Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday Comics

Look, I know many of you are sick of this discussion, and as CW points out in comments:
"[M]uch of this discussion is being driven by people frustrated with the job market."
Meaning, I take it, that those making the sort of comments under consideration aren't blinded so much by poor, oppressed white man rage, but more by the infuriating beast that is the job market.

Yeah, fair enough; but fuck if I wasn't going to draw a comic about the implications behind this outpouring of rage, be it from indignation about one's lack of melanin and/or possession of a penis or the job market.

Enjoy and let's all play nice now.


(Click to make it big)


Anonymous said...

tsk tsk tsk.
throw bombs much?
but, yeah, i did get a chuckle from it.

Anonymous said...

I like the guy in the Italian hat.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't seen this in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (4/4/08), here's a forecast of how academia will look like in the next generation...check out the 3rd bullet!:

- More than 80 percent of the "faculty" will be adjuncts; upper-division undergraduates will do much of the teaching of lower-division students.

- Tenure and curriculum will be the privilege of administrators.

- At most institutions, whole fields of the liberal arts -- philosophy, history, music, literature -- will no longer be represented by departments.

- Basketball coaches will earn as much as $10-million a year, while "part-timers" teaching eight classes a year will earn less than the minimum wage.

- While 10 percent of undergraduates will not work at all, the remaining 90 percent will pursue degrees while working 40 hours a week serving lattes to the nonworking students, correcting their papers, and doing their laundry and nails.

Anonymous said...

Re: Chronicle of Higher Ed forecast...tenure is an anachronistic luxury that we should dispense with anyway. Sure, job security would be great, but perhaps not at the expense of continuing productivity and quality of both research and teaching. There are simply too many instances of tenured faculty resting on their laurels or, worse, acting like jackholes.

Anonymous said...

I don't see tenure going away b/c:

(i) Those that have it love it,
(ii) Those that don't have it want it,
(iii) There are just enough Unions to protect tenure at some places that faculty at other places will demand it.

Just my two cents, but I go up for tenure on two years, and I would fight for others after me as well as to keep it.

Anonymous said...

" Sure, job security would be great, but perhaps not at the expense of continuing productivity and quality of both research and teaching. There are simply too many instances of tenured faculty resting on their laurels or, worse, acting like jackholes."

1. People often write as if the universities are full of these older faculty members who became dead wood after getting tenure, but at the institutions I'm familiar with, I've hardly seen any instances of this in philosophy. Sure, there has been plenty of dead wood around, but most of those cases were obviously going to be dead wood before they came up for tenure.

2. Tenure isn't important to the universities just because the people who have it like it, its an important, if not crucial, part of what keeps the universities running. Without the promise of tenure (no matter how unlikely it actually is) universities wouldn't be able to get people to study, pay tuition and work as TAs for seven years just so that they could then go on to work as Adjuncts for even less than they would have made as a TA. Just looking at the odds and the opportunity cost, going to graduate school is a terrible choice. Without something really terrific as the 'prize' no one would consider doing it, and the whole system of adjuncts and TAs would collapse.

Anonymous said...

To go along with that Chronicle article, there's this recent NYTimes piece about how philosophy is making a comeback as an ever more popular (and "useful," of all things) undergrad major.

There's even a cheeky whiff of sexism

Jenna Schaal-O’Connor, a 20-year-old sophomore who is majoring in cognitive science and linguistics, said philosophy had other perks. She said she found many male philosophy majors interesting and sensitive.

“That whole deep existential torment,” she said. “It’s good for getting girlfriends.”

The State I Am In said...

This comment is completely off topic, but maybe some readers are interested in this issue? I don't know.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out ways to improve my applications for next year (the fall jfp is only 6 months away), and I'm curious about teaching portfolios. My "teaching portfolio" last year consisted of some teaching evaluation data and a couple class syllabi that I spent about 10 minutes on. So, some random questions:

What does a good teaching portfolio look like?

Obviously, teaching evaluations have to be included. Some people just find a handful of good individual student evaluations and send them. This seems dubious though; even the worst teacher can find a handful of decent evaluations. Instead, I summarized the overall data for several classes, and also included many specific comments from students; is this method any better? Also, I have very good teaching evaluation scores, but I'm worried SCs just infer from this that I am a grade inflator. In fact, the classes that I have been associated with are generally those in which students receive the lowest average grades. Should I say this? Would that be an odd thing to say?

As for sample syllabi: what are some mistakes people commonly make here?

And the statement of teaching philosophy...I'm completely baffled here. I have looked at some teaching statements on-line, and they always contain annoying jargon and so on. Frankly, they look like BS to me. Do philosophy SC really want something like this? And how long are these things supposed to be anyway?

What else can one even put in a teaching portfolio. I've heard that some include letters from students. This doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

I guess the problem is this: how does one convince a SC that you are a good teacher when all the evidence you can offer seems, well, worthless?

Anonymous said...

Articles like these make me question whether the Chronicle is a reliable source of information.

Seriously, look at bullet point one. Upper division undergrads will never do most of the lower level teaching. Did they provide any statistics to back this up? Who would pay for an education from another undergrad? Who would accredit such a program?

Some of the other trends are correct, but overstated. There will be less tenured opportunities, but it will never disappear. Liberal arts will be (and already are) cut back at some institutions, while other institutions (liberal arts colleges) will make the prominence of the liberal arts their defining feature.

Other trends will continue. More online and distance course offerings. Still, 'end of the world' type articles like these are silly. Philosophy, history, and literature will always have an important place at the better colleges.

Perhaps, the article is guilty of using 'weasel words' in its claim that some disciplines won't be represented by 'departments' at 'most' schools... does this claim merely mean that there will be more small schools of 1-3,000 students that have combined philosophy and religion departments or 'humanities' departments because of small overall enrollment? I interviewed at several such schools and did not think this was an aweful trend (though I really wanted a job at a larger school with a larger department)

Anonymous said...

The state I am in,

I concur about the teaching statement. I have tried like hell to write a distinctive, informative teaching statement. I saw all the others online or examples from a resource at our university and thought, there has to be something better? So I labored over mine for hours, nay, days. Over 20 revisions I would guess. I had numerous faculty comment on it. In the end, it looks like something anyone else could have written. Not full of jargon, so much, but not really me. I'm not really sure what anyone is looking for and the whole thing seems like a waste of time, except that advertisements keep asking for the damn things.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, those faculty unions are doing a bang-up job with our current pay and the over-reliance on adjuncts...

We're all screwed.

Anonymous said...

For those of you asking about teaching statements:

I'm just another grad student, so take my advice with a grain of salt (though I suppose I'll be on a hiring committee next year), but I think in general for these kinds of exercises that lend themselves to B.S. and platitudes, the way to counteract that is to give a lot of specific stories about what worked in your classes. E.g. "The students were having a hard time constructing proofs in beginning logic. So I gave them a chart which said... In general, I've found it helpful to present material in several different ways and media." This way just off the top of my head, but I do stand by the general advice. (Sorry if it's too obvious and you were looking for something deeper.)

nstead, I summarized the overall data for several classes, and also included many specific comments from students; is this method any better? Also, I have very good teaching evaluation scores, but I'm worried SCs just infer from this that I am a grade inflator.

That sounds great to me -- the more complete info the better. I wouldn't worry that they'd think you received good scores for nefarious reasons, but it might be helpful to highlight that your scores was good by including what the average score was for all the TAs, or all the philosophy courses taught that semester (whatever makes your scores look most impressive...).

Again, I'm just a grad student, so consult your advisors as well...

Anonymous said...

For teaching evaluation summaries, I'd consider including a grade distribution statistic on your summary sheet so that the SC can see that you don't get high marks by inflating grades. I also like to include one or two very low evaluations that only complain of my strict grading to show that I'm not inflating grades.

Anonymous said...

Relatedly, does anyone have any advice on teaching your own course if you've never taught one before? (only TA'ed)

mr. zero said...

does anyone have any advice on teaching your own course if you've never taught one before? (only TA'ed)

I recommend sticking pretty close to the version you've TAed first time through, since you'll be pretty familiar with the material and will have seen it performed. At my school we have a pretty friendly group of profs and senior grad students who are willing to make their lecture notes available to younger folks, so I've always had access to a lot of ideas when designing my own courses. If I were you, I'd try to get something like that going.

Another piece of advice, alluded to above: I think it's important to think of each class as a performance. You have to convey complicated information in a way that is both clear and doesn't put the students to sleep. I'm kind of a weirdo, but I obsessively write out everything I'm going to say, sentence by sentence. Then I can go in with my notes and speak extemporaneously based on what I've written. This works OK for me, but your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

About the teaching portfolio: sometimes it is a good thing to include a letter or two from professors who have been able to come and watch you teach. This is fairly common, but the details can be informative to SC's. In making up a syllabus it's important to think of how to structure the course so as to get the students into the material in the first place. This might mean a week at the start with no readings, only some short essays. When you describe or answer questions about teaching in an interview, it's useful to mention some specific things about what you do in the classroom. Do you vary the format so that occasionally there may be student presentations or short group discussions or brief in-class essays? Do you use any technology, and if so what, and how, and how effective has that been? What sorts of writing assignments do you give and how do you work with students on their writing? Yes, the teaching statements tend to be a bit formulaic and jargony, but occasionally one of them stands out just because the person sounds like they know what they're doing in the classroom. Admitting that a certain technique didn't work or that a particular essay topic was too hard (or easy) can be good. Accrediting boards and university administrators now all have a fetish for "active learning" and so it's probably good to have some kind of response if the SC asks you how you promote it. (They may all be skeptical about it too but they may hope you'll have some nice answer they can turn around and quote to their dean.) Hope this is of some use.