07 July 2018

An Overdue Platter

Taking a timeout from reality — or, at least, what passes for reality these days — for some really heavily smoked, uncured internet link sausages. You don't want to know about the "byproducts" in these. You really don't.

  • Since this nation is now headed by a game-show host, I thought it long past time to unveil the game show that really inspires so much of his style. And his substance. Of course, it's not exactly new… but then, the concepts behind Jim Crow weren't exactly new, either.
  • Which, now that I think about it, also explains a bit about the resurgence of false-nostalgia-tinged popularity of "Hapsburg" culture. That phenomenon reminds me a great deal of the popularity of "fifties" things while I was in high school, perhaps as much a reaction to school busing as anything else. But Hapsburg culture doesn't have any baggage like that (rented trailer? what rented trailer?).
  • Then there's the two-cultures phenomenon and its necessary corollary, distrust in "science" that is not about science at all. There's an "ingredient" here that the good old CHE would never admit to, and that SciAm would never notice: How undergraduate credit hours are misallocated between courses in the sciences and elsewhere.

    There's an old myth (reinforced by university administrations consisting almost entirely of lawyers, social science/humanities faculties, and b-school types) that because laboratory "contact hours" allegedly require less preparation time outside of class than "lecture hours" or "discussion hours" do, they should be less rewarded for the student. A typical example from my misspent youth was freshman physics — a four-credit course (each semester) consisting of three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory time every week (plus an "optional" one-hour quiz/discussion section led by a graduate student). But, of course, nobody had to read the lab instructions beforehand, or go through the relevant substantive material in detail so that the instructions made sense, or spend an average of two hours per lab session writing up the results for grading; conversely, one was not expected, or allowed, to write one's paper for Western Civ while Norris the K droned on from the front of the class, to choose an equivalent from another culture. And it got worse as one got more advanced: The junior-level synthetic organic chemistry laboratory garnered three credits for one lecture hour and six laboratory hours (which almost everyone in the class extended to about ten due to the "open lab" policy of the instructor, and it still wasn't nearly enough), and one-to-five ratios were not unheard of. All of this at a university with an unusually enlightened attitude toward the plight of the science student.

    Given this disparity in unacknowledged time commitments, the dearth of science and engineering majors participating in timesink policy-oriented extracurriculars shouldn't surprise anyone: Instead of attending meetings of economic-and-technology policy clubs so that a little real understanding of the technology part could be injected, they were in the lab… or, more to the point, the few science students who did so were not in the lab learning about science.