I recently found this beautiful explanation of the motives for academic hypocrisy elaborated by Noam Chomsky at a Harvard University seminar on February 6, 2002. With the exception of the topic, Chomsky’s entire analysis fits my experience with academia perfectly.
The focus of my PhD was supposed to be “Rehabilitation Engineering”, but I have always been very skeptical of that term. “Rehabilitation” is usually interpreted in academic contexts as the need to create some kind of novel intervention that “fixes” some deficit in a Disabled person. Maybe they had one arm instead of two, or they used a wheelchair to move around, but for the life of me, I cannot tell what is wrong with that, and this sure got me into a lot of trouble with my supervisors. Don’t get me wrong, they are really nice folks, but there is one huge problem: their “boss” is the research institutions who give out grants (e.g., NSERC, CIHR), NOT the Disabled (as it should be). Of course, this is the wrong thing to say for a mere graduate student like me, and in many ways, they tried to make sure I was aware of it.
By the end, I tried to summarize some of these “warnings” in a preface for my thesis but, of course (I don’t know what I was thinking), they ended up asking me to get rid of that too. For years I complied with their demands just so I could earn the coveted degree, but since I still feel like a fraud, I will publish the preface here in the hopes that I can recover some of my integrity… so please, go ahead, download the two page preface my supervisors didn’t want you to read or just download the entire thesis!