Deeper issues



Well, it's hard to disagree that Americans take for granted their own
 (majority) language's cultural and scientific pre-eminence -- a sad
 if easily rationalized state of affairs. In the recent debate over the
 importance of a language to completion of the Ph.D. degree, and the
 relevance of computer programming languages, I find myself fairly
 mainstream, i.e. fluency in other spoken languages is inherently good,
 but not necessarily critical to following the course of modern science,
 and computer languages may be worth emphasizing separately for certain
 career paths.
 What has interested me most about the furious debate, is that in the
 process of explaining your views on language, many of you have offered
 some glimpse of what you perceive the Ph.D. degree (or its foreign
 equivalents) to really mean. In some cases, I've been a bit surprised.
 The feelings seem to range from disturbingly technocratic (who cares
 about original thought so long as you knock out 10 reactions a week,
 and so forth) to perhaps over-ambitious neoclassicism (I mean, I'd
 like to do a quick translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but lifespan
 is passing, nu?)
 Since I'm about to start a faculty position and ostensibly will be
 conferring doctoral degrees in a few years, I have some strong
 opinions on this question, but since I already know MY
 thoughts, I'm much more interested in yours. While the issue is
 somewhat broader than just computational chemistry, it still seems
 appropriate for brief commentary on the net. What constitutes a
 qualified Ph.D.?
 Looking forward to my colleagues ruminations and fulminations . . .
 Chris Cramer