the down low on torture from up north

I know that most of what passes for news in Canada is pretty tame stuff. It’s mostly of the “how many Canadians were involved in that global tragedy?” variety. But this one is serious, worth the world’s attention–especially the United States. It has been unraveling for quite some time now, and it is just coming to a head. The question is the extent to which the Canadian government was complicit in the torture of detainees in Afghanistan. Continue reading “the down low on torture from up north”

grading standard

I’m pulling this out of Andrew’s grading policy thread because I’m interested in responses to a very specific question (although the question is relevant to his thread). It is this: What is an A? If I can find nothing wrong with a student paper, they did everything I asked them to do, they worked hard, but it lacks creativity, pizazz, intellectual insight — is that an A or not?  Some papers are clearly better because they are “smarter” but is it fair to downgrade people just because they are not as smart as other people, when you cannot identify anything they could possibly do to improve except, you know, somehow have more to say? It may be relevant that in my system there is an AB grade between A and B. Other schools may be able to distinguish between A and A+ or A-. Do these intermediate grades affect your answers? This is an honors class, and pretty much everybody in it is basically smart and working hard, but some are “better” than others even so. Does that affect your answer? (This is intimately tied to the question of whether grading standards should be absolute or relative, and what the absolute standard should be.)

Note that this distinction is pretty much the same one we make in professional life between the journeymen/women who do well-crafted ordinary science and the “stars” who change our thinking with original insights.

i hear he will kiss your baby

Kieran Healy is begging for votes in his bid to rule the world sit on the Publications Committee for the ASA. I, for one, support his platform to publish the work of junior associate scholars of sexualities and social movements in ASR.

Anyone else looking for bloggerly love in the ASA election? If we can even get Jeremy elected, really, the power of the blog bloc knows no bounds.

asa ballots

American Sociological Association ballots are now out. I’ve posted my ballots some times in the past, but will refrain from doing so this year. The blogging community may wish to note, however, the presence of Kieran Healy on the ballot for committee on publications. Rumor is that our generous pals over at orgtheory are promising drinks for everyone–literally, multiple drinks, for every single member of ASA, including compulsory drinking for teetotalers–if he wins.

speaking truth

We went to a celebration last night of the 81st birthday and retirement-of-sorts of a nun who is a professor of sociology and criminal justice and a social justice activist, who has spent her life working for justice with a special concern for incarcerated women.  He couldn’t stay for dinner, but the Governor (who knew her from back in the day when he was district attorney and teaching part time at her school) dropped by to make a speech about her and give her a an official state plaque full of whereas clauses about her accomplishments. When it was her turn, she said: “So what are you going to do about getting rid of truth in sentencing?”

Ah, those nuns.

more on grading policy

I’ve written before about my work through EPC on grading policy. After a year’s worth of consideration, we are presenting a resolution tomorrow for UNC to report grade distributions on transcripts for each class, and to report grade patterns to faculty each semester.

Two colleagues wrote me a detailed and thoughtful message about the proposal, and while I do not agree with their position, I asked and they agreed to have me post it to scatterplot for further discussion. Their message is below the break; my response and further discussion is posted as the first responses to the post.

Continue reading “more on grading policy”

we said, ‘send cash,’ not ‘ash’

I’m in London. It’s lovely here — the weather is beautiful. Which is good because I might be here a while. If things keep up with this volcano — and I suspect they will — I have no real chance of leaving any time soon. This is a very odd position to be in. There isn’t much I can do to leave. But I am most certainly going to miss work (teaching). I’m thinking about trying to teach via skype. Who knows if that will work? I’m lucky in that my brother lives in London. So I’m not spending tons of $$$ on a hotel room (there are stories here of people running out of cash — thinking they could go home days ago, only to be stuck here, with hotel bills and food bills. Some have moved out of the hotel and into the airport to save $$$).

The title is a joke that lots of UK people are telling — I gather that they feel much of Iceland’s debt has been absorbed by their banks. And this volcano, it seems, is insult to injury. Wish me luck on getting home! Best case scenario, tomorrow. But we’re likely talking early next week some time. Crazy, no? I’m not sure what to do. I didn’t bring enough work. Perhaps just enjoy the forced holiday. But at some point I’m going to need to fight with other travelers to get on a flight. That will be a rough day at the airport.