Friday, March 30, 2007

    My second letter

    My second letter went much better. Here is it, redacted and annotated.

    Dear PPP (and I doubt that): [I really am. Even though I have forgone teaching for the time being in order to pull in some decent cash, my student loans, credit debt, mortgage, etc. put me in the red for long into the foreseeable future.]

    Great blog site! [I blush] I teach at a community college, but I’m full time. Still, in the CC environment it is often difficult to tell the difference. [I actually give you and yours a lot of credit. CC teaching is its own field of glory and frustration.]

    I’ve added you to me “must visit” list. Thanks. [And my thanks to you. You made my day.]

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Thursday, March 29, 2007

    My first note.

    I have entered into a new era first note about something I wrote. Sadly, it addressed an overstatement I made. Here is what one sharp reader asked:


    I read your post on the Overflowing Composition Classroom in Inside Higher Ed, and I am most curious about one statement:

    If you are an admin, this should scare you. You are legally not supposed to ask if she teaches somewhere else, but consider what you pay and realize that she most probably does.

    What's the origin of that illegality? I'm currently involved in a research methods class, and my topic is legal research in HiEd. This might lead to an interesting discussion in my seminar, but I'm not familiar with the the origin.

    And then, in the spirit of full disclosure, I wrote back saying:

    Well, [reader's name]. I might have stretched the facts here. I know of no specific statute restricting an employer from asking about moonlighting gigs. However, an employee may have a case (not that she would win) in claiming that she was fired when knowledge of her moonlighting came to be known by her employer.

    You see, it gets really tricky, really quickly. As an adjunct (and most part-timers), there is no guarantee of future work beyond the semester-to-semester contract. If the Chair/Dean is smart, she waits until the end of the semester and suddenly has no more sections.

    I am sorry to not be as specific as I should have been.

    I can only hope that future correspondence goes much better.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    Rising number of part-time faculty

    Yet another response posting, to an article here outlining new numbers of part-time faculty.

    These numbers, and they are way too over-general to address specifically, are not surprising. Neither are the reactions found in the comments. Tenured profs will wonder why adjuncts just can’t publish and get on the tenure-track train; adjuncts wonder why they are burdened with such a lot in life.

    Specific distinction needs to be made between non-tenured, full-time, part-time and adjuncts. They are all different animals with different agendas and needs.

    Given that, the rise in adjuncting (those without secure work, no benefits, etc.) and part timers (more secure work, no benefits) will benefit no one. To argue that “practitioners” will bring new juice to the stale present is to listen to too many for-profit propaganda (one SW institution in particular). Practitioners teach as a mission. This is true and noble (nod to Vic above), but this does not guarantees little more than dilettantes in the classroom.

    I am not sure where the tipping point will occur, but I do know that I am no longer actively seeking nor teaching. My last class ended before Christmas, and I am not really looking for any more.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    The Overflowing Composition Classroom--A Response

    I posted the following in response to an article “The Overflowing Composition Classroom.”

    It seems that InsideHigherEd is going through their notes from the last CCCC convention, squeezing out an article a day. That’s ok…it gives us bloggers daily content. :)

    While the bulk of the comments to this article lament the sad and sorry state of freshman writing skills (which needs to be said again and again), one aspect of the article goes overlooked. Composition courses, even at the CC level, are taught more and more by adjuncts. Adjuncts must, ever increasingly, work at multiple colleges/universities in order to cobble together a living wage.

    So, if an adjunct is overloaded at your college, then they are certainly overloaded at her second or even third college. Some may even teach a course or three online, which adds to the total number of students in a given semester.

    If you are an admin, this should scare you. You are legally not supposed to ask if she teaches somewhere else, but consider what you pay and realize that she most probably does.

    My personal best (which led to severe burn out) was ten courses taught over the length of a winter semester (two sets of three 6 week online courses; a single 5 week online; and three on-ground 16 week). The average student load ranged from 15 (per 6-week online) to 30 (16-week onground). I don’t even want to think of the total numbers of papers graded.

    Would I recommend this? No, but it happens and few will talk about it.

    Final note: there is software that aids in increasing the time spent grading, allowing more comments per sitting while decreasing the per-paper face time. My blog has one such URL.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

    SAT writing Section Under Fire.

    The ever handy in a recent story “Fooling the College Board” took the College Board to task, jumping behind MIT’s Les Perelman’s campaign against the new writing section of the SAT. In doing so, they are committing the same instructional fallacy as Perelman.

    A little background: Perelman, director of the WAC program at MIT, reported prepped a test taker (of consenting age, no doubt to report the findings) to present what Perelman has identified as the specific rubric touchstones that would get a high score, but in a factually facetious and logically inconsistent manner. In short, to present an essay that jumps through the hoops, but one that makes little sense.

    It seems he succeeded in proving his point but, ultimately, loses his argument.

    Let’s start at the CCCC’s. Perelman walks his “exposure” of the faulty SAT method by showing how even a poorly written paper (see here) can pass the writing test. Perelman argues that with a specific structure (5 paragraphs usually), specific word choice (“plethora,” and the like), and a series of specific argumentative tactics (appeal to the arts and/or history, personal encounter with the topic). If taken as a whole, a passable essay will emerge regardless of spelling, grammar, logic or adherence to facts.

    Good for Perelman. He has proven, very effectively, that if one writes to a specific writing situation, one can succeed. Which, incidentally, is one measure of writing success. That is, a good, effective writer will write to succeed: in college, in business, in love, etc. If I were writing in a science course at MIT, then certainly my writing techniques would adhere to the rubric (spoken or not) of that environment. The same goes for “passing” the SAT.

    What should really be in question is not whether one can rig the writing portion of the SAT (one can, just like one can “prep” for the verbal section by memorizing a list of commonly tested words), but whether colleges should look to another form of measure in picking their incoming class. That is, when much power is given to the test, then much abuse and gaming will follow.

    How about some new methods of sifting the high school grads? Phone interview? Mini-academic boot camp where skills are assessed? Or how about some other measure where the potential of a student can be guessed?

    Good work Les. Just don’t become the peril-man.

    Other related links:

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Should teenage girls know about cervical mucas?

    As I mentioned yesterday, LW has been charting her basal temperature for about two years now. During that time, we have been able to visually represent all manner of nifty items (ovulation, thyroid, menses, etc.) that have really aided in her overall health. In short, information is healthy.

    Cut to an article in Salon’s Broadsheet yesterday about the “scandal” of teaching teens how to chart their own cycles. As the father of a future teen daughter, I can assure myself that I will encourage a great sense of self-awareness in her about her body. That is, I will encourage her to follow her mother’s lead in understanding her body. If that means checking a first-morning temperature, the location of her cervix and the presence of cervical mucas (which is really obvious when present), then by all means.

    Do I think that her having knowledge of her body will allow her to then manipulate the system and “get away” with unprotected sex? No. To do otherwise would be to not instruct her of the rules of the road out of fear of her speeding.

    Another banner day in stupid-ville.

    [By the way, did you read this because of the blog title?]

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    These little lives

    There is nothing like a stressful situation to bring out, what I can only surmise, is people's true nature. This is not a good thing.

    Not helping an already dour view of my fellow fellow, losing our child recently has prompted some of the most callous and hurtful comments from family and friends. They were trying to help.

    "It was meant to be.” Yea, well how bout I punch you in the nose. That was meant to be too.

    “It was God’s plan.” Good if you believe in god, not so good if I don’t. Then, you sound like a moron who needs a nose punched. (Apparently I have some lingering anger…)

    I guess the ones that get me the most are the ones that need to mitigate the loss for their own reasons: “It has been 7 weeks now…” What am I supposed to say to that? Oh, yea, you’re right. What am I thinking? I have passed the comfortable length of time for grieving, and I am now making you nervous. I am sorry. So insensitive of me. Would you care for a punch in the nose?

    Perhaps the most hurtful and nose-needing punched goes along the lines of this: "It wasn't like it was a real baby."

    The concept of conception becomes less abstract once there is a pee stick indication. For us, we were going to have a baby. LW was feeling ill, but not as much as before--good sign. LW was getting nauseous around meat--good sign. 12 urine tests indicated positive--good sign. We had been there before. We knew what it all meant. We were guardedly ecstatic.

    They say that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that most women just assume a missed or heavy period. I don't know. I do know that LW charts her basal temperature (see related post), and has a very keen insight into when she has been.

    So, LW was pregnant, and there was a baby growing inside. I used to be more cavalier about fetuses (feti?). A woman’s choice is her choice, I would say, so she is in charge.

    I still believe that. It is, after all, her body. But the tiny little life inside, it seems, has for me been growing in importance. Not to the medical community. We were offered no say in the care of our baby. In fact, the only thing we took away from this was a pathology report. Because the medical-oids defined our baby in a specific way, we lost our say in how to mourn and bury our child. Instead, s/he was sent to a lab to be dissected. No burial, no ceremony, no say. The report indicates “products of conception” present. Doctor-speak is the most callous of all.

    But not all have been nose-punch worthy. In fact, some of the most gracious comments come from the most unlikely of places. Our dentist shared her story of her sister’s stillbirth, where our dentist delivered (at a hospital, but no doctor’s were around), and they mourned, cried and buried the child. A recruiter I work for summed it up best (and left us crying) when he said that “these little lives matter.” For us, they certainly do. He was adopted and his mom delivered two stillbirth sisters. He knew intimately.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen