About ARMs for the Rest of Us

Unless you’ve had an exceptional teacher at some point, research typically means looking something up on Wikipedia; if you’re highly motivated, clicking on a link or two. A tiny percentage might buy or borrow a book; the odd egghead might even read it. But even at its best, “research” as such leaves you vulnerable to the biases of institutions shaping the media and misrepresentations of experts with something to sell.

Doctoral level research is actually the opposite of placing one’s faith – and fate! – in such sources. Rather, it entails investigation to determine independently whether what purported experts and authoritative sources claim is true: i.e., to observe directly and think for yourself.

Applied science is the turbine powering today’s unprecedented scale, scope and rate of change. The modern world depends on it; change begets change with such tenacity that without the ability to adapt and act opportunistically provided by research applications, the entire edifice would collapse within weeks. But the process is poorly understood and narrowly focused, accessible strictly to a technocratic elite, their student supplicants and institutional overlords. This mass ignorance impedes opportunity, torpefies public debate, and cripples decision-making at every level.

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For decades I’ve been affiliated with Ivy and Ivyish institutions at the center of this turbine. These institutions have earned their reputation of excellence with rigorous research, thinking and analysis that cuts to the core. But they’ve also earned their reputation of elitism, largely oblivious to the needs of average people and average organizations, even their own staff and students; in short to all but their own projects, internal chess games and the few mega-institutions that fuel the turbine and can make or break tenured careers.

In 2016, two colleagues and I left the University of Pennsylvania aiming towards a broader brand of research and education than proved possible at Penn. ARMs for the Rest of Us is the public projection of Applied Research Method courses (ARMs) I’ve developed for a new Jefferson University program designed to:

  • Provide doctoral education to a diverse group of working professionals
  • Address the most important problems they, their organizations and communities face
  • Not only “cut to the core” analytically but see subjects live and whole (a systems approach)

We can of course only matriculate a small number of such doctoral students. These posts and discussions are my attempt to reach out to communicate as much as I can reasonably can from these courses and our program to you — the rest of “the rest of us.”

Please write to let me know how it works out for you.

Comments on the individual articles are also most appreciated.

Steve Freeeman (email)
Philadelphia
July 31, 2018

See also: Style Notes (how to read ARMs for the Rest of Us)