Generalization vs Specialization Essay

1038 WordsAug 31, 20145 Pages
Everywhere we turn today we see specialization. The most respected and well paid doctors and dentists are often those who perform just a few procedures. Many attorneys cover just one area of law. Even kids are specializing in how they play! With the spread of “travel teams” whose seasons are often more than six months per year, young athletes, starting at the age of 8 or so, are now forced to choose one or two sports at the expense of all others. Specialization produces excellence—but only within a narrow range of endeavor. We have become a society where even the narrowest of activities is treated as a sport with its own heroes. Repetition and mastery of a very specific activity is now the model of stardom. But even Adam Smith, the famous economist who advocated the division of labor in society, admitted that the system had a major drawback: Today even college education, which used to aim to produce versatile professionals, is specialized. This has been the case for a long time; it has been a major social trend since the end of World War II. The expansion of the American university system, and more precisely, the growth of graduate certification, is a major factor here. Consider a B.A. student who shows promise in historical studies. The student can choose not to specialize at the B.A. level but will probably opt to write a B.A. thesis on a pretty focused subject, simply because a thesis is expected of those who apply to graduate school. When the student moves on to the M.A. level, the student will now be required to declare a specialty, such as modern Britain. Finally, for the Ph.D. the student must produce a very long dissertation on a specific topic within the specialty: charity groups in early Victorian England. At this stage, generalizing and synthesizing count for little. Showing complete mastery of the particular topic is everything. Ironically, as the

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