Let's Talk About Reproductive Norm Enforcement, Baby. An anonymous philoso-blogger recounts, in an honest, intelligent, compelling, and occasionally poignant way, the process of undergoing medically necessary surgery that would cause infertility. If you care about the reproductive expectations with which women are saddled by contemporary society, you should read this. You should also read this if you care about bioethics, medical decorum, feminism, women in academia, the ethical behavior of philosophers, or, you know, justice. If you care about those last four things, you should have been reading Feminist Philosophers already.
Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein (previously) argues that the majority of research by literary academics has no meaningful value. [more inside]
For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.
Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the Western world? Whose monopolistic practices makes WalMart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.
Is There a Shortage of Skilled Foreign Workers? What is never mentioned is that “the best and the brightest” are already here. This argument is an old one. [more inside]
An anonymous, tenured, mid-career faculty member at a Tier One law school shares his/her observations on the state of contemporary American legal education.
What we have in academia, in other words, is a microcosm of the American economy as a whole: a self-enriching aristocracy, a swelling and increasingly immiserated proletariat, and a shrinking middle class. The same devil’s bargain stabilizes the system: the middle, or at least the upper middle, the tenured professoriate, is allowed to retain its prerogatives—its comfortable compensation packages, its workplace autonomy and its job security—in return for acquiescing to the exploitation of the bottom by the top, and indirectly, the betrayal of the future of the entire enterprise. Graduate school as suicide mission, in the Nation.
Should Colleges Ban Fraternities? A New York Times roundtable that takes the Yale Title IX complaint and related cases as its starting point. Via Historiann, whose anti-frat attitudes are much more pointed than any of the New York Times commenters.
How can you have a university without a philosophy department? In response to a 17% budget cut to higher education by Governor Sandoval, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas is proposing the complete elimination of its Philosophy Department. The Mayor of Las Vegas has called it a sin. Others have said it seems like something out of an episode of The Simpsons. Todd Edwin Jones, chair of the UNLV Philosophy Department, makes his case.
A Call to Shun. Women share sexual harassment stories on "Being a Woman in Philosophy." Several philosophers suggest the idea of not inviting known repeat offenders to conferences. Professor Mark Lance of Georgetown: It's time for philosophers to take a stand against "the many people in the profession believed by wide numbers of people to have engaged in horrible behavior on repeated occasions."
In over 35 years of friendship and conversation, Walter Michaels and I have disagreed on only two things, and one of them was faculty and graduate student unionization. He has always been for and I had always been against. I say “had” because I recently flipped and what flipped me, pure and simple, was Wisconsin. When I think about the reasons (too honorific a word) for my previous posture I become embarrassed. ... The big reason was the feeling — hardly thought through sufficiently to be called a conviction — that someone with an advanced degree and scholarly publications should not be in the same category as factory workers with lunch boxes and hard hats. Wisconsin has taught Stanley Fish that academics are workers too. Marc Bousquet (author of How the University Works) responds at the Chronicle of Higher Education with five lessons for academics from Wisconsin.
Professor Sheila Addison was fired from John F. Kennedy University for performing in a burlesque revue. Steven Stargardter, president of the university, said that her actions brought “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university”, although she never publicized the show on campus, discussed it with students or identified her affiliation with JFK when she performed. Meanwhile, a male colleague in another department was performing at the same time in a one-man show in which he was partially nude, and he publicized his show on campus and invited students and colleagues. He was not disciplined.
In February, a political and academic scandal broke in Germany when it turned out that the defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation, defended in 2006 and published as a book in 2009. Guttenberg, who had initially denied the allegations and maintained his popularity despite the scandal, resigned on 1 March. [more inside]
Some Social Scientists Claim Pervasive Bias in the Academe Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”
American academic Frances Fox Piven has been heavily criticised by Glenn Beck as a threat to the American way of life. She is not for turning.
Real Men Find Real Utopias Historian reviews new book by bigshot sociologist Erik Olin Wright and gives it a thorough drubbing. Wishes sociology could be like it used to be, with more history and better English. Via ALDaily.
PhDChallenge.org proposed a challenge: To have the phrase "I smoke crack rocks" included in a peer reviewed academic paper. The winner is Gabriel Parent from Carnegie Mellon, who included it in his paper [PDF].
"The purposes of the Association shall be to advanceAt this year's meeting of the American Anthropological Association, the organization's board adopted a new mission statement whose description of its goals omitted all mention of anthropology as a science. An online debate ensued. Some researchers in the anthropological sciences are upset about the changes, while right-wing culture warriors see it as another salvo in the "science wars" or the takeover of the discipline by "fluff-head cultural anthropological types who think science is just another way of knowing." Other anthropologists think this is an opportunity to broaden the discipline and embrace non-scientific forms of knowledge. [more inside]
anthropology as the science that studiespublic understanding of humankind in all its aspects."
"We realized we'd never seen a Coming Out Day feature dedicated to the experiences of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the sciences and engineering." Science journalist Steve Silberman interviews Neena Schwartz, and gathers personal stories from Eric Patridge (President of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Tomlinson Holman (inventor of the THX Sound System), and others. [more inside]
Sabotage in the lab. "As the problems mounted, Ames was getting agitated. She was certain that someone was monkeying with her experiments, but she had no proof and no suspect. Her close friends suggested that she was being paranoid." Scientific research collides with human nature.
After five years of number-crunching and methodological controversy, the NRC's rankings of US graduate programs were released today, three years after the target date and fifteen since the previous ranking. Peruse the results at phds.org. Instead of numerical ratings, the NRC released two rankings, the "R-ranking" and the "S-ranking", each one with a wide error bar around it. Confused yet? Brian Leiter thinks the philosophy rankings "qualify as somewhere between "odd" and "inexplicable."" The University of Washington's CS department says their ranking of 15-32 is "clearly erroneous." Obviously, the only appropriate response is to compute asymptotic formulae for the number of possible fuzzy rankings.
One psychology professor, looking at the oversupply of PhDs for a very limited number of academic jobs, thinks that programs should simply stop admitting PhD students, and has decided not to add any others to her own lab.
Who comes up with that annual list of generational markers that aims to help college faculty better understand their incoming freshmen? These guys do. [more inside]
Using its College Results Online database, The Education Trust has released two reports examining the black-white and Hispanic-white college graduation gap. The worst offenders? Wayne State University in Detroit, where fewer than one in ten African-American students graduate in six years, and CUNY Brooklyn College, where 19% less Hispanic students graduate on-time than whites. [more inside]
As translation contretemps go, the one surrounding French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and her foundational work of modern feminism, Le Deuxième Sexe, first published in two volumes in French in 1949, remains one of the most tempestuous and fascinating. For decades, Beauvoir scholars in the English-speaking world bemoaned, attacked, and sought to replace the widely used 1953 translation by H.M. Parshley (1884-1953), a zoologist at Smith College who knew little philosophy or existentialism, had never translated a book from French, and relied mainly on his undergraduate grasp of the language. A few years back, they succeeded in getting the rights holders [...] to commission a new translation. [... But] Norwegian Beauvoir scholar Toril Moi, a professor at Duke and one of the foremost critics of Parshley's translation, savaged the new version in the London Review of Books. [...] How everyone involved got from vituperative discontent to hopeful triumph and back to discontent makes an instructive tale in itself and offers some lessons for what matters and doesn't in the evolution of a classic.
The Real Science Gap:
“There is no scientist shortage,” declares Harvard economics professor Richard Freeman, a pre-eminent authority on the scientific work force. Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leading demographer who is also a national authority on science training, cites the “profound irony” of crying shortage — as have many business leaders, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates — while scores of thousands of young Ph.D.s labor in the nation’s university labs as low-paid, temporary workers, ostensibly training for permanent faculty positions that will never exist.
Mendeley is a cross-platform research management tool which features article databasing, PDF annotation, online backup, private, shared and public collections, metadata lookup on Google Scholar, direct exporting of multiple citation styles to Word, OpenOffice and BibTex, the ability to add documents directly from a web browser, and social networking with other members in your field of study. Like Zotero (previously), but out of the browser and with note-taking abilities. For Windows, Mac and Linux.
arXiv vs snarXiv. "A random high-energy theory paper generator incorporating all the latest trends, entropic reasoning, and exciting moduli spaces". [more inside]
"It would take a lot to get me back to a conventional form of grading ever again." Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke, teaches a seminar in which final grades are determined by fellow students. She writes about the experience in Inside Higher Ed. (Thoughts by Duke faculty about the philosophy of grading previously on MetaFilter.)
The professor, his wife, and the secret, savage book reviews on Amazon 'An extraordinary literary "whodunnit" over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain's leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife.'
Dissertations on His Dudeness. (SLNYT) Descriptions of a new book of academic essays on The Big Lebowski such as: "“ ‘The Big Lebowski’ and Paul de Man: Historicizing Irony and Ironizing Historicism”
Pootwattle the Virtual Academic(TM) says: The conceptual logic of millennial hedonism is often found in juxtaposition with, if not in direct opposition to, the sublimation of difference. [more inside]
Zaytuna College in Berkeley, CA will accept its first students in the fall of 2010 or 2011. Founded by Sheik Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, it will be the first accredited Islamic college in the United States, open to men and women of all religions.
Louis Crompton, the author of Homosexuality and Civilization and Byron and Greek Love, has died. [more inside]
The 2004 Intelligence Authorization Act included funding for a pilot program that provided scholarships in exchange for recipients completing at least one summer internship in the intelligence agencies. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) was praised in National Review but criticized by humanities organizations as a threat to academic integrity. The 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act [400kb pdf] submitted to Congress by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair makes the program a permanent budget item. [more inside]
Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a wiki created by Lisa Spiro, director of Rice University's Digital Media Center. Tons of "snapshot reviews of software that can help researchers" are categorized by what you're trying to accomplish ("Analyze Statistics," "Network With Other Researchers," "Search Visually"), as well as by general topic ("Authoring," "Linguistic Tools," "Text Analysis"). Via
"What are the new liberal arts?", asks SnarkMarket, inspired by Jason Kottke's tagline and Edge. The blog post has turned into a pitch for a new collaborative book, with spirited discussions and over 100 suggestions including photography, design, relationships, mythology, intuitive thinking, synthesis, knowledge mastery, search, archiving, play, and home economics.
Dave Chalmers has just launched PhilPapers, a directory of nearly 200,000 online papers in philosophy. This is a jawdropping and amazing resource for philosophical research. For evidence of the scope of this project and the care that has been given to it, see the taxonomy of philosophy that was developed for the site.
"...the best place to hide bulls**t is in a refereed journal that’s not open-access!" The math-physics blog n-category cafe digs into the curious case of M.S. El Naschie. El Naschie is editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, published by the well-respected scientific publisher Elsevier and sold to academic libraries for US$4,520 a year. The problem? El Naschie has published 322 of his own papers in the journal -- papers that John Baez (of "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics" and "The Crackpot Index") describes as "vague, dreamlike imagery," "undisciplined numerology larded with impressive buzzwords," and "total baloney." Is El Naschie a reverse Sokal? Or a Markov process for producing random publishable papers? One thing's for sure -- he knows how to cure cancer.
A math professor was explaining a particularly complicated calculus concept to his class when a frustrated pre-med student interrupts him. "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" the pre-med blurts out. The professor pauses, and answers matter-of-factly: "Because math saves lives." "How?" demanded the student. "How on Earth does calculus save lives?" "Because," replied the professor, "it keeps certain people out of medical school."
Randy Pausch, who became famous for his "last lecture" after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, has died at 47. (previously) The last lecture video went viral in late 2007. Pausch became a minor celebrity and made a commencement address at Carnegie Mellon which also gained media attention. Homepage (currently being overwhelmed) and Wikipedia.
Historian Robert Irwin reviews two books critical of Edward Said's Orientalism. Irwin's own critique received positive and mixed reviews. In this brief interview, Said explains what he was trying to do in Orientalism.
When your research subjects notice you watching.... The fine folks over at Little Green Footballs discovered "a pile of results and code" from an observation of their on-line discourse on a server at Carnegie Mellon. That led to a heated thread of sometimes paranoid speculation that eventually calmed down (somewhat) when the researcher's academic advisors posted a good-natured mea-culpa (wea-culpa?) and explanation.
Bioculture critiques Cultural Critique Until literature departments take into account that humans are not just cultural or textual phenomena but something more complex, English and related disciplines will continue to be the laughingstock of the academic world that they have been for years because of their obscurantist dogmatism and their coddled and preening pseudo-radicalism. Until they listen to searching criticism of their doctrine, rather than dismissing it as the language of the devil, literature will continue to be betrayed in academe, and academic literary departments will continue to lose students and to isolate themselves from the intellectual advances of our time.
Ancient manuscripts lost and found, Nazis, academic backstabbing, religious fundamentalism - something for everyone in this story. (And count on Spengler for some controversial thoughts on what it all means)
Advice on Academic Job Talk Visits by Siva Vaidhyanathan.