Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A quick follow-up on yesterday's thought. Be careful of that sarcastic kid who's been giving you trouble all semester.

At NYU apparently someone left muffins laced with razor blades behind in their philosophy class.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

They like me, they really really like me

So we're coming up on time for course evaluations. Now I fancy myself a pretty good teacher (I'm sure most of us do) but at this point, the course is essentially over and what really matters is getting decent evals. These are the things that presumably loom large in the job application for teaching colleges. (?)

Probably at this point there's nothing to do. It's too late to
"buy good grades by being easy or generous graders." Some of my professors give a short speech about how these evaluations are actually important to try to get the students to take them seriously. I'm not sure if this helps. At my undergrad institution (and probably here) the average teacher rating was 'above average' so getting kids to focus on how it's important may make them apply some standard to your eval that they aren't to the others. Though, you might get some sympathy high marks?

Who knows? This time I'm planning on asking for comments about the syllabus or clarity of the lectures. Hopefully I'll get something other than just numbers this time.

On a side note, if you can take advantage of the
Dr. Fox Effect.

-- Second Suitor

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Comics

"With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound /
He [knocks] the [listless, dissertation-hating Philbot around]... /
Oh no, [this dissertation's] got to go /
Go go [Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator], yeah"

-Adapted liberally from BOC, Godzilla.


(Click on the pic for the full effect)

Update: Anon. 2:22 in comments improves upon my original hijacking of BOC:
"With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound /
They dash our job market hopes on the ground/

Neophyte philosophers crying out in pain/
Please don't make me defend this again!

We pick up a theory and we throw it back down/as we quantify and generalize all over the town"

Oh no, this thesis got to go /
Go go and publish (yeah)
Oh no, there goes my last hope/
Go go and finish!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Noobie's Dilemma

Noobie posted a question a few days ago that brings up an interesting point. Noob said:
"I just got my first tenure track job, and I am very excited (obviously), but the job is by no means a dream job (5-4 teaching load, though the location is great). I found out that we have yearly review up until tenure, which I thought was a bit odd (and this is a serious review process, I have heard of several people who were not reappointed to their tenure track positions in the second, third, and even the fifth, year), but judging from the comments this is done at some places. Anyways, my question was about whether or not a person like me should be on the job market every year? It seems to me that if there is a real possibility that a person may not be reappointed then that person should have a back up plan (and there is no way to judge if one will be repponted. At least two of the cases mentioned above were ones where the department and chair loved the person, but the president over-ruled them and let them go). So it seems to me that I have ample justification for going on the market each year (I feel guilty for doing this for the obvious reasons, like I spent so much time convincing said department that I WANTED to be there)...will this sort of thing be held against me? My chair says 'don't worry about, you'll be reappointed', but I am sure that is what all the chairs say (even though they do not have final say) what is the proper/ethical thing to do here?"
Seems to me that the department doesn't have any standing to complain that you're keeping options open especially before they commit to keeping you... but who knows?

--Second Suitor


Maybe I'm doing something right... according to Wired, "distracting your brain" can actually improve your mind's performance (note: I'm not taking a stand on whether your mind is your brain - though I'm not sure where else it's supposed to be).

Before anyone gets too excited, the distraction needs to be related to what the brain is supposed to be processing. This seems to indicate that it's better to distract yourself with something like a blog... about philosophy... than say the undergrads working beside you at the coffee shop talking about how they're going to start their paper due on Friday after they go out Thursday night..

Oh and a little caffeine may help you not get Alzheimer's... maybe.

-- Second Suitor

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunday afternoon fun

Taking a breather this weekend, I was catching up on last week's NY times and saw an article about a new flea market in Brooklyn. So far so good. Perhaps like a few of ya'll are like me and grew up around flea markets. I still have a wicked chair fit for a king that I got for 20 bucks.

That said, I was disturbed when I read: "So, 13 years ago, he tossed over a career in academia (teaching philosophy) and traded in the subtle mysteries of Wittgenstein for the joys of tracking down vases from manufacturers like Roth ceramics, renowned for its blob-like lava-glaze."

Hopefully that guy found his true calling in life... but I hope that the job market doesn't push me all the way to hunting down ceramics at dirt malls.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I don't have to think, I've only got to do it

At a conference earlier this year I was chatting with a Jr. Prof at a regular state school who said that his hiring committee didn't seriously look at any application where the candidate hasn't defended. Maybe I've internalized this a bit too much, but it makes sense. It's a buyer's market and departments might as well take people who are done.

But what the fuck does that mean I have to do if I seriously want to be on the market in the fall? I'm confident that I'll be able to finish the diss by the end of next year, but I figure to have any chance I need to at least have a complete draft by the end of the summer. In the meantime I've still got to do the other shit they want candidates to do: teach, conferences, try to publish etc. There's just not enough time to get all this shit done before the process begins..

Whatever. Today I've got to say fuck it, I'm taking the rest of the day off to have a beer and watch the undergrads frolic in this beautiful spring weather.

-- Second Suitor

Monday, April 14, 2008

Still, We Figure Out the Keys

Just to add a more optimistic take on the problem of figuring out how to sell yourself to teaching departments, it looks like there's some consensus shaping up in that Leiter thread about at least one thing. A couple of different people are making the case for including complete sets of student comments in your teaching portfolio, since a few cherry-picked choice quotes don't say about as much as the quotes on posters for shitty movies. ("[PGS] was. . . interesting! Best philosophy class since Scary Movie 4!) Makes sense, and that's the sort of very concrete advice even I can use without fucking it up.

Oh, and I suppose I should link to this old post. It's the list of 23--23!--teaching interview questions I compiled from the suggestions of tons of people who actually know something about this. (My vote for most horror-inducing question? Number 22: "Suppose someone (perhaps a community member, and not necessarily a student) came to you and asked how to resolve moral problem X. What would you tell them to do?" Sweet holy god, that question would throw me into a mute stupor that'd last for about eight days.)


You're Fading Out, Can't Hear What You Say

Okay, it looks like I'm coming a little late to the discussion, but the big kids are talking about how sell yourself to teaching oriented schools. This was a total fucking gong show in my department last year, since the placement committee, the dynamic duo of the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo, seemed to have only the vaguest inkling that those schools even existed. What goes in a good teaching portfolio? What questions do teaching schools ask in interviews that research schools don't? For me and my office mates, these were inscrutable mysteries.*

The thing is, it turns out it's actually really hard to answer these questions. Let me try to explain why. Check out this advice from Ken, a commentor in Leiter's thread:
Candidates should show some understanding of what the teaching-emphasis job is like, an interest in doing it, and the ability to do it. I don't have stock questions I ask to probe for this, so I don't have stock answers or “things to say” to get through this.
Right. What I want to do is show understanding and enthusiasm for a teaching job. I can do enthusiasm no problem. The problem is, I have no understanding of teaching jobs, and neither do any of the senior profs in my department. Ask senior faculty about this stuff and, as Sisyphus once put it, you get that confused puppy, head cocked to one side "Aroo?" look. They're as in the dark as I am. So how are we supposed to figure out what to convey in my application package? How are we supposed to figure out how to prep for an interview?

I don't mean this as a knock at Ken. Like he says, there are no stock answers here, so what can you do? But that just means we're sort of fucked trying to figure this shit out.


*Actually, the teaching portfolio question is still an inscrutable mystery. I'm giving myself another two weeks to figure it out before I go all Colin McGinn on your asses and declare the puny human mind too feeble to understand what goes in a good teaching portfolio.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Comics

Hey, kids! Sorry about the lack of a new comic now, and probably until later this evening. Why the delay?

You know that feeling that surrounds us all like the cloud of dirt orbiting around Pigpen (comic idea!)? That ever-present feeling of guilt casting shadows over whatever it is that you're currently doing and sucking joy out of it all? The feeling that you should really be working on your dissertation instead of drawing comics, watching your fantasy baseball scores, and posting on the PJMB? Well, I feel the feeling overtaking me.

And so, I'm going to cozy up with the dissertation for a while; grateful that my guilt has (at least temporarily) awakened me from my productivity coma.


(Update: It's not happening tonight, folks. Sorry. And, you know, I'd feel a lot better about it if I had written a few more pages, but I have no good excuse, as it were. We'll see if I can get something for the true believers in the next day or two.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Keeping in mind that anonymous graduate students who don't have jobs might not be the best people to get advice about where to go to grad school, I just wanted to toss something out there. Insofar as you can, it seems better to go to a grad school that is generally strong in your interests rather than one that is more Leiterific.

If you're lucky enough to finish in 5 years, two more gourmet reports are going to come out before you go on the market. If you're not looking at a department in the top 10, you're department may well bounce around the rankings. In the 02-04, 04-06 and the current report some of the school rankings have really fluctuated. For example:

U. of Miami: 46 - Honorable mention for the top 50 - 32

Arizona: 8 - 16 - 13

Boulder: 28 - 38 - 32

U. of Minnesota: 32 - 36 - 44

Given how much the rankings can change over a short period of time, it's better to try to focus on who you will be working with and the general strengths of the department. In part this insulates you from potential changes in the faculty. Also, if someone comes to your department and raises your program's rank, my guess is that hiring committees don't care unless you work with that person. All that is to say, the rankings give you a general sense of how different departments are perceived overall, but each student is (probably) going to be assessed by who she works with rather than the overall perception.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I can't be right all the time..

I know something is wrong with the following thoughts:

1. Where someone goes to grad school has a significant impact on her job prospects. After all, right after getting the PhD we all tend to have very similar CVs (a conference or two, maybe a publication) which will naturally make the school we go to an important part of our application.

2. Prospective students do not have much information about the different graduate programs (props to Leiter for trying to help with this). After all, most people applying to grad school have only been doing philosophy for 1-2 years. This is hardly enough time to figure out which philosophers are alive, much less to figure out the strengths of different departments or a particular person who you want to try to work with.

3. Students are largely admitted to graduate school after 3 years as an undergraduate. When determining who to admit it may make more sense to take people with MAs since they've already decided not to quit, but at least a good portion of us seem to have come straight from undergrad.

This makes it seem like there may be a fairly strong tie between someone’s semi-informed choice of where to go to grad school where her options depend on her potential as a junior in college and her job prospects upon receiving a PhD. Am I just grossly overlooking the importance of dissertation projects or something? I’d like the think my progress as a philosopher’s going to matter in the fall..

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I'm Still Not Sorry

I promised a post about a drunk asshole, didn't I? Way back in the summer, I mentioned my department was going to be having a speaker who'd interviewed me at last year's APA, and who I'd spent a good chunk of time talking to. His department (like everyone else's) didn't give me a flyout. I was going to have to go out to dinner with the guy and make with the chit-chat, and I was worried it'd be weird or awkward or humiliating or annoying. I know, I know--this sort of thing goes on all the time, and it's no big deal. But still, I'd never actually done it before and I wasn't sure what to expect. It wasn't something I was looking forward to.

I had nothing to worry about. The guy remembered exactly who I was and what I worked on, he was as personable as I remembered, and he very kindly and very discreetly complimented me on my work but explained (what I, of course, already knew) that his department decided they needed someone with a totally different set of AOSs than mine.

Actually, no, I just made that up. Although still, I had nothing to worry about.

I got to the restaurant about fifteen minutes after this guy, who I'll call the Drunk Asshole, and by that time he was already finishing his second drink. He wasn't really interested in talking to anyone at the table besides a cute VAP, who's a good friend of mine, and who's young enough to be the daughter he decided to have relatively late in life. Appetizers came, and before they were done, there were a couple more empty glasses beside DA's plate. And all the while, he couldn't take his eyes off C.VAP. Seriously. There were more than half a dozen people sitting at that table, all asking him questions about his talk, but every slurred syllable that came out of his mouth was spoken to her.

Meanwhile, C.VAP was doing her best not to puke on the table, which would have been a perfectly sane response to DA's bulgy-eyed stare, and she was shooting him these killer "Fuck Off, You Gross, Old Drunk Asshole" looks. (Presumably tenure means being able to say it out loud.) The looks were almost making it through his gin-haze, at least before he had more to drink. So at one point, DA wrenched his eyes off C.VAP long enough to peer at me, wondering why I looked vaguely familiar. "My chance!", I thought, and tried to introduce myself. But I couldn't get my whole name out before his eyes were flickering back to C.VAP, studiously avoiding her killer look by focusing well below her face. He asked what I work on (or at least, I assumed the question was for me, since he was speaking directly to C.VAP's top, which doesn't do philosophy, being, as it is, a shirt), but by the time I got through my AOSs, I gave up. There was just no hope that I'd get through a few sentences about how we'd met before, we talked about blah, blah, blah, and how was that project of his coming along? No hope at all.

Later on that night, after the senior faculty had all gone to bed, C.VAP, the Future Dr. Mrs. Dr., me, and some other people were drinking beer and making jokes at the DA's expense. And what I realized was, I can't really say I'm sorry not to be that guy's colleague.


Hitting on the Moonshine, Rocking in the Grain

Now's a good time for a shout-out to another one of my office mates, who defended the shit out of her dissertation and earned, in the ancient scholarly tradition, a toast with expensive booze in plastic cups. She's moving on to much bigger and better things, which, by the way, she's going to rock harder than Zeppelin rocks the live version of "The Ocean" on How the West was Won. Yes, I mean it, that hard.


Monday, April 7, 2008

I say good day sir (or 'mam as the case may be)

Not too long ago, I flew to a far away city to be on holiday. Being a friendly fellow, I struck up a conversation with someone else waiting for the delayed plane to arrive. When it came out that I was a philosopher-in-training, he indicated that he was familiar with academia and philosophy (but didn't say he was a philosophers so I'm guessing he was a professor in a related field).

All this is to say, he suggested that I set up meetings with a few memebers of the departments in the city I was visiting. I think the idea was just to get face time with some departments to help with things like the job market, and he was convinced it was a good idea. Now, I'm not particularly shy, but something about the suggestion just strikes me as odd. I think it's that I'm not focusing on the work of anyone in those departments so it isn't clear what I'd have to say besides "Hi, I'm a philosopher too!" I mean I don't think unsolicited visits are necessarily bad, but they also don't seem particularly helpful. Needless to say, I didn't visit the departments.

-- Second Suitor

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)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Microphone Explodes, Shattering the Molds

Just as a quick follow-up on Thursday's thread, I wanted to pull out a couple of comments. These are really, really, really nice analyses* of how sexist assumptions operate in philosophers' thinking about the job market. You want to make a good-faith effort to make sure you're thinking about the job market in non-sexist ways? Print these comments out and tape them to your wall.

First up, the one and only Tenured Philosophy Girl:
Among all these people so excited to point out that the anecdotal evidence offered is not statistically rigorous (duh), there seems to be a VERY deep presumption that we should assume that men are disadvantaged on the market until thoroughly proven otherwise. This is simply an arbitrary bias, and one that no one who has argued against these folks has shown even once. Not ONE drop of evidence - rigorous or otherwise - has been offered to support the claim that men are disadvantaged. So why is that the presumption until proven otherwise? Seriously, why? What's the argument??

You just can't get away with this, guys. If you are going to reject all anecdotal and suggestive evidence as meaning nothing - even when it is VERY suggestive indeed - until we have statistically rigorous science at our finger tips, then you don't get to make one single claim about how you think men are disadvantaged until you hold yourself to the same bar.
What's goose for the sauce is a duck for desert, or some shit like that. Anyway, yes. Now, up next is Anon. 5:57:
Presumably the young man [and let's let this stand for anyone in the following situation, shall we? --PGS] with no offers who is blaming it on affirmative action is coming under fire because of his quick and unwarranted assumption that the women who beat him out for the positions must have been unqualified. (Not say, that affirmative action merely canceled out a pre-existing bias, but unqualified.)

He's comparing C.V.s. But we all know that's an imperfect indicator of one's job market performance and philosophical talent, and we can safely assume he wasn't present at their flyouts. Nor does he have access to their letters of recommendation or writing samples, nor does he know of how supportive/manipulative their departments were.

So on a small amount of available evidence, he's concluding not that someone women legitimately beat him out due to things that weren't itemized on the C.V., but that while the men who beat him obviously must have been more qualified, the women who beat him must have unfairly gotten the job because someone had a quota to fulfill.

Sounds like fairly standard set of sexist assumptions. . . .
Indeed it does.

Okay, I hereby promise a semi-funny post about a drunk asshole. But I haven't had my coffee yet, so it might be a few hours.


*Analyses of patterns of reasoning, even. Philosophy!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Was Just Guessing at Numbers and Figures, Puzzling the Pieces Apart

In comments, Rebecca does the math:
There was an exceptionally annoying and extended discussion a few months ago on this blog about whether being female gave you some big advantage on the philosophy job market.

With all the obvious caveats, I thought the following might interest PJMB readers. Leiter now has 96 comments on his hiring thread. I went through and counted how many of these jobs went to women and how many to men. I skipped a handful of names that were gender-ambiguous, at least to me. I did not bother to look at how 'good' the jobs were or whether they were postdocs or whatever.

Here are the current results:

85 jobs went to men
20 jobs went to women.
That's 76.5% of the jobs going to men.

There are no good stats on what percentage of philosophy grad students are women but the best figures I have read put it at about 25%.

So unless the original posters are willing to come out and claim that male grad students are just better or more qualified than their female counterparts, that seems to me to be very good evidence that it is no advantage to be female in this market.
Obviously, there's a lot more here we'd want to know. But just as obviously, this is pretty useful point.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A flyout tale.

So, I had me a flyout or two this spring.

I'd thought things were going pretty well on one. And then came the teaching demonstration. No sweat, right? I fancy myself to be pretty engaging up there, generally speaking. Sure, you can't captivate every kid every time--oversexed, under-rested students have to sleep off their hangovers somewhere, after all--but I do okay.

As it happens, the kids in this particular class were pretty good. The problem was the chair of the department. He has me out to give a talk and a teaching demo because his department is thinking of hiring me, right? You'd think he'd, maybe, like, pay attention to how I was doing. But not so much. Dude was asleep. He slept through almost the entire demonstration.

Shockingly, I didn't get the job.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The concrete broke your fall

Having failed to read a single book not related to my dissertation in.. well I don’t think I read any non-philosophical books last year either.. I was looking around for something to read (incidentally, if anyone has suggestions I’m all ears). Meanwhile, I stumbled across an op-ed addressing the issue of being rejected from regular old college.

The piece talks about a different kind of rejection. Failing to get into college is not quite the same as failing to get a job you’ve trained for over the last 5-n years. That said, the take home message is pretty much the same. At some point you gotta get used to rejection. I just hope that I don't have to get used to this much rejection:

"You'll get tossed by a girlfriend or boyfriend. You won't get the job or the promotion you think you deserve. Some disease may pluck you from life's fast lane and pin you to a bed, a wheelchair, a coffin. That happens."

--Second Suitor

Morning after update: I've been trying to think of an excuse to link to this, and the discussion Second Suitor's started is just about perfect. Here's one question. If you were over at a date's house, what book on their shelf would make you break up with them? But, via Laura Rozen, David Glenn at the Chronicle's got a slightly different question. If you were over at a date's house, what book on their shelf from an academic press would make you break up with them?