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DILETTANTE STUDIES
January 9, 2006
 
Don't you think I should get a Ph.D? I asked Q.

Whatever for? he asked.

So I wouldn't be such a fraud. I had just typed up my syllabus for the course I'm teaching at General Seminary this week. For the purposes of the course, I am "Prof. Crafton." How can I be a professor if I don't have a doctorate?

Lots of professors don't have doctorates, he said. Assistant professors don't.

But they're working on them, I said.

Well, yes. But in some fields people teach for years without an a doctorate. It really depends on what 's needed to do a good job. Your work is like that.

Oh. Maybe my doctorate is from UHN.

What's that?

University of Hard Knocks."

Wouldn't that be UNK?

We at UHN don't spell too well.

But I do feel fraudulent because I don't have a Ph.D. I should get one, I often think -- but I get older and older, and it makes less and less sense. And there's nothing in which I crave the total immersion a Ph.D. requires. The craving is absolutely necessary, I think -- you must be passionate about your subject, or you'll never complete the degree. You can't do it as an admission ticket to something else.

It's not that I'm not fascinated by things. The reverse is true, in fact: I'm fascinated with too many things. Too general. I'm a dilettante.

You're not a dilettante.he said. A dilettante makes no good use of what he learns.

Oh, I said. Well, what do I know about what dillettantes do? I don't have a doctorate. I don't think you can get a doctorate in Dilettante Studies.

I always thought I'd earn one, and I never did. I loved school, thought I'd teach for a living, and I've priested for a living instead. Priests can get doctorates, of course, and many do. But I haven't.

There is a difference between wanting something and wanting to have it. I wanted to have a Ph.d because it's something I don't have, an honor others have earned, a prize I haven't won. But to want the degree itself is to crave, also, the intense work it represents, the deep exploration of one slice of human knowledge, the careful contribution to the enlargement of that slice. Q can sit all afternoon and read about his slice. He is happiest on such an afternoon.

And I am happiest doing what I do, which is a number of things. Many of which -- most? -- I didn't learn in school.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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