Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Perfect Game

David B. Hart's article, A Perfect Game (First Things, August, 2010) is an ode to baseball and an effort to describe why it is perfect.

[Baseball] requires a whole constellation of seemingly bizarre physical and mental skills that, through countless barren millennia, were not only unrealized but also unsuspected potencies of human nature, silently awaiting the formal cause from beyond that would make them actual. So much of what a batter, pitcher, or fielder does is astonishingly improbable, and yet—it turns out—entirely natural. Clearly, baseball was always intended in our very essence; without it, our humanity was incomplete. Willie Mays was an avatar of the divine capacities that lie within our animal frames. Bob Feller’s fastball was Jovian lightning at the command of mortal clay.

He also compares it to the oblong game (football, soccer, basketball, etc.): "a contest played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone."

Comparing baseball to even the most complex versions of the oblong game is like comparing chess to tiddlywinks.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Measuring faculty workload

Efforts to Measure Faculty Workload Don't Add Up, a recent article by Alison Yin in the Chronicle of Higher Education, discusses the (perennial) debate between state legislators (and others) who want to know how many classes university faculty are teaching and the university faculty and administrators who argue that such measures are woefully incomplete:

Faculty productivity, or the lack thereof, is a common concern raised by politicians and others looking for inefficiencies and waste in higher education, especially when budgets are tight. Lawmakers often go out of their way to contrast the everyday employee who works 9 to 5 or longer at the office, or who pulls extra shifts doing manual labor, with the stereotypes of the elitist academic who teaches one or two hourlong courses a few times a week, takes summers off, and travels to far-flung places in the name of research.

Experts and professors in general say they don't mind the measuring of faculty work. What they're against is so much of what they do being left out of the equation. They are concerned about data elements that are incorrect, misleading, and not complete enough to allow outsiders to get an accurate picture of how professors use their time inside and outside of the classroom.

Unfortunately, the article fails to point out that a root cause of this debate is that each group has a different understanding of the objectives of a contemporary research university. Essentially, it comes down to whether universities should have (and faculty should spend their time in) classrooms or research labs. Until everyone agrees on what research universities should be doing, the arguments over measurements will continue unabated.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not the novel by Anne Perry

This blog shares a name with but is not connected with Bethlehem Road, the 1991 Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novel by Anne Perry.