Thanksgiving! Gimme a break! It's making me completely mental.

Here’s a flashback from the 1980s of that upbeat young fella Ed Grimley, a character played by Martin Short on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live.  This excerpt is not just a Thanksgiving skit, but also a takeoff of Rear Window, starring Ed Asner as the murderous neighbor.  (“You’re a dead man,Grimley!”  Oh, Mr. Grant!)

“That’s a pain that’s gonna linger, there’s no question about that!”  Ed Grimley has a lot to teach us about being thankful:  Continue reading

Thanksgiving roundup: greatest hits edition

I’ve had some private requests for more food blogging, now that Thanksgiving is nigh upon us and those of you who haven’t ordered or purchased a turkey yet may be S.O.L. if you don’t get to it soon.  But, quite frankly, I’m a little frazzled this year.  I’m laboring away on an essay that’s (at this point) a week overdue, and will need the rest of this week to make it shine. So this is what would probably be on the Thanksgiving menu at Chez Historiann this year, if I could get ’em.  (There’s probably a mouldy old box down in some forgotten fallout shelter, don’t’cha’think?  It seems like the kind of fake food that would be as good today as it was on the day it was manufactured.)

Did Don sign off on this?  (H/t to Assistant Professor Andy for the funny link, and to Fratguy for the funny line.)  Isn’t it interesting to see what became a children’s novelty processed food marketed to mothers as though it were a perfectly nutritious thing?  (Actually, when you look at the box, it’s not far from the way that energy bars are marketed today.)  Back in the day, mothers used to tell their children what they’d eat, not the other way around, which is why advertising aimed at children now emphasizes the pleasure, the coolness, and even the rebellion of consuming a particular food item. 

As for Thanksgiving:  Continue reading

Warnings from the Dead!

Roxie, an unusually prolific dead wire-haired fox terrier, has some great advice for those of us who labor under the burden of administrative “efficiency.”  She suggests that efficiency is a two-way street, and has some great advice for tenured faculty who are seeing their departments adjunctified as well as for adjuncts and junior faculty.  We must, as the Canadians say, work to rule.  Ignore that urge to volunteer for more uncompensated work, and resist pointless service bull$hit.  Here are her “Faculty Tips for Surviving in the Age of Excellence Without Money:”

Refuse to take on independent studies. That won’t really hurt students, who tend to take independent studies as much for the sake of scheduling convenience as to satisfy a burning desire to conduct research that couldn’t be undertaken within the context of a regular course. Special note to the untenured: You should say no to independent studies under any and all circumstances. They are major time sinks. You get no credit for them, and they take away from the already limited time and energy you have available for the work that will matter come tenure time. The clock is ticking! Say NO!

Refuse to take on service roles that feel pointless and don’t advance the cause of shared governance. Example: Conducting merit reviews in years when there is no merit money. The argument has always been that you do the reviews anyway so that the money can be awarded retrospectively on that magical day when the bronze turtle out in front of the library turns into a pot of gold. Bull$hit. Conduct the review if and when the funds materialize. Stop wasting our under-compensated time in the meantime. Continue reading

The origins of the casualization of academic labor

Jonathan Rees draws our attention to comments by Thomas Frank in a recent issue of Harper’s (sorry–no link) about why he left academia to pursue a career as an independent writer and journalist:

“Although it scarcely seems believable today, I originally came to journalism as a practical, responsible career move. It was the mid-1990s, I had just finished a Ph.D. in history, and I was toiling away as a lecturer at a college in Chicago. Thanks to an overproduction of historians and the increasing use of adjunct labor by universities, the market had become hopelessly glutted. Friends of mine all told the same stories of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A’s while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities. Our tenured elders, meanwhile, could only rarely be moved to care. What was a predicament to us was a liberation to them-a glorious lifting of their burden to teach. For the university, which was then just then discovering the wonders of profit-making, it was something even more fabulous: a way to keep labor costs down.”

I argued over there that his “tenured elders” weren’t the authors of this system–at least, not unless they were the Deans and Provosts who decided to use adjuncts instead of permitting departments to run tenure-track searches.  No tenured faculty in any department I’ve ever been a member of has cackled with glee at the prospect of seeing our ranks depleted and populated instead with adjuncts.  In fact, the faculty I’m on is always up in arms about the erosion in our ranks.  The chairs of my department, and the chairs of all other departments I know of in my college, have made the hiring of tenure-track colleagues their number-one request for the last several years. Continue reading

Thursday round-up: beating dead horses edition

Let's give it a whirl!

Some random thoughts inspired by yesterday’s conversation about Cheatergate at UCF yesterday and other trivial events:

  • Liberal Arts majors are frequently subjected to the “but what will you DO with THAT degree?” question from parents, friends, and random busybodies.  (History majors often get the derisive punchline of “Teach??from the parents and busybodies, as though teaching were an undignified and completely unthinkable career.)  But do parents and the general public understand that business majors at some universities are offered “senior-level” classes with 600 students in them?  Speaking for my department only, our 100-level classes (still far too large IMHO) are capped at 123.  We have no 200-level classes, nearly all of our upper-division (300-400 level) courses are capped at 44, and usually end up with fewer than 35 students if they require even a modest level of work on the students’ part.  Our senior seminars are built around writing research papers and are capped 15.  I’m not saying that any of these numbers is optimal–but my bet is that my department’s classes are classes in which faculty know students’ names and have time to talk to them (in class discussions and outside of class), design creative syllabi not focused around a damn textbook, give them constructive advice on their reading and writing, and focus on their development as students.  In the end, which do you think offers the better education? 
  • I did a little research on the internets:  my uni offers eight sections of “Strategic Management” (BUS 479) next semester that are capped at 50.  However, there appear to be some senior-level topics courses (BUS 405A and 405B) that are capped at 90 and 100.  And “Legal and Ethical Issues in Business” (BUS 205) is capped at 130! Continue reading

A wicked cheat

Is there something I’m missing here in this outrage over widespread cheating in a business class at the University of Central Florida?  Here’s the issue, according to a story at Inside Higher Ed: 

The revelation that hundreds of University of Central Florida students in a senior-level business class received an advance version of a mid-term exam has exposed the widening chasm in what different generations expect of each other — and what they perceive cheating to be.

“To say I’m disappointed is beyond comprehension,” Richard Quinn, instructor in the management department at UCF, told his students last week as he announced that all 600 of them would have to retake their midterm exam in his strategic management course. The discovery that at least 200 of his students received a version of the test prior to the exam shook Quinn deeply, leaving him “physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, trying to figure out what was the last 20 years for,” he said in a widely distributed Web broadcast of his lecture, which a student posted on YouTube, after appending his or her own captioned commentary (a more complete version of Quinn’s remarks is here).

The “perception” problem alluded to in the intro graph above is this:

What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test. Continue reading