Monday, December 12, 2005

Passing thoughts from a brain addled by grading

I love teaching, but I hate grading. Worse than the grading itself is the pathetic state in which it leaves my brain -- completely unfit for wrestling new blogable 'gators. But since you, gentle reader, may well have strolled by to avoid your own stack of grading, here are a few thought-like items:

On the matter of women in science and engineering: Check out the new post at Thus Spake Zuska, which includes some intriguing links with resources for women in science and engineering. The post also includes a "recipe for a complete feminist analysis of science and engineering: attention to equity, access, and climate; attention to how scientists and engineers could or should tranform their fields of endeavor; and attention to the considerable joy that thinking and doing in a technical mode evokes." I feel like after I've recovered from grading I may have more to say about this issue, but at the moment nothing I can say about it will be as coherent as what I wrote about the issue back in April.

Science, philosophy, and worries about relativism: At Majikthise, Lindsay Beyerstein comments on how scientists might mistake legitimate philosophical projects around the truth properties of statements for sloppy relativism. Her comments were sparked by a post at 3QuarksDaily calling out Richard Dawkins for making such a move, using a relativist straw horse to defend dismissing philosophy altogether from discussions of science. I think you know how I feel about whether philosophy has any place in discussions of science. (Hint: read the profile!) But, under the assumption that scientists are generally susceptible to reason, these posts do a nice job explaining the anatomy of the straw horse -- perhaps getting rid of the misunderstanding here will mean that the philosopher is not presumed an idiot. (Let the data decide that!)

End of semester cage-match: teaching chemistry vs. teaching philosophy!

  • Teaching philosophy seldom involves bad smells or risks of explosion. However, neither does it involve cool plastic model kits.
  • Teaching chemistry (it seems) sometimes involves having undergraduate boys question the solution set you have prepared, because you're a chick.
  • Teaching philosophy often involves having undergraduates (boys and girls) question your grading of their papers, because "there are no right answers".
  • In chemistry, one may enjoy the camraderie of grading exams with 11 other people.
  • To get that camraderie, you're dealing with 300+ students in the class taking the exam. (Even at my university, most philosophy classes are 40 or fewer.)
  • Reading all those essays scrawled in blue-books can make you cry.
  • Looking for the sign errors and such in order to assign partial credit on chem exams can destroy your eyes.

It may be a wash ... ask again at the end of the week!

Request-a-post: While I'm climbing up Grading Mountain, I'm happy to entertain requests for blogging topics. So if there's an issue you'd like me to talk about, just let me know.


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