Author Archives: drschweitzer

About drschweitzer

Lisa Schweitzer is an assistant professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern Calfornia. She studies sustainable cities and transport.

ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #8: Ann Markusen

So Ann Markusen is a professor at the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, and she is the director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.

I knew that I was going to include Ann Markusen in this discussion because she was an early influence on me. I came to planning from economics, and this does a lot of things to color your viewpoint, but one of the things it does, depending on how you were trained, is to make you perpetually skeptical of economic development. “Transfer effects” you sniff. Human capital development, you’ll buy. Place-based efforts? Eh. Transfer effects that foster either gentrification or throwing good money after bad.
You then view the people who foster such practices as well-intended ninnies who don’t get they are fostering destructive competition between places and subjecting their own to winner’s curses.

This is wrong, but you don’t get to be the sort arrogant old person I am without being an arrogant young person first, and so this dialogue of sorts rummaged through my brain quite a bit in my classes about economic development at the University of Iowa when I was a master’s student. I did have excellent instructors there, Alan Peters and Heather MacDonald, who have since moved to more tropical environs, as anybody who lives in Iowa for too long really owes it to oneself to do.

All those self-indulgent reflections aside, Ann Markusen’s writing and thinking blasted into my lack of interest in economic development in the mid 1990s. Like Heather and Alan, her writing was, simply, too smart and interesting to ignore. And she did it to me twice. Once with economic development as an overall concept, and then again with arts and culture as part of economic development.

I have generally read everything of Ann’s that I have encountered since 1992 or so, but I know her only in passing. This paper appeared last year (2013) in Work & Occupation. The cite:

Markusen, A. 2013. “Artists Work Everywhere.” Work & Occupations. 40: 481-495.

This is a policy brief, and it aims to examine where artists live and their migration patterns. This is one of those papers that isn’t going to make anybody excited over methods or data; it’s just a report that gets people think differently than they tend to about artists and where/how they live. From La Boheme onward, we’ve had a very particular image of what artists are: young dreamers, struggling to make it in a big market and living, loud and proud, in splendid squalor in the middle of the most romantic downtowns out there: Paris, London and, of course, New York.

Using PUMS data, Markusen demonstrates that this image is a bit off.* There are sizable number of artists over 65 working in many industries and living about as far outside of bohemian artist garrets as one possibly can. And even in the arts supercities (LA and New York), plenty of artist live in the suburbs in those regions.** Markusen uses location quotients, with caution, to note that LA and New York do have more as a share of total employment than other metro areas, in general, but that those two metro areas only have a little over 10 percent of all those employed in arts and culture industries. They report that second-tier metros like DC, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Miami also have higher shares than the national average.

The more interesting story concerns migration and reverse migration among artists. Migration to and from supercities for artists splits by type of artists, and noticeably, by age. Up to about age 35, artists flock to the supercities. Artists over 35, when they move, tend to move away from the supercities:

Qualitative work and case studies suggest that many reverse migrants, especially visual artists and writers but also musicians, are seasoned, successful, midcareer people who have both gallery represen- tation and publishers in arts market cities or who can travel to act or perform anywhere. Two well-documented cases—New York Mills (MN) and Arnaudville (LA)—involve visual artists who not only chose to live in small towns for amenities, affordable quality workspace, and family reasons but also brought skills that transformed their towns and communities. Painter John Davis bought a roomy farmhouse and barn in rural New York Mills, many hours from a major metro, to paint in peace, and ended up spearheading the creation of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center (Cuesta, Gillespie, & Lillis, 2005; Markusen & Johnson, 2006). Painter George Marks returned home to the tiny hamlet of Arnaudville to care for his dying father and stayed to lead a revitalization effort using visual art, Cajun music, and French language

.

Paint in peace? What the heck? Hasn’t he read Ed Glaesar? Doesn’t he know that he can only be innovative when he’s got 18 million other people yakking on their cell phones around him?

So some artists move to supercities, find a market and representation, and get their brand established, then move out when they can, probably to paint in peace and not pay out the nose for apartments they have to share with roommates and mega-rats. Or just to go back home, a call I hear now and then myself.

Musicians are the most dispersed of the artists, which I think is very interesting, though I have to admit: I know a lot of studio musicians in LA who live in the Valley. I need to think about this one. And that’s the point. Markusen always makes me think.

*But the fantasy is still pretty cool, except for the dying from TB part, even if that makes for pretty great opera:

**Squalid garrets I suspect are much less fun when Placido Domingo is not your roommate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

JAPA needs to change its book review format

There, I said it.

750 words is not enough to engage in an intelligent discussion of a book-length work. Either planners read and take books seriously, or they don’t, and 750 words suggests no, we don’t take books seriously. As a result, most book reviews wind up sound churlish, amateurish, or like the reviewer didn’t bother to read the book. And I strongly suspect that many reviewers do not read carefully as they know they can slough through 750 words of careless skimming.

Just for two instances:

I have a great deal of respect for Emily Talen, but the limited scope of her book review of Paul Knox’s makes it sound like she’s on some ideological rant instead of reviewing. I *know* Talen has intellectual reasons for calling out Knox here, and I would actually like to read her reasoned argument, instead of what she can cram into 750 words. I know in general her normative positions on planning models and cities; I’d like to see her take on the particulars of that book. You can only really do that in a review essay and higher expectations.

BTW, my own reviews for JAPA are pretty lame, too, given the 750 word format.

There is a a market for serious, long-form reviews on urban ideas, and that gap currently gets addressed in the major book review publications–London Review of Books, New York, Los Angeles, etc. While those are wonderful, it means that few planners are famous enough to get to the nod. Instead, it’s the same people: Mike Davis, David Harvey, Witold Rybczynski, Richard Florida. And the world hears enough from those guys.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

The best and highest MOOC ever

You can go to Hogwarts via a MOOC.

Finally, a MOOC that doesn’t make me want to hurl.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #7: Kaisa Schmidt-Thome

(not terribly well proofed as I want to get jump-started on my reading and writing again)

So for this week’s entry (actually last week’s, but I am behind, and I’ve decided not to sweat it. I’ve had my own papers to finish last week), I selected:

Schmidt-Thome, K., & Mantysalo, R. (2014). Interplay of power and learning in planning processes: A dynamic view. Planning Theory, 13(2), 115-135. doi:10.1177/147309521349030

I do not know Dr. Schmidt-Thome or Dr. Manytsalo at all. Here is Dr. Schmidt-Thome’s Academia.edu page, where she is listed as faculty at Aalto University. I just happened upon this manuscript when I was catching up on reading Planning Theory, and I liked the paper a great deal. There’s a copy available for download on her Academia.edu page.

So one of the persistent problems we have had in planning theory (and everywhere else) is dealing with power. One take, which thinks about “empowering” communities or individuals, tends to underplay the role that structural differences in power plays in maintaining existing practices. A lot like my problems with Sandberg’s Lean In–well, women would do better in the world if they just asserted themselves. Yes, but they would also do better if people stopped expecting them to do all the work all the time and rewarding men simply for being male. Power taken up from the structural direction causes us problems, too, unless you are of the “we’re doomed” mindset: structural theories of power and how it works often do not help us see how to function within those structures with any real level of agency. Planners can be stooges of big institutions, or failed revolutionaries, and little more in hard structural approaches.

This manuscript helps us out of that problem by examining two, complementary ways of thinking about power. One comes from Lukes’ Power: A Radical View and the other from Bateson Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Lukes developed a “third dimension” of power that describes the capacity of individuals within structures to exert influence in key ways; Bateson develops a similar concept to the “Third dimension” of individuals within ecology, where power moves throughout a system, back and forth, and to and fro. From there, Schmidt-Thome and Mantysalo draw on the work in planing theory from Patsy Healey to develop a model of learning that reflects ways to crack into “power over” represented in structures. It’s a three-level concept: learning I is what they refer to as “trial-and-error” learning undertaken so that individuals within contexts begin to suss through what is true about the situation. This type of learning changes power over situations as it enables individuals to move to Learning II whereby they change the system simply via understanding it and, thus, changing the capacity of institutions to set the terms of the discussion unchecked. Level III is where the action is: it occurs when the practices embodied in I and II lead to understandings that can’t be reconciled within those levels and require a transformation in conception among learners about selves and systems.

Schmidt-Thome and Mantysalo then illustrate their understanding of learning via looking at the agonistic planning around the high speed rail station in Stuttgart, GR. There has been quite a bit written about this case study from one of my colleagues, Deike Peters, and it’s nice to see people writing about that case from multiple perspectives. Here, the authors trace the social learning aspects of the opposition in such a way that you can see how power shifts via learning across the three levels they discuss. A useful contribution, indeed.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Crapping in your drawers at the *merest mention* of no football

Ranking schools tends to be both hideously subjective and biased, and therefore, bull crap, at just about any level you choose to do it. But a writer with the WashPo decided to start looking at some of the top-ranking programs in their index of high school at what they might all find in common, and on a whim, he asked if they had an 11-person football team. 67 of the top 100 didn’t.

Before I start I should say that I agree he doesn’t show a trend; I agree he hasn’t eliminated lots of other possible explanations. I would also point out that journalists don’t. That’s why they are journalists and not social scientists. The howls from the comments are, however, over the top, as the Big Brainz of the internet hand out lectures on research design to this guy/crap in their panties at the *MERE MENTION* that football isn’t the greatest thing that was ever great in the greatest greatest great thing for students to do list.

Um yeah. No intellectual problems there. One of the first rules of research might be to examine yourself when you have that reaction (hello, transit) to the suggestion that something isn’t as wonderful as you think it is. “OMG YOU CAN TOTES HAVE A GREAT ATHLETIC PROGRAM AND ACADEMICS” they howl. Of course, it’s possible. But it’s also possible that, for schools of limited size and resources, they really can’t invest in football and are better off with sport programs that require fewer resources than football. It may be the exalted position of football in American society leads school management to begin to emphasize those programs disproportionately; the parents and students become overly focussed on the sport instead of on health and play when they invest in football, whereas nobody really cares of your water polo team sucks as long as the kids get exercise and have fun and everybody is merely pleasantly surprised if your girls volleyball team has a fabulous season. It may be the male-worshipping culture of football isn’t all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips for creating more supportive (since this high school, read “less sociopathic”) peer relationships in school where female physical activity and male physical activity are treated like…activities….instead of male physical activity being treated as The Most Important Thing Ever.

It strikes me as perfectly reasonable to ask what a small school might gain by eliminating an activity where they will always been a disadvantage in favor of pursuing things that might matter to them more.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Eric Jaffe shows the yearly financials on transit, and it’s ugly

So people like Gen Giuliano and I have been saying this for years, but Jaffe is a man, and ostensibly a transit ally (unlike people like me, who wish to destroy it all by noting it costs money and suggesting we should plan for that problem), and since men are the only people who could ever ever understand transit, maybe the transit fanboys will listen this time out.

In either case, Jaffe from Atlantic Cities combs through this report and boils it down for his readers. I’m sort of excited about this entry into the discussion because 1) the DOT seems actually to have taken President Obama’s evidence-based decision-making to heart with things like this report, which is very good and 2) Jaffe does a terrific job of hitting the high points, so I can, in turn, be a fangirl in his general direction.

Except…the “blame labor” question is a big one because I thought the reason we were running around pouring money into trains was to take advantage of economies of scale and save on labor costs. The commenters are circling around the issue, which is higher management salaries do not translate to lower operating costs on the ground. So all those contract managers we have floating around transit agencies are probably expensive relative to what they are producing in terms of revenue.

It’s a lot more than a salary story. First, energy costs are problem for transit agencies as well as motorists (as energy costs are an issue for every industry) so the prices for fuel creeping upwards hits transit agencies right along with everybody else, even if they are using “alternative” fuels, which also probably have a petroleum base. Energy prices tend to move together.

During the time period Jaffe is talking about (00 to 10), there has been a lot of capital investment. Capital budgeting is done separately, but that’s a bad idea. Capital expenditures become debt service, and expanding the system means an increase in both operating costs and revenues in different proportions. In private management decisions, it would be clear: with operating deficits of this magnitude, you shut down. Immediately. You’re losing money every time you send a bus out of the barn. On the rail side, you don’t invest billions of dollars to lose 40 cents on every dollar you spend to operate. Public management requires a more subjective nexus. Is a 50 percent subsidy adequate? Unacceptably high? We have to think about transit a lot like we think about public schools. It’s the same debate, really.

I haven’t gone through and looked at anything rigorously yet, but it’s entirely possible that new expansions are pulling down cost recovery ratios even more because the investment decisions are poor upfront–that is, without the expansion, the existing system gets about 40 percent, but the new service gets 25 percent. And that might be common enough to pull down those numbers as well. The response is always “Those new lines take awhile to build ridership” but then…Metrolink.

There are a couple of key graphics in Jaffe’s discussion that should worry us. The one that really really worries me is this puppy:

Dot chart 3

Wuuuuuuuuuuuut? Yeah, nothing really surprises me here, except the bus and light rail entries. WUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT? And people wonder why I am always in such a bad mood. One of the reasons we are supposedly pouring all this money in light rail is that, while it’s more costly upfront to build, it has lower operating costs. This graphic does not suggest that, at all. Now, there are other arguments for light rail (it’s jolly! It’s sweet and wonderful and provides a better ride! Woohoo!) But damn it. The fact that there are no apparent scale economies here suggest that all that public investment in trolleys could be kicking some agencies straight in the financial groin. You spend more to get the same return, and to the degree that there are amenity benefits to the investment, those go to land owners who may or (in California’s case) may not be paying in via local land taxes.

(PS I’m sorry, Atlantic Cities, for lifting your graphic but if you label your figures with numbers I could just refer it rather than lifting it.)

Finally, inevitably, somebody in the comments started in about subsidies to drivers, to which I responded:

I have never understood the transit advocates’ belief that, somehow, operating subsidies to private vehicles are germane to how much operating subsidy transit requires. Is it a fairness or public interest argument? I agree that motorists should pay their full marginal costs, but they already pay via gas taxes, they provide a good deal of their own labor and capital costs privately (owning the car (horrendously expensive), operating it, fueling it, insuring it, etc etc). Buses, bikes, streetcars, and trucks use roads, too, so acting like those are all on car owners is also a bit off. But it’s not like places that charge very high petrol taxes, which for all practical purposes serve as a green tax*, don’t also have to grapple with how much operating subsidy to provide. At some point, there is a basic public management problem here: How much of the operating deficit is a “subsidy” that goes to benefitting patrons, and how much of it is just poor public management, where we really ought to start saying “no” to various add-ons (like new buildings with marble floors, etc, ala the LA Metro building) and expansions that simply put agencies on the hook for operating service they can’t afford to operate.

*I know it’s probably third-best, but see the work of Ken Small and Ian Parry.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m officially tired of the “Things you shouldn’t say to Whomever” lists online

I really do understand the desire to forestall the rudeness of racist questions–I really do–in the original entries in “Things you shouldn’t say” genre. And in some ways, the effect of these have been good by making it clear: people educated about race don’t ask these things.

But now I think we’ve started undermining the efficacy of the original message with silly things like “Things you shouldn’t say to people without children” and the like. I have no children. It was not by choice. I have dealt with my fair share of shitty comments from people over the years. But I delight in other people and their families despite my grumpy anti-social demeanor, and nobody promised me a rose garden. Parents say clueless things. Non parents say clueless things other times. If you are not really part of an oppressed group, it’s your job to engage in conversation to help people get a clue if they don’t have one, and then move on and forgive once you have. It is also your job to obtain clues when you should. For those facing oppression, the cluelessness of dominant majorities is different and more damaging than the simple fact that people don’t understand special, special me and the fact I haven’t had children. Oppressed groups have told us again and again, left us many clues, about the nature of their oppression and their differences. Not getting a clue there is all-too-socially-accepted.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #6: Charisma Acey

Charisma Acey is assistant professor of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. She’s one of the folks who came to UCLA as I was leaving, so I’ve always known her to chat with (as she’s a lovely person), but I’ve not made time to read her work. This is one of those weeks where I am feeling exceptionally pleased with myself for coming up with this exercise because it got me to read some of Charisma’s work. I don’t know much about her research area, I learned a lot, and she’s a marvelous prose stylist. Newly minted fangirl here.

I selected a history paper:

Acey, C. 2012. Forbidden waters: colonial intervention and the evolution of water supply in Benin City, Nigeria. Water History
4(3):215-229

This paper follows up on earlier work Dr. Acey has done on Accra, and it examines the same themes tracing how colonial decisions about the land tenure, urban residential segregation, and water infrastructure investment created a path-dependent, lingering inequality in access to water within Benin. There is a strong dose of environmental history here along with urban history.

The manuscript begins with the pre-colonial history of the Benin City dynasty that transformed the city via engineering to bring the spread of malaria. The result was a thriving city and polity that remained independent until the 1800s, when the British began to pressure the Benin leadership for greater access to trade. Whenever I read histories and I encounter the word “trade” I’m always grumpy because of a pet peeve; the type of trade is not incidental to the subsequent history. If we don’t know what the trade is in, we don’t the motives or the geography of the incentives that people are responding to. I had to do some background research to figure out what the trade was in, and from what I can tell, Benin City was a lively slave trading kingdom as well as a supplier of tropical commodities like palm oil and pepper. But the apparent wealth of the Benin City kings appears have to flourished prior to European contact as they were an established empire who conquered neighboring tribes, so an existing slave economy makes sense given the the empire’s reliance on farming and agriculture to support the city (there are slave empires all over the ancient and medieval world.) This isn’t the main point of the manuscript, but it does suggest to me that, given agricultural dependency, the story about water has some interesting facets prior to the story that Dr. Acey develops here.

The British took over Benin City in 1897 after a series of tentative treaties broke down into violence, and British colonial water regulation began in 1910 with taking water from the Ogba River–a river that locals had usually allowed only grey water uses and not human consumption. Instead, local residents use the water from the Ikpoba River, with royal and elite families drawing from the more exclusive freshwater offshoots of the Ikpoba. The Ogba was selected because it was a cheaper infrastructure project for th British. Soon conflicts ensued over water levies and taxes. Eventually, the city went back to relying on the Ikpoba River in 1987, but it still has proven difficult to get an adequate supply of water for the entire city, with attempts at private supply and an emerging hybrid governance structure that still carries the imprint of colonization: disproportionate investment in European settlements with investment lagging in indigenous settlements.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Going to college is not mandatory: Dr. S’s guide on life choices in one simple blog post

There, I said it. If you don’t want to be in my class, I’d prefer you not be there. I am not a jailer. Nothing is mandatory. There are many paths, and many places to learn.

This news story is making the rounds, and ZOMG it totes proves that higher education is a totes ripoff, I totes tole ya…except why, exactly, we need a ranking system to explain to us that people who major in art, education, and the humanities at tiny second-tier schools are worse off is a bit beyond me. We know this. We’ve known this for years. We pay teachers shit salaries. Artists struggle. The humanities have been a luxury item for decades.

But, hey, uncovering the major shocking factoid that a degree in art from Clodhopper University doesn’t pay is super-big news. Save all that money (that you don’t have) and put the money in stocks. Because, you know, the people who wind up going to Clodhopper U had that money sitting around.”Shall I invest in stocks today, or go to community college? I need Slate to tell me.”)

There are any number of conditions under which a person shouldn’t go to college:

1) If you have to get into serious debt to do it and you are looking to college to pay your way out. I don’t know why everybody thinks it is news, or why the people who point it out think of themselves as special geniuses, but getting into massive debt for anything other than an extremely durable asset or a major increase in human capital is not likely to pay out. There are people in the world who can buy $350,000 cellos for fun even though they don’t play; there are people who can buy $350,000 cellos for whom it actually makes good professional sense to do so (professional cellists). For the rest of us, it would be financial idiocy. You wouldn’t buy a washer and dryer at 25 percent interest. You might at 2 percent. To figure that out, you do the math against the laundry mat. I wish higher education were free for everybody who had the talent, motivation, and interest. But it’s not, so do the math.

If you want to be in college because it’s fun to learn, you know what you want, and you can do it without getting into unrecoverable debt, or you don’t mind the debt, then that’s another thing entirely.

2) If you don’t want to go. I am not listening to any wah-wah about “My mom and dad are making me go.” Please. Get a spine. If you really, seriously have no idea what you want to do and you don’t want to continue your education, then ask them to help you by fronting your first month’s, last month’s and a deposit on an apartment of your own and then get out there and hustle if you think you’d rather do that. College will still be there if you think you want it later, and you might find you like doing something else enough to stick with it without going.

And parents, OMG, please don’t force your kids to go to college by refusing to help them get set up on their own. I am 100 percent behind saying “no” if the answer to not going to college alternative involves kids who think they are going to sponge off you indefinitely. But a person in college who doesn’t want to be there will find a dozen ways to not get anything out of being there, and in the mean time, you are writing tuition checks. So yeah, if little Bobby doesn’t want to do anything besides smoke pot and play video games, you have to realize there is really nobody at college who will force him to do anything besides smoke pot and pay video games. Do you want to pay tuition while he does that, or would you rather not?

I’m sick and tired of hearing about how “college isn’t worth it” when people send wee Bobby to college because he isn’t “ready” to live on his own and, thus, should go to college. That is insanity. The drug trade is alive and well on college campuses, binge drinking is everywhere, and nobody will force wee Bobby to grow up in college. Most colleges and universities are terrible, and exceedingly expensive, babysitters.

3) If a tech libertarian bazillionaire gives you $100,000 to start up your own company. By all means. Again, if it doesn’t work out, college will still be there if you blow through your $100K and fail. You can learn in many places.

4) If you can get the training you want on the job and you can get hired. Why not? College is really fun, but if you can apprentice with somebody and it’s something you want to do–again, college will be there later if you don’t like what you are doing. I repeat: you can learn in many places, and if you do not want to be college, then figure out it on your own. Again, you may find you like being apprenticed to a carpenter, electrician, or hairdresser. Every plumber who has come to my house seems to be genuinely happy in his or her work. That’s the idea. Making a decent living doing something you don’t mind getting up to do strikes me as close to heaven as anybody but the extremely fortunate get. You don’t know what you want until you try many things. And once you learn how to do something, you can, if you are entrepreneurial, start your own business.

I’m not the sort of person who thinks every university needs to survive to the end of the 21st century. I think there are enough people to support what I do. I believe in markets. If I find myself out of a job, I’ll have to do something else. No clue what. But I am going to barf if I hear any more about the “higher education bubble” or any more whining about “having to go to college.” You want to go to college, great. You don’t want to? Don’t. Lots of people do fine if they don’t; lots of people fail if they do–and vice versa. The general numbers about being better or worse off for going to college are general numbers and don’t tell you your future, it’s as simple as that. You could be the person who majors in music and who winds up starting a multi-million dollar label. Or the person who winds up teaching piano at an elementary school. One is more likely than the other, but still.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

In which I tell full proffies to learn to behave themselves on the internet

I left PLANET, which is the planning educator’s listserv, after an incident that involved what I thought was a really interesting debate about Harvard students walking out on Greg Mankiw with Randy Crane from UCLA, who is also my former advisor. We’re both opinionated; we shoot from the hip sometimes (me more than him). I can be spicy, but I also think it was pretty clear throughout the course of the discussion that I think Randy is the shizzle with awesomesauce. I thought it was all in good fun until my inbox started flooding with “How DARE YOU?” and “You’re ruining your career, you stupid girl” emails. “Apologize immediately, or you’ll never be promoted or get another job, EVER!” from various and sundry full proffies. Randy, btw, never said boo. He tells me I’m wrong on a rather routine basis. I suspect he says this to others, as well. But the idea that I might intellectually disagree with him has never bothered him as far as I know, not even when I was a student. He has a first-rate mind and likes other people with stuff going on upstairs.

But I did as I was told. I groveled, publicly, as I was told, and also left. Because that? That’s just screwed up. I’m sure that these folks thought they were doing me a favor, but telling a full professor he’s wrong on the internet is not the same as taking pictures of you and your partner using your sex toy collection and posting it on LinkedIn.

By promulgating the belief that public disagreement is death in the academy, they perpetuate the practice that only full professors are allowed to speak with frankness, which the world doesn’t need. For the most part, the world already knows what full professors think. That’s how they got to be full professors; by making sure everybody knows what they think.

I recently had more full proffies on my ass on Fboo because honestly, the you-mustn’t-mustn’t-say-that police in the academy are everywhere.

It’s Facebook. It’s supposed to be fun, you fools. Yeah, I’m irreverent. So? Is that really such a crime? Will every grumpy quip result in the end of my career? Really? In general, I live my life well within the bounds of propriety. Lighten up. Yeah, future potential employers are going to know that I’m crazy and vulnerable and oversensitive and I rescue dogs and–gasp!–I’m not always right or that favorite word of already-dead people everywhere: “appropriate.”

So how should full proffies behave on the internet/seminars/job talks/etc?

Stop basically threatening people for having ideas, being real, and having emotions. Stop losing your shit if somebody junior is a little messy. You’re probably no picnic, either, sunshine; the rest of us just have to pretend that you are. Stop puffing about hierarchies. Trust us, all of us who aren’t you know full well you outrank us and can hurt us if you choose to do that. We don’t need reminding every 10 minutes. Stop trying to take the risk and fun out of life. Recognize that some of us are in this for the adventure, and if you can’t unbend enough to join us, then at least don’t stamp out our little campfires, tell us it’s past our bedtime, and then take all the s’mores for yourselves. Show us that wonder of discovery never stops being so gratifying by being more interested in the endeavor than you are in defending your field advantage. There’s plenty of time to discipline ideas, approaches, etc for lack of rigor. You can still protect people if they have voice. Save your cautions and admonitions over stuff that really matters.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized