We ain’t no delinquents

by Henry on August 19, 2008

Hilzoy “comments”:http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/08/advisors-claim.html on David Brooks’ latest “column”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/opinion/19brooks.html?ref=opinion about how John McCain is a decent man being forced by the sad realities of the American political system to run a negative campaign.

Compelled? No choice? I don’t think so. For one thing, there are lots of ways in which McCain could campaign without lying or impugning his opponent’s patriotism. Some of them might even win. If McCain’s advisors can’t think of a single one of them, that shows only their limited imaginations.

But let’s pretend, just for the sake of argument, that they are right to say that the only way to win, this year, is by taking the low road. Would that mean that they have to take it? Of course not. That means you have a choice between honor and ambition; between running a decent campaign and a sordid one; between being a candidate the country can be proud of and being a candidate who contributes to the degradation and trivialization of political discourse.

You would have no choice only if you assumed that your own ambitions were more important than your honor.

To enlarge on this point a little: isn’t it _particularly_ incongruous for a self-described conservative pundit to invoke the “Gee Officer Krupke”:http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/krupke.html defence? You know, all that honor and integrity stuff – how the choices we make reflect our innate character rather than our environment and all that. I imagine that if we saw an actual principled conservative assessment of some of the tactics that have been used by McCain in the last several weeks (flat out lies, claims that his opponent cares more about winning the election than the lives of American troops and so on), it would arrive at rather different conclusions …

Herr Professor Daddy? I didn’t think so.

by Eszter Hargittai on August 19, 2008

I love my MommyAnyone who thinks male and female professors are treated equally by students is clueless. Just recently I came across a couple of examples that are very illustrative of this point. A friend of mine told me that her undergraduate advisees gave her a photo of themselves in a picture frame that says: “I love my Mommy”. (Apologies for the pathetic illustration accompanying this post, but given the time I put into it, I’m posting it.) Then just a few days later, I came across the following note on Twitter:

A friend of mine just bought this (as a gag) for her diss. director http://bit.ly/11LSdW.

Yes, click on the link. I’ll tell you where it leads, but you’ll appreciate it better if you see the image. The link is to a children’s book called “My Beautiful Mommy”. Raise your hand if you’re a male professor and students have given you similar gifts “as a gag”. No one? Shocking.

I can see the comments already: “If female profs are more caring then what’s wrong with students expressing their appreciation for that?”

First of all, students demand much more emotional work from female professors than they do of male profs. If the women don’t provide it, they are often viewed as cold bitchy profs that don’t care about students. Although I don’t know of any systematic studies of what types of topics students bring up during interactions with professors by gender, I have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that female profs get approached much more by students wanting to talk about life issues than male profs. (More generally speaking, there is literature on how gender influences teaching evaluations, here are some older references.)

Second, there are plenty of ways to express appreciation that don’t involve putting the female prof in a mothering role, a role that certainly isn’t emphasizing her academic strengths and credentials. As my friend noted, a gift of this sort makes her feel as though her only contribution to the students’ success was in shepherding them through their projects and not in providing intellectual stimulation, helping them professionally, or contributing to the creation of new well-trained researchers. Maybe, just maybe, she’d like to be recognized for her intellectual contributions and the part of mentoring that involves the research aspects of her job. And while it would be neat if mothering was equated with all of those things, don’t kid yourself. Of course there is nothing wrong with being compassionate and caring, but it’s not what tends to be rewarded professionally in academia.