Archive for November, 2010

November 20th 2010
Hello, I’m Johnny Trash

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff & happy endings

More Sesame Street nostaligia from the 1970s:

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!


November 19th 2010
The origins of the casualization of academic labor

Posted under American history & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers

Jonathan Rees draws our attention to comments by Thomas Frank in a recent issue of Harper’s (sorry–no link) about why he left academia to pursue a career as an independent writer and journalist:

“Although it scarcely seems believable today, I originally came to journalism as a practical, responsible career move. It was the mid-1990s, I had just finished a Ph.D. in history, and I was toiling away as a lecturer at a college in Chicago. Thanks to an overproduction of historians and the increasing use of adjunct labor by universities, the market had become hopelessly glutted. Friends of mine all told the same stories of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A’s while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities. Our tenured elders, meanwhile, could only rarely be moved to care. What was a predicament to us was a liberation to them-a glorious lifting of their burden to teach. For the university, which was then just then discovering the wonders of profit-making, it was something even more fabulous: a way to keep labor costs down.”

I argued over there that his “tenured elders” weren’t the authors of this system–at least, not unless they were the Deans and Provosts who decided to use adjuncts instead of permitting departments to run tenure-track searches.  No tenured faculty in any department I’ve ever been a member of has cackled with glee at the prospect of seeing our ranks depleted and populated instead with adjuncts.  In fact, the faculty I’m on is always up in arms about the erosion in our ranks.  The chairs of my department, and the chairs of all other departments I know of in my college, have made the hiring of tenure-track colleagues their number-one request for the last several years. Continue Reading »


November 18th 2010
Thursday round-up: beating dead horses edition

Posted under fluff & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Let's give it a whirl!

Some random thoughts inspired by yesterday’s conversation about Cheatergate at UCF yesterday and other trivial events:

  • Liberal Arts majors are frequently subjected to the “but what will you DO with THAT degree?” question from parents, friends, and random busybodies.  (History majors often get the derisive punchline of “Teach??from the parents and busybodies, as though teaching were an undignified and completely unthinkable career.)  But do parents and the general public understand that business majors at some universities are offered “senior-level” classes with 600 students in them?  Speaking for my department only, our 100-level classes (still far too large IMHO) are capped at 123.  We have no 200-level classes, nearly all of our upper-division (300-400 level) courses are capped at 44, and usually end up with fewer than 35 students if they require even a modest level of work on the students’ part.  Our senior seminars are built around writing research papers and are capped 15.  I’m not saying that any of these numbers is optimal–but my bet is that my department’s classes are classes in which faculty know students’ names and have time to talk to them (in class discussions and outside of class), design creative syllabi not focused around a damn textbook, give them constructive advice on their reading and writing, and focus on their development as students.  In the end, which do you think offers the better education? 
  • I did a little research on the internets:  my uni offers eight sections of “Strategic Management” (BUS 479) next semester that are capped at 50.  However, there appear to be some senior-level topics courses (BUS 405A and 405B) that are capped at 90 and 100.  And “Legal and Ethical Issues in Business” (BUS 205) is capped at 130! Continue Reading »


November 17th 2010
A wicked cheat

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings

Is there something I’m missing here in this outrage over widespread cheating in a business class at the University of Central Florida?  Here’s the issue, according to a story at Inside Higher Ed: 

The revelation that hundreds of University of Central Florida students in a senior-level business class received an advance version of a mid-term exam has exposed the widening chasm in what different generations expect of each other — and what they perceive cheating to be.

“To say I’m disappointed is beyond comprehension,” Richard Quinn, instructor in the management department at UCF, told his students last week as he announced that all 600 of them would have to retake their midterm exam in his strategic management course. The discovery that at least 200 of his students received a version of the test prior to the exam shook Quinn deeply, leaving him “physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, trying to figure out what was the last 20 years for,” he said in a widely distributed Web broadcast of his lecture, which a student posted on YouTube, after appending his or her own captioned commentary (a more complete version of Quinn’s remarks is here).

The “perception” problem alluded to in the intro graph above is this:

What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test. Continue Reading »


November 16th 2010
Tuesday morning fairy tales: Mr. Tod’s Big Scheme for the Non-Profit Forest

Posted under art & fluff & unhappy endings & weirdness

Once upon a time, there was a non-profit forest of happy animals.  The deer ran the Deer Department, the squirrels, mice, and chipmunks cooperated in the Rodent Department, and the bunnies administered the Department of Lapinography.  Each department was sovereign, but they cooperated in self-governance to ensure that the forest remained a safe and productive forest for them all.

Unfortunately, drought struck the forest, and a great famine ensued.  The famine went on for a few years, and the head of the forest animals, one Mr. Tod, a Vulpinologist, told all of the animals they needed to sacrifice for the good of the forest.  The animals were alarmed, but they made their reduced rations go around for a few years while they tried to wait out the drought and famine.  Although the numbers of their young continued to grow, they were given no more food.

One day, Mr. Tod told the animals that they could have some extra food from him, on one condition:  they needed to demonstrate that by taking the extra food, they’d be able to generate a profitContinue Reading »


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