating this bias.

  1. Professional qualifying examinations are crucial gatekeeping mechanisms that determine who can enter a profession. They are much more significant than licensing exams in controlling access to professions.

  2. These examinations reveal a great deal about the goals and values of the profession and the training that leads up to them. They have a strong influence over curricula through a “backwash effect.” The curriculum comes to be defined by the needs of the exam.

  3. The writers of these examinations have tremendous power over the curriculum. They can impose requirements that lead to ridiculous curricula. The author gives the example of colonized nations whose curricula were dominated by British and French topics in order to prepare students for examinations from those countries.

  4. The World Bank is trying to leverage the power of examinations to promote curricula it favors, like those focusing on technical and managerial skills rather than visionary or critical thinking skills. The bank funds education projects in many developing nations, so it has considerable influence over their education systems and curricula.

  5. To fully understand the role of professionals, one must look at the values and attitudes that are implicitly selected for in the process of professional qualification and certification. The requirements for becoming a qualified professional are political in nature, and they impose a particular political orientation. The example of the World Bank shows how this can operate in practice.

  6. Professionals are also political in their origins. Their roles are defined by the system that certifies and employs them to serve its needs. So professional qualification and practice cannot be politically neutral. Values and interests are built into the system.

That covers the essence of the author’s main points on the political nature of professions and professional qualifying exams. Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

The passage discusses how graduate students and professionals come to narrow their political views and adopt outlooks that align with the status quo. The author uses the example of a physics graduate student who initially wanted to use his work to benefit society but eventually came to primarily care about making a high salary. The author argues that the student came to abandon his original goals and interests over the course of his graduate studies.

Specifically, the key steps in how professionals come to narrow their political views are:

  1. They start graduate school with a range of political views and social goals, some of which challenge the status quo.

  2. The students are then socialized through interactions with faculty and the curriculum to valuecareer advancement and adapt mainstream views. Their original interests and goals are de-emphasized.

  3. By the time they finish their studies, most students have come to primarily care about finding a high-paying job rather than broader social goals. They have adopted an outlook aligned with the status quo.

  4. Professionals then continue to be incentivized in their careers to maintain this narrow, status quo-friendly perspective in order to advance. Challenging views are discouraged.

  5. Over time, this process leads most professionals to become detached from and disinterested in alternative political perspectives. They accept and perpetuate the system as it is.

So in summary, graduate education and professional incentives encourage a narrowing of political views, pushing most professionals to focus on career goals over social goals and to align with mainstream perspectives rather than challenging the status quo. This helps ensure the system continues as it is.

  • Professional training programs significantly change students’ outlooks and attitudes. New professionals emerging from these programs tend to be more conservative, less diverse in their thinking, and more willing to accept authority and hierarchies.

  • Students entering professional training are usually optimistic that their careers will be intellectually rewarding, socially beneficial, and free from political interference. However, the reality of professional life is that professionals have to sacrifice much of their independence and original goals in order to advance in their careers.

  • The changes in outlook are not simply due to students’ naivete. Rather, students feel pressure to find a way to achieve their goals in a hierarchical society. They end up compromising their original values and priorities in order to succeed professionally.

  • The primary goal for many professionals becomes earning compensation, even if it means sacrificing their original intellectual and political goals. Professionals work extremely long hours to maximize their compensation and advance in their careers. However, no amount of money or status can make up for abandoning one’s true goals and priorities.

  • There are two mechanisms driving the changes in professionals’ attitudes: ideological weeding out of those who do not conform, and ideological transformation of those who adjust their thinking to fit with the system. Both elimination of non-conforming students and assimilation of remaining students shape the political character of the graduating class.

  • The production of professionals involves multiple steps - admission, coursework, qualifying exams, research, and employment. At each stage, weeding out and transformation further mold students’ characters to match the values and priorities of the system. Over time, serving the system becomes not just professionals’ jobs but their whole lives.

In summary, the key point is that professional training should not be seen as simply imparting knowledge and skills. Rather, it significantly transforms individuals by pressuring them to adopt the dominant values and mindsets of the system they are training to serve. This results in professionals who are willing to sacrifice their own goals and priorities to advance in their careers.

The production of professional physicists involves five main steps:

  1. Admission: Nearly all applicants with a bachelor’s degree in physics gain admission to PhD programs. However, there is significant “self-selection” at this stage, as many students opt not to pursue graduate education due to socioeconomic factors. Working-class and minority students in particular tend to feel out of place at universities and do not continue their education.

  2. Courses: Further “weeding out” occurs in the coursework stage, as some students struggle with the material or workload. There is also more “transformation” at this stage, as students adjust to the norms and standards of graduate education.

  3. Qualification: The qualifying exam is the most crucial stage, as this is where the majority of students are either allowed to continue in the program or are eliminated. The exam reinforces the ideological assumptions of the field and helps shape students to conform to disciplinary norms.

  4. Research: While there is little weeding out at this stage, more transformation occurs as students adjust to the realities of research. For some students, disillusionment arises at this point.

  5. Employment: Some final weeding out and transformation may be necessary as graduates seek employment, though the majority of students who make it through the qualifying exam go on to find jobs as professional physicists.

In summary, while admission to physics PhD programs is fairly open, the subsequent steps in the production of physicists involve substantial weeding out and transformation of students to conform to the dominant ideology and norms of the discipline. The qualifying examination is the most crucial mechanism through which this weeding out and transformation occurs.

  • Minority and working-class students face difficulties in transitioning to graduate school compared to affluent students. Affluent students adapt more easily to the culture of universities and have more time to dedicate to their studies.

  • Physics graduate programs generally require full-time study. Part-time study is discouraged, making it difficult for students who have to work to support themselves. About 96% of physics graduate students are full-time.

  • Universities offer graduate students teaching assistantships and research assistantships, which provide financial support and work experience. However, these positions often go to higher-achieving students, who tend to come from more affluent backgrounds. Students who do not receive these positions struggle financially and academically.

  • The coursework in physics graduate programs is intensive, especially in the first two years. Students take required courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, mathematical physics, and statistical mechanics. The courses rely heavily on a few traditional textbooks and focus on calculating and applying physics theories. The ultimate goal is to train students to become professional physicists.

  • In summary, minority and working-class students face significant barriers in transitioning from undergraduate to graduate study in physics. The culture and demands of graduate physics programs tend to favor students from more privileged backgrounds. Financial difficulties and responsibilities outside of school can hinder the progress of students from less privileged backgrounds.

  • Physics graduate students take a qualifying exam to determine if they can continue in the PhD program. About half of students are eliminated by this exam.

  • The exam measures not just knowledge but also the student’s commitment to the proper attitude and work style of a professional physicist. Coursework alone does not guarantee this.

  • The exam instills fear in students because failure means losing their future career, status, and security. Working-class students feel especially threatened.

  • Students who fail the exam are barred from the program and lose their funding and status overnight. They become “nonpersons” and their presence is awkward for others.

  • The humiliation of failing after so many years of study also scares students.

  • Without outside support, students are isolated and adjust their ideology to please those in power over them to increase their chances of passing.

  • Students focus intensely on studying old qualifying exam problems, often devoting 100% of their time to preparation in the months before the exam.

The key ideas are that the qualifying exam serves primarily as an ideological screening mechanism, the consequences of failure are harsh, students feel intense pressure to conform in order to pass, and preparation consumes students’ time and focus.

  • Preparing for the physics qualifying exam consumes 100% of the student’s time and effort. Students work 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week, often neglecting meals, sleep, and relationships.

  • The intensity and duration of the preparation has negative physical and mental health effects on students and their families. Some students suffer permanent damage or “freak out” from the stress.

  • The exam itself is a week-long ordeal consisting of multiple written tests and oral examinations before a faculty committee. The faculty evaluate students based on their performance and a variety of other subjective factors.

  • Students who are not passed are usually given a master’s degree as a “consolation prize” and encouraged not to continue in the PhD program. Those who fail a second time are simply kicked out. This has devastating impacts on students’ lives and careers.

  • The qualification process profoundly and permanently impacts students in two ways:

  1. For students who are detached or alienated from their field of study, the process is just another hurdle to overcome through hard work. They are little affected.

  2. For students who truly love their field, the intense focus on rote memorization, quantitative skills, and “thinking like a physicist” during preparation alienates them from the creative, intuitive, philosophical aspects of their work that they value. Though they insist the alienation is temporary, the damage may be permanent.

  • Students have little choice but to go through the qualification process because careers in physics require the credentials that institutions demand. They plunge into intense preparation hoping to eventually return to doing physics in a meaningful way.

In summary, the physics qualification exam and preparation process extracts an enormous cost from students in exchange for the opportunity to pursue a career in the field. For the most passionate students, it risks permanently damaging their relationship to and love of the subject.

To prepare for the qualifying exam, students must dedicate themselves to endless practice problems over a long period of time. Though some problems may be interesting, the preparation process leads to alienation from the subject matter. Students work hurriedly to get through many problems due to the threat of failure.

The exam culminates years of direct and indirect preparation. This prolonged alienated labor changes students by reducing creativity, curiosity, and resolve to pursue original goals. Though told they are now free to follow their interests, students are in fact different people. What seemed a temporary concession becomes a permanent adjustment.

Requiring alienated labor shows students must tolerate such work to have a career in their field. Passing the exam means apprenticeship to learn technical and non-technical skills. Though more to learn, passage shows students have key qualities to become professionals. Treatment by faculty often improves dramatically.

After qualifying, students do multi-year research under faculty supervision. Problems are usually narrow, uninteresting, and chosen from faculty work. Students spend years on tedious work, getting instructions at weekly meetings. Choice of topic is key for university jobs, as students may pursue related work their whole career.

Though professors and groups will take students, choice is not free. Background, funding, job prospects, time to degree, and interest level shape choices. Less secure students choose funded work with assistantships, job potential, and faster degrees, even if routine. Interest follows funding.

Some research is highly organized, matching industry. As industry has specialized, university work has focused on narrower, more divided problems. Division of labor is key. Students are assigned smaller tasks, like technicians. Original work is rare. The system shapes thinking to the mechanical.

So in summary, the process of preparation, qualification, and research apprenticeship systematically alienates students from their subjects and trains them to think and work in prescribed ways. Though ostensibly to enable following their interests, the system in fact molds students and limits their options. Overall, the summary describes a process of channeling students into predetermined roles through institutional control of their work and thinking.

  • Large research collaborations in experimental physics at major laboratories involve hundreds of physicists over many years. Graduate students typically get to work on small, specialized parts of these experiments.

  • Graduate students often feel disillusioned in their research work. Advisers keep demanding more measurements and calculations, seemingly endlessly. The work often feels irrelevant or boring.

  • A satirical article describes this disillusionment through the experience of a graduate student working under the fictitious Dr. Fartsworth. The student starts out excited but soon finds himself fixing vacuum leaks and attending conferences where little real physics is discussed. He comes to see the field as an ego-driven competition based on deception, irrelevance, and waste.

  • The article suggests these problems arise because physics, like big business, values competition over cooperation and is tied to the interests of the powerful, including the military. Graduate students hoping to do exciting, meaningful work find themselves confined to narrow technical problems detached from any larger purpose.

  • The summary suggests the article is a critique of the organization and values of physics, especially experimental physics, in major research universities and laboratories. The satire highlights how these values and structures can disillusion and demoralize young physicists.

Although a select few are able to achieve great success and rewards in their careers as scientists or in business, most people end up disillusioned, unhappy, and constantly worried about losing their jobs. Even students who graduate from college without developing a real curiosity for their field of study or the ability to do disciplined work are usually able to find jobs that utilize their skills. However, in these jobs they often have to suspend their own interests and goals in order to do work that maintains the status quo.

Those who go on to get advanced degrees and work in universities or industry have to go through a long process of gaining tenure or promotion that requires them to avoid controversy and do very specialized, narrow work aimed more at advancing their own careers than gaining knowledge. As a result, many professionals become detached and alienated from the subjects they originally felt passionate about as students. Their work and conversations tend to focus more on workplace politics and quantifiable measures of success like money and status rather than the content and value of their work.

In contrast, amateurs or hobbyists in a field continue to show the enthusiasm, excitement and curiosity they started with. Professionals often lose sight of the intrinsic rewards of their work in the quest for career and financial success and security. Some may realize too late that the work they have been prepared to do their whole lives is unfulfilling. They find themselves trapped on the “conventional rat race” of constant competition and quantification of success. For scientists and academics, the pressure to publish and gain status in their fields can lead them to do mediocre, uninteresting work aimed more at career advancement than gaining knowledge.

Here is a summary of the key points from the selected passages:

  • To become a professional, students must adopt the ideological perspective promoted by the system and internalize the values and attitudes of their profession. This is difficult for many students and accounts for high dropout rates in professional programs.

  • Minorities often have the most difficult time conforming to the dominant ideological perspective and face harassment and hostility. The example of the New York Police Academy shows how minorities were subjected to racist provocation and those who did not conform were encouraged to drop out.

  • Professional work is highly ideological, so students must demonstrate conformity to the promoted values and perspectives to be deemed qualified. Professional programs screen out those who do not conform through creating a hostile environment.

  • The example of the chemistry PhD program shows how those who do not conform to the dominant values, like the student Nan, face attacks from faculty and other students. Although the faculty promote the environment, students often carry out the harassment of nonconforming peers.

  • The process of professional socialization requires a major psychological, cultural and political adjustment for many students to adopt the promoted ideological perspective. This is a hidden curriculum in professional education that is as important as the technical skills and knowledge.

  • The actual social role of professionals is often quite different from how students imagine it will be due to the ideological demands of the work. Students are often unprepared for how much they must conform to gain the trust of employers.

The key point is that professional education involves ideological indoctrination and learning a new set of values and attitudes, not just technical skills. This hidden curriculum of socialization is difficult for many students, especially minorities, and accounts for high dropout rates in professional programs as students are screened out or harassed for failing to conform.

  • Nan was an exceptional graduate student in her chemistry program due to her age, disability, religion and focus on humanitarian issues. However, these qualities also made her vulnerable in the competitive environment.

  • Nan was aggressively recruited to the program due to her outstanding undergraduate record. However, once in the program she faced significant difficulties, including sexual and gender harassment, as well as a lack of accommodation for her disability.

  • The department favored aggressive, confrontational white male students. Nan’s more supportive teaching style and focus on ethics was criticized. She was given a “Horse’s Ass Award” after complaining about harassment.

  • Nan struggled in her first year, receiving two C’s due to an unaccommodating workload and the hostile environment. The department threatened to remove her from the PhD program. She had to fight to stay in.

  • Nan believes women who are either very traditionally feminine or are aggressive and “act like men” tend to fare better in the program. As someone in the middle, she faced more difficulties. However, she chose to stay in the program to advocate for change.

  • The examples show how professional students can struggle not due to lack of ability but due to difficulty accepting dominant attitudes and values. This can lead students to question themselves rather than recognize issues with the “hidden curriculum.”

  • The summary reinforces the themes of discrimination, lack of accommodation, and the significant barriers women and minorities can face in male-dominated professions and programs. Despite facing harassment and threats of removal, Nan showed remarkable perseverance in continuing her program to advocate for change.

  1. Universities and graduate schools make judgments about students and determine who receives professional credentials. They claim these judgments are based on technical ability and scores on qualifying exams. However, the exams themselves reflect certain values and attitudes, not just technical skills. Students who do not demonstrate these preferred values and attitudes will not pass, even if they have strong technical skills.

  2. Faculty members develop opinions about students’ qualifications long before the exams. The exams are often used to simply justify and enforce the judgments they have already made. When exam scores do not match faculty preferences, they find ways around them, such as not revealing students’ actual scores. This avoids open discussion about what really qualifies a student.

  3. The author provides an example from the physics department at the University of California, Irvine. Two students, Dave and Nick, failed their qualifying exam for the second time and were kicked out of the program. However, a third student, Gary, also scored poorly on the exam but was passed by the faculty. This suggests that faculty judgments, not just exam performance, determined who was allowed to continue.

  4. The faculty preferred to pass Gary, despite his low scores, for reasons not explicitly stated. The author suggests it was because Gary demonstrated the values and attitudes the faculty wanted, even if his technical skills were lacking. In contrast, Dave and Nick lacked these preferred attributes, so they were failed despite comparable or even higher exam scores.

  5. In summary, the example illustrates how faculty judgments about students’ outlooks and qualifications, not just exam performance, shape who receives professional credentials. Qualifying exams are often used as a cover to make these complex judgments appear purely technical and objective.

The faculty’s decision to pass Gary despite his low test scores reveals that test scores are not the sole or even primary criterion for determining who is qualified to become a professional physicist. Gary was passed because he projected an obedient and uncritical attitude that pleased the faculty, especially his advisor Professor Rostoker. In contrast, Nick and Dave, who also had low scores, were not passed because they lacked this attitude.

The test appears objective because different graders would likely give similar scores. However, the test is not neutral. It favors students with a subordinate attitude and mainstream values - students who will become manageable employees. Gary recognized this and successfully played the game by projecting the desired image. Nick refused to focus narrowly on the test, insisting on studying textbooks to maintain his belief in the meaningfulness of the credential. His attitude and behavior reflected a kind of civic courage, behaving as if the system really measured what it claimed. But his attitude ultimately led to his failure.

The faculty’s decision disillusioned students and untenured faculty who believed technical skill and mastery of physics were the primary qualifications. They discovered there is no value-free definition of being “good at physics.” Success depends largely on projecting an obedient and uncritical attitude, not just mastering technical knowledge. The test obscures the role of favored values and attitudes through its focus on technical questions, but it ultimately selects for students with the desired values and attitudes. They are the students who can be trusted to become “professional” and serve the interests of the system.

The summary covers the key ideas around how the test and system favor certain values and attitudes in determining professional qualification and success. The image a student projects and their adaptation to the system’s values and practices are as or more important than their actual technical skill or knowledge. The test and system are set up to obscure these priorities and appear objective and merit-based. But they ultimately serve the interests of those in power.

  • Qualifying examinations are used by institutions to declare what knowledge and skills are most important in a field of study. By emphasizing preparation for the exam, institutions can narrow students’ focus and dictate their priorities.

  • Students have to focus on the exam’s priorities or risk expulsion, even if they disagree with them. Over time, “learning the subject” becomes equated with “studying for the test.” The exam’s narrow focus comes to dominate students’ orientation.

  • Exams play an important role in selecting and producing professionals. Analyzing the exam reveals what knowledge and attitudes the institution values. The skills tested reflect the political and social situation in which professionals work. They are not politically neutral.

  • Students’ interest in exam preparation depends on their “comfort with the social framework” the exam represents. Conflict between a student’s outlook and the exam’s framework can undermine their motivation and performance. Exam scores thus partly measure a student’s willingness to work within that framework.

  • The exam imposes the framework of the status quo in three ways:

  1. As a high-stakes test, it represents gatekeeping and selection. This signifies competition and rejection.

  2. As an intelligence test, especially in sciences, it causes anxiety in nonconformist or minority students.

  3. As a collection of problems in a field, it represents the types of problems that field addresses in the real world. The context in which these problems arise is the status quo.

  • The exam’s presentation of problems as “pure technical puzzles” hides its social framework. But only the status quo framework can impose itself by staying hidden.

  • Students focused on a career in the field value the exam more than those with other goals, like curiosity or unconventional applications of knowledge.

The summary outlines how qualifying exams represent and impose the values and priorities of the institutions that administer them. By analyzing what the exams test and how they test it, one can discern the largely unstated social and political assumptions built into them. For students, success on the exams requires accepting these assumptions, at least temporarily, even if they conflict with a student’s own outlook or interests.

  • Qualifying exam questions are often presented as isolated technical puzzles, but they implicitly invoke the social framework in which the discipline exists, including hierarchies and ideologies.

  • The social framework of physics is dominated by military and industrial interests. Most physicists work directly or indirectly for corporations or the military. This shapes the psychological atmosphere or prevailing attitude in the field, which is focused on dominating and controlling nature to gain power.

  • This atmosphere and focus on power and control leads physicists and others to see physics as highly socially significant. Even highly technical work is seen as important for military, economic, and cultural power. This lends status and importance to any physics problems or work.

  • The structure and content of qualifying exams tends to favor those who accept and thrive in this atmosphere. The exams often test the memorization and application of special “tricks” rather than real understanding or creativity. Students who don’t share the values and assumptions of the status quo and military-industrial framework may struggle with the exams.

  • Many exam problems can only be solved using arbitrary special tricks that a student is unlikely to figure out on their own during the exam. This rewards memorization over understanding. The problems are often constructed by starting with the trick and working backwards to create a problem that can only be solved that way. This makes the exams more a test of having seen the problems before rather than of actual skills or knowledge.

  • In summary, the author argues that the culture and values of physics shape the nature of qualifying exams in a way that favors those who accept the status quo and rewards trickery over true competence. The exams invoke and reinforce the ideological frameworks and power structures of the existing system.

  • Qualifying examination problems that require obscure tricks do not test a student’s understanding or creativity. They only test whether a student has memorized certain routines.

  • Problems based on tricks are not important or central to a field of study. They are designed primarily around the tricks themselves.

  • Tricks and obscure routines contribute nothing to a student’s actual abilities or knowledge. They only show whether a student was able to memorize certain problem-solving techniques.

  • Examinations that emphasize speed and obscure problems favor narrow thinking and the mechanistic application of memorized routines. They do not test deep understanding.

  • Students who rely on developing insight and understanding are at a disadvantage on timed examinations that contain fragmented problems. These examinations reward the rapid application of memorized routines over real comprehension.

  • The ability to perform well on such examinations says little about a student’s actual knowledge or skills. It mainly shows a willingness to do alienated, repetitive work. This is what employers and institutions actually value, not the obscure tricks themselves.

  • Standardized tests like the GRE and SAT also rely primarily on measuring a student’s ability to memorize and guess the values of test makers, not their actual verbal or quantitative abilities. Success on these tests reflects ideological discipline, not knowledge or insight.

In summary, the central argument is that certain types of qualifying examinations and standardized tests do not actually measure or require understanding, creativity, or knowledge. They test the willingness and ability to do alienated, repetitive work by applying memorized routines and guessing the values of test makers. The obscure tricks and fragmented problems on which these tests focus contribute little to real knowledge or skills. But the ability to perform this kind of alienated work is seen as valuable by employers and institutions.

  • The typical qualifying exam focuses on technical fragments of problems rather than the full context in which the problems arise. This approach favors students who take a narrow, mechanistic approach to problem-solving based on memorization rather than those who take a broad, exploratory approach.

  • The narrow focus and time constraints of the exams select for students who are good at a narrow problem-solving approach. This approach is valued by the institutions that employ professionals. In this way, the exams politically favor a certain type of applicant, despite appearing objective.

  • The endurance element of long exams tests not just interest in a subject but also comfort with and commitment to the profession’s primary role in society. Students with an interest deviating from this role will find such marathon exams boring and difficult to concentrate on. The endurance obstacle thus politically screens out certain applicants.

  • Qualifying exams appear highly advanced but actually focus on specialized technical details and applications rather than critical analysis of fundamentals. They test skills suited to applied work conforming to the field’s paradigms rather than challenging them. The technical focus politically selects for applicants who will work harmoniously without critically examining the field.

  • In summary, the structure and content of professional qualifying exams subtly but systematically favor applicants with a narrow, conformist approach aligned with the profession’s central institutional role. The exams politically screen out those with a critical or nonconformist orientation despite an appearance of objective, technical rigor.

The key idea is that professional qualifying exams, while appearing as neutral assessments of technical skill, in fact embody political values and systematically filter applicants based on their alignment with those values. The values favored are those that suit the profession to serve in its established social and institutional role.

The passage argues that qualifying examinations for professions like physics favor candidates who can operate uncritically within an established ideological and social framework. Several features of the exams point to this conclusion:

  1. The exams emphasize technical details and rote problem-solving over developing an intuitive understanding of the field or critically examining the assumptions and paradigms of the field. They reward memorizing formulas and problem-solving techniques over explaining concepts or discussing the meaning and significance of ideas.

  2. The culture of science and the system of professional training discourage critical thinking and questioning of the field’s social role. Physicists who do critical work examining the ideology and social implications of the field are seen as doing less legitimate or useful work. The system trains servants, not critics.

  3. Students are conditioned to feel a sense of accomplishment from uncritical problem-solving that serves the needs of employers and the system, even without understanding. The uncritical culture is very powerful in shaping mindsets.

  4. The type of candidates who are most likely to pass the qualifying exams are those willing to serve the needs of employers and the military-corporate-university complex without much critical questioning. They are technically adept but lack intuitive understanding or critical thinking skills.

  5. The example of Einstein shows that the current system of qualifying exams would likely disadvantage brilliant, critically-minded physicists like him. The exams favor those who think and work in established, uncritical ways.

In summary, the passage argues that the physics qualifying examination system promotes an uncritical technical culture that serves the needs of powerful institutions. It trains workers, not independent, critically-minded scientists. The exams and culture actively work to discourage critical thinking and dissent.

  • Standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, and MCAT serve as qualifying exams for higher education and professions.
  • Critics argue these tests favor privileged groups (middle/upper class, white, male) over disadvantaged groups (working class, minorities, women).
  • Examples of biased test questions include those requiring knowledge of upper-class activities/vocabulary or disproportionately referencing men.
  • In response, test makers have changed the appearance of tests to seem unbiased and liberal, removing references to privilege and adding diversity.
  • However, the tests still actually favor the privileged by measuring skill in abstract thinking valued by elite education, not practical knowledge or social skills.
  • The tests claim to measure innate ability but really measure learned skills and cultural knowledge. They preserve existing hierarchies of privilege.
  • Challenging the notion of innate ability, the author argues ability is shaped by environment, experience, and education. The tests confound innate ability and cultural advantage.
  • The author argues test makers and proponents are ideologically motivated to believe in innate ability and meritocracy. The tests provide a scientific veneer to preserve the status quo.

The key arguments are:

  1. Standardized tests appear unbiased but actually favor privileged groups by measuring skills and knowledge they are more likely to acquire through elite education.

  2. The tests falsely claim to measure innate ability. Ability is shaped by environment, experience, and education, so the tests confound ability and cultural advantage.

  3. Belief in innate ability and meritocracy is ideologically motivated. The tests provide a scientific justification for existing hierarchies of privilege.

  4. Although the tests have been updated to appear liberal and diverse, they still ultimately preserve the status quo.

The author is arguing the tests have a gratuitous bias that favors the privileged and helps maintain existing social hierarchies and power structures. The bias is not merely superficial but is built into the way the tests define and measure ability and qualification.

Here is a summary of the key points about bias in college entrance examinations:

  1. College entrance examinations aim to select students who are most likely to succeed in college and to serve the existing social and economic system. Therefore, these tests necessarily favor students with attitudes, values and outlooks that match those needed to perpetuate the system. This necessary bias leads the tests to favor middle-class, white and male students.

  2. In addition to necessary bias, college entrance examinations can also contain unnecessary bias. This is bias that does not help the tests achieve their goal of selecting students to serve the system. For example, including questions that favor one region over another or one political party over another would introduce unnecessary bias.

  3. Bias in tests can exist at two levels:

(a) Superficial content: This includes the specific topics and vocabulary of the test questions. Superficial content can produce both necessary bias (by favoring those familiar with topics and words that indicate a willingness to serve the system) and unnecessary bias (by favoring groups for reasons unrelated to their potential to serve the system).

(b) Hidden content: This includes the context, form and structure of the test and its questions. The hidden content of college entrance exams produces necessary bias by favoring those willing and able to carry out the assignments of the existing social system.

  1. While critics argue that bias in college entrance exams makes the tests unfair, the author argues that the tests succeed precisely because they are biased. They are designed to select students suited to maintain the existing hierarchical social system. The tests do not aim for fairness or neutrality. Removing superficial unnecessary biases will not change the tests’ necessary bias or their role in perpetuating social inequality.

  2. To truly address bias and unfairness in college admissions, one must criticize the role of the colleges themselves in reproducing the social system. The tests are merely instruments that help the colleges fulfill this role. As long as colleges aim mainly to produce students who can serve the existing social order, the tests that help select those students will be biased, whether or not they contain a few unnecessary biases. Addressing those surface issues will not solve the deeper problem.

That covers the key points about bias, necessity and superficiality in college entrance examinations according to the author’s analysis. Please let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Test makers use a statistical technique called the Mantel-Haenszel method to check for biases in test questions. This method only flags questions that show significantly more or less bias against a group than the average amount of bias in the test. It cannot detect bias that affects the whole test.

  • Applying this method to college admissions tests shows that there is little unnecessary bias that varies between questions. Most of the bias is necessary to serve the goal of identifying students most likely to succeed. This necessary bias favors middle-class white males.

  • Any unnecessary bias tends to be visible in the superficial content of the questions. The necessary bias is conveyed more through the hidden structure and content of the questions. Even if the superficial content favored disadvantaged groups, middle-class white males would still score higher because of this deeper bias.

  • Although unnecessary biases in questions play little role in score differences, they get a lot of attention because they are easy to spot. They tend to favor the same groups as the necessary bias, reflecting the question writers’ mental image of a successful student as a middle-class white male. These gratuitous biases are like Freudian slips that reveal this implicit image.

  • An example shows how test makers have changed which groups they favor, from favoring males to favoring those with “male-gendered values.” A question about calculating missile trajectories replaced one about calculating turkey roasting. This shows their view of expanded opportunity for women in male-gendered terms.

  • Test makers understand the difference between unnecessary visible biases and necessary deeper biases. They know they can drop or manipulate the visible biases without really affecting the test’s operation. They have made superficial changes to give tests an egalitarian appearance while working hard to prevent real reform.

  • Although question writers know which groups will score well, that is not what makes them good at their jobs. They are skilled at writing questions that identify students who will serve the system well, regardless of group. Their job is to build in the necessary pro-system bias.

In summary, college admissions tests show little unnecessary bias in favor of particular groups. Their main bias is necessary to serve their purpose, and favors those most willing and able to serve dominant social institutions. Test makers have made surface changes to appear unbiased but work to maintain this deeper bias.

  • The questions and examples are supposedly neutral but upon close examination reveal biases that favor students who are more compliant and willing to follow bureaucratic rules.
  • The questions demonstrate a tendency to give higher scores to students who are cooperative and fit well within the existing system and hierarchy.
  • The questions end up measuring attitudes and values that favor the status quo rather than actual analytical ability.
  • Without these tests, the student ranking system would be less biased and result in a more politically diverse student body that is less subordinate.
  • The examples show how the questions favor those willing to work within an oppressive set of rules and bureaucracy rather than challenge them.
  • The tests end up serving the interests of employers and help reproduce the existing social structure.
  • There are calls to abolish these tests to reduce their role in college admissions and create a more just system.

The key argument is that standardized tests like the SAT and GRE that claim to be neutral are in fact politically biased. They systematically favor certain attitudes and values, namely compliance with authority and bureaucracy. By relying so heavily on these tests, the college admissions process ends up perpetuating social inequalities and the existing power structure. The example questions provided demonstrate in a concrete way how these biases are built into the tests.

  • A street hustler operates a shell game, swindling money from pedestrians by manipulating them psychologically. The hustler is highly skilled at understanding how people think and uses two shills to help manipulate the marks and cool them out after they realize they have been conned.

  • Cooling out the marks - persuading them to accept their loss and move on without making trouble - is a key part of the con. The shills help make the game appear fair and the loss seem like the mark’s own fault. This protects the hustler and allows the game to continue.

  • Many mainstream institutions, like colleges, also engage in cooling out. They make false promises of opportunity and social mobility to convince people to participate and invest in the system. But there are not enough opportunities for everyone, so most end up disappointed. The institutions must then cool them out to prevent them from becoming disillusioned or rebelling against the system.

  • The hierarchical structure of society itself creates much of the demand for opportunity by giving most people tedious, unfulfilling work and little decision-making power. If work and power were distributed more evenly, there would be less drive to climb the social ladder. But as avenues for advancement have narrowed, education has become the dominant path for seeking opportunity - even though there are not enough opportunities for everyone who pursues this path.

  • Those who dismiss the plight of the disappointed as “life’s tough breaks” fail to recognize that the system deliberately creates unmeetable expectations and the need for cooling out. There is nothing natural about a system that damages people’s spirit in this way. The hierarchy of society produces an artificial scarcity of opportunity that fuels constant striving and leaves the majority losers.

The summary covers the key elements around how the shell game works as an allegory for the socioeconomic system, including the false promises, limited opportunities, and cooling out techniques used in both to manage expectations and protect those in power. The role of work and education in creating striving and disappointment are also highlighted.

  • Students’ high career expectations are cooled out through a gradual process that begins in high school and continues in college. Teachers, counselors, test scores, and college experiences all contribute to lowering students’ expectations.

  • Community colleges play a major role in cooling out students’ ambitions. Though many students enroll intending to transfer to four-year schools, most end up switching to terminal programs or dropping out. Counselors use students’ records and test scores to steer them into less ambitious tracks without directly telling them “no.” Students are put on academic probation to pressure them into reclassifying themselves into more “realistic” programs.

  • The cooling-out process must be hidden to be effective. If students recognize attempts to manipulate them, it will backfire. Community colleges maintain the image of being pathways to bachelor’s degrees, even though few students actually transfer.

  • Professional credentialing systems also have a strong cooling-out function. Qualifying exams help identify those who will serve employers well, but they also help cool out the ambition of those who fail. The system produces as many “failures” as “successes.” Those who are weeded out must feel they were treated fairly so they will work without resentment in the jobs available to them.

  • Exams like the PhD qualifying exam derive power from appearing nonpartisan and objective. Their political role in screening for certain attitudes and values must remain hidden to be persuasive. If students saw the exam as probing their values and not just their knowledge, it would lose its power to cool out their ambition.

The summary outlines how the higher education system subtly pushes students into less ambitious tracks, concealing this cooling-out function to make it palatable and effective. At each stage, from high school through graduate school, objective-seeming mechanisms like test scores, evaluations, and exams are used to steer students in directions that benefit the system and employers. Students are made to feel their outcomes were fair and matched to their abilities so they will accept their station without resentment.

The interviewer asked young nuclear weapons designers what the worst thing was about their jobs. They gave narrow responses, complaining primarily about uncooperative computers. Their narrow focus shows that they do not question the political and ideological justifications for their work. They prioritize following orders over critically examining their assignments. Their narrow answers demonstrate their subordination in their jobs. They accept their employers defining the big picture, and they only innovate within strict limits. They do not feel it is appropriate in their role as employees to challenge the overall political direction of their work.

If an individual professional tried to promote his own political agenda, it would undermine the ideological control and directed curiosity that ensures he focuses on serving his employer’s interests. The professional’s training has taught him not to question the system and priorities that generate his technical work. His narrow, subordinate role gives him little job satisfaction, as he has to follow orders rather than shape the broader purpose and meaning of his work. The nuclear weapons designers’ dissatisfaction with computers shows how little they question their actual tasks and the destruction their work enables. Their subordination is tragic, as it precludes them from gaining deeper purpose and meaning in their jobs. They are reduced to serving their employer’s potentially harmful agenda without complaint.

In summary, the passage argues that the narrow focus of the nuclear weapons designers demonstrates how their professional training and subordinate role precludes them from gaining a sense of broader purpose in their work. They have to follow orders and not question the problematic agenda and outcomes of their jobs. Their subordination leaves them with little opportunity for job satisfaction or independent thinking.

  1. Professionalism encourages experts to view a narrow technical orientation as objective and apolitical, even though technical choices often favor the interests of power. Experts internalize the dominant ideology and see the world’s problems as fundamentally technical, not political.

  2. Professional associations allow limited debate on “sanitized” issues, but shy away from “unsanitized” issues that might displease employers. Professionals subordinate their identity to power and fear taking independent stances.

  3. For example, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association refused to join a major gay rights march to maintain “credibility in the industry.” The National Association of Black Journalists refused to oppose the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist, calling it “not an issue of journalism.” They later opposed restrictions on him writing a book, a “legitimate issue.”

  4. Professionals eagerly serve power, whether moral or immoral. Historically, German professionals served the Nazis, and physicists served militarism. At work, experts can debate informally but rarely bring independent thinking to their professional work, which is seen as “unprofessional.”

  5. In summary, professionalism keeps experts in line by framing a narrow, apolitical stance as objective, even though it often favors the powerful. Professionals internalize this view, fear independent stances, and subordinate themselves to serve power. They debate token issues but avoid meaningful challenges. This limits their independence and ability to use their expertise for the public good.

  • Professionals are trained to carry out their work assignments without questioning the moral authority or political agendas of their employers. They are expected to conform to the ideological demands of their employers.

  • This conformity to institutional demands is extreme in some professions like the aerospace industry. Professionals who do not challenge the political demands of their employers essentially surrender their autonomy and ability to shape the impact of their work.

  • While some professionals today are cynical about power structures, their cynicism still amounts to conformity because they do not take action to confront unjust authority. Lack of a vision for greater democracy leads professionals to either try to reform hierarchies by putting “better people” in power or giving more power to those at the top.

  • Professionals often have conflicts with their employers, but they do not see these conflicts as rooted in a fundamental conflict of interest between themselves and their employers. Instead, they blame conflicts on incompetence, bureaucracy, or differing judgments. They do not recognize that they may have been hired to serve interests that conflict with their own.

  • Professionals who pursue their own agenda and priorities at work, rather than strictly following their employer’s goals, often face criticism and conflict, even when they are doing excellent work. But they misperceive these clashes as punishment for excellence rather than as a conflict over goals.

  • Institutional demands for conformity only lead to conflict when professionals have their own independent political agendas that they are unwilling to subordinate to their employers’. If professionals simply adopt their employer’s agenda, their creativity and work ultimately serve their employers’ interests, even if done independently.

  • In summary, the root causes of professional conflicts with employers are professionals’ lack of vision for change, unwillingness to recognize fundamental conflicts of interest with their employers, and insistence on following their own agendas rather than strictly conforming to the ideological demands of their employers. But professionals frequently misdiagnose the sources of these conflicts.

  • Professionals generally do not demand freedom to exercise political dissent in their work. They focus on their creative work and conform to the demands of their employers. They only demand freedom when they have an independent political agenda that conflicts with their employers.

  • Scientists are an example. Even under repressive regimes like Stalin’s Soviet Union, scientists were able to do creative work as long as they were funded. They did not require academic freedom. Only a few scientists became dissidents. Most supported the status quo.

  • Journalists at major publications also generally conform to their employers’ political stances. They see no conflict between doing a “professional job” and conforming. Only those with an independent political agenda argue over what constitutes a “professional job.”

  • Students headed toward becoming prototypical professionals can be spotted because they eagerly embrace the system of professional qualification. They play the game, conforming to succeed. Some resist but struggle individually. Organized action is needed to really confront the system.

  • Professional training aims to turn students into conformists or get rid of them. Students must fight to control who they become. The training process aims to turn them into very different people.

  • In summary, most professionals demand freedom only when they have an independent political agenda that conflicts with their employers. Otherwise, they focus on their work and conform. Students must organize to resist being turned into conformists by professional training.

The author argues that professional training programs, like graduate school, often employ brainwashing techniques similar to those used by cults and totalist organizations to induce obedience and conformity in their members. The eight themes common to brainwashing systems that also manifest in professional training are:

  1. Discouragement of questions: Students are often told not to ask questions until the end of the course or are ignored when they do ask questions. This controls input and critical thinking.

  2. Requiring total commitment: Professional training, like cults, demands complete devotion to the program, leaving no room for outside interests or priorities.

  3. Using love and fear: Students are made to feel loved and accepted for conforming but fearful of failing or being expelled for nonconformity. This carrot-and-stick approach manipulates emotions.

  4. Manipulating rewards and punishments: Behaviors and attitudes that match program goals are rewarded while nonconformity is punished, often subtly. This behavioral conditioning reinforces indoctrination.

  5. Isolating members: By occupying vast amounts of students’ time and energy, professional training physically and psychologically separates them from outside influences that could foster critical thinking.

  6. Creating dependency: The program portrays itself as the sole source of students’ future success and happiness, making students reliant on the program’s direction and approval. This fuels obedience.

  7. Degrading self-concept: Professional training often diminishes students’ self-esteem through harsh criticism and competition, breaking down resistance to conformity.

  8. Using loaded language: Specialized jargon and clichés in the program limit complex thinking and independent judgment. Terms come to have a meaning imposed by the program.

The author maintains that awareness of these techniques can help students resist subordination and turn professional training into an empowering experience. By understanding the system, students can avoid being broken down and rebuilt as obedient followers. They can defend critical thinking and individuality.

The passage discusses eight features that manifest the theme of subordination in professional training:

  1. Big promises: Leaders of totalist organizations promise recruits a new and appealing identity and the opportunity to do important work. These promises motivate recruits to go through the conversion process.

  2. Unelected authoritarian leader: Totalist organizations are often led by an unelected leader whose decisions cannot be appealed.

  3. Servitude and moral code: Totalist organizations often exploit members and impose a strict moral code that leaders frequently violate.

  4. Military hierarchy: Totalist organizations often have a rigid hierarchy of leadership appointed from above.

  5. “Love bombing”: Totalist organizations often use disingenuous friendliness and group activities to give recruits a false sense of belonging and community.

  6. Lack of solidarity: There is little real community support among members in totalist organizations. Members compete to subordinate themselves to leaders.

  7. Threat of loss of community: Leaders in totalist organizations threaten members with exclusion from the group to control their behavior.

  8. Voluntary submission: People join totalist organizations voluntarily but often end up with their identity and individuality assaulted.

The passage provides examples of each feature and first-person accounts of experiences in graduate school to illustrate how the features manifest in professional training. The accounts show the gap between the promises made to recruits and the reality of hierarchical, careerist systems that seek to subordinate members.

  • The researcher had some bad experiences with professors in his program questioning him in a discouraging way for wanting to do qualitative research. One professor told him “People like you don’t make it here.” This made him realize the program was very fractured, with students trying to align themselves with professors to get funding and positions rather than work together.

  • In a proseminar class, the professor focused mostly on how to quickly and efficiently publish rather than issues of quality or meaning. The professor implied publishing in top journals was the only thing that really mattered in sociology. The researcher found this very discouraging.

  • However, the researcher stuck with the program for lack of better options and a sense of identity tied to it. He found like-minded colleagues in other departments to discuss ideas with. He also organized with other students to protest lack of funding for students in his department. They held a public rally and protest, and the department ended up providing funding for all students shortly after.

  • The heavy workload and isolating nature of the program limited critical thinking. However, the researcher started an informal reading group with other students and young professors to discuss books and ideas outside of the department’s control. This helped provide an intellectual outlet and community.

  • In summary, the graduate program exercised a high degree of control over students’ time, environment, and access to outside perspectives. However, the researcher was able to find ways to maintain his independence and community through building connections outside the department and appropriating time for unstructured thinking with like-minded peers. His experience shows how important it is for students in such programs to actively work to stay grounded and connected to their own values.

  1. Totalist organizations are authoritarian and do not tolerate dissent or questioning of authority. Orders and dogma come from the top down.

  2. Leaders care more about maintaining power and control than achieving the organization’s stated mission or purpose. They squash independent initiative and thinking.

  3. Leaders are personally intimidating and frighten members from challenging them. Members try to anticipate the leaders’ wishes to please them.

  4. Leaders use guilt, shame, and judgment to make members feel inadequate and unworthy. This pushes members to adopt the leaders’ beliefs and live up to their expectations.

  5. Totalist organizations require members to reveal extensive personal information about themselves, their relationships, thoughts, and activities. This information is then used to manipulate and control members.

  6. The leaders claim to have a special insight into truth and the members’ best interests. But in reality, the leaders are primarily interested in exploiting members and using them to achieve the leaders’ own selfish ends.

  7. Willing members act like dependent children, relying on the leaders’ judgment and trusting them. But this leaves members vulnerable to abuse.

In summary, the key characteristics of totalist organizations are: authoritarianism, obsession with control, intimidating leadership, psychological manipulation and exploitation of members, and members’ childlike dependence and vulnerability. The leaders claim ideals of purpose and mission, but in reality are primarily interested in selfish gain through wielding power over members.

  • In totalist organizations, members are expected to subordinate themselves to the group. Having an independent identity or priorities outside the group is seen as selfish and immoral. The group dictates many aspects of members’ lives, including how they should think and feel.

  • Confession is a major activity in totalist groups. Members confess sins, imperfections and failures to subordinate themselves sufficiently to leaders and group doctrine. Confession reinforces members’ subordination and separates them from outsiders.

  • The group focuses intensely on “correcting” each member’s thoughts and behavior. This totalitarian control limits members’ privacy and independence. Some members avoid revealing personal details to limit the group’s power over them.

  • The group promotes a dogmatic belief system that explains everything and is not open to question. This “sacred science” gives the group control over members even when leaders are absent. The belief system is defined by leaders, who are revered for their superior understanding. Nonmembers are seen as unenlightened.

  • The belief system includes thought-terminating clichés that end reflection and debate. The group has its own jargon that seems meaningful inside but cannot be translated outside. This jargon hides closed-mindedness from members themselves.

  • In the example, faculty promoted a rigid quantitative approach as the only valid way to understand society. This viewpoint dominated the program and was used to judge students and control their thinking. Students who didn’t share this narrow approach faced difficulties. The faculty saw their role as imposing their way of thinking on students.

The summary outlines several characteristics of totalist groups: extreme subordination of members; control over members’ thoughts, feelings and lives; a dogmatic belief system that prevents independent thinking; and a specialized language that reinforces an “us vs. them” mentality. The example shows how these dynamics can emerge in an academic setting.

  • The department hired several high-energy physicists to start a new research group focused on elementary particle physics and the Superconducting Super Collider.

  • The head of the new group arrogantly claimed they were bringing the department into the 20th century, insulting other faculty and research groups.

  • The high-energy physics group believed only they were doing important, cutting-edge work. They disrespected other fields and researchers.

  • They took an arrogant approach, trying to control the curriculum, PhD exams, and tenure decisions. They said only they knew what was best for the department.

  • They tried to block almost every tenure candidate, even top researchers bringing in funding, because they wanted to hire high-energy physicists instead.

  • Though junior faculty, they openly insulted more senior researchers and told them how stupid they were. Then they asked for help supporting the Superconducting Super Collider.

  • They knew nothing about other research areas and dismissed them, living “sheltered lives.”

  • There were other problems of faculty mistreating and disrespecting students. Abuse of Chinese students by Chinese faculty was an extreme example the department failed to address.

  • Ted decided not to be treated like a child, drawing on his experience in the “real world.” The high-energy physicists’ arrogance and control over an exam was the last straw, and he left the program.

The high-energy physics group displayed the characteristics of a totalist organization: belief only they were doing vital work; dismissal and disrespect of outsiders; control over recruits; and inducing feelings of responsibility, guilt, and subordination in members. Their arrogance and abusive behavior created an unhealthy environment that ultimately drove Ted and likely others out of the program.

The key to surviving professional training with your identity and values intact is resistance - resisting the pressures to conform in attitude and values. This is difficult because the training institution works to control your attitudes and values through techniques like:

  1. Demanding strict attitude control and positivity. Students are pressured to avoid criticism and negative feelings.

  2. Requiring students to follow the values and beliefs of faculty authorities without question. This parallels the control exhibited in cults.

  3. Isolating students from outside influences and controlling their environment (milieu control). This makes resistance harder.

  4. Using guilt, shame, and withdrawal of rewards to manipulate students into conforming.

Students tend to end up in one of three groups:

  1. Those who conform in attitude and values and lose their identity.
  2. Those who don’t finish the program but maintain their identity.
  3. Those fortunate few who make it through with their identity and values intact.

The key difference is that group 3 students resist effectively. Some keys to their success include:

  1. Recognizing the pressures and manipulation for what they are. Seeing through the system makes resistance possible.

  2. Finding allies for mutual support. Connecting with like-minded others combats isolation and provides strength.

  3. Avoiding direct confrontation in favor of subtle resistance. This avoids provoking harsh retaliation while still preserving identity.

  4. Maintaining outside interests and contacts. This provides perspective and combats the totalist environment.

  5. Using humor and irreverence to defuse some pressures without direct challenge. This releases tensions in a safer way.

In summary, surviving professional training with your values intact requires recognizing and then resisting the pressures to conform - but doing so through subtle and indirect means. Building alliances and avoiding isolation helps make this possible. With determination, it can be achieved.

The key to surviving professional training with your identity and values intact is to organize with others and resist consciously. Students often fail to recognize that conflicts with faculty are rooted in differences in attitudes and values. Bewildered by these conflicts, students may back away from their identity or demands for acceptance. The few who succeed have stood up for their beliefs, fought, and won acceptance.

Captors, whether in POW camps or professional schools, use similar techniques to alter attitudes quickly:

  • Isolation, fatigue, stress to weaken resistance.
  • Show of power over life and death to demonstrate control.
  • Physical hardship and uncertain punishment to breed caution.
  • Occasional favors or reprieves to manipulate and tease cooperation.

The battle is for the mind. Resistance is the only honorable course of action. It means molding the environment to your needs and can enable escape, success, pride, and maintaining identity. Cooperating with other prisoners is key to defeating captors.

Knowing captor techniques, preparing to resist, working together, resisting actively, and avoiding those who collaborate are strategies for surviving with identity and values intact. Success requires recognizing that the root issue is a clash of attitudes and values, standing up for one’s beliefs, fighting for acceptance, and winning the right to be different. Organization and conscious resistance are the formula for success.

The advice translates across hierarchies. With imagination, the POW manual can apply to schools, workplaces, and similar institutions. Simple word substitutions are all that is needed to tailor the guidelines to a particular context. The lessons are broadly useful for resisting subordination and maintaining identity and values.

• Provides rewards and incentives for compliant behavior to build a positive view of the captor and make resistance seem undesirable. This is a gradual indoctrination process.

• The captor wants the prisoner to willingly accept and spread their propaganda. They know self-convinced converts are the most lasting.

• Resistance training should build self-reliance, teamwork, courage, confidence in resisting interrogation and indoctrination, and knowledge of the captor’s methods and objectives.

• Prisoners should present a united front, help each other, sacrifice for each other, avoid exploiting differences, and see unity as most important. Communication and organization among prisoners is key to effective resistance.

• Some prisoners may need extra help and support. They must be brought into the group and given responsibilities they can handle. Feeling alone and abandoned is dangerous, so prisoners should focus on their responsibilities to each other. Anyone can become a leader.

• Do not rely on the captor’s approval. Resist by judging your actions based on what someone you respect would think. Aggressive but discreet resistance, and small victories, boost morale.

• Griping, demanding rights, and trying to improve conditions are forms of resistance. Do not show subservience. Ridicule the captors in private to defuse humiliation.

• Maintain a sense of humor. It gives hope, courage, and strength, and shows captivity is being faced positively.

• Morale and humor are important for resisting enemy exploitation and indoctrination. Ridiculing the enemy reduces their psychological power and lessens apprehension of them.

• Share information about enemy techniques and objectives with other prisoners of war as soon as possible so everyone is aware of them.

• Share any resources or favors with sick, injured, or struggling prisoners of war. Keep prisoner morale high and unity strong.

• Do not feel ashamed for holding out as long as possible before giving in to the enemy. With support, individual and group resistance can be increased.

• Willing collaboration with the enemy to harm fellow prisoners is unacceptable. There is a difference between cooperating for the good of all prisoners and collaborating to benefit the enemy. Collaborators should be isolated but efforts should be made to convince them to stop collaborating.

• Collaborators do not benefit and are despised by both prisoners and the enemy. Captivity is temporary but the consequences of one’s actions are lasting. Each prisoner will be judged by their conscience.

• To resist institutional indoctrination, independent thinking and organization with other resisters is key. Challenging the system alone often fails, but organized oppositional activity provides perspective and sanity. Though difficult, confronting the system is necessary to avoid conformity and obliteration of independent thinking. The choice is to organize and confront, or conform and be obliterated.

  • The author decided to mask his true beliefs and attitudes to pass his PhD qualifying exam. Once passed, he slowly increased his political activism and organizing.

  • He and other students formed a local chapter of the activist group Science for the People. They organized talks, study groups, and events to promote progressive and radical viewpoints, especially on issues related to science and politics.

  • They directly confronted the head of Los Alamos nuclear lab, Harold Agnew, at a talk he gave on campus. Agnew became angry at their questioning of his work on nuclear weapons. This embarrassed the physics professor, Frederick Reines, who had invited Agnew.

  • Reines was angry with the author in particular. Although Reines paid the author’s salary, he only responded verbally.

  • Science for the People campaigned for a deceased student, Scott Nakamura, to be awarded a posthumous PhD. Despite initial rejection, their petition forced the department to award Nakamura an intermediate degree. The faculty were angry at the challenge to their authority.

  • The author and other involved students were disciplined. The author’s advisor was away, so the department accelerated the author’s dissertation to finish and get rid of him.

  • The key themes are maintaining one’s independent thinking and values despite pressures to conform; organizing and taking action along with others; and confronting authority and policies one disagrees with, even at personal risk. But choosing one’s battles and allies carefully can provide some protection.

The author had a conflict with his adviser, Reines, who wanted to push him through his PhD program quickly without proper review of his dissertation. Reines fired the author from his research assistant position in retaliation for the author exercising free speech. The author claimed this was unlawful and demanded compensation. With the support of other students and the faculty union, the author was able to get Reines to settle and pay him the amount he was owed.

Though the author had a history of causing trouble, he was still able to find a job after graduating. However, his political views and activities were reported to his boss by a professor who had tried to join his dissertation committee. While political views are supposedly not considered in employment, the reality is that those in power want control over employees and their values. Though the author’s radical views caused some issues, he was often treated better than more compliant colleagues who were taken advantage of more frequently.

The stakes in professional education can be high enough to lead to violence in some cases, especially when students lack an independent organization to represent their interests. Different students react to the pressures and injustices in their programs in different ways: some commit suicide, some commit murder-suicide by killing their advisers, and some just commit murder. Three examples are given:

  1. Jason Altom, a top Harvard chemistry student, committed suicide after facing relentless pressure, long hours, and harsh criticism from his Nobel-winning adviser, Elias Corey. Altom blamed Corey and the system in his suicide note.

  2. Gang Lu, considered one of the top physics students at the University of Iowa, killed his adviser, Christoph Goertz, and several others. Lu felt Goertz exploited students and piled on work, and Lu had complained about this to others.

  3. The author discusses the stakes and potential for violence in professional education when students lack power and representation. With solidarity and organization, students can gain power, reduce fear and isolation, and handle grievances, but without this, the pressures can lead some to violence.

  • Lu Hefu was a graduate student in physics at Iowa State University. He felt mistreated by his adviser, Professor Hans Goertz, and a fellow student, Linhua Shan. Lu believed Goertz showed favoritism towards Shan.

  • Lu’s experiences led him to feel targeted and humiliated in small and big ways:

  1. Goertz wrongly accused Lu of making a mistake in a calculation. When it turned out Goertz was wrong, he did not apologize.

  2. At Lu’s dissertation defense, professors raised new questions to humiliate him. After redoing his work, his original results were shown to be right.

  3. The department chose Shan to nominate for a dissertation prize before all committee members saw Lu’s work. Lu’s appeals were rejected.

  4. Lu felt the department did not help him find a job. Goertz missed deadlines for recommendation letters, invalidating Lu’s job applications. At 28, Lu had no job after 10 years of study.

  • Lu’s sister blames the university for destroying Lu by demanding he devote himself to studies, then blocking his progress. Lu felt ordinary people lacked means to oppose powerful groups, so he took “extraordinary action” with guns to “preserve this world.”

  • Lu shot and killed Goertz, Shan, two other professors, and an administrator, then himself.

  • The cases of Theodore Streleski and Lu Hefu show how mistreatment and frustration of graduate students who devote themselves to study can lead to violence as a form of protest. Though their actions are unjustified, the root causes that pushed them to such extremes deserve consideration. Promoting graduate student well-being and addressing valid complaints properly can help prevent such tragic outcomes.

To be a radical professional, you must:

  1. First identify as a radical, not primarily as a professional. Radical professionals see themselves as radicals who happen to work as professionals, not professionals who happen to be radicals. Those who identify primarily as professionals tend to bring the same elitism and hierarchy to social reform that they aim to change.

  2. Hold a critical view of the role of your profession and institution. Radical professionals look beyond the public image and see the actual social roles these play in maintaining the status quo. They do not identify with their institutions and see them as separate from themselves. Those who uncritically identify with their institutions and roles have been neutralized.

  3. Make a difference through radical politics. Radicals who do not translate their outlook into action that challenges and changes the status quo are wasting their radicalism.

In summary, radical professionals are radicals first, maintain a critical stance toward their professional roles and institutions, and work to make a difference through radical action. They do not simply accept and serve the system that employs them.

  • To be truly satisfied in your work, you must do things that go beyond what a typical non-radical worker would do in your position. Simply doing your job well and receiving praise from your boss is not enough. You need to make a difference by contributing more to help clients and the public, or by pushing for changes to improve the system.

  • It is a mistake to feel that you have to work for a radical organization to be genuinely part of the opposition movement. What matters most is how much positive change is created, not who specifically creates it. Reform-oriented groups are limited in how many people they can employ, and working for them does not guarantee the freedom to take a radical approach. Radicals in mainstream organizations face the same challenges.

  • To remain radical as a professional in a mainstream organization, you must stay actively connected to radical groups and ideas outside of work. Otherwise, you will likely drift toward accepting the conventional views of your workplace. You must find ways to advance your radical goals and vision within your job, even though you were hired to fulfill your employer’s vision. You do as much as you can get away with to push things in a radical direction.

  • There are many specific actions you can take, ranging from radical to less so, depending on your situation. These include: helping co-workers see beyond your organization’s public image; encouraging co-workers to connect with radical groups; breaking down disciplined acceptance of your employer’s ideology; pursuing your own radical goals on the job; not needing your boss’s approval; helping co-workers with their own radical projects; resisting extra work that does not align with your goals; leaking useful inside information to radical groups; exposing unethical actions; and raising awareness of the political nature of your professional work.

  • The more radical actions, like whistleblowing and sabotage, are higher risk but aim for a fairer social structure. The less radical actions create gradual pressure and slowly build power for the opposition movement. All of these actions require connecting with like-minded co-workers whenever possible. Acting alone is a last resort.

The key message is that radical professionals must maintain their radicalism through deliberate effort, stay connected to the broader movement, advance their vision within their jobs through lower- and higher-risk actions, build power with co-workers, and judge the impact of their work by radical standards - not by their employers’ praise or approval. Persisting in this struggle is how real change is created.

The key ideas are:

  1. Debunk the myth of objectivity and neutrality of the profession. Challenge the social role and ideology of the profession.

  2. Encourage informal discussions with co-workers to critically examine the ideological content of their work and assignments. Make these discussions regular, inclusive, and uncensored. The goal is to prepare co-workers to work together to shape the content of their work.

  3. Conspire with radical co-workers to tilt the work to favor less privileged groups. Recommend radical experts for co-workers to consult.

  4. Help co-workers understand that conflicts with management are due to the function and hierarchy of the institution, not personalities. Explain how hierarchy and ideology are intertwined.

  5. Help co-workers acknowledge that hierarchies are fundamentally flawed. They reduce enjoyment of work, twist personalities, encourage secrecy and conformity, stunt growth, and are inherently violent. Point out these problems arise in all hierarchies.

  6. Publish an exposé of the organization to reveal how it operates and treat employees. This exposes the truth, entertains and educates the public, and forces change. Make it a group effort if possible.

  7. Increase co-workers’ dissatisfaction with restrictions on their work. Explain that unfulfilling work is due to how labor is divided to serve employers, not human nature. Encourage lingering expectations of autonomy and fulfilling work from professional school.

The key places ideology and management act to set the tone are:

  1. The myth of neutrality which hides the ideological content of the work. This myth protects careers and the status quo.

  2. The hierarchical organization of the workplace which determines how labor is divided and work is assigned based on the interests of employers and management. This results in less autonomy, more restrictions, and less fulfilling work for employees.

  3. Management’s control over official discussions of work content and assignments. They repress debate over the ideological nature of the work.

  4. Management’s authority to assign and restrict the scope of work. They ensure work serves the interests of the organization and employers.

  5. The institution’s broader social function and role which depends on the hierarchy and existing ideology. Challenging either challenges the whole system.

So in summary, the key ideas focus on revealing and resisting the ideological and political role of the profession, challenging its legitimating myths, confronting the repressive and distorting effects of workplace hierarchy, and organizing to reclaim autonomy and redefine work to serve human needs. The workplace, professional ideology, hierarchy, and management act as instruments of control to set the parameters for thought and action. But they can be resisted and remade.

  • You support coworkers in their efforts to obtain more meaningful and fulfilling work. You explain that workplace restrictions originate from the hierarchical system, not individuals. You advocate against “dead-end” jobs and for career advancement.

  • You promote transparency in management decisions and personnel matters. You share details of management decisions and your own dealings with them. You encourage others to do the same to reveal management politics and allow employees to anticipate decisions.

  • You support handling disputes with management collectively rather than individually. Collective action helps balance power dynamics. You advocate for professional organizations to support members in disputes.

  • You work to undermine management manipulation tactics. You become an expert in management tactics and principles of resistance, and spread this knowledge.

  • You hire based on character and values. You aim to determine what candidates genuinely care about and will advocate for. Management seeks “team players” who will not advocate for anything.

  • You resist elitism, authoritarianism, and hierarchy. You downplay your credentials and education, recognizing they do not make you more deserving of respect. You are suspicious of reliance on credentials and authority, which often propagate regressive ideas. You do not let rank determine authority in activism.

  • You work to make your field more democratic and highlight the establishment ties of establishment figures.

  • You use your position to help other radicals. You help them find jobs, provide recommendations and access to resources, offer professional services, and help them get anything you can from the system. You see this as fulfilling an obligation to the movement, not doing personal favors.

In summary, you take actions within existing systems and power structures to undermine hierarchy, support advocacy and activism, build community and solidarity, and balance unequal power dynamics. You recognize that change must come from below by empowering individuals, not from above through reliance on existing authority and elitism.

• You need to work to eliminate the division between professionals and nonprofessionals. This division limits the intellectual development of both groups and works against democracy. To address this, you should encourage nonprofessionals to gain technical skills and knowledge, and “give away” your skills by apprenticing them.

• You should build solidarity between professionals and nonprofessionals. Encourage professionals to see themselves as workers, not superior to labor. Dropping the pretense of superiority and seeing themselves as members of an ideologically directed workforce can be empowering. Professionals should make the same demands as nonprofessionals, like limits on work hours and overtime pay.

• You should undermine management’s information advantage. Management has knowledge about the industry and historical knowledge of labor struggles that gives them an advantage. Provide coworkers with information about the “big picture” so they know their grievances are not unique and they can benefit from the overall labor struggle. Read publications that management reads to get a broad perspective, like the Wall Street Journal.

• Help nonprofessionals and professionals understand that professionals have a role in the system of production. Nonprofessionals follow procedures, professionals follow ideologies, and employers assess and assign ideologies. Radicals assess ideologies and develop alternative ideologies. Explain the politics of professional qualifications, that professionals are certified based on both technical skills and the right attitude or ideology.

• Resisting the system that aims to redefine your identity is necessary to stand for something. While risky, not resisting leads to losing your independent identity.

The key ideas are empowering nonprofessionals and professionals by eliminating divisions, building solidarity, sharing information, and explaining the roles and politics in the system of production. Resisting the system that wants to control your identity is presented as necessary for independence. The overall argument is for radical changes to established structures that limit people’s development and independence.

The book examines how professionals are indoctrinated during their training and education to serve the interests of the powerful and maintain the status quo, rather than serving ordinary people or the public good. The author argues that professionals’ employment and advancement depends on their conforming to the ideological norms and values of their profession. This includes concealing the social and political implications of their work. Professionals are selected and promoted based on attitude and ideology, not just on competence. The system subtly weeds out dissenters and those who are unwilling to confine their thinking to narrow, specialized technical issues.

The book encourages professionals and students to resist indoctrination by critically examining the unstated assumptions and values in their training and education. Professionals should find ways to overcome the pressures to confine their thinking and interests within narrow professional boundaries. The book aims to help professionals and students develop and maintain their moral independence and social conscience. Overall, the book provides a critique of professional ideology and examines how professions perpetuate the hierarchical and inegalitarian system from which they benefit.

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About Matheus Puppe