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Archive for February, 2009

Anomie has posted some links to resources with advice for academic job interviews.  Included in her post is a link to another list of questions to ask.  I would add two caveats to this list:

  1. Know your audience.  A number of the questions are geared toward research universities, so you should obviously refrain from asking about graduate courses if there are none.
  2. Be sure you aren’t asking questions should be obvious to anybody who has looked at the department web site or read the job ad.  At some schools the teaching load can be a mystery, while others state it in their posting.  As I’ve said before, ask questions that show you know these obvious things instead (I see you have a 4-4 teaching load.  Does that affect the publication expectations?)
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In determining somebody’s intentions, context is important.  Rupert Murdoch belatedly recognizes this on behalf of the New York Post:

As the Chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. The buck stops with me.

Last week, we made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted.

Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to a number of people and I now better understand the hurt this cartoon has caused. At the same time, I have had conversations with Post editors about the situation and I can assure you – without a doubt – that the only intent of that cartoon was to mock a badly written piece of legislation. It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such.

We all hold the readers of the New York Post in high regard and I promise you that we will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community.

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A nice video examining the credit crisis: The Crisis of Credit. See also Frontline: Inside the Meltdown.

Both go a long way toward demystifying a complicated problem (which is not helping the fact that the job market sucks).

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Last week Shamus posted the above NY Post cartoon on scatterplot, which the editor of the Post claimed “is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy” but I argued was “a clear parody of two unrelated things, which we tie together with racial subtext.”  This has been discussed everywhere, but for another sociological take you can check out the racism review.  The same day, Penny Arcade posted the following comic:

The above comic is referring to the depiction of African villagers in the upcoming Resident Evil 5 video game, which is also discussed here.  Connecting these topics is the notion that one’s interpretation of each is affected by the history of racism in the United States and, likely, one’s racial experience.  It seems that a broader portrayal of African Americans in the popular culture would be a good way to begin weakening these associations.

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A recent post on Crooked Timber examines school improvement and the achievement gap.  While the post includes a number of good points, I have to disagree with the following statement:

For a lot of schools this is very likely indeed right now, because the economic crisis will result in more kids being more disadvantaged, and more at (sic) who are quite disadvantaged becoming very disadvantaged. Make sure that you and your staff understand something about the limits of the effects of schooling on achievement, even as you try to improve those effects.

The author seems to argue that if a middle class family falls into poverty, the children of that family will stop reaping the rewards of their parents’ education.  While social class has an effect on student achievement, that affect is likely mediated by cultural factors such as education and parental class background.  Despite changing economic conditions these cultural factors are likely to remain stable for a particular student.  On the other hand, achievement likely will be affected for those at the very bottom for whom the change is more likely to be from being able to afford meals to not being able to afford meals.

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office-space-poster-small

Just like the job market, work sucks.  Celebrate both of these facts by watching Office Space today on the tenth anniversary of its release.  Afterward, check out Mike Judge’s cinematic follow-up Idiocracy, which has a brilliant concept but is lacking in its execution.

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Since Voltaire clearly wrote Candide as an allegory for the academic job market, I thought that it would be fitting to share a few more of his insights into academia:

On leaving graduate school for a tenure-track job:

“We are going to another world,” said Candide; “it is there, without doubt, that every thing is for the best.  For it must be confessed that one has reason to be a little uneasy at what passes in this world, with respect to both physics and morals.”  (pg. 30)

On modern life:

I find that all goes contrary with us, that no one knows what is his rank, or what is his employment, or what he does, or what he ought to do; and except entertainments which are very gay, and over which their appears to be considerable union, all the rest of the time passes in impertinent quarrels, Jansenists against Molinists, members of parliament against dignitaries of the church, men of letters against men of letters, courtesans against courtesans, financiers against the people, wives against husbands, relations against relations; it is a continual warfare.  (pg. 68)

On graduate training:

“Some fools admire everything in an author of reputation; for my part, I read only for myself; I approve nothing but what suits my own taste.”  Candide, having been taught to judge of nothing for himself, was very much surprised at what he heard…”  (pg. 79)

On academic pride:

“Well, my dear Pangloss,” said Candide, “when you were hanged, dissected, severely beaten, and tugging at the oar in the galley, did you always think that things in this world were all for the best?” “I am still as I always have been, of my first opinion,” answered Pangloss; “for as I am a philosopher, it would be inconsistent with my character to contradict myself.”  (pg. 89)

Pangloss confessed, that he had always suffered dreadfully; but having once maintained that all things went wonderfully well, he still kept firm to his hypothesis, though it was quite opposed to his real feelings.  (pg. 91)

From:  Voltaire.  1966.  Candide and Zadig.  New York: Airmont.

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