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Parchment in the Fire: An Adjunct Tragedy | The Nation

An Adjunct Tragedy | The Nation.

The proletarianization of higher education, according to the associate general counsel of the United Steel Workers Union, has now claimed a life. In a moving op-ed published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Daniel Kovalik, wrote this week of Margaret Mary Vojtko, a French teacher at Pittsburgh’s Dusquesne University whose tenure there—though it was, of course, a tenure without tenure—lasted twenty-five years, who just died at the age of 83. Receiving radiation therapy for cancer, living in a house that was nearly collapsing in on itself, and in receipt of a humiliating letter from Adult (Read more…)

Politics, Re-Spun: Aaron Swartz, Intellectual Property and the Public Good

Should academic work be locked up like Disney[tm] artifacts?

I’ve been quite inspired by this very good analysis of the context surrounding Aaron Swartz’s suicide.

As news spread last week that digital rights activist Aaron Swartz had killed himself ahead of a federal trial on charges that he illegally downloaded a large database of scholarly articles with the intent to freely disseminate its contents, thousands of academics began posting free copies of their work online, coalescing around the Twitter hashtag #pdftribute.

via How academia betrayed and continues to betray Aaron Swartz « The Berkeley Blog.

The willingness of scholars

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Death By Trolley: How are Psychology PhDs doing on the job market?

I am a reformed and rehabilitated ex-academic. In my previous life, I aspired to be a professor of Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science. I described my experiences in the academic stream in a series entitled The Grad School Gospels. In The Grad School Gospels I have been pessimistic about the value of most Psychology graduate degrees. I argued that the tenure-track job market for Psychology PhDs is devastatingly competitive and that for most Psychology sub-fields non-academic career paths are limited. That is, there often aren’t many jobs to go around that reflect one’s training and interests and that offer

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Exponential Book: What do you look for (part two)?

Having expounded in my previous post what kind of person I look for, when serving on the search committee for a tenure-track hire, now it is time to list the criteria that I adopt to try and spot my ideal candidate, as I go through application packages (APs). I am going to state upfront that, [...]

Exponential Book: What do you look for (part one) ?

I am a faculty member in a university physics department, who finds himself periodically involved in faculty searches and hires. How do I evaluate the curriculum vitae of an applicant for a tenure-track position? What do I look for, and what are the red flags? Does it really boil down to counting (first-authored) articles, impact [...]

Death By Trolley: The Grad School Gospels – Part 4: On Grad School Goggles and the Cult-Like Nature of Grad School

The Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

In this, the fourth, installment of The Grad School Gospels, I speak to how I – a person who had long prided himself on his advanced critical thinking

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Death By Trolley: The Grad School Gospels – Part 2: Passion, Fear and Indifference

In The Grad School Gospels: On Professional Baseball, Academia, and My Shared Experience with Dirk Hayhurst, I juxtaposed Hayhurst‘s pro baseball journey – which he recounts in his first book, The Bullpen Gospels – with my journey through academic psychology.

Several factors conspired to make our situations alike. We both laid most of our eggs in one basket, deriving identity, strength, purpose, livelihood and self-esteem from a single source. We were accustomed to success, praise and the ability to live indefinitely off of success in our chosen field. For a while this worked out swimmingly. Intrinsic passion and

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Exponential Book: Binomial distributions and multiple choice tests

Readers of my blog know that I generally regard multiple choice tests (MCTs) as an adequate tool to assess student knowledge of, and proficiency with, a given set of topics. I have written about this subject here and here. No, I do not think that MCTs are perfect, nor do I deem them necessarily the [...]

The Disaffected Lib: Tough Chewing for Sunday Brunch

Pop a Zantac and try to digest McMaster prof Henry Giroux’s lament on the Disappearance of Public Intellectuals.   Here are a few excerpts:

As a theater of cruelty and mode of public pedagogy, economic Darwinism removes economics and markets from the discourse of social obligations and social costs.  The results are all around us ranging from ecological devastation and widespread economic impoverishment to the increasing incarceration of large segments of the population marginalized by race and class. Economics now drives politics, transforming citizens into consumers and compassion into an object of scorn.  The language of rabid individualism and harsh

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Exponential Book: Who’s really obsessed with Impact Factor ?

What brings more prestige to a scientist, an article which receives hundreds of citations, even if published on a relatively minor, or even obscure journal, or one that is published on a high profile, glamorous publication with a high Impact Factor (IF), but whose citation record is modest ? Most scientists, I believe, would answer [...]

Exponential Book: Independent and original

I doubt if I can offer any deeper insight or more pointed advice to a tenure track assistant professor in the sciences, than what anyone can find on a number of reputable science blogs. Often times, however, as I go through posts describing the “dos and donts” of young scholars wanting to maximize their changes [...]

Exponential Book: Education disadvantage

If a cash-strapped province or state had to make painful cuts to public services, the immediately noticeable effect would be the outright elimination of some of them. One would not think of, say, laying off a fraction of all bus drivers and asking the remaining ones to work longer hours, in order to keep all [...]

Exponential Book: Double whammy

We all understand that, sometimes, financial hardship is simply a fact of life. And I do believe that most of us are willing to endure painful sacrifices, in the pursuit of a common good. What exasperates people, is the perception of a general lack of vision, of a concrete, well thought out crisis management plan, [...]

Exponential Book: On the road again

A long and tiring term is coming to a close. Time to celebrate the holidays, then head out to Vancouver for a few days, to end 2011, and then it will be a new year and a new term. The Winter term of 2012 is also going to be very intense, but for different reasons [...]

Exponential Book: Customers

Imagine the following, hypothetical situation: the owner of a small high-tech company needs all of his employees retrained, in view of the adoption of a new, company-wide software system. He decides to send a few of them to a week-long course with a private firm, specialized in offering short courses on the particular software that [...]

DeSmogBlog: Smeared But Still Fighting, Cornell’s Tony Ingraffea Debunks Gas Industry Myths

ingraffea.jpg

Cornell University Professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea made waves in April 2011 when they unveiled what is now known simply as the "Cornell Study."

Published in a peer-reviewed letter in the academic journal Climatic Change Letters, the study revealed that, contrary to the never-ending mythology promulgated by the gas industry, unconventional ("natural") gas, procured via the infamous hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, likely emits more greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere during its life cycle than does coal. DeSmogBlog documented the in-depth details of the Cornell Study in our report, "Fracking the Future: How Unconventional

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Exponential Book: The boss is out to lunch

The two basic criteria to establish whether someone is your boss are: – Can they fire you ? – Can they give you a raise ? Unless the answer to both questions is yes, then they are not your boss. (can’t recall who said that to me… my dad, maybe ? Nah, it’s impossible, that [...]

Exponential Book: Must be me…

The Globe and Mail has a story about an “experiment” (I use quote-unquote because I personally see nothing new about it, but I come back to this below) carried out by a college teacher who has broken down her 200-student class into small gr… . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Must be me…

Exponential Book: Rantings over rankings

Times Higher Education has just published its influential rankings of World universities. I imagine that university presidents all over the world, at this time, are either pounding their chests, proudly announcing to their students that the reputable i… . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Rantings over rankings

Exponential Book: Sliding into Fall

Oops, it did it again…. The Fall term 2011 has managed to sneak up on me, like its 2010 predecessor. All of a sudden, it’s all back. I am facing a crowd of 400+ students, teaching the same introductory physics class I taught last year, in t… . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Sliding into Fall

Exponential Book: Exams never end

(Title of famous play by Italian playwright Eduardo De Filippo. To my knowledge, it was not inspired by his own PhD defence) Dear fellow Committee Members, as the appointed Chair of the Examining Committee for the upcoming doctoral exam of Mary J. Grea… . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Exams never end

The Skwib: The Chair That Sat Back

Mephistopheles relaxed after a good (evil) day’s work. He’d chalked up three witches, a magus, a handful of brick-makers who’d had too much to drink, and Michael Bay. (Boob, explosions and flash-cuts could only get you so far.) The day’s coup had to be snagging the eternal mojo of an untalented, passive-aggressive tenured professor of [...] . . . → Read More: The Skwib: The Chair That Sat Back

Exponential Book: Impact factor trends

A few days ago, I received an e-mail message from the Publisher of my favourite physics journal (JLTP), who was pleased to inform me that its Impact Factor (IF) climbed in 2010 to 1.403, seemingly a significant improvement from the 2009 value of 1.074…. . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Impact factor trends

Exponential Book: Free agent professor

If you’re a college or university teacher, whom do you work for ?” Thus begins Stanley Fish‘s latest New York Times editorial on the subject of academia. Here are a few excerpts: “Academics [...] want [...] to work in an organizatio… . . . → Read More: Exponential Book: Free agent professor

redjenny: How useful am I?

As an academic, I question my usefulness. Society will always need carpenters (or plumbers or tailors or nurses or farmers). Their benefit is pretty clear and obvious. Will it always need historians? How important is my obscure research that might only be read by a handful of other obscure historians? Am I a producer or a parasite?

I think it is a normal to want to be a productive member of society. To know that the work into which you put your life force actually benefits humanity in some small way. Even to be able to ask these questions demonstrates (Read more…)