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I’m working on a longer blog post about the World Bank, West Bank, and grad school, but I called my older, PhD brother today at midnight to complain about grad school and wanted to share something that’s been bothering me. I have a presentation on Tuesday on transitional justice, with Rwanda as the case study. Most of the articles I’ve read, the interviews of officials I’ve watched, and the documentaries I’ve spent hours slogging through trying to make sense of the nitty-gritty details were not as detailed as an article I’d just run into and I was concerned the scholar may have been a bit too eager to draw conclusions.

I also callecoverd to just complain about my transition from practitioner and researcher back to academic, and that grad school makes me feel as though I’m living in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Why? This:

Foundation, the first installment in Asimov’s series by the same name, is a dystopian novel about a galactic empire which has declined to the point that near-anarchy reigns among the planets (yes, I’m a gigantic nerd, but Asimov is someone you really must read). There’s an excerpt that has always stuck in my mind:

From Foundation, Part II The Encyclopedists, Chapter 4

Hardin, mayor of Terminus City, talking to a “scholar” Lord Dorwin (who has a bit of a speech impediment) about the search for the planet on which the human species began:

Hardin remained silent for a short while. Then he said, “When did Lameth write his book?”

“Oh – I should say about eight hundwed yeahs ago. Of cohse, he has based it lahgely on the pwevious wuhk of Gleen.”

“Then why rely on him? Why not go to Arcturus and study the remains for yourself?”

Lord Dorwin raised his eyebrows and took a pinch of snuff hurriedly. “Why, whatevah foah, my deah fellow?”

“To get the information firsthand, of course.”

“But wheah’s the necessity? It seems an uncommonly woundabout and hopelessly wigmawolish method of getting anywheahs. Look heah, now, I’ve got the wuhks of all the old mastahs – the gweat ahchaeologists of the past. I wigh them against each othah – balance the disagweements – analyze the conflicting statements – decide which is pwobably cowwect –and come to a conclusion. That is the scientific method. At least” – patronizingly –”as I see it. How insuffewably cwude it would be to go to Ahctuwus, oah to Sol, foah instance, and blundah about, when the old mastahs have covahed the gwound so much moah effectually than we could possibly hope to do.”

Hardin murmured politely, “I see.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the conversation I sometimes fall into in grad school. The professors are great. Many of them have incredible field experience. It’s just.. sometimes.. just because some dude wrote something down on a paper doesn’t mean it’s correct, or that it’ll work. Fellow student, the professor is not giving us these articles because we’re supposed to parrot them. Think a little, friends.