The Hawk

I’m sorry if this traumatizes anyone but I just have to share. N. and I were at The Hedgehogs earlier today. We stopped to admire the view out of the living room window and saw a big hawk land on our deck. The hawk clawed off a huge chunk of the deck and then he grabbed a small bird flying nearby and carried it away.

Maybe it was a mistake for me to start living so close to all the real nature because now I have these images of hawks landing on my head.

Feeding Cows

My mother made some new friends who are very rich. (You can guess what kind of Russian-speaking immigrants is rich on your own.)

The rich friends took my mother to the most expensive store in Montreal. One of the new friends bought a pair of shoes for $450.

“Hah,” my mother said. “They look exactly like the shoes my Mom used to wear to feed the cows.”

Changes in Universities

Another interesting question I received was whether I see any differences in the way universities functioned several years ago and now. I started teaching at the college level in 2001 and working as “a real professor” in 2008, and I’m definitely seeing some changes.

The “old boys’ club” is losing power. Not everywhere, not entirely but the trend is there. There have been some important upsets to its power recently.

Students are getting better. This summer I’m teaching the same course I do every summer and I’m absolutely stunned with how articulate, intelligent and responsible the students are all of a sudden. I’m thinking I will have to revamp the course, making it harder, because it’s looking like I will have to give everybody very high grades because it’s too easy for them. Now that the job market has started recovering and many high schoolers go straight to the job market, we are getting only those students who are really prepared for college, and that’s making a difference.

The concept of a teaching institution is dying out. Everything is becoming about research, and this is creating tensions between various generations of academics.

Among the negative trends, I would list a silly and childish belief in the need to employ technology to deliver good quality instruction. This is a passing fad but it’s inflicting damage while it still hasn’t passed. Schools that are the most eager to embrace this bad strategy are the ones who cater to lower-income students. And these are precisely the students who are most likely to be hurt by this trend.

At the schools where I’ve worked, there has been no reduction in tenure lines (actually, I’ve seen the opposite) and no adjunctification. There is some growth in administrative personnel but we are a state school, so it hasn’t been outrageous.

There is a very unfortunate fixation on inter- and multidisciplinary projects which, in my experience, never produces anything of value. It’s a fad, and a pretty nasty one, at that. Funding is being diverted away from legitimate research to completely meaningless projects created only in order to satisfy the multidisciplinary requirement.

I will write more if I think of anything else. Thank you, twicerandomly, for these great questions.


So Eric Cantor is a Jew?? Why didn’t anybody tell me? Now everything has become crystal clear and all the talk about him losing because he sold out to big business has become easy to decode. Of course, a juicy fresh Evangelical fanatic was going to hammer him dead in the primaries. This isn’t year 2000, so this was to be expected.

If I’d known Cantor was Jewish, I would have predicted this months ago.