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we should enter out lecture halls in this way

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Written by fabiorojas

March 3, 2019 at 5:21 am

Posted in uncategorized

what the indiana model can, and can’t, do for graduate students

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One of the great things about being a member of the Indiana sociology program is the graduate programs. There is a reason that it is the only program as a collective in the history of the ASA to receive an award for outstanding mentoring and teaching. But there are limits. Here, I’ll summarize the model and then mention what I think are things the model can’t do.

In brief, the Indiana model relies on a few key elements: lots of courses/formal requirements; selection of faculty who might work well with students; selection of students who might enjoy mentoring and be open to it; a very mellow and collegial environment; and continual interaction with students from the day they show up to years after graduation. Lots of programs claim they do this, but few pull it off so well and our placements show it.

Still, the model doesn’t work well for everyone. I don’t think this is bad, but it is a recognition that no school works well for everyone. First, the model doesn’t do well to “convert” people to academia. In other words, if you are a bad fit for academia, we can’t really change that. I can tell this is true from individual cases, but also, our ten year graduation rate is the same as academia as a whole, which is about 50%.

And I am not talking about the normal blues that people feel. Rather, if you think the academic mission is simply not relevant to your life, then that may be a signal to quit. And our style of training simply won’t change that.

Second, all the hands on training and mentorship only makes sense if people have a shared disciplinary culture. While we do differ from each other, most Indiana sociology faculty are fairly mainstream sociologists and very accomplished ones. Thus, if you are an unconventional sociologist, it might be a really ill fit. Our massive course load, the most of any program in sociology, will probably prevent you from taking the goofy course in Mayan linguistics that you need  to pull of your project.

The other dimension of this is that our faculty tend to be very active in the ASA and allied groups, frequently publish “normal science,” and are very versed in current research methods. In that kind of culture, it may be more challenging to assemble a committee that can usefully help you with your post-modern regression discontinuity analysis of Tibetan monasteries and its implications for Deleuzian philosophy. A lot of these synergistic “Foucault” style projects require a slow pace, a taste for heterogeneous and even conflicting literatures, and patience for projects that start out with a lot of ambiguity. If you are wedded to such a project, you will probably chafe.

Bottom line: The super professionalized program that IU offers is solid, but it isn’t a magic bullet that works for everyone.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
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Written by fabiorojas

March 1, 2019 at 7:14 pm

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a better standpoint epistemology

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A core idea in science is skepticism. We should to test and investigate any claim, including those that we believe in. Standpoint epistemology seems to point in the opposite direction. The core of standpoint epistemology is that one’s relative position in society enables insights that others may not have. This theory was never offered as an attempt to overturn all forms of skepticism, but to point to the fact that people in marginal positions might have valuable insights.

But that leaves open a huge question. How should standpoint epistemology be reconciled with the Popperian view of science? One could make a strong claim that they are inconsistent. Here, I’ll make a more modest, and I think more defensible, claim. There are some easy ways that standpoint epistemology can co-exist with systematic skepticism.

Prior statement of predictions: Before engaging in research, one should develop some sense of what is expected and what might falsify the idea. More importantly, state predictions which are important, interesting or unexpected. And there is no reason that such statements can’t be rooted in personal experience or reflect a specific position in the social order.

Third party verification: When possible,  provide evidence in ways that people from other social positions could examine. Thus, a social position may allow you to generate data, or frame data, it doesn’t mean the data should be inaccessible to anyone else.

Replication: Have people in similar social positions collect or generate data. Reliable data generation is a good thing.

Translation of critics: Standpoint epistemology doesn’t mean that people in other positions are incapable of getting the point. Rather, their terms and frames are different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t translate claims into the discourse associated with different positions.

In other words,  there is no reason to think standpoint epistemology means rejection of conventional approaches to data. Rather, it can be about where the data comes from and the range of languages and frames that can be deployed by a community of scholars. If that can include critics, charitable readings of critics and alternative models, then there is no reason standpoint epistemology can’t be part of the normal daily practice of science.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
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Written by fabiorojas

February 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Posted in uncategorized

classic shorter

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

February 24, 2019 at 5:01 am

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i have been wrong many times, thank god

On Facebook, someone asked “how do you know that a field isn’t just a bunch of ideological posturing?” My answer: If the people in the field always confirm their priors, then they’re probably biased. If you think Marx predicted it all, you’re probably a hack.

This got me thinking. Do I just confirm my own biases? Maybe, but I do admit that I have had some of my beliefs proven wrong. I hope that this shows that at least I am trying not to be a hack. Here are examples:

I used to believe every single point in italics, but no more. Let my hypotheses be tested!

Bonus round: There is one wrong belief I had that I still cling to. I honestly still believe that Obama was unlikely to win the 2008 primary.  I made this prediction based on the fact that he wasn’t he party’s favored candidate and that the Clintons were a juggernaut in the party. What I didn’t know is that (a) HRC is a horrible campaigner and (b) Obama was one of the most effective campaigners in American history. Still, HRC, according to modern estimates, still won the popular vote – I still call that a win in my book!

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

February 22, 2019 at 5:11 am

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some actions for happiness

Jonathan Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis is a book that has deeply influenced me. At first, I thought it was a dry review of happiness research, which it is. But it is also a book with a practical bent. It wants to the reader to actually experience more happiness.

A theme of Happiness Hypothesis is that there are rather modest things you can do actually increase your happiness level. Perhaps the biggest insight is that we all have negativity bias. We remember things that are negative and forget the positive. If you internalize that point, then you can look around and try to remove things that create negativity.

For example, I don’t read the news, as it is shallow and is driven by negativity. I also refuse to follow people on social media who are relentlessly negative and critical of things. I had few relentelessly negative friends to start with, but I now minimize contact with them. Even in my activist work on open borders, I associate myself with people who have a constructive and positive outlook, rather than people who see nothing but repression in mind.

As suggested by Haidt, and other psychologists, you should also develop habits of mind and body that encourage happiness. I do the gratitude exercise – everyday, I try to think of things that I am grateful for. It helps a lot. I try to reduce judgmentalism, which means that I actively refuse to label other people as good and bad most of the time. I let things pass. I also now avoid comparisons when possible. I try my hardest to not obsess about why someone might have more material success than me. I try to focus on what I can do.

I also try to arrange my live to as to reduce stressors. I have a short commute to work and I am eating better and I am exercising much more than when I was younger. Perhaps equally important, I try to fill my life with interesting people and activities. My experience is that good relationships create good people. It truly helps.

Maybe some of these strategies might work for you, maybe some of them don’t. That’s ok. The message isn’t that you have to adopt these strategies like a fad diet. Rather, I want to encourage you to think about your internal self as something that can be nurtured and supported. And it can be done in some intuitive and relatively simple ways.

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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Written by fabiorojas

February 20, 2019 at 5:29 am

Posted in uncategorized

trust me, you’ll like this one

 

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

February 17, 2019 at 5:40 am

Posted in uncategorized