Bringing back Philosophy into PhD

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By Idris Katib

The original phrase of the title of this article originated from a scholar, Gundula Bosch, of Graduate Science Institute at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.She posited in her research article “Train PhD students to be thinkers not just specialists” that many doctoral curricula aim to produce narrowly focussed researchers rather than thinkers.

This got me thinking about the first assignment given to all PhD students of the Department of Mass Communication of Crescent University, Abeokuta, Nigeria, to prepare their minds for the task, challenges and expectations ahead of any PhD programme.

The word “Philosophy” means the love of wisdom. Those who profess this field of study are philosophers regarded as lovers of wisdom.

Every academic craves to add a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) to their garlands of academic honours. It is the third and highest academic university degree across the globe. A PhD degree cuts across all disciplines in science, humanities, arts, environmental and social sciences and the holders are usually held in high esteem.

Hence, there are Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Literature, Philosophy of Arts, Philosophy of mind, among others, according to Florida State University website (2022).

Many of us have read about Plato, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Aristotle, John Locke, Descartes, Kant, Nelson Mandela and several other lovers of wisdom regarded as philosophers because of their impacts on their society in critical thinking and forecast of tomorrow.

What exactly is a PhD and what are the expectations of the holder of the prestigious degree? A PhD is expected to be the zenith of any specialized knowledge in any field of study.

According to University of Arizona, ” A 2019 analysis found that the number of doctoral degree holders has more than doubled since 2000, to 4.5 million”. What this implies is that people in this pinnacle of academic career are in high demands to solve global problems. A PhD holder is expected to be a philosopher, thinker, bookworm, sage, speaker, writer, listener and forecasters of social politico-economy.

He should be an all-rounder who knows everything about something and something about everything. She as a matter of her vantage academic position should be able to contribute meaningfully to every discuss although she may not be an expert in all.Holders of PhD should be able to read their environment and solve critical problems.

In our field of communication, a PhD holder should be able to circumambulate the cardinal areas like journalism, broadcasting, digitization, advertising, public relations, new media, photography, development communication, films, videography, cinematography, graphic communication and all other areas because the field of communication is diverse. This knowledge should go beyond the theories and textbook definitions only.

A Doctor of Philosophy in communications should neither be half empty or half full. They should be full or strive to be at every point in time. They should firmly key into the new technology which is the nerve centre of various professions. They should not only be able to teach different areas of communication but should practically be able to solve, for instance, a public relations problem in government or private sector.

A situation whereby an engineering professor or doctor who wears the garland of a PhD cannot fix his car which develops a fault on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway but needs to call on a highway “illiterate” mechanic to do that for him is ignominious.It rubbishes his PhD certificate which he brandishes around.

We have had scenarios in Nigeria where construction companies can do away with our PhD holders in civil engineering in the construction of bridges, elevator and road networks.Rather, technicians and recruits from Chinese prisons plan, supervise and accomplish the projects.

There are food security challenges. Food items get more expensive by the day. But one wonders why our universities of Agriculture exist. These universities are filled with PhD holders who are supposed to be “experts” in food production, security and sustainability particularly in cities where these universities of Agriculture are situated.

Is it not shameful that doctors and professors of these Agric universities still patronise the city markets like Lafenwa and Olomore in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria for instance to buy pepper, onions, beef, fish, bread and several other food items which ordinarily should come from their stables? It is expected that a university of Agriculture should at least be able to sustain food production in its immediate environment
PhD holders as thinkers, philosophers, planners and forecasters should be seen in finding solutions to problems of their immediate environment.

They should be able to think out of the box and not be limited to theories and copious teaching of textbook manuals. This is where the gap between the town and gown will be bridged.

A writer, Folorunsho Fatai Adisa (2022) notes on his social media page “I’m a relentless reader and sleuthhound for knowledge. Whenever I see or hear things I do not know about, I will quickly find a way to read up on them. I saw the picture below on a group, and I didn’t know what it was all about until I read about the substance on https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/crystal-meth-what-you-should_know#3. This should be the remit of PhD holders as it will enable them to philosophise and impact directly on the society.

As PhD holders, we should not be limited in knowledge exploration but strive to be diverse as much as our capacity can take us. By implication, we should not be cocooned into our specialty or the forewalls of the academic terrain since we are leading lights to the world.

People in this class should expand their frontiers of knowledge and expertise to be more relevant and useful to their immediate society and the world at large. We can achieve this height through constant learning from professionals and colleagues in many areas.

The process starts with searching and researching and never ends until we have made a landmark on the walls of history.

*Katib, a PR practitioner, wrote from Crescent University, Abeokuta, Nigeria and can be reached via katibidris@gmail.com/+2348096629914

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