Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Assorted academia

-OMG I am an underachiever. This woman is like me but infinitely better. As in, I too ran the 400-meter for a Manhattan high school, I too am more than halfway through a humanities PhD program, and yet. And yet! This being Vogue, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be more impressed by her many scholarly achievements or the fact that she's "whiplash fit." But whatever. If Vogue were coming to take a photo of me with my adviser, perhaps I would go running more than the current once-a-week in preparation.

-"Graduate students who assist professors with teaching and research may not seem like typical workers [...]." Hmm. I'm not weighing in here about the pros and cons of unionization, but I'd like to just point out that in my department, the normal situation is to teach a course - as opposed to a section - of your own. You're not assisting anyone. Aside from the quicker pace and the (relative) lack of discipline issues, what I do teaching-wise is no different from what a high school French teacher does. I mean, no, it's not typical-worker as in, there's no assembly line, but last I checked schoolteachers are, for union purposes, considered workers.

-This is absolutely the most pointless thing I've ever read. I'm officially joining the ranks of those who demand a non-ridiculous conservative academia blog, something that does not contain gems like this one: "If its racism when you dislike or disrespect others simply because of their race, what's the term to use when you dislike and disrespect others simply because of their political views? Politicism?" Um, how about the fact that black isn't a choice, while political affiliation is just that? But wait! "Shouldn't [anti-Tea-Partier discrimination] be just as much reviled as racism is? In fact, I submit that politicism is vastly more prevalent in the U.S. than racism and ought to be more reviled." Oh yes, that makes perfect sense.


Matt said...

in my department, the normal situation is to teach a course

Interesting. I guess it makes more sense for languages, but do you just start right out (after a non-service year or something) teaching intro to French? Or is it something else? My impression is that there's a fair amount of variation between departments and universities so that, as you imply, it's hard to generalize what grad students do, but that even the pretty typical task of leading discussion sessions and grading papers is "work" in a quite straight-forward way.

Phoebe said...


I agree that standard TA work is work. But the image the opening line of the NYT piece gives is of a grad student being almost a kind of protege to a prof, learning at the feet of a great master, which is more accurate for some TA positions than for others. Sometimes, from what I've heard, it's about a grad student half taking a class, half leading group discussions, which is less straightforwardly work. So on the one hand, there's the ambiguity of what to call professional training (see also: unpaid internships - when does 'educational' become exploitative?). On the other, there's teaching a language course. Teaching with help from faculty and as part of training, yes, but as the sole instructor for a course, the one many students think until told otherwise is their professor. While I'm getting something different out of teaching French than a high school French teacher might be, the service provided is near-identical. Given the amount of TA-ships at NYU (and no doubt elsewhere) that fall quite unambiguously into the latter category, the lede of that article struck me as at the very least uniformed.