My apartment is now feeling decidedly empty, except for the stacks of boxes in the living room and study that make it feel like a warehouse. Really we’re getting down to the last stuff to pack: the last few pictures from the walls, the computer, TV stuff, and my clothes.
I suppose that beats running around in a blind panic until the last minute, which is how the last two moves seemed to feel.
In part 3 of her ongoing series, Michelle Dion tackles the question of choosing a PhD program to attend. All excellent points I wish I’d been aware of when thinking of grad school 8–9 years ago.
There’s only one response to this news: cool! (þ: Ars Technica)
Jason Kuznicki has what might be fairly pitched as the counterpoint to Michelle Dion’s posts with advice to prospective graduate students—that is, if somehow you came away with the impression that Michelle’s advice was rosy (which, um, it wasn’t):
Should I go to graduate school for history?
My short answer: No.
My long answer: No, and here’s why…
While things are not quite as bleak as Jason describes in political science land (for starters, I have—at least, as of August 15—a full-time job in academia that pays a living wage, with a non-negligible chance of continued employment beyond the coming academic year, which decidedly would not be the case had I gotten a PhD in history from Ole Miss), this paragraph is not far off the mark regardless:
This is the real reason why you should not go to graduate school in history: Your twenties are the most important decade of your life when it comes to defining your career. No matter how long you live, people will always ask about these formative years. Replying that you spent them getting a PhD in history marks you as uniquely unqualified for anything in particular. You will forever be more “interesting” than you are “employable.”
Glenn Reynolds, in responding to the Kevin Barrett kerfuffle, writes in part:
More importantly, they need to realize that people pay good money to send students to Wisconsin because it’s “branded” as a place that provides quality education from quality professors. When you respond to criticism by basically disclaiming any responsibility for what’s taught in classrooms, you also destroy the brand. Why send students to Wisconsin if that’s the case? Where’s the quality control? What does it mean to be an elite institution if you let any bozo teach whatever he/she wants in any course?
Without some reason to think that Wisconsin is better than other schools why go there?
The broader question left unasked is why any student paying to attend an “elite” institution should be taught by an adjunct in the first place. It’s not that big a leap, after all, from “why is this course being taught by a kook?” to “why is this course being taught by someone whose pay is less than my tuition bill?”
Quality control is always an issue (particularly in the academy, which is generally much more risk-averse in both hiring and firing than private industry), but at adjunct salaries the mentally stable underemployed PhD may be more likely to take the alternative job at the drive-through at Mickey D’s than the slightly-kooky adherent to nutbar conspiracy theories who needs an audience for his sermons.
Greg Weeks considers the problem of matching your research up with a journal for publication. Alas, the lawprof approach of shotgunning the paper to 17 journals and taking the best acceptance (if any) is precluded by journal submission rules in most other fields—not that there aren’t a few people who try (and usually fail) to get away with sending stuff to more than one journal at the same time.
The Mississippi state college board put 37 degree programs at state universities on probation last Wednesday, including all three master’s programs in political science in the state and the sole PhD program:
“We’re giving them three years to get back on track,” said Bill Smith, the state’s acting commissioner of academic and student affairs. “We’re not out to just shut them down.”
The state College Board on Wednesday placed 37 programs on probation, and eliminated two, that were not graduating enough students.
Every university in the state except Mississippi University for Women had programs on the list.
Smith said the board adopted standards several years ago mandating a certain number of graduates over six years: 30 for bachelor’s, 18 for master’s and nine for doctoral programs. ...
Smith said elimination is not automatic for programs that do not up their number of graduates.
Some, he said, such as Delta State’s political science program, are key to undergraduate programs and cannot be eliminated.
Others, he said, are vital to Mississippi, no matter how few graduates they produce.
The graduate counts they present might even be a little on the generous side (my count is 5 or 6 PhDs, although I may be missing an IR person or two), but I’ll trust IHL‘s accounting over my vague recollections in this instance.
There’s something vaguely cool (in a dorky way) about the decision by the cities of Clayton and Richmond Heights to use a blog as the public face of their study exploring a possible merger between the two municipalities, even if my mostly-regressive civics teacher gene would like to see more comments by residents.
If nothing else, I learned from the maps that most (but not all) of the Washington University campus is an unincorporated area of land in St. Louis County wedged between University City, Clayton, and the city of St. Louis. Not sure when knowing that might come in handy, but you never know…
Michelle Dion shares some of the advice she gives students who come into her office who want to go to grad school, advice I am generally concur with. Would that anyone gave me similar advice when I was in college—not that I asked many people for it, which may have been part of the problem…
Update: See also Part II of the same.
One more before I head to naptime: Steven Taylor links a post from his Troy colleague Scott Nokes on the Auburn athletics sham course scandal. I found this passage amusing:
The reason the practical limit (on the number of directed readings) is low is that professors generally do not like doing directed readings, since it requires a high commitment of time for no extra pay, and for a single student. It also can mess up a department’s curriculum, but how that works is a little complex, and unimportant for understanding this story. The main point here is that most professors will avoid doing any directed reading if they can.
Spoken like a man who’s never taught in at a college where such extra work was a completely unadvertised expectation of the position. Every semester.
Mind you, I didn’t mind teaching directed readings courses, but I certainly would have preferred doing so under at least the pretense that it was voluntary on my part. To paraphrase a famous phrase, “being an internal candidate means never having to say ‘no’.”
In completely unrelated news, I have received two emails in the last 24 hours containing the phrase “I received an email saying that you are now my advisor.” It would have been nice to get an email saying that I had advisees. It would have been even nicer for my paycheck to start before I started having to do work for my new job.
I can’t believe I picked up a copy of NCAA Football 07 at Circuit City ($39.99, with the strategy guide gratis) and am simply too tired to play it.
I blame the heat. Or the hour I spent in Costco waiting for my car tires to be rotated and balanced. Or exhaustion from just watching people climb Alpe d’Huez on bikes.
In this post, I think I hit on the major theme of my dissertation and distill the last 50 years of research on political expertise into a nice little soundbite, even though the post is obstensibly about the Arizona voter lottery ballot proposition. (I, as always, have no problem with parties and candidates outright bribing people to vote, so a government-run voter lottery is hardly objectionable to me—indeed, it’s less objectionable than the government-run lottery that you have to pay to enter, aka the Tax on Stupid People.)
Granted, it’s still too academic and wordy, and it doesn’t cite sources—the highlights would be, in addition to Downs, The American Voter, a crapload of other Converse stuff, Zaller, Delli Carpini and Keeter, Lupia, Redlawsk and Lau, Bartels, Alvarez and Brehm, Ansolobehere, and my illustrious dissertation, in no particular order except placing myself dead last.
As promised, a photo:
And, just to emphasize that customer service ain’t what it used to be, the earliest anyone (and I called half-a-dozen places) could fix it is Monday.
EDSBS links a New York Times piece from yesterday detailing some rather creative use of independent study classes by a professor in the Auburn sociology department who was apparently in cahoots with an athletic tutor to give Tiger jocks cheap A’s. The money quote in my book:
[Carnell “Cadillac”] Williams said one of the two directed-reading courses he took with Professor [Thomas] Petee during the spring of 2005 was a statistics class.
Asked if that course, considered the most difficult in the sociology major, was available to regular students as a directed reading, Professor Petee said, “No, not usually.”
Mr. Williams described the class this way: “You’re just studying different kinds of math. It’s one of those things where you write a report about the different theories and things like that.”
The NCAA is, as they say, investigating, although I ultimately expect little more than a wrist-slap for Tommy Tuberville’s rogue program down on the Plains, in large part because this (and similar) petty corruption is widespread in college football. One example: I have it on good authority that at least one NFL star who was an Ole Miss criminal justice major was as dumb as a post yet somehow managed to maintain his eligibility through softball-lobbing instructors and professors, with generous assists from the athletic tutors. Most people who’ve spent any time around Division I schools can probably tell similar stories—particularly if they’ve been in or near what Prof. Karlson artfully refers to as the Division of Cooling Out the Mark.
That said, directed readings courses may be the soft underbelly of grade inflation more generally for athlete and non-athlete alike; certainly it’s hard to give out many C’s and D’s when you really have no other students to compare a directed readings student to, although in theory professors shouldn’t be letting bad students in independent study courses in the first place (so there may be a selection bias issue here).
As I move out of town, I suppose it is only fitting that more-or-less the same thing that happened when I moved into town would happen, although this time it was the larger rear window instead of the little one that some snot-nosed punk decided to smash out. Photos tomorrow, I promise…
I’ve decided to list my return address on job applications as “St. Louis” rather than “Clayton,” since the USPS says either is acceptable, and the six people who know the difference might think I was some sort of rich snob otherwise.
I freely admit to snobbery (I do put "Dr." on my frequent flyer accounts and hotel reservations, after all), but I’m afraid I’m not rich—else I’d be living in the Central West End or the Washington Avenue loft district.
I just found out that my good friend Kelly from Millsaps (who I haven’t seen in months; I think she’s hiding from me) has a cool website with pictures of her various and sundry artistic projects. And if you’re in the Chicago area, I’m told that she has a gallery show coming soon.
Just don’t let her paint your house… I think she’ll turn it orange.
Courtesy of another “let’s take shots at each other anonymously” blog is this gem:
People who can teach methods are all nearly unmoveable. If they were moveable they’d have been snatched in the seller’s market in the last few years.
I am truly speechless.
I sent out five job applications Monday, out of 13 listed in the current iteration of the Spreadsheet of Death™. All five to liberal arts colleges, many of which probably aren’t even competing for the “early offers” candidates on the market, the folks who really, really want a job at a PhD-granting institution but would “settle” for a 2–2 at a liberal arts college if the money and geography were right. Alas, the job with the description that fits me to a “T” (seeking an Americanist mass political behavior scholar with demonstrated successful experience teaching undergrad methods from a rigorously quantitative approach) is probably the one most disinclined to hire someone with a PhD from a state more associated in the popular (or at least liberal professoriate) imagination with cross-burning than ivy; such is life.
Mind you, I haven’t even started my next job yet. I don’t even have to do anything with my new job for six weeks—that is, except for some syllabus prep that I could have done in six weeks, but needed to do now so I could include my fall syllabi in my application packets.
In any event… back to letters, boxes, research, being on hold with Laclede Gas, and sleep.
As a partially-interested observer (and occasional commenter, both anonymous and named), I have to say the life-cycle of the American and Comparative Jobs blog has been of moderate interest; in the job season, it was a source of moderately helpful information, but the summer months have devolved into a rather nasty spree of backbiting and rather un-PC grievance-airing, leading the anonymous blogmistress to resort to comment moderation. We shall see if this is, as one commenter speculates, the “death” of the blog, or merely a speed bump. My sense is the latter, as the need for information (and strategic departmental leaks) will ultimately outweigh the loss of immediacy.
At the very least, now that I know (through a combination of the blog and disciplinary scuttlebutt) that one of the jobs I applied for last year had an invisible “white males need not apply” sign attached to it, I won’t be making the mistake of applying for any position ever advertised by that college again.
In terms of wider disciplinary conversations in the blogosphere, I think the truth of the matter is that there are some serious grievances about the discipline among political scientists that simply will not be aired in non-anonymous public fora. That inevitably means there is going to be some nastiness, as those with private agendas use anonymity to attack others. I am unsure what the proper balance is, but I do know that the same themes raised at the American/Comparative jobs blog are the subject of whispers in the hallways of conferences and other gatherings.
The bottom line, I think is that if we are going to have more “openness” and “reform” in political science, we are going to need some brutal honesty about issues beyond methodological pluralism in the APSR—things like overproduction of PhDs, hiring practices (including the fundamentally broken hiring process), the dominance of doctoral-granting departments on the boards of the APSA, journals, and regional associations, differing standards for what is considered “quality” scholarship among subfields, and more. And I think that brutal honesty is going to need people who are willing to speak up about these issues non-anonymously without the protection (not from outside interference as originally intended, but from our own colleagues) of tenure. Personally, I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I would love to see someone prove me wrong.
Perhaps those of my former colleagues at Millsaps who mocked the administration’s investment in our on-campus football field will think again; a growing trend, particularly at Division III schools, is to recruit male students by starting, reactivating, or reinvigorating varsity football teams.
While I am mildly sympathetic with the argument that there are times when scholar-athletes spend too much time emphasizing the latter half of the hyphenate, I have to say that I’ve never had a problem with the athletes in my classes either at Division I-A schools like Duke and Ole Miss or at D-3 Millsaps. That said, the merits of achieving a 50–50 gender balance on campus are debatable at best, even at places where the admissions game is a bit less zero-sum than at the elite colleges and universities.
Serrabee has a link to a pretty funny Craigslist post by the seller of a mini-fridge. And people wonder why I don’t sell stuff on Craigslist…
After spending way too much time on the road today (courtesy of the fine folks at the Georgia Department of Transportation), I am finally back in Durham from my second Mississippi Valley swing of the summer.
The good news is that I definitely have an apartment (the lease arrived while I was gone) and I’m just three short weeks from D-Day. The bad news is that I have to start packing and get on to hiring people to load and unload the truck.
Here’s one very handy command to know, particularly when you’re 700+ miles away from your OS X box:
sudo softwareupdate -i -a. It goes very nicely with
fink selfupdate && fink update-all.