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Posts Tagged ‘Orgtheory’

Over at Orgtheory, Fabio ruminates about the disruptive effects that driverless cars will have for police, stating:

Another way that driverless cars will disrupt police departments is that they will massively reduce police stops. If a driverless car has insurance and registration (which can be transmitted electronically) and drives according to the rules of the road, then police, literally, have no warrant to pull over a car that has not been previously identified as related to a specific crime. Hopefully, this means that police will no longer use moving violations as an excuse to pull over racial minorities.

This might bring the “massive improvement for humanity” that Fabio foresees at some point in the future, but in the meantime I would argue that it will make things worse for those without the financial means to afford a self-driving car because police will pay disproportionate attention to them. This will, unfortunately, include a disproportionate number of racial minorities. As a result, I suspect that things will get worse before they get better.


“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed (what else are you going to do, watch baseball?).

 

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In discussing what it means for sociology to be a social science with students, I frequently compare it to the physical sciences and the increased difficulty of predicting human behavior compared with, say, the molecules that make up water. I also like to remind them, though, that the supposedly more “objective” physical sciences are not outside of social influence. The other day, two posts that appeared next to each other in Feedly, my RSS reader, demonstrated this.

The first was a Sociological Images post discussing the social construction of fruits and vegetables. In short, though things ranging from tomatoes to bell peppers are scientifically classified as fruits, we socially categorize them as vegetables. Furthermore, in 1893 the Supreme Court sided with public perception over scientific classification in determining that imported tomatoes should be taxed as vegetables.

The second post was from Small Pond Science about paradigm shifts and the need to overcome some accepted scientific assumptions in order to make new discoveries. As Terry McGlynn notes, “Doubt correct dogma, you’re an ignoramus. Doubt incorrect dogma and show that you’re right, you’re a visionary.”

As a bonus, the post next to the Small Pond Science post was about another group of people questioning their assumptions. This time it was ethnographers in sociology. Social scientists and physical scientists aren’t that different after all.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links that will make you question your assumptions via your news feed.

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It is common for posters on various academic forums to note how they wish they had been on the job market in the 1990s or 1980s or 1970s or, basically, any time that is not now. These people long for the days of yore when one publication would get you a job and two would get you tenure (though a penis and white skin were probably required for both). (Actually, somebody should make a time travel movie where a graduate student from the present goes back to the 1970s to get a job at an R1 and then grows old and becomes the “dead wood” that graduate students in the present wish would retire so that they could get jobs.)

Anyhow, Elizabeth Popp Berman’s travels into the LBJ archives reveal that not everything was different back in the olden days. In the papers of Donald Turner she finds that he complained about grading, publications, and alcohol. Combined with Tolkien’s complaints about teaching, we have evidence that professors have been whining for over 70 years!

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Rachel at Rogue Cheerios, like others before her, responds with a qualified “no.” She also asks some important questions that prospective graduate students should answer and argues that soul searching should occur before grad school, not during or after it. In my experience it is easy to let academia supersede our other interests and much harder to try to figure out if there is a place in our lives for academia alongside our other goals.

For the last 12 years I have lived in places because they housed the academic institutions that would have me, but this is not the way that life has to be. In fact, I recently congratulated one graduate school colleague for deciding to live in a particular geographic area (job market be damned!) and another for quitting a tenure-track job in order to be nearer to those he cared about. These are hard choices and there is no wrong time to make them, but knowing that you are not, in fact, willing to move across the country once for graduate school and again for a job that may or may not materialize is a good way to determine that grad school may not be for you.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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Following up on the idea of publicly-accessible Federally funded research, Fabio at Orgtheory has posted a poll. Go take it.

As a bonus, you can use the poll as an example of how not to write survey questions in your Research Methods courses this semester.

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Over the past few days a new study of Northwestern University by David N. Figlio, Morton O. Shapiro, and Kevin B. Soter and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research has been making the rounds. The study, discussed at The Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, Orgtheory, and Tenured Radical, among others, finds that students learn more in classes taught by adjuncts than in those taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty. A lot of the people reporting on this study talk about the fact that adjuncts are being paid solely to teach so it may not be surprising that they do a better job of it than those who are also supposed to publish, serve on committees, publish, and publish.

What I have not seen anybody address for certain (and what I have not been willing to pay $5 to access the article to find out myself) is whether the “adjuncts” in the study included graduate students. Beyond the other potential problems with the study (such as using student grades to indicate greater learning), the answer to this question is crucial to interpreting the findings, since graduate students, like tenured and tenure-track faculty (and, as some point out, many adjuncts), also have many other competing expectations and are not just “paid to teach.”

If anybody has access to the full version of the paper I would love to know the answer to this.

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Fabio’s post at Orgtheory today about academic phase transition, in which academics go from being in low demand to being in high demand very quickly, made me think about the experiences of one of my acquaintances from grad school in the publication gauntlet and, to a lesser extent, my own recent experiences.

Quite a few years ago at ASA I was talking to an acquaintance who had graduated and started working at a liberal arts school where he was about to go up for tenure. He was somewhat concerned because the school did not clearly define what the publication expectation was for junior faculty. At the time, he had published one peer reviewed article since starting his job and the official word of the administration was that junior faculty did not need at least two publications but that they did need more than one.

A few years later I was wondering if he had been able to get the necessary (but not required) second publication and checked his profile on the school’s web page. He had published two papers in the year he went up for tenure and two more in the year after receiving tenure. Checking his profile today he has published at least one paper in every year since.

As much as we like to think that we come out of graduate school as fully-formed academics, I suspect that for most people this process is not complete when they receive their Ph.D.s. Personally, it took years before I was able to settle into my current position where I am able to balance teaching and service with getting a bit of research done.  Although my publication productivity has been relatively low up to this point, I hope that I am on the cusp of an academic phase transition of my own.

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