Thursday, August 07, 2014


Friday Fragments

As regular readers know, I’m no fan of the “undermatching” thesis.  That’s the theory that says that students who were capable of admission to selective institutions, but who choose instead less selective or unselective ones, are harming their own chances for graduation.  In practice, it serves as a way to legitimize a stigma against open-admission colleges.

That’s why I was heartened to see “undermatching” subjected to empirical scrutiny, and failing.  In a study published the American Educational Research Journal, Scott Heil, Lisa Reisel, and Paul Attewell found that “selectivity...does not have an independent effect on graduation.”  

The study only looked at four-year schools, and it did find a mildly positive effect of high tuition on graduation rates.  But it’s a start, and I welcome further debunking of a pernicious theory.


If you haven’t seen Rebecca Traister’s story on fathers this week, check it out.  It’s one of those pieces that should be so painfully obvious that it wouldn’t need to be written, but it does.  

Men need to own our share of parenting, both privately and publicly.  If we’re going to create a more child-friendly society -- which we desperately need to do -- we’re going to need to remake work so that it doesn’t rule out engaged parenthood.  Parenthood isn’t the only reason to remake work, but it’s a really basic one.  

Note to my fellow guys: “work” and “life” are too important to relegate entirely to women.  If we want work and lives too -- which we absolutely should -- then we need to step up.


Here’s hoping that the successful theft of over a billion passwords will finally push us towards something else.  Passwords a’re too hard to generate, too easy to forget, and too easy to hack.  Password managers swap dozens of little risks for one big one, and usually leave out at least one platform on which I work.  (I like to think of platform agnosticism as the 21st century nerd version of freethinking.  Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome OS...I use ‘em all.)  There must be a better way.


Data is not the plural of anecdote, but I’ve seen something this summer that I’ve never seen before, and I’m wondering if others are seeing it, too.

We’ve lost record numbers of English and math adjuncts to full-time jobs elsewhere.  

A couple of those jobs have been the classic tenure-track faculty positions.  But most have been some variation of “alt-ac:” high school teacher, instructional designer, that sort of thing.  Nobody has left in a huff, so I don’t think it’s a sign of discontent.  It just seems like other things are finally starting to open up.

Although it’s a short-term pain from a staffing perspective, it’s a long-term good for everyone involved.  I just hope it isn’t a brief and local fluke.


At home, earlier this week:

The Boy: President Obama turned 53 today.

The Girl: That’s the same age as Weird Al!

And yes, we’re big supporters of the movement to recruit Weird Al to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show.  You can find the petition here.  Get Weird, America!

The password comment has an appropriate xkcd cartoon.

The big news to me is that Weird Al must have been quite young when he became well known.
Regarding adjuncts leaving:

1) Both the faculty jobs and alt-ac jobs are a result of baby boomers retiring. The past focus on university retirement replacements was misplaced because those people have little incentive to retire at a normal age. The same is not true at the HS or CC level, where the teaching load is high and budgets have been balanced with larger classes. Regional 4-year or MA campuses are also not a sinecure for older faculty whose research has ended or is winding down. I know lots of boomers with target dates from 65 to 67, either recently retired or soon to be.

2) I doubt if anyone keeps stats on "difficulty of staffing", so it has to all be anecdotes. There do seem to be more classes uncovered than usual this year at this point in the pre-semester. I also know that we have had really robust application pools for job openings in the last year, indicating a lot of supply (no surprise), but I have also observed some lateral moves (from t-t to t-t) happen easily enough that we are not the only ones hiring f-t t-t faculty.
Men need to own our share of parenting, both privately and publicly

On the flipside, women need to reward men who own their share of parenting. A lot of men who attempt to do this are punished or appear to be punished for it.
I was 10 when I started listening to Weird Al. The fact you AND your kids are fans makes me appreciate this blog all the more!
I'm told that difficulty in locating enough adjuncts to meet demand is one of the reasons my (required writing) classes had their enrollment caps raised. Since I am several levels of power away from anyone who had any say in this decision, this anecdote should probably be taken with an even-larger-than-usual grain of salt.
@jseliger - can you give an example?
I'm told that difficulty in locating enough adjuncts to meet demand is one of the reasons my (required writing) classes had their enrollment caps raised.

I'd take that with a large truckload of salt, unless you have reason to trust your admin.

We saw class sizes go up 25% because of 'a shortage of qualified instructors', meanwhile HR wasn't accepting resumes because 'we have all the instructors we need'.
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