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Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives Paperback – December 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


Disciplined Minds is a witty, incisive, original analysis of the politics of professionalism―especially with respect to those fields in which 'professional training' involves an education in how to become oblivious to the political role of one’s profession. (Michael Berube, University of Illinois)

A blistering critique of how knowledge workers have been subordinated in America. Finally, a book that tells it like it is. (Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center, author of From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future)

I have been waiting a long time for someone to write this book, and Jeff Schmidt has done it. He exposes, in crystal-clear prose, the inevitably political nature of the professional in our society, and, most importantly, suggests a strategy for resistance. This is an extraordinary and valuable piece of writing. (Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States and professor emeritus of Political Science, Boston University)

Schmidt has hit the bull's-eye. (Texas Observer)

Schmidt analyzes the true meaning of being a professional and the sacrifices that professionals make to achieve their career goals. He challenges them to think outside the box, use their intuition and their attitude to provide for a better society. (Carrie Crystal Van Driel In The Public Citizen)

There is much that is thought provoking and illuminating in Disciplined Minds. (Business & Society)

This book should be read by anyone thinking about embarking on a professional education in any field, as well as by those who wonder why their dream job doesn't seem so dreamy after all. (Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.)

Disciplined Minds is a radical, disturbing, and provocative look at professional life. It offers a profound analysis of the personal struggles for identity and meaning in the lives of today's 21 million professionals. The book will shake up the readers. (Education Review)

Just after publication of this book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt was fired after 19 years as a staff writer for Physics Today magazine. In his book Schmidt argues that a hierarchical organization's structure almost guarantees that its workers cannot devote their full energy to the job; he was terminated after a supervisor learned that in his foreword to the book, he playfully wrote that he had completed it partly on 'stolen time'. (The Washington Post)

Schmidt is a very good writer, and particularly skilled at constructing his case through example and anecdote. His thesis is compelling. (Interchange)

In this book Jeff Schmidt gives us a remarkably insightful political analysis of the process of inculcating graduate school initiates into a discipline, and how this process of 'disciplining' contributes to the making and perpetuating of unfree minds in the professions. (Social Anarchism Thirty-One)

Schmidt offers a provocative critique of how scientists, engineers, and other professionals are groomed to fulfill a specific function in society―that of maintaining the status quo―and, in the process, end up sidelining their own goals and ideals. The book is both well-researched and highly readable. Some readers may disagree with its conclusions, but everyone will recognize its descriptions of the often wrenching choices that today's professionals must make. (Ieee Spectrum)

I found Disciplined Minds while planning a course that will deal with the social role and moral responsibility of intellectuals, and after I finished reading it I whooped with joy. It is the perfect book to engage students on these issues ― well researched, powerfully argued, and clearly written. Even conservative students with politics at odds with Schmidt's find the book valuable because of its (sometimes painful) honesty and clarity. In addition to using it in my course, I wish I could make Disciplined Minds required reading for my faculty colleagues. (Robert Jensen, Director of the Senior Fellows Honors Program of the College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin)

This book comes from the heart...a rallying cry to dissatisfied professionals and disillusioned students to organize and reshape the system that is stifling them. (Review of Radical Political Economics)

Disciplined Minds is a freewheeling, thought-provoking examination of the way ideological control is exercised over an increasingly important section of the working class- the professionals. (John Pappademos Nature, Society, and Thought)

About the Author

Jeff Schmidt was an editor at Physics Today magazine for 19 years, until he was fired for writing this provocative book. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Irvine, and has taught in the United States, Central America, and Africa. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he now lives in Washington, D.C. You may write to him at jeffschmidt@alumni.uci.edu.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742516857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742516854
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Schmidt lives in Washington, D.C. He has been focusing his attention recently on K-12 schooling, particularly science and math. In 2012, Disciplined Minds was published in Hindi (ISBN 9788192095714) and Korean (ISBN 9788994340098). Lots of reviews of the book are posted at the disciplinedminds website.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

164 of 166 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Siegel on April 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In a way it's obvious. In an industrial society, large organizations need some technically skilled people who can be relied upon to look after the organization's interests. Whether you're a lawyer, accountant, teacher, or whatever else -- to the extent that your work is unsupervised, information-intensive, and varied in its details, your employer counts on you not just to follow his direct orders, but to give yourself the orders he would have given had he been there on the scene, and to carry them out with technical skill.
It's also obvious that to act in accordance with the values of a large organization -- for instance, the value of "profit maximization" so common to the large corporation -- one must suppress one's natural values, the values one has held since childhood. (How many of us, as teenagers, got lumps in our throats at the thought of devoting our lives to profit maximization?) And, it only stands to reason that the institutions of higher learning that are most successful at producing people who are skilled at adopting "values to order" are the ones that select and train people who are good at suppressing their own values.
Somehow, though, what's not obvious is the logical consequence of these observations: that Harvard Law School, NYU Medical School, and just about every PhD program in the country are really, at their core, ideological boot-camps, where people are carefully winnowed and shaped into able servants of another person's ideology -- and where their own ideologies that might conflict with those of most employers are, to the extent any remain within them, mercilessly beaten out, so that upon graduation they all emerge pristine and ready to accept whatever goals their new employer assigns them.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Marie Nubia-feliciano on January 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It took me three days to read this book. I could not put it down...I took it with me everywhere and have told everyone I know about it. The level of insight into the motivations of professional training schools is right on the mark. I am currently a graduate student as well as an employee at a major university. I can see first hand the professionalization (read indoctrination) of the graduate student. I can also see with more insight the dynamics that go on in an academic office. I now understand why those in charge of forwarding the ideology of the office are not micromanaged, and those not trusted to forward the accurate ideology are micromanaged. Dr. Schmidt also does an excellent job in describing the role industry and the military has in professional training programs. A professional schools is seen as an extention of the profession, not an extention of the educational institution in which it is housed. There are tremendous forces pushing and pulling on professional training programs to produce the "right" kind of student. Unfortunately the force that wins out is the one with the money...private industry and the military. Students have to be aware that their very futures can be determined by what kind of funding a department receives.
He is right to say that if one does not remain connected to one's values and convictions, one can succumb to the whims of those in power. After depressing you with his accurate interpretation of the role professional schools play in society, he gives instructions on how to fight the indoctrination process.
I'm buying extra copies and giving them away as graduation gifts. A MUST READ for anyone who wants to survive professional school with their conscience intact.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "jjpill" on January 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The myth among most professional classes, especially the science types, is that their work is interest driven and creative. Every year brings a new crop of students who had bought this dream peddled by many a vocal enthusiast.. famous scientist, popularizer, media figure etc.
It is in Grad school that things unravel and you see that most professions are run by your rank and file professional in the field. The priorities here are set not by the ideals you were recruited on but a new crop of them which you assimilate through your professional training. What these new standards are and what role do they play in shaping the lives, attitudes and goals of the professional classes and thereby today's technologically driven society is the theme of Jeff Schmidt's excellent book.
The book chronicles superbly the travails of professionals in training or at work, who stop to consider what they are doing, rather than aiming to just keep afloat for the day and accept the goals set by their professional organizations. This book is definitely an individualist's perspective and in parts reads like an expose. An expose of the power structure of today's corporate society and the impotence of the professional classes who are blind to it. It is a critique on today's mores of the professional classes and the society they help run.
I liked this book as it gave a fairly accurate picture of experiences in grad school (especially in the sciences) and provided a peep in to the mental landscape of a working professional who has a different agenda than riding the coat tails of power and is looking for some consistency in his daily life and work.
The book is ambitious and passionate in the presentation of the author's view point, but it is not a very balanced critique.
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