Sunday, February 18, 2007

More on Rankings

I've been thinking more about rankings after reading some comments on Berit Brogaard's blog.

One question is whether there's an alternative to the Leiter Report. Now, some people do love the Leiter Report, but others find it hopelessly biased.

Here's some food for thought. I hadn't heard of this Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index before. It measures productivity by # of books and articles published and also by the # of citations. The methodology looks sound to me. Or at least as sound as these things go.

So what are the highest ranking philosophy departments? Here they are:

1. Michigan St.
3. Princeton
4. UVA
5. Rutgers
6. UC San Diego
7. Penn State
8. Texas
9. SUNY Stony Brook
10. Rice

That list doesn't look anything like the Leiter list. Of course one response is to argue that Princeton philosophers may publish less but what they do publish is higher quality than, say, Michigan State. But that won't entirely hold up. The survey also measures "Percentage of Faculty With Journal Article Cited By Another Work." This would seem to be a measure of quality (orat least it normally taken to be). Michigan State's percentage? 33%. Princeton's percentage? Hold on to your hats: 7%

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Generation Gap

This is neither here nor there, but it jumped out at me a couple of days ago.

A couple days ago the New York Times ran an AP article about "gangsta" parties thrown by white college students. The parties feed on racial stereotypes, and so the question is whether the white college students realize that, well, these parties are pretty offensive.

At the end, the story quoted a researcher who suggested that the students were just oblivious to the existence of racism:

''This is a new generation who grew up watching `The Cosby Show,''' Picca said. ''They have the belief that racism isn't a problem anymore so the words they use and the jokes they tell aren't racist.''

Picca said she found it ''heartbreaking'' to see so many well-educated students perpetuating the stereotypes.

That leapt out at me, because I thought I was part of the generation that grew up watching The Cosby Show. (I never actually watched it, but never mind.) And a quick check of Wikipedia confirmed my suspicion: The Cosby Show ran from 1984-1992. That means it went off the air 15 years ago. In other words, it went off the air when today's 21 year old college student was 6 years old. And that means they could hardly have grown up watching the show. (Yes, I know this discounts reruns, but then you might as well also say that they also grew up watching "I Love Lucy" or any other once-popular sitcom.)

This is a mistake that we college professors risk making all the time: referring to some cultural touchstone that, actually, isn't a touchstone for our students. Usually that just makes us look dated and fusty. But here it can also show how little we really understand our students' lives.