Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘navel-gazing

Weekend Links (Now with More Twitter Nazel-Gazing!)

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* How to Survive a Graduate Career. Draws in part from Audrey Waters’s “The Real Reason I Dropped Out of a PhD Program.” I’ve just been talking a bit on Twitter this afternoon about my own experiences with a very particular kind of health scare near the end of graduate school (no symptoms, only the potential for very serious symptoms in the future) and the extent to which it completely opened my eyes about how unforgiving academic labor can be with respect to human frailty.

* I also had a long, possibly extremely tedious conversation on Twitter this afternoon with @adamkotsko, @ibogost, and @pannapacker about whether the focus of efforts to reform graduate education in the humanities should be focused on individuals or on systems. Way down at the end of it I monologue a bit both about the self-defeating nature of market-driven, consumerist approaches and about my own experience making “good” and “bad” choices with respect to the academy.

* From earlier today: Don’t miss Kotsko hulking out.

* Meanwhile in humanities education: Employers and Public Favor Graduates Who Can Communicate, Survey Finds.

* Ask Sven Lindqvist: Who is responsible if a drone kills my child?

* While earlier studies have argued that redshirted children do better both socially and academically—citing data on school evaluations, leadership positions, and test scores—more recent analyses suggest that the opposite may well be the case: the youngest kids, who barely make the age cutoff but are enrolled anyway, ultimately end up on top—not their older classmates. When a group of economists followed Norwegian children born between 1962 and 1988, until the youngest turned eighteen, in 2006, they found that, at age eighteen, children who started school a year later had I.Q. scores that were significantly lower than their younger counterparts. Their earnings also suffered: through age thirty, men who started school later earned less. A separate study, of the entire Swedish population born between 1935 and 1984, came to a similar conclusion: in the course of the life of a typical Swede, starting school later translated to reduced over-all earnings. In a 2008 study at Harvard University, researchers found that, within the U.S., increased rates of redshirting were leading to equally worrisome patterns. The delayed age of entry, the authors argued, resulted in academic stagnation: it decreased completion rates for both high-school and college students, increased the gender gap in graduation rates (men fell behind women), and intensified socioeconomic differences.

* “I get enraged when I see people hating on the kids today. You try graduating into this mess.”

* Ted Cruz Turns Obamacare Defunding Plan From Disaster to Utter Fiasco.

Step one of this far-fetched scheme was the passage of a “continuing resolution,” which keeps the government open, attached to abolishing Obamacare. Now it goes to the Senate. Once that bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, the majority can vote to strip away the provision defunding Obamacare. That vote can’t be filibustered. It’s a simple majority vote, and Democrats have the majority.What Senate Republicans can do is filibuster to prevent the bill from coming to a vote at all. That’s the only recourse the Senate defunders have. And Ted Cruz is promising to do just that: “ I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together,” he says, “and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.” A “committed defunder” in the Senate likewise tells David Drucker, “Reid must not be allowed to fund Obamacare with only 51 votes.”

In other words, the new stop-Obamacare plan now entails filibustering the defunders’ own bill.

The GOP’s Suicide Squeeze.

* BREAKING: Online courses don’t live up to hype. Inside the Coursera Hype Machine.


* Some new reporting on the hydrogen bomb that the US government dropped on North Carolina in 1961 reveals just how close it came to detonating.

Over 22,000 gallons of oil spilled so far in Colorado’s floods.

* And it is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails: 22-Year-Old Inmate Says She Is Going Blind Because Prison Won’t Treat Her Diabetes.

Academic Blogging

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Kugelmas all but shuts down The Kugelmass Episodes with some tough talk for academic bloggers:

Criticism is alive and well; there is a burgeoning market for it, and it has been greatly bolstered by the blogging revolution, which is a source of publicity for any smart piece of analysis strong enough to spread virally. The humanities, on the other hand, are in tatters. Part of the reason for my new focus is that I don’t think there’s much value in continuing to write about teaching in the university until the situation generally improves, and I see even less value in trying to breathe life into theoretical discussions (led by people like Slavoj Zizek) that have mostly served to alienate the public, particularly since the ideas fueling these debates are not genuinely original breakthroughs.

I am also uncomfortable with the role that academic blogging seems to have assumed. As far as I can tell, academic blogging does far too much to turn the horrible realities of the job market into an amusing, academic version of Alice in Wonderland: Oh, dear me! Wherever shall I end up next? Academics unwittingly portray themselves (with the generous help of commenters) as eccentrics who are bound to suffer, rather than as knowledge workers who are being exploited. Another way of putting this might be that Marc Bousquet’s How The University Works is probably the only academic blog (mine included) that should earn our admiration rather than our contempt — and it’s already a book.

Furthermore, given the current situation, the democratic ideas behind academic blogging (of bringing conversations usually restricted to campuses to the wide world of the Internet) has perhaps only helped prop up the other, worser idea that what we in the humanities do ought to be done for free, since it’s just book hobbyism if it isn’t serious, bare-bones instruction in writing.

Since by and large I’m not an academic blogger—merely someone in academia who blogs—I come at this with two minds. I certainly disagree that How the University Works (a site I absolutely adore) is in any sense the last word on the academy; there are, surely, other things to talk about than our own bad decisions exploitation. And on the other, more important point about “book hobbyism,” well, yes and no: at the same time that blogging has “helped prop up the other, worser idea that what we in the humanities do ought to be done for free” it has also opened new and extremely productive discourse communities and even in some cases actively professionalized (in the best sense) what used to be hobbies and private obsessions. On balance blogging’s ledger is still very positive, for academics and for everyone else.

But Kugelmass is right that “academic blogging” is functioning as a loose community rather than as a collective, and that it isn’t really driving anything other than itself. With the university famously in ruins™, that’s a fairly serious failing, and a place to start.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 14, 2009 at 2:00 am