I'm doing a presentation on balancing professional and personal lives in academia next week for my Teaching in Higher Ed class. The title of this post is sarcastic; don't get your hopes up.
1. Who earns more: a tenured professor or a fry cook?I’m a tenured professor of history of science and mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. I finished high school 25 years ago. What if instead of attending college I had worked at McDonald’s?2. How to be realistic about the pre-tenure life.I’ve enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I’ve seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I’ve decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.3. And why am I such a pessimist about job market prospects and getting tenure? Because academia acts as a drug cartel.Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of ‘outsiders’ ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail.Hat tips: Students of GRAD8101
Superstition. It's awkward to discuss. Religion is tied enormously to development work; it often motivates international organizations, catalyzes fundraising
and plays a huge role in the lives of the poor.But religion, spirituality and superstition can also stand in the way of preventative
health behavior, education, financial savings and can serve as a pretentious vehicle of exploitation.
Narendra Dabholkar, a "fighter against superstition" was killed in Maharashtra, India in September. His obituary
in the Economist is inspiring. Yet over three decades, ever since he had decided to switch his work from curing bodies to curing deluded minds, he had become famous. The organisation he had founded in 1989, the Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith (MANS in its Marathi acronym), had 180 branches in the state. In village after village he and his activists would confront the babas, sadhus and other “godmen” who preyed on the poor and simple, challenging their claims and reporting them to the police. He investigated and demystified cases of black magic and possession by ghosts; he campaigned against animal sacrifice, the prodigious waste of drinking water and good food during religious festivities, and the pollution of local rivers during Ganesha’s birthday festival by the immersion of thousands of idols made of plaster of Paris.Prior to the influx of community family planning workers in my little research district in Tanzania, most people were seeking their reproductive healthcare from the witch doctor.
I occasionally refer to him as "traditional medicine healer," in a weak effort to be respectful, but my Tanzanian colleagues are insistent that the correct translation is witch doctor
. It's a fair, he did try to sell me love potion
People like Dabholkar are fighting an underestimated battle in favor of education, rationality and welfare improving decisions. As an American, its awkward for me to address this abroad without a lot of cultural (and religious?) imperialism. It's much easier to talk about innocent reasons for poverty: lack of good schools, insufficient healthcare, limited labor markets, but what if the poor are just making bad superstitious decisions?
Uninformed opinions affect household decisions every day, and counter the central economic tenant of rational decision-making. It's unexpected and awkward, but so is the fact that I ask complete strangers about their sexual behaviors.
What is the impact of superstition on poverty? Worth more research.
Screenshot: explanation of benefits from HealthPartners
Last week, I had a labral repair surgery in my hip
. It was not hugely invasive: an hour and a half of arthroscopic repair under general anesthesia, three weeks of crutches and two months of physical therapy. Most importantly for me, it is nowhere near as painful as an ACL repair. Check out those numbers above. Four hours of time at a surgery outpatient center,
two of which were in recovery, cost $16,582. Seriously? This doesn't include pre or post-operative appointments or any physical therapy.My insurance only paid 35% of that price tag. HealthPartners
negotiated that price for "bringing" patients like me to the surgery center. So, what is the point of the 16k, then? I highly doubt any uninsured person would have this semi-elective surgery (not recommended for folks with arthritis and not totally necessary for folks aren't "active"). Also, my Mom brought me to the surgery.
Also take note of that relieving 0 next to member responsibility. I guess the university makes up for its meager graduate assistant stipend with a fairly generous health plan. Hat tip: HVM
I'm not sure if you've noticed, Minneapolis, but there is an enormous swath of highways in the middle
of the city. I've lived one mile from this highway knot for four years and it still blows my mind.
It separates awesome hippy hangouts like Seward from the thriving East African hotspots in Cedar-Riverside, trendy downtown from the University hipsters. The Vikings stadium, the Mississippi River, Little Earth Indian Reservation
(one of the largest urban Indian reservations), the University of Minnesota, the best coop in the cities
, Hennepin County Medical Center and the Mill City Museum
are all within one mile of this highway maze. Did the city miss the memo about how mixing folks is good for growth
Because apparently many people don't believe economics is a science. Raj Chetty defends the field in the face of disagreement here in the NYT
. First of all, economics is a social science. Secondly, as with most scientific research, testing theory through hypotheses and empirical analysis makes the field scientifically and policy relevant. Thus, the macroeconomists are maybe a little jealous of the development economists' RCTs: As is the case with epidemiologists, the fundamental challenge faced by economists — and a root cause of many disagreements in the field — is our limited ability to run experiments. If we could randomize policy decisions and then observe what happens to the economy and people’s lives, we would be able to get a precise understanding of how the economy works and how to improve policy. But the practical and ethical costs of such experiments preclude this sort of approach. (Surely we don’t want to create more financial crises just to understand how they work.)
Hat tip: COCO (a real scientist)
An intimate brochure-photo gathering over a shared text book on the pristine lawn. From insidecolby.com.
, a fantastic new faculty addition to my department at the university wrote a couple of weeks ago about the things you can't get out of a MOOC
(sidebar: it is awesome to have a professor in my department who doesn't think blogging is a waste of time).
He first discusses Pritchett's approach to education as a means of enforcing social norms, values and behaviors for its citizens. To me (as a daughter of an educator), this sounded wacko. But I think Pritchett explains it best in this Cambridge Nights interview
. Right around minute 5:20. As nation states strove to legitimate the rule... one of the ways [they did this] was through control of the socialization of the youth. Governments said: "Ok, kids are going to get educated, if we don't control the education, who knows what they're gonna learn vis-a-vis affiliation of the nation state, affiliation to particular ideologies. So it was really the ideology of affiliation of nation states combined with parental demand around their children's economic futures that led to more schooling and that schooling being controlled by the state.
This perspective doesn't solve the problem that Massive Open Online Courses might leave me unemployed in the future, but its something to keep in mind when we talk about education policy.
Meanwhile, my parents, in concern for their daughters possible future unemployment (economists read: parental demand around their children's economic future), brought a New Yorker Magazine all the way to Tanzania. In the May issue was an elaborate, New Yorker style, ten-page article about MOOCs. Good thing they haven't seen this visual about my low prospects on the job market (until now: hi M&D!).
Bellemare discusses the social capital students earn in college, learning to work together with young people from various backgrounds, especially in American college students where students tend to live on campus all together. While I completely agree with this assessment of social benefits, I'm skewed with privilege because I attended a small liberal arts college
that prided itself with academic community, cultural diversity and intimate brochure-photo gatherings over a shared text book on the pristine lawn. But, according to the New Yorker, my experience is not the reality:When people refer to “higher education” in this country, they are talking about two systems. One is élite. It’s made up of selective schools that people can apply to—schools like Harvard, and also like U.C. Santa Cruz, Northeastern, Penn State, and Kenyon. All these institutions turn most applicants away, and all pursue a common, if vague, notion of what universities are meant to strive for. When colleges appear in movies, they are verdant, tree-draped quadrangles set amid Georgian or Gothic (or Georgian-Gothic) buildings. When brochures from these schools arrive in the mail, they often look the same. Chances are, you’ll find a Byronic young man reading “Cartesian Meditations” on a bench beneath an elm tree, or perhaps his romantic cousin, the New England boy of fall, a tousle-haired chap with a knapsack slung back on one shoulder.... Universities are special places, we believe: gardens where chosen people escape their normal lives to cultivate the Life of the Mind. But that is not the kind of higher education most Americans know. The vast majority of people who get education beyond high school do so at community colleges and other regional and nonselective schools. Most who apply are accepted. The teachers there, not all of whom have doctorates or get research support, may seem restless and harried. Students may, too. Some attend school part time, juggling their academic work with family or full-time jobs, and so the dropout rate, and time-to-degree, runs higher than at élite institutions. Many campuses are funded on fumes, or are on thin ice with accreditation boards; there are few quadrangles involved. The coursework often prepares students for specific professions or required skills.... This is the populist arm of higher education. It accounts for about eighty per cent of colleges in the United States.
For these students, at the eighty percent of colleges in the states, higher education is about simple cost-benefit analysis. It's about finding short-term child care and rounding up enough cash so you can finish that certificate in dental assistance or officially learn to operate the infrared spectrometer. From a (hopefully) future faculty perspective, the impending imposition of MOOCs
is ominous. I can only hope that I will be lucky enough to become employed at an institution like Amherst
, where the faculty voted against joining a MOOC program
, and the administration and endowment were privileged enough to support that decision. Hat tips: Mom and Dad.
1. Three good reasons we still haven't gotten rid of malaria.
I'll cut to the chase: although we've worked hard at scientific and economic reasons, the cultural reasons for the persistence of malaria are the real challenges. The awkward part is that in the most malaria-infected places of the world, malaria is perceived as nothing more than a common cold. Shah proposes that we attack the disease according to the priorities of people who live with it. It's a good approach, but when something as simple as a bed net can prevent so many deaths, though, I think behavior change is not an inappropriate goal.2. American inequality is mind-blowing.
I also missed the chance to join the Applied Economics department in seeing this.
The third link about MOOCs
is actually becoming its own post... stay tuned.
Hat tip: PC & CSC
Remember my grumbling post about the major lack of participation among women in my economics courses?
And how I brought this up in the context of women's leadership and Sandberg's Lean In
?It turns out I'm not the only one who sees this association (i.e. told ya so).
Harvard Business School underwent a self-imposed gender makeover
, adjusting curriculum, social rules and rituals and trying to change institutional norms. Part of this: hand-raising lessons.Nearly two years earlier, in the fall of 2011, Neda Navab sat in a class participation workshop, incredulous. The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Ms. Navab had been the president of her class at Columbia, advised chief executives as a McKinsey & Company consultant and trained women as entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Yet now that she had arrived at the business school at age 25, she was being taught how to raise her hand.
A second-year student, a former member of the military, stood in the front of the classroom issuing commands: Reach up assertively! No apologetic little half-waves! Ms. Navab exchanged amused glances with new friends.
There is certainly a persistent difference in how men and women participate in class (a friend of mine said that in his male-dominated department, men do not actually raise their hand- they simply start talking). The fact that this difference exists for ambitious twenty-something professional and graduate students is indicative of a larger socialization training on appropriate behavior for boys and girls. It might be hard to overturn by the time these students reach grad school, but I admire Harvard for taking on the challenge.
Also notable from the in-depth article
: there was a fair amount of push-back from the students who did not particularly appreciate being subject to the incessant gender lens. If you're happy to believe that there aren't any problems to fix, consider this: At an extracurricular presentation the year before, a female student asked William Boyce, a co-founder of Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm, for advice for women who wanted to go into his field. “Don’t,” he laughed, according to several students present. Male partners did not want them there, he continued, and he was doing them a favor by warning them.
Highland Capital Partners.