Monthly Archives: November 2014

Tangled up in Bob

A couple of years ago, I received a contract from the University of Iowa Press for a book we are currently calling In Dylan Town: A Fan\’s Life. It is about Dylan fans in general and one fan in particular, me. I read the contract quickly, signed it ecstatically, and started to work on fulfilling […] … learn more→

Why you should still (maybe) be a professor

While I like being a professor, I am obligated to give a warning to those considering this career path. To be specific, I would warn you to reconsider. This is not because I fear the competition (I am a tenured full professor, so I won’t be competing with anyone for a job). It is not […] … learn more→

The shrinking world of ideas

When, in 1942, Lionel Trilling remarked, \”What gods were to the ancients at war, ideas are to us,\” he suggested a great deal in a dozen words. Ideas were not only higher forms of existence, they, like the gods, could be invoked and brandished in one’s cause. And, like the gods, they could mess with […] … learn more→

So, we should teach to the test?

In an exasperating article on the op-ed page of The New York Times last week, science writer Benedict Carey argues for the benefit of testing, conflating all types from yearly standardized tests to weekly quizzes and ignoring the indisputable fact that all tests are regressive (they test what is known, somethings at the expense of […] … learn more→

Professor criticizes higher ed, uses real name: Oops!

I’ve seen many professors criticize what administration is doing, and I’ve seen them punished severely, every time. Even straightforward criticisms like “The Dean’s girlfriend shouldn’t get that job over someone with actual qualifications” is basically a career-ending mistake, as too few legitimate faculty exist to stand against even the most miscreant behavior. Even tenured professors […] … learn more→

The eyeball test and the seductiveness of \”talent\”

I\’d like to share and comment on a case that recently came up in another department. The case is this. The department was doing a hire, and they had two main finalists. One of the finalists was a woman a few years out of a very good program, with a ton of first-authored publications (well […] … learn more→

Online vs face-to-face learning: why can’t we have both?

Ever since the invention of the printed word, academics have been arguing about the proper place of technology in teaching. On one side are those who I’ll call the traditionalists who insist on the primacy of face-to-face and barely tolerate online delivery. For the traditionalists, students need, as one colleague put it, to be exposed […] … learn more→

How’s Ferguson’s Community College?

Ferguson’s been perpetually in the news the last few months, over the shooting of Michael Brown. It seems the citizens there don’t reckon they’re getting a fair shake from the police, which supposedly perform a “public service” for the good people of Ferguson. I’m inclined to agree, whatever Brown’s alleged transgressions…but I want to talk […] … learn more→

“But I am their Professor”

“I am not their therapist, not their parent, not their friend. . . . Why should I have to take on any responsibility for them?” I have heard this expressed repeatedly in faculty meetings at the state university where I am an associate professor. These faculty members are referring to the undergraduate students who take […] … learn more→

How not to run off the end of the PhD cliff

It’s now been months since submission and graduation, which has allowed me time and space to contemplate what it means to finish well. How does one survive the final stages of submission, while maintaining a sense of integrity, wellbeing and dignity? This is a very stressful time in the life of a PhD student, and […] … learn more→