Jorge Chapa was a sociologist, demographer, and Latino Studies scholar at the University of Illinois. He recently passed on, a result of natural causes. Here, I share a few thoughts about Jorge, who I got to know when he was a professor of Latino Studies at Indiana University. First, Jorge was simply a friendly, open person who welcomed many people, including myself, to his home. He always had time for people and helped many in need. Second, he dearly loved his family and it showed every time I visited his home. Third, even though he was a very open person, he still maintained his integrity as a scholar and teacher. He wrote award winning books on Latino demography, like Apple Pie and Enchiladas, a standard account of the growing Midwest Latino population. He also insisted on trying to make sure that public policy properly took into account all of the populations in the United States. Perhaps his most important contribution on this count was to testify in Texas and California as to the importance of properly measuring Latino and Asian communities.
Two announcements for the historically inclined among you. First, there will be a Twitter/blog meetup at the Social Science History Association in Baltimore next week. Drop by and say hi to Tina Fetner, Dan Hirschman, Philip Cohen (fingers crossed), me, and others (Fabio??? Fabulous guest blogger Caroline Lee?). Saturday, November 14 from 4-6pm at Bistro 300 Lounge, on the 3rd floor of the conference hotel. You don’t need to be active on social media to come — readers, commenters, lurkers, just bored, all welcome.
Second, ASA’s comparative-historical section is having a pre-ASA miniconference next year with the ambitious title, “Can Comparative-Historical Sociology Save the World?” The pitch:
We live in a world where the most important policy concerns, from terrorism and climate change to the fight against poverty and infectious disease, transcend national borders. This conference explores how scholars might use the tools of comparative and historical sociology to engage issues of public concern. An opening plenary session will engage both advanced and early-stage scholars in conversation on this issue. Other sessions will be organized around the papers accepted through this call.
The conference has a great organizing panel and I’m sure will generate interesting discussion. More information here, and abstracts are being accepted through January 30, 2016.
Now back to your regularly scheduled Monday.
A recent meta-analysis of studies of critical thinking (e.g., seeing if students can formulate criticisms of arguments) shows that, on average, college education is associated with critical thinking. From “Does College Teach Critical Thinking? A Meta-Analysis” by Christopher Huber and Nathan Kuncel in Review of Educational Research:
This meta-analysis synthesizes research on gains in critical thinking skills and attitudinal dispositions over various time frames in college. The results suggest that both critical thinking skills and dispositions improve substantially over a normal college experience.
Now, my beef with the whole critical thinking stream is that there is a special domain of teaching called “critical thinking.” The looked at studies where students were in special critical thinking instruction:
Although college education may lag in other ways, it is not clear that more time and resources should be invested in teaching domain-general critical thinking.
Students are learning critical-thinking skills, but adding instruction focused on critical thinking specifically doesn’t work. Students in programs that stress critical thinking still saw their critical-thinking skills improve, but the improvements did not surpass those of students in other programs.
Bottom line: Take regular courses on regular topics and pay close attention to how people in specific areas figure out problems. Skip the critical thinking stuff, it’s fluff talk.
A constant challenge of producing content is distribution. You may write a book, or make a movie, but usually a third party has to approve it in order to get it distributed. However, one major form of media doesn’t have this property – podcasting. In fact, it is incredibly easy to produce and distribute a podcast. Smartphones have the ability to record hours of conversation and iTunes makes it easy to upload and make it free to anyone on the Internet.
This point was made by Kevin Smith, who was performing in Bloomington. He has at least three or four podcasts, each with an entirely different theme. He’s garrulous, so it is easy for him to generate massive amounts of material that can be packaged into podcasts which then advertise his other products (comedy shows, DVDs, films, etc.)
If you take a casual look around, you see that lots of small groups have created podcasts that reach thousands of people. For example, Partially Examined Life is a philosophy podcast run by three former philosophy grad students. And yes, they will do multi-hour discussions of Bergson. Bad at Sports is for folks in contemporary art. There is even a podcast about sociology books – New Books in Sociology. Some institutions have sociology blogs, like the Contexts podcast, but I’d like to see more sociologists get their voices out there.
soc phd programs #18*: economic sociology, *because i forgot to count and need to start at some high number
What programs are currently strong in economic sociology right now? By “strong,” I mean has at least two or three serious practitioners and they place students. You would probably include Princeton, Wisconsin, Arizona, Stanford, and Michigan. I would also include Duke and Brown. The b-schools also do well, like MIT and Chicago. Please use the comments.
Academia is a career that expects you to give up most (or all) choice about where you’ll live. It is also a career in which it is considered perfectly normal for spouses to live in different states, and sometimes on different continents. Every grad student sort of knows this by the end of their first year, although it may take much longer — hello, job market — to fully internalize.
This has the potential to create relationship problems regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. But societal norms mean that women partnered with men are particularly likely to confront gender expectations when planning academic careers. Will a potential partner be able and willing to follow you where the job is? Or will you find yourself forced to choose between pursuing your career and living in the same city as your spouse?