And your music. . . it's just noise!

The media are at it again–announcing the discovery of another “new” cultural “trend,” that is, and publishing a series of “You Kids Get Off My Lawn” type articles complaining about young people these days.  It’s the Great Recession, or the Second Great Depression, or whatever–so there’s another panic about the extension of childhood to age 30 and what’s-wrong-with-kids-these-days.  Sometimes today’s 20-somethings, who are the children of baby boomers, get the advantage of more sympathetic press coverage–see this New York Times magazine article, for example.  But a lot of this nonsense is pretty hostile, and unfairly harsh on a whole generation of Americans, like these cranky rants published today in the Denver Post:  “Generation Y Bother” by Ruben Navarette, Jr., and “A Generational Collision is Coming”by Tom Downey.  Guess what?  The rising generation is optimistic, idealistic, and isn’t professionally settled–GASP!!!  And old farts in their 40s on up feel free to condescend to them.  Thank goodness the media is on this story.

Pull up a chair on the porch and let Grandma Historiann give you a little history lesson about the days when we were all smelling the teen spirit, wearing our ballcaps backwards, and affecting the heroin chic look in imitation of Kate Moss.  Back in my early postcollegiate days–the early 1990s–there was a recession on, and a lot of wailing and rending of garments about what a pathetic bunch of losers we 20-somethings were.  A lot of people I know lived with their parents after college graduation and sometimes during grad school, or at least while they tended bar/coached junior high soccer/planned their next degree and/or move.  We too were lectured by older people and looked down on as “slackers,” stereotyped as unmotivated baristas with useless Comp Lit and Art History degrees.  A lot of ink was spilled on the return of ink–that is, tattoos–on a lot of our bodies, and whether or not we’d ever get “real jobs” after getting sleeved.  Then guess what?  Continue reading

"Morality" guru guilty of research misconduct

Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser has been found guilty of research misconduct in an internal review by the Standing Committee on Professional Conduct:

Hours later, Dr. Hauser, a rising star for his explorations into cognition and morality, made his first public statement since news of the inquiry emerged last week, telling The New York Times, “I acknowledge that I made some significant mistakes” and saying he was “deeply sorry for the problems this case had caused to my students, my colleagues and my university.”

Dr. Hauser is a leader in the field of animal and human cognition, and in 2006 wrote a well-received book, “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.” Harvard’s findings against him, if sustained, may cast a shadow over the broad field of scientific research that depended on the particular research technique often used in his experiments.

I guess our universal sense of right and wrong doesn’t include research misconduct?  Whatever, a$$hole.  Hey–here’s another reason to close your lab to graduate students besides the craptastic job market: Continue reading

Stop admitting Ph.D. students?

Psychology professor Leslie Harris published a provocative column yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, in which she explains why she no longer accepts Ph.D. students into her lab at the University of Kentucky:

After a few years of watching the academic job market collapse into a seeming death spiral, I also started to wonder whether my “full disclosure” strategy of trying to scare off prospective graduate students was adequate. I started to entertain the possibility that if the problem was too many qualified applicants for too few jobs, then perhaps the responsible – even ethical – course of action would be for me to stop contributing to the oversupply of applicants.

So, a few weeks ago I revised my departmental web page to include the following statement: “Notice to prospective graduate students: I will not be accepting new students in my lab for the indefinite future.”

.       .       .       .      .       .      

I think academia shares many of the classic elements of a social trap: It is in most faculty members’ and departments’ best interests to recruit a lot of graduate students. Churning out Ph.D.s is one of the major metrics of departmental “success.” Departments need graduate students to teach their classes, and faculty members need them to run their labs. Yet, as in any social trap, when everybody acts in their self-interest, a negative collective outcome ensues. I have served as chair or co-chair of 13 Ph.D. students in my career, a number I’m guessing is typical of most research faculty. Population growth of that magnitude is a Malthusian melt-down in the making and simply isn’t sustainable. We’re not creating enough academic jobs to absorb all those Ph.D.s, and in today’s economy, applied jobs are disappearing as well.

The comments on her article at IHEare all over the place–from people accusing her of deciding not to do part of her job and of patronizing grad students, to people who applaud her decision.  After all, she stands to lose prestige among her colleagues in her university as well as within her profession generally if she doesn’t work with Ph.D. students. Continue reading

Now go do the right thing: STFU and read the frakkin' U.S. Constitution!

I’m sure that if you care, you’ve already heard about the extremely strange racial tirade that has apparently ended (for now) Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio career.  This article by Mary Elizabeth Williams sums up Schlessinger’s angry outburst at a caller in which she screamed the N-word eleven times.  Joan Walsh at Salon writes that last night on Larry King, she announced that she’ll leave the airwaves when her contract ends at the end of this year because she wants to “regain [her] First Amendment rights.  (Check out those links–they include both audio and video richness for your full and complete understanding.  Go listen to the audio link in the Williams story–don’t miss the part where she says that it’s ironic that there are so many people complaining about racial discrimination when we have a black President!  Priceless.)

Walsh focuses on Schlessinger’s curious victimology and her willful misunderstanding of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and rightly so.  She writes,

Like a lot of right-wingers lately (see the so-called “ground zero mosque” demonizers), Schlessinger shows a poor grasp of what the First Amendment does. It protects us from government abridging our speech rights; it doesn’t protect us from other Americans deciding we’re racially divisive idiots when we use the word “n!&&er” 11 times in a a single exchange with one caller. . . .

Then there’s the claim [on King’s show that] she can’t be “helpful and useful” under the current circumstances, which seems to indicate she can only be “helpful and useful” if she can use the word “nigger” 11 times in one of her rants without being criticized. Schlessinger has gotten away with being “helpful and useful” in all her homophobic, sexist, right-wing glory for almost three decades. It’s amazing this single run-in with American decency has finally made her retreat.

But this wasn’t Schlessinger’s first major on-air meltdown that p!$$ed people off– Continue reading

Your free laugh of the day: "A Plagiarism Carol"

From the library of the University of Bergen in Norway, we have “A Plagiarism Carol.” (It might be more seasonal to show this to you closer to exams for the fall semester, but a colleague of mine just forwarded this to me.)

Not just Charles Dickens, but also Dirty Harry, 24, and The Terminator, plus Ozzy Osborne ca. 1982–what’s not to like?  Remember, kids–plagiarism really can derail a career

I’ll be posting more about career derailment later today.

College major satisfaction, then and now

Inside Higher Ed reports on an interesting recent survey of Sociology majors in 2005, which said that “70 percent were satisfied with their major when they were seniors. By 2009, asked whether they were satisfied with their major after having been in the world of work or graduate school for a few years, only 40 percent were satisfied.”  Of course, this survey may just have been timed spectacularly poorly, asking recent grads in the midst of the worst recession since World War II how they feel about their college majors, and the article notes this unfortunate coincidence.

The survey raises an interesting question for those of us who are skeptical of the value of customer satisfaction surveys end-of-semester student evaluations:  how do students think about their educations over time?  I myself tend to think that students gain more appreciation for their courses over time and after they see how incredibly random and corrupt adulthood generally is.  But the survey results here suggest another possibility.

Now that I think of it, I was very satisfied with my education at the point I had completed it.  I wrote an award-winning Senior thesis, and I had been admitted (with a T.A.-ship) to my top choice of graduate programs.  So, mission accomplished, right?  Well, sortaContinue reading