Re: A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings And The Poor Get Screwed

1

Wow. That is incredibly shitty.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:23 AM
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The U.S. News and World Report rankings is one of the most consistently malign phenomena I know of.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:24 AM
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Ditto to 2.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:26 AM
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2 strikes me as a huge overstatement but still right enough. Also, is there a reason, Becks, you can't just tell us the name of the university in question?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:28 AM
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4 - Being careful.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:33 AM
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Hey Becks, is this public knowledge? I know some people working on this stuff at Northwestern who'd be very interested in this case.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:33 AM
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6 - I'm not 100% sure anymore. Hence, being careful.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:35 AM
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Cutting loans to community college students is insane. The programs cost far less and, for the vast majority of the population, are entirely more useful in terms of job training than 4-year universities. North Carolina has the 3rd-largest CC system in the country (behind California and I couldn't figure out who was second), and it's one of the best investments this state has ever made.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:36 AM
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Wait, the university is required to admit all students that apply? Like, all of them all of them? Because, to me, while their "plan" is indeed shitty and nefarious, that's the truly crazy part of your story.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:45 AM
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Another post about the credit markets? Good lord.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:50 AM
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Open admissions is perfectly compatible with being an excellent university -- CUNY ran that way for thirty years. You offer remedial courses to bring people who need help up to speed, and grade students based on their performance. The students who can function at the necessary level despite their pre-college records succeed, and the ones who don't drop out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:51 AM
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The government should pay 100% of community college tuition. Ain't that much money, for chrissakes.

California Community Colleges are just so great. If I ever give any school any money it's going to the CC I attended.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 7:57 AM
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Open admissions does have is drawbacks, i.e. you could have borderline retards who barely speak english invade your classroom and fuck it up for everybody. Or so I've heard.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:08 AM
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California Community Colleges are just so great.

This is true. The great system includes Las Positas College, which is one of the best frisbee teams in the nation despite their fairly small size. Every year, they don't quite make open nationals and instead go dick on every other team at Division III nationals.

Apparently it's not infrequent for graduates from Bay Area frisbee superpowers Stanford, UCSF, and UC-Berkeley to sign up for a class or two at Las Positas so they can finish out their fifth year of college eligibility playing for the team.

I am the Emerson of ULTIMATE!!!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:09 AM
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Open admissions is perfectly compatible with being an excellent university

My father taught at CUNY while this was implemented. His assessment differed.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:14 AM
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13: that's mean that they called you that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:14 AM
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As Doyle Brunson says,

if you look around the room and can't tell who the borderline retard who barely speaks English is...it's you.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:18 AM
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Yeah, I'm probably less sanguine, based on lots of anecdata, about open admissions to state universities. But a tiered system, in which CCs are free or very nearly so, is obviously the right way to go.* California's system of higher education used to be a model. Now, not so much.

* Even if Jetpack is a retard.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:22 AM
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I will say that introductory English classes at California CCs are an exercise in swallowing your fear for the future of the language. It's not that the non-native speakers in the advanced classes (for the theoretically fluent) don't speak the language, it's that the natives don't, either. The science and math classes were all quite good, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:25 AM
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19: And you haven't been to Laney, I presume. It gets worse. You're right about the science and math, though. There, no one cares about the jouissance with which one arbitrarily sprinkles apostrophes amongst one's plurals.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:32 AM
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I should say, actually, that my experience in advanced English for transfers at a relatively elite (but public) school was not very different.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:36 AM
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Another CC-system graduate here. They are indeed tremendous. I even went two years early, at age 16 (do other states have Running Start?). I was the youngest person in my English 101 class by about 15 years, and my first group project included a balding makeup-counter lady with Multiple Personality Disorder. She used to invite us to her house for groupwork and then forget we were coming.

Anyway, it's amazing all the statistical Cloaks of Invisibility we're coming up with for the poor, eh?


Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:54 AM
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In Europe it is fairly common for University to be free or of nominal cost. I'm not convinced this leads to particularly good outcomes if 1) the stories my continental friends tell me are true, and 2) your goal is to rapidly produce productive graduates with a high quality education. I understand that a European education can be of higher quality than a typical 3-year bachelor degree, as, with there being no cost to failure the lecturers are free to up the level required to pass the course. However it seems that the lack of market pressure induces a lot of slacktitude amongst students (I hear typically time to graduation is 7 years) and few European universities are highly ranked on a world scale. ("European" in the above excludes the UK)


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 8:57 AM
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8: Not even just job training. A number of kids at my high school would do two years at community college because it was far cheaper to take core requirements at CCAC and then transfer to Pitt to get their degree. It often helped in the cases of students who just didn't do all that well in high school to get into a school good enough to justify the expense.

I don't know if open admissions is wise, but I'd need to see numbers. My worry would be that everyone gets in, but not everyone finishes, and worse than not finishing college is not finishing college with thousands in debt. This might not be enough to count against the policy (there are dropouts anyway, and maybe there's not significantly more), but I worry about anything that says 'you're unqualified, pay us lots of money.'

Rankings are the spawn of Satan. There's an informal one of philosophy grad programs, and it's always the subject of much speculation and much stupidity. Yet it's taken as gospel.

("Our department jumped five places in the rankings? Will I get a job now?"
"I don't know, has that made your work any better?"

"Our department lost five places in the rankings. Should I put on my CV that I got into one of the places that's ahead of us?"
"Oh yes, you get to keep that for all eternity. " (this last exchange is obviously tongue-in-cheek.) )


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:02 AM
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I've studied in two European countries now, at the postgraduate level, and the standards are both far higher and far lower than in the states. Much higher-level analysis required, but MUCH less work, classtime and teacher contact. Plus, fewer raquetball courts...


Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:03 AM
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("Our department jumped five places in the rankings? Will I get a job now?" "I don't know, has that made your work any better?"

"Our department lost five places in the rankings. Should I put on my CV that I got into one of the places that's ahead of us?"
"Oh yes, you get to keep that for all eternity. " (this last exchange is obviously tongue-in-cheek.) )

This confuses the hell out of me about humanities in general, not just Philosophy. How much is one really evaluated on one's work, when one may have a very limited publication record and nobody reads one's thesis? Relying on rankings and so on to grant interviews seems so very anti-meritocratic and unlikely to produce good results. I'm sure I'm missing something, and Blume has attempted to explain it to me, but to my computer nerd brain it still seems weird.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:06 AM
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It is vital that every person in the country has access to an open admissions institution of higher learning. I know people feel like the world is ending when state schools or places like CUNY are open admission, and I'm fine with selective admission at those places as long as there are good community colleges.

The slack jawed retard who can barely speak his native language is exactly the kind of person that can benefit most from education. Most educational policy should be geared to helping people like that. Three reasons

1. Effectiveness: Kids who are already very bright will manage to learn no matter what situation they are in. Their minds are awake. They are curious and processing information. When I taught at an elite institution, I felt largely superfluous to the actual process of education.

2. Democracy: If the people have the power, you better be damn sure they know how to use it.

3. "Bastardized Rawlsianism": In general, when there is inequality, efforts should be targeted to help the worst off. This wasn't really Rawls's thesis, but it is a good rule of thumb.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:09 AM
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I even went two years early, at age 16 (do other states have Running Start?).

Lord, I wish I had done something like this. I don't know if Virginia has a formal program, but anything to get me out of my lame-ass high school for a while would have been great.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:14 AM
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I didn't realize any state universities were open admission. (I knew most or perhaps all CCs were, as they should be.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:15 AM
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my first group project included a balding makeup-counter lady with Multiple Personality Disorder. She used to invite us to her house for groupwork

Surely she could just do it on her own?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:19 AM
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Relying on rankings and so on to grant interviews seems so very anti-meritocratic and unlikely to produce good results.

Except that it doesn't! I'm not sure what the metric used is exactly -- some combination of writing sample (usually a chunk of the thesis sent along), letters, institution, and luck -- but it doesn't track the rankings perfectly, which is why acting like a two-place bump seals your fate is the most ridiculous thing ever.

27: I think it should be the community colleges that have this role. Not because I'm worried about the integrity of the state schools, but because if someone really can barely speak his native language, he shouldn't be paying thousands a year for classes to teach him how when he could be at the community college getting better instruction for much less.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:19 AM
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27: I disagree, at least with "Effectiveness". Most of those slack-jawed retards aren't interested in learning, IME. So, why waste effort on them?


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:20 AM
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1. Effectiveness: Kids who are already very bright will manage to learn no matter what situation they are in. Their minds are awake. They are curious and processing information. When I taught at an elite institution, I felt largely superfluous to the actual process of education.

I didn't learn a damn thing I didn't already know in those English classes, but then, I wasn't a kid, either.

I do agree, by the way, but don't underestimate how frustrating and discombobulating it is to have an awake mind in e.g. a philosophy class where the textbook uses cartoons and people still aren't getting the idea. I think again, that math and science (or other classes where students don't feed off each other in the same way) work better as far as providing an actually democratic product. Humanities classes you're bringing up the less prepared to a college-ish level (and that's excellent) but you really aren't doing a hell of a lot for the sharper kids. Which, again, is fine. They can get that in upper division classes after transfer. Or, if it's an open enrollment four year school (I also attended one of these) then they can get it in the upper division classes at that school -- I took absolutely fascinating seminars from engaged, highly competent professors who were very happy to have the latitude to teach their specific field, and the (small) classes were very sharp and motivated, with a lot of range in age and background.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:22 AM
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29: UMass Boston is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:23 AM
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34: yes, it seems a number are. I was unaware.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:27 AM
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...In the same way that purchasing a Lexus is open to all...


Posted by: Rottin' in Denmark | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:28 AM
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26: It's a cartel. The rankings of grad and undergrad schools have been quantified, and grads, undergrads, and post-docs circulate back and forth between high-ranking profs from high-ranking schools, and in general, grads of high-ranking undergrad schools go to high-ranking grad schools, and the best of them get hired by the same group of schools to teach the next generation. Schools raise their rankings mostly by using incentives to steal high-ranking profs from higher-ranking schools. There are many, many interlocking feedback loops producing a superstable system. Google up the Bri/an Lei/ter Philosophy Gourmet Report if you want an up-to-date rundown on who's who and what's what.

My multiply repeated beef about this is that it has been used to narrow the range of philosophy. Some areas and schools of philosophy are taught only or mostly in low-ranking schools, making them disastrous career choices.

Philosophers tend strongly to be feminist men, with a very few feminist women. It's a very feminist field, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:29 AM
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Google up the Bri/an Lei/ter Philosophy Gourmet Report if you want an up-to-date rundown on who's who and what's what.

You say this like I wasn't even part of that enormous, ridiculous analytic philosophy thread.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:31 AM
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re: 27

I've argued pretty much the same on previous threads on 'magnet schools' and the like. Yeah, bastard Rawlsianism is a good rule of thumb.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:33 AM
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32: The tragedy is that they are interested in learning. The comedy is that their desire is channeled into enthusiasm. So they become passionately affixed to an idea like "The Yellow Wallpaper is about how a woman wants to move to California, but her husband won't let her." And hear, hear, 33.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:34 AM
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You shouldn't have posted #26, knowing that I am here. Note that I Googleproofed the name of the Great Satan, in deference to my hosts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:35 AM
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I even went two years early, at age 16
I did the high school community college thing too, but all I got was an appreciation of the quality of my high school and a decent weed hookup. Which is not nothing.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:38 AM
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41: your particular complaints neither answer my question nor particularly address the situation in other disciplines. I think my question is actually fairly easily answered; there are a ton of highly qualified candidates, and the interviewing schools rely on what information they're given and their instincts, and they really can't go too far wrong since, again, so many qualified candidates.

In this it's not too different from any other hiring process, really.

Then why were you asking, Sifu?

I... I don't know. My instinctual distrust of school bubbling to the surface?

That's kind of silly, isn't it?

Yes.

Well then.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:39 AM
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Just be more careful in the future.

I think that philosophy's hiring practices would be legitimate if philosophy really were a science the way it wishes it is and the way the Great Satan claims it is. They enforce a consensus that isn't there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:45 AM
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37: As though no one anywhere ever cared about anyone's work or job performance? Far be it from me to defend academic humanities as a whole, but it's not a conspiracy.

I find that it's not that unusual for students to get into a graduate program at a place quite a bit better than their undergraduate institution. And if they don't? Do an MA, and then apply up for the PhD. Though it's still a crapshoot, jobwise.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:50 AM
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Stepping forward to demonstrate my insufferable snobbery and stuffiness and cynicism I will say the following:

Philosophy?! Who cares about that?!

and

Meritocracy sounds great on paper but it has so many flaws in real life. How to determine merit for one, and how to keep money and power out of consideration is another.

Do I have an answer to any of this? Not really except we should fight against the flaws and not give in to cynicism, which is pretty hypocritical of me I admit.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:52 AM
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Some areas and schools of philosophy are taught only or mostly in low-ranking schools, making them disastrous career choices.

Ehhhh. Not exactly. At least, not in the way you think. The worst place to be is not the guy at the lower-ranked school toiling away on a diss on American pragmatism, but the guy at the top-ranked school who is just not quite (for whatever set of reasons) the complete package. The guy at the lower-ranked school will be looked at as a strong teaching candidate, and will have a decent shot (for some value of 'decent') at getting hired by a school that doesn't see themselves as in competition with the big dogs. He won't be a superstar, but most people don't end up as superstars, and he'll be employed.

The guy at the top program who isn't quite all that is in a bad position. His dissertation topic is likely to be on a big area that isn't as sellable to a small liberal arts college, and he looks and presents like a guy who *should* be getting hired by the top universities. But he isn't, because he's everyone's second or third choice. And the small schools don't interview him, not because they don't think he's good, but because they don't think they have a chance at recruiting him or that he'll stay if they do.

It's just not the case that the star guy applies to 75 schools and gets 75 offers. And it's not the case that if he gets rejected by a low-ranked school, he's been rejected by every school that is higher ranked than that school.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:52 AM
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Within the cartel, performance is important. From what I've heard, there are no pragmatists in the cartel. Pragmatism itself is substandard job performance. And guess what I am.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:53 AM
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I know I've said this before, but I still think all universities should offer a two-year associates degree.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:54 AM
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As though no one anywhere ever cared about anyone's work or job performance?

No, Blume, you see, in all other walks of life, no one cares where your degree was from or how you did in it. It's only the humanities.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:56 AM
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50: you're saying that as a joke, but I swear there are plenty of fields in which that's true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:57 AM
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Well, kind of true, anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:57 AM
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re: 51

Now that is just fucking bollocks.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:58 AM
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53: is not!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 9:59 AM
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I mean, what do you want me to say? I worked in high tech in the bay area, and the majority of my friends didn't have college degrees of any kind. Computer security? Same deal. Web bullshit? Same deal. Do Google and Microsoft recruit out of top schools? Sure. But they're an absolutely minor piece of the industry, and anyhow I have friends working at both who didn't do a lick of college. Is it every specialization within the computer world? No. You probably aren't going to get a job designing robots without specialized education. But for non-trivial chunks of that world, it is true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:01 AM
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I don't know if there are `plenty' of fields, but there are certainly some.

Certainly some tech areas have a (somewhat irrational) distrust of degrees (particularly graduate), and unless you are a very junior hire, your degree, where you did it and how well is pretty much irrelevant compared to what you've done since then.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:02 AM
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Soup got my back. Fist bump!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:03 AM
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Sifu, this is an a priori question; your empirical evidence is not relevant.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:03 AM
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Philosophers!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:05 AM
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I first got on my anti-cartel kick when someone straightfacedly told me that the UW English department ranked #8, whereas the UNC English department only ranked #13, as if the five step difference was very meaningful. I could not figure out any way in which a ranking like that could really mean anything. You have one large group of people doing a very large group of loosely related things, and another large group of people doing a somewhat different large group of loosely-related things, and it's possible to rank the two groups that exactly? It seemed insane -- though, in terms of hiring, it does make sense.

And this was about the time that pomos took over control from whoever came before them, so pomo departments started to outrank the others.

I wouldn't have that reaction with regard to physics, which seems to me to be a better-defined field with a firmer consensus.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:05 AM
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I'd agree that's true of some fields. But the idea that it's only philosophy that turns into a feedback loop is a) not true as a description of philosophy and b) excludes law, engineering, medicine, and many other fields where the elite level does become a very tight club.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:06 AM
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Is so.

re: the sciences in general -

I'm sure mr (or ms.) already-done-important-breakthrough-work is going to get a job no matter where their degree was from. But mr (or ms.) decent-researcher-but-no-stellar-work-just-yet is getting evaluated on where they went, and who taught them, and what their area of research was [which is just as vulnerable to fads and fashion in the sciences as it is in humanities].

In other words, it's not that different from the social sciences or the humanities.

re: 55

I also did the same. I worked in IT before choosing to study philosophy. I worked for one of the first UK internet companies [in the 80s no-less], and was in low-end management in another. I still fund my studies by doing IT work, so I know that formal paper qualifications matter less there than in some other industries. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the people I know working in the IT industry now have degrees.

You can't knock credentialism in the humanities on the basis that in some bits of the IT industry experience rates higher than credentials.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:07 AM
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And this was about the time that pomos took over control from whoever came before them, so pomo departments started to outrank the others.

Mos?

I wouldn't have that reaction with regard to physics, which seems to me to be a better-defined field with a firmer consensus.

Are you kidding? You couldn't have picked a field with more divisiveness on the topic of hiring. String theorists vs. the world has been roiling physics for, what, two decades now?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:07 AM
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Nevertheless, the vast majority of the people I know working in the IT industry now have degrees.

Yup. There was a window where it wasn't necessary, and now it is, by and large. I have friends in IT who don't have college degrees, but I also have friends in IT who don't have college degrees, are making good money, but are going to get their college degrees part-time because these days they'll need the degrees to advance.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:10 AM
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Okay, but I'm telling you, in security, web crap, QA: in that sort of thing, in my experience, it's still not like that.

My experience, in the field I worked in, has led me to be (probably irrationally) confused by and suspicious of credentialism. That's really all I'm saying; I am relying only on my own ignorance to make this claim, and tried to get at that in 43.

(Well, not ignorance of the software/web/(in)security industry. About that I know rather more than I wished I did.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:13 AM
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Physics hiring in the US (I think most science academic hiring in the US) is driven by money, thus the incentives of the funding agencies; the hire brings in grant money reliably, and gets tenure, or doesn't and doesn't. It's possible to not get lab space in the well equipped new building because of a local conflict, but study sections and program officers are a layer of non-local influence not so much present in the humanities.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:14 AM
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There was a window where it wasn't necessary, and now it is, by and large.

To make 65 clearer, I am disagreeing with this. It's a little more true, especially in mainline IT, but it's not, like, that true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:14 AM
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Now we need Apo's black friends to show up, and this party could get really interesting.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:14 AM
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Are there many competing schools of physics, some of which regard the others as worthless? Have some of these schools tried to freeze out the others? Are there eclectic physicists who have problems because they won't affiliate with a school?

All those conditions seem more characteristic of the humanities and social sciences than of the hard sciences, and I think that the adoption of the scientific paradigm by non-sciences is a cause of the problem.

I think that the non-scientific nature of the humanities and social sciences is both good and inevitable, but it requires pluralism. The Great Satan claims that philosophy is pluralistic, but it's really pretty exclusive.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:14 AM
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Are there many competing schools of physics, some of which regard the others as worthless? Have some of these schools tried to freeze out the others? Are there eclectic physicists who have problems because they won't affiliate with a school?

Yes on all three counts, very much so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:16 AM
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56 somewhat pwned, but I'll ad that when I worked high tech in the bay area, I worked in a R&D group that was unusual in that of the approx dozen people more than 1/2 had ph.ds, and there were only two of us who didn't have masters degrees....

.... but even those guys though I was crazy to leave to go to grad school. Certainly from a strictly financial point of view it was, but I don't think that's all they were thinking.

many of the really top people I met there had little or no formal training, But I suspect the bay area is a bit unusual even in tech centers, so a bad lens to view things through more generally. Contra 62, it's not even industry experience that trumps credentials, so much as actual performance. Or at least it wasn't. Being associated with the right projects certainly helps, but if you were dead weight that'll become clear and you are gone quick as they can find a replacement. Having the right person say `oh, so-and-so, they're good' and you were golden. Because there were never even close to enough people you could really say that about.

Note as far as I can tell, this is mostly true only of the most dynamic edge of things, but thats where an unreasonable percentage of the best people were (at least the younger ones). In the 2nd tier, hiring is much more in line with
other industries, and some of the more established places were hardly distinguishable from other industries. But some were.

That being said, I think it's a lot less true post dot-bomb bubble. A lot of the people who though I was crazy for taking more degrees at the time later though it was a pretty good idea later.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:16 AM
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Look, for instance, at the surfer/physicist who came up with that unified theory using the E8 shape recently. Or watch that Nova thing on String theory and the arguments against it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:17 AM
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John, are you simultaneously complaining about Stras's monologue in the other thread and going on about academic philosophy again in this one?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:17 AM
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71 is much more measured and reasonable than me. Listen to soup, people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:17 AM
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71: "but some weren't" 4th para should end.

And I'd agree with Sifu, from what I hear the window, as Cala put it, isn't quite closed. Particularly in areas that are really moving.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:18 AM
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It's different in the natural sciences in that it's easier to judge good work objectively. (When I was in math grad school, I found that joke about the rabbit with the lion Ph.D. advisor completely unintelligible.)

63 is completely wrong. String theory controversies get all of the media attention because string theory is completely unlike the rest of physics. The rest of physics really is a better-defined field with a firm consensus.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:19 AM
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70 is correct about physics, from my not-quite-insider-anymore point of view.

ST has really distorted US hires in physics over the past decades, and those chickens are starting to come home to roost.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:20 AM
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77 got cut off, whups:

cont. but ST is only part of physics, albiet the part with the best press in the US these days


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:21 AM
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re: 65

Well, in the UK at least, outside of tight-knit circles where people know who's good, you increasingly need a degree to get in the door. The IT job market isn't that different from other job markets anymore. In most job markets -- outside of the professions -- really stellar experience and performance trumps relatively poor qualifications [or even the lack thereof] but it's still the general rule that qualifications are a big door opener.

In the humanities, I'm not defending strict credentialism or the status quo. I'm probably one of those people Cala describes in 47 who's not going to end up getting anywhere. The current hiring market isn't exactly serving me well, either.



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:21 AM
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Sifu got me started, FL. I'm sure he regrets it.

Stras is in a class by himself, because I was basically trying to agree with him, but using different terminology.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:21 AM
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70 - No, no, no. Why must you persist in error? All of your examples are the same example, of trying to come up with new theories to supersede the Standard Model. The ability to come up with models in this area exceeds our ability to test them, which makes the whole area much more politicized than normal.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:25 AM
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Jetpack, the best history departments that stay the best history departments do so for at least three reasons: First, because hiring committees read, very carefully, the work of any person they're considering hiring. Second, if the department's already among the best, and also private, it steals the best people from lesser programs, amplifying their bestness through agglomeration of talent. Even in this case, though, the hiring committe had better read carefully. Because some people with great reputations actually suck and then are unmasked at a later date. Or they're horrible, horrible people and can ruin a department through force of will -- though no amount of careful reading can prevent that. Third, luck. No matter how closely one reads a dissertation, one must be lucky enough to have the writer realize the apparent potential expressed therein. This is especially true because often we read out of our own fields and don't really have a great gauge of quality. So we hope for the best.

Oh, also: reputation is largely based on nothing but hogwash. The rankings in humanities and social science disciplines are both nonsense, and, coupled with that, hopelessly dated nonsense. But it is very rare for students coming out of lesser institutions to be hired by the best programs. Very, very rare indeed.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:27 AM
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musing about tech hiring, I think there is another thing going on as well. In the mid 90's the academic hiring market in a number of science and tech related fields was absolutely abysmal in the US. Which meant there were a fair number of dead-end post doc's and lecturers who were looking for industry jobs but didn't really want them. Which I think drove some of the distrust for people showing up with phd's on their resumes, anyway.


81: 70 isn't a crazy description of the high energy theory area, the only problem is that it's a bad proxy for physics as a whole. But particularly here an inordinate amount of the top graduate students have been unfortunately funneled into ST and it's cousins, and it really is a distorted market. I know a few really pretty good people who went that route and ended up bailing on academia (as well as a couple who made faculty). In a different discipline, they probably would be in academic positions today.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:29 AM
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Also also: won't IT employers, in their various guises, become more likely to demand degrees, advanced even, as the pool of labor grows large enough to swamp the demand for same?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:32 AM
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79: To be clear, ttaM, I don't think 'for whatever reason doesn't end up going anywhere' actually reflects much on one's scholarship, but more on... well any combination of factors: having to go on the market early because of a need to support kids, being linked to a location by a spouse's job, being so talented that one's competition for the job ends up being people who have already had tenure-track jobs for two or three years, etc.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:32 AM
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I have two areas of actual expertise, steppe (Mongol) history and Chinese philosophy. Awhile back I found out that one of the best guys in the field, Pa/ul Bu/ell, never got a position (trying for 5? years) despite a degree from UW. He's a real virtuoso who reads Chinese, Persian, Mongol, and Turkish, and Mongol history is pretty important 1200-1300 AD. This wasn't even a credentialization problem, but it did make the whole academic enterprise look horrible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:36 AM
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84: Sort of. There are large shops looking for a really large number of essentially interchangeable hires, and exactly like other industries they're likely to fall into creeping credentialism as a filter. But the really new development stuff is primarily done by small shops who would absolutely love to only hire out of the to 1% or so of the available talent (not going to happen generally), and will probably fail if they can't hire almost exclusively out of the top 25% or so. Numbers pulled out of rectum but probably not far off. These ones know that degrees aren't a really good proxy unless you know the department very well.

There are other effects, though. Places like google are too big to think the same way as a start-up, but they do filter. But they're often going after a particular program or handful. It's not that you have a degree from a good school, it's that you have a degree from a particular school that they know very well, so they know what your coursework etc. looked like. It's a bit inbred, but works for them (TM).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:38 AM
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I would redescribe "never going anywhere" as "doing something sensible". I know I'm a bore about this, but academics' strange condescension toward anyone who leaves their profession to do something else never ceases to amaze me. I never think this way about someone who stops being a stockbroker to go and do something else, even though I arguably have more reason to because they're probably earning less money.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:40 AM
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I do know a guy who got a Microsoft job (about 5 years ago) at age 18 with no credentials at all, not even a HS degree. He was one of the super-duper hires who was personally inducted by Gates.

Another guy I knew, about 15 years ago, was hired by Tektronix out of a community college in the middle of a layoff. He'd been trained in an area they planned to move into while they dropped other stuff. (He did have a BA degree before he went into CC.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:42 AM
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I know I'm a bore about this, but academics' strange condescension toward anyone who leaves their profession

I don't know that you're a bore about it, but it doesn't really match my experience. What I do note is a real reluctance to let people back in, which is probably overall a poor policy. But not condescension to those who leave. Maybe other disciplines, I dunno.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:43 AM
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My brother and his wife washed out of geology PhD programs but got very good jobs in the water quality area (specifically "seepage"). But the people who trained him won't talk to him.

A lot of the humanities don't have backup careers, except maybe (with a year more training) HS teaching. And teaching schools seem to treat humanities faculty badly, with adjunctification etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:47 AM
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90: It's not true in philosophy either, though it is true that it is by and large a one-way door.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:49 AM
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From my experience, even at the most mundane end of things, IT is a route into organizations that is far easier for those without degrees. I'm talking help desk/desk side/PC tech folks. They never get hired right off, but if they are good at that plus have customer & organization skills they end up getting taken on while that almost never happens in other fields. Then they get to some level where freaking HR takes notice and for that (and other more legitimate reasons) most end up finishing school part-time.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:55 AM
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as someone who was recently applying to grad programs in physics, I can at least comment on the perception of hiring practices in physics, if not the reality. What I was told was that essentially there are about 10-20 schools in which anyone who goes there and does decent research has a much better chance at getting into academia or one of the top government labs, There are about 30-50 schools where you might be able to go into academia or the top labs, but you have to do really top research, and there are the great unwashed masses of schools where you can probably only go into industry (not that that's a horrible fate, but it's a lot easier of a place to go than academia).

Another aspect of the ranking in physics programs is that the higher ranked schools have more resources so you can actually get research stated earlier, and thus graduate in something more like a reasonable amount of time.


Posted by: MaxPolun | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:56 AM
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What I've seen at several areas, including tech, is that people who get into a field when degrees are not required hit a glass ceiling with regard to promotion when the field "normalizes" and develops a routine educational training path. Unless they own the business like Jobs of Gates.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 10:57 AM
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90: Agreed. People who leave for good jobs, or for personal reasons, typically are offered hearty congratulations. The idea that academics condescend to people who choose other careers seems like it may be a lingering vestige of a bygone era: when elite society viewed the academy with a great deal more respect. That was a time, I think, when academics also were more likely to be elites -- gentlemen scholars -- and also, perhaps, more satisfied with their jobs.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:00 AM
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BTW, everybody should look at the Unfogged photo section for Nakku's adorable three kids, including one who mugs it up trying to steal the scene from the innocent newborn.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:10 AM
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Wrong window, but no harm done.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:11 AM
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Boy, it sure was smart of me to tell people to listen to soup.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:30 AM
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98: but not harm done.

No so fast. "John Emerson posts in the wrong window and a billion people die". It could happen!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:31 AM
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re: 85

Yeah. My doctoral study and adjunct teaching has gone well in places (not so well in others) and the reasons why I am a bit pessimistic about future career prospects are, largely, about 'structural' factors like that: family stuff, having absolutely no money necessitating working long hours and taking longer to complete than normal, etc. FWIW, and false modesty aside, I think I'm pretty good and my research pretty interesting, but it's by no means clear that that is going to be enough. From the point of view of someone hiring, I can see and understand why hiring me (at 36 and with breaks away from study/academia) rather than someone else (at, say, 26 or 27) might be a problem.

re: 88

It's not really like that though. For myself anyway, if I end up doing something else it'll be a regret because something I really wanted and put a lot of time into hasn't worked out. Not because everything else is crap.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:34 AM
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From the point of view of someone hiring, I can see and understand why hiring me (at 36 and with breaks away from study/academia) rather than someone else (at, say, 26 or 27) might be a problem.

I'd be surprised if this were true, because, certainly if you're under 40, the default is just to start counting your 'career age' from when you get out of grad school, assuming you didn't take a decade or more to write your dissertation.

Also, you're not as old as all that. Because of its mode of training, the age distribution at time of doctorate is quite different in Britain and the United States. Across all fields in the U.S. in 2006, the median age at Ph.D was 32.7 years. In Science and Engineering 31.3 years; in the humanities it's 35.2 years, in Education 41.7 years; and in all other fields 36.2 years.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:52 AM
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Not because everything else is crap.

If it's not Scottish academia, it's crap!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:55 AM
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assuming you didn't take a decade or more to write your dissertation.

Nah, I took four. But I took a couple of years off in the middle, and then a while [for family/money, etc. reasons] to rewrite the corrections suggested by the examiners [which I finish this summer].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 11:57 AM
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Like I say, I doubt anyone would blink at this in the U.S., but I don't know the UK market so well.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:02 PM
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102: Wow. I'm going to be such a baby when I finish.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:02 PM
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It's jumping back in the thread, and back a generation in time, but I would like to note that Back In The Day my sister was accepted to UCLA but went to a community college instead for two years (cheaper, closer to home), then transferred to UCLA to finish. Went on to two highly successful careers (teaching, ministry) and a doctorate. Community college is - was, anyway - not just for losers!


Posted by: dr ngo | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:03 PM
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re: 105
I'm not sure I have a 100% picture of the market, either. But I suspect this coming year is the year something will have to happen [which in my case I think will mean making sure I get some more publications out there] or it won't happen at all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:05 PM
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102: Wow. I'm going to be such a baby when I finish.

I was fairly young relative to the statistics, though not by any means really unusual. You keep looking to engineer that moment when someone on campus asks you for directions and then goes on to ask you what you major in, at which point you can tell them you're a Professor. But in fact this never happens, perhaps because (like Ogged) they can see that the spark of youth has left your eyes.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:15 PM
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Either that, or I will finally have stopped dressing like an undergrad (funny place to keep your spark.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:17 PM
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I don't know the spark thing. Ogged is the expert on seeing the light of youth fade from wherever it emanates from.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:19 PM
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||

What's the legal position on beating your downstairs neighbour to death because he's a boorish prick who can't speak at a volume quieter than a bellow, listens to piss-poor techno music too loud on a tinny crap stereo, sings at the top of his voice and believes that all doors are there to be slammed, all the time?*

>

* the slamming is so fucking bad the entire house shakes, about every 20 minutes.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:21 PM
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In Scotland or the US?

I believe that Senator Specter is the US expert on Scottish law.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:23 PM
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this was about the time that pomos took over control from whoever came before them

Maybe you're actually referring to something specific you just didn't bother to name, but talking about undifferentiated 'pomos' is pretty much a way to prove yourself insufficiently theoretical.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:31 PM
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Undifferentiated Pomos would mkae a good band name.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:33 PM
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This story is probably apocryphal, but I have heard of a case where a Chicago man was tried for shooting another man who parked his car in a space that the shooter had just gotten finished shoveling free of snow, in violation of an unwritten paragraph of the traffic code. The story goes that the defense argued justifiable homicide. Not sure if the jury bought it, but I could certainly imagine it being a plausible trial strategy if you picked the right jurors.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:33 PM
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Not sure if the jury bought it, but I could certainly imagine it being a plausible trial strategy if you picked the right jurors.

Heh. Of course, the actual course of action will be to mutter about him behind his back and make plans to move.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:35 PM
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I'm not theoretical at all, but there was a big conference where the pomo coalition routed the pre-pomos. It's like you're asking me to differentiate between breeds of cockroach.

I can differentiate 1968 SDS factions, or the provinces or whatever they called them of old Yugoslavia, or the sects of Eastern Christianity, but pomos all look alike to me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:37 PM
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There was a non-fatal parking shooting in Portland. Each party owned four four-wheel vehicles, and they were neighbors. The wife of one guy was crippled trying to stop the fight. It occurred in Jesus' neighborhood, more or less (St Johns).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:39 PM
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the pomo coalition

Conspiracy theories, again! At least Stanley Fish pretends to have understood the things he's dismissing.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:41 PM
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116: Shooting is clearly too crude a reaction. If the weather is cold enough, turning a hose onto his car for an hour or too should be sufficient revenge.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:42 PM
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After smearing the entire windshield with toothpaste. (The roommate of an acquaintance had this done to her in Southie.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:44 PM
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Conspiracy theories R me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 6-08 12:45 PM
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? what does the toothpaste do?

Software testing is still an exciting, new, quick growth field not yet choked with the weeds of academia, with most of the good people having either be retrained from a non-it job, or drifted in through helldesking and the like.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 2:36 AM
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I know I'm a bore about this, but academics' strange condescension toward anyone who leaves their profession to do something else never ceases to amaze me.

This comment reminded me of a related peeve of mine. That is, the total fucking uselessness of school administrators and other people who major in education.

My wife, who has degrees is both chemistry and geology, has been working in a cancer research lab for a few years now. There's constant talk in this state of the shortage of qualified science teachers in the middle and high schools, so she applied and was approved for a state license. Two principals in a row have made it a point to go on a rant during the interview about how they don't like the "alternative licensing progam" because it encourages people to apply for teaching jobs who aren't education majors.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 3:13 AM
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The education-major HS education monopoly is one of the few issues I agree with libertarians and some Republicans about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 3:26 AM
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You keep looking to engineer that moment when someone on campus asks you for directions and then goes on to ask you what you major in, at which point you can tell them you're a Professor.

Now that I've been trying to find a new career, I've gotten people asking me if I've just finished college. Had I kept on the normal time-to-degree in my grad program, I'd probably have finished my dissertation this year or last and be on the market or hired (or in between, heading for the market again). That probably would have aged me sufficiently to not get those questions. I do look fairly young, despite a total lack of spark.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 3:41 AM
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re: 125

That's a strange system. In the UK, at least, pretty much all high-school teachers would normally do a standard BA/Bsc type degree, then an education diploma which takes approximately a year. It'd be very rare for a high school teacher not to have a degree in something other than education. On the standard model a chemistry teacher, say, would have a degree in chemistry.

There is an education degree but you'd find that among primary school teachers much more often than among high-school teachers. I'm fairly sure the B.Ed doesn't qualify you to teach in high schools without some further subject-specific training.

There are additional joint-degree programs which do a subject-specific degree in parallel with education training which would lead directly to qualification as a (high-school or primary school) teacher.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bachelor_of_Education#United_Kingdom

[seems I'm basically right. B.Ed = primary, secondary == subject specific degree + postgraduate diploma OR joint education/subject-specific degree.]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 3:47 AM
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The U.S. is similar. To teach Chemistry, or Earth Science, etc., you have to have had certain coursework. What kills is me is that as an outright major she's had more of the advanced subject courses, but didn't take "Teaching Methods In Science". Also, didn't do a semester of student teaching.

I was hoping the situation had gotten better, but apparently not. Years ago my father got the same treatment from my local high school when he applied there to teach biology. The county was cutting costs, and he had taken a sweetened early retirement package after spending over 20 years as curator of ichthyology over at LACM. Ph.D, former president of Southern California Academy of Sciences, had taught over at Loyola Marymount, a local JC, etc. But not good enough to teach high school! So he went and worked for an environemtal firm instead. Insanity.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 4:08 AM
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112 -- Take up bagpipes.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 6:08 AM
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I think Irish dancing is a better solution for Nattar.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06- 8-08 6:36 AM
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Far from being a tool of the rich to keep down po' folks, the SAT is the only part of the college admissions process that can be considered at all meritocratic. All you need to do well on standardized tests is a number 2 pencil and a sharp mind.

High school rankings, GPA, letters of recommendation, national honors society membership, and extracurricular activities are all much more dependent on wealth and family connections than are SAT scores.

You show me a poor black kid with a 1400 SAT, I'll show you a kid whose ass is getting a free ride to UVA. How is that a bad thing?


Posted by: Changwa Steve | Link to this comment | 06-14-08 11:28 PM
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