Rock Star Ph.D

Read this in The Week, and taped it to my mirror:

“You are what you learn. If all you know is how to be a gang member, that’s what you’ll be, at least until you learn something else. If you go to law school, you’ll see the world as a competition. If you study engineering, you’ll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking. A person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. If you don’t like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. There’s almost nothing you can’t learn your way out of. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You’re free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it.” -Scott Adams

(Addendum: Ah, man. The wisdom in this quote notwithstanding, it would seem Scott Adams has a history of “interesting” opinions on gender issues:

Dilbert creator deletes misogynist rant
Scott Adams weighs in on rape

Boo on that. Boo, I say.

19 thoughts on “Rock Star Ph.D

  1. Brilliant timing. In January, I’m finally taking Basic Photography, having wanted to merge with that field of knowledge for years. Black and white film, darkrooms and chemicals, and an old-skool camera that weighs as much as my dog. I. Can’t. WAIT.


  2. Eh, I dunno — while I agree that education is power, I think it’s pretty myopic to describe how people in particular professions see the world. Or, more accurately, being both an engineer & a lawyer, his description about how *I* see the world isn’t particularly accurate.

    Oh, yeah, and the misogyny thing. πŸ™‚



  3. It makes me sad that Scott Adams has garnered a reputation for expressing genuinely stupid viewpoints because I have laughed really hard at many of his comics and love this quote. John Mayer disease. Does the good outweigh, rise above, or get ruined by the bad?


  4. Mr. Adams also seems to put a whole lot of weight on personal motivation, which is great. Except, also, there are institutional barriers to the Just Learn It approach to learning and education. Not all of us have the resources and opportunities to escape through education, and that fact is something we are all responsible for addressing.

    And also, misogyny.


  5. Hmm, I think that’s a pretty limiting way to look at things actually, and also kind of backwards. Given the time, effort and means it takes to get an advanced degree in this country, I think one’s world view is shaped much earlier. Certainly, professions such as medicine and law select for people who are competitive and can navigate the system; there are far fewer places than applicants and you have to jump through a lot of hoops to gain entrance to them. And there are plenty of people who grow up in a culture of violence but choose not to participate; even high crime areas are largely populated by non-criminals. Frankly, I think people are a lot more resilient than Mr. Adams is giving them credit for.


  6. “If you don’t like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else.” This the best part of this quote. It can apply to anything!! πŸ™‚


  7. I read his blog and don’t actually find him misogynistic, he just doesn’t filter well. His posts are sort of experimental and discursive, like a good conversation over beer, and a few sentences picked out of a couple of posts make him look bad.


  8. Yes. The misogyny. He also seems to have a really weird relationship with his own success. His attitude seems to be, “I just drew a stupid comic about something I know nothing about and y’all lap it up! Anyone could be me!”

    Uh. Ok. We like Dilbert. Sorry that you don’t, Mr. Adams. You can stop drawing it whenever you want.


    In addition to the great points above about education often being outside the reach of many people, especially the kind he’s talking about. I really wish there was a movement toward lifelong learning in our country. I had the great privilege to go to grad school after six years out and learning became a revelation! Suddenly, I had patience and persistence and also the ability to prioritize that I just didn’t have as an undergrad.

    On my life list — focusing on a new topic with formal and informal learning for each new decade. I haven’t decided what I want to learn in my 40s but it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s something new.


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