May 28, 2001

Not working

Well, not exactly not working—I watered plants this morning, hope to play basketball with my son in a short time, and will fly up to Ohio for a work trip tonight and come back tomorrow night. I'm headed out for a memorial service in New Mexico on Thursday, so the "workweek" will be short but hectic. I'll probably have to bring the laptop on the trip with me this weekend.

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Posted in Personal at 9:04 AM (Permalink) |

May 15, 2001

Working and Partying

Academics either have the last of the preindustrial jobs or the first postindustrial jobs, because we can work any time on our stuff but generally have flexible schedules. Today's a good example. I have several things I need to do this week on the summer projects and writing, but it's also my son's sixth birthday today. I had a meeting at 11:00 a.m. this morning, but I'll be heading home soon to help Vincent's mom. I don't know if I'll have a chance to work on my work stuff at home, though.

What—you thought I meant alcoholic matters?

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Posted in Random comments at 12:47 PM (Permalink) |

May 12, 2001

Most enjoyable transferable skills

Over the past ten days, I've carried on a correspondence with a graduate student at another institution who is having problems with her advisor and wondering if she can do anything with her skills if "professoring" doesn't work out. Among other bits, I brought out our dogeared copy of Richard Bolles' What Color Is Your Parachute? (the 1993 edition). For the record, here are my ten most enjoyable transferable skills:

  1. Putting public policy in (a new) historical and sociological context
  2. Writing to teach or explain
  3. Researching history in archives
  4. Coaching students and colleagues
  5. Teaching history and related interdisciplinary courses
  6. Reading great scholarship
  7. Analyzing diverse sources of information (data)
  8. Referring people to each other or books for intellectual purposes
  9. Editing serious scholarly writing
  10. Getting things done in a bureaucracy to help other people

The first seven are fairly close to each other in terms of what I enjoy.

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Posted in Random comments at 3:41 PM (Permalink) |

May 8, 2001

Tying up loose ends and creating others

My office desperately needs a river to run through it after the end-of-semester streamlining of tasks (teaching first, breathing second, everything else last). Nonetheless, I want to accomplish something concrete today. That chapter, still due in Herb Rieth's hands, needs but two citations and a proofreading before it goes off. So it has first priority.

The next set of tasks involve making my life more complicated, in the short run, and making other people's work possible in the long term. I need to start the work of collecting data sets for the new Consortium on Educational Research in Florida, so we have some numbers to crunch for the number-crunchers. I need to draft an Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal for each piece of data we get. The details are many, and the reward may be long off. But this is work worth doing.

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Posted in Random comments at 3:20 PM (Permalink) |

May 5, 2001

No work

Congratulations to all USF students graduating today. Monday is soon enough to start on summer projects. Sorry to all 0.427 readers who were expecting a pithy thought today. Check the archives!

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Posted in Random comments at 8:13 PM (Permalink) |

May 3, 2001


I have just turned in final grades to the department office, where they'll go (probably tomorrow) to the university registrar. Despite the registrar's office having a scantron form for grades (according to a former student of mine), we still handwrite the grades, and the university hires clerks to type in each grade by hand.

One student had an interesting comment about the final quiz. A question on one form of the quiz was, "By approximately how many years of life has the median age in the U.S. increased during the past 140 years?" The student wrote (in addition to an answer), "This is a terrible question. Does it matter to a future teacher? Rote memory?"

There are two issues here, one of the relevance of a piece of the course and a second one the extent to which exam questions can be relatively dry vs. more interesting and substantive. When I described (at the beginning of the course) what had happened to the population's age structure over the past 150 years, I explained a few of the possible consequences of the nation's aging (fewer voters with immediate family members in schools, for example) as well as how past conditions may have affected children (when during the mid 19th century, for example, at least one half of the population was under 20).

The second issue is how dry a question should be on an exam. Is there a reason for me to demand that students learn some facts, just as facts? I think so, because one needs to make arguments with details (not abstractions), and because one needs a command of such details. I suppose I could have pushed students further with this question: "Describe what has happened to the age structure of the United States in the past 150 years and how those changes have affected schooling." If I did so, I suspect future students might curse this current student.

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Posted in Teaching at 3:45 PM (Permalink) |

May 2, 2001

Closing in

My daughter's been sick, now (after my son), so grading and other work is being juggled with child care (and hanging around the house). Yesterday I rushed into the office, e-mailed myself some documents, did a few other items, and left. I graded a majority of my student quizzes remaining, so I really don't have many to do, right now. In the meantime, I need to decide whom to interview for a graduate research position for the summer (and fall, potentially) and figure out what else to do before I leave again for home.

Then the summer work starts—not as many schedules, but lots to do.

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Posted in Random comments at 10:03 AM (Permalink) |