Saturday, February 17, 2018

Food Boxes for People In Need

42 million Americans need food assistance. In America, often hailed as the land of opportunity, how should those in need be given assistance? If this were your homework assignment, or your career, what is the best plan you could develop? If you could consult the best minds, study the latest research, spend time with SNAP recipients, do everything you could to understand the issue and comprehend the needs of recipients, what ideas would you propose?

Someone's work has been completed, and their idea is to deliver food in a box. This VOX article by Jen Kirby gives a rundown on the idea and provides useful background on the SNAP program. The author offers many examples of why these so-called Harvest Boxes are a bad and harmful idea.

Sasha Abramsky describes the proposal as "a new kind of horrendous." She writes: "The Trump Administration’s reimagining of SNAP reduces food assistance to a humiliation ritual: recipients would take whatever they are given, in whatever condition they are given it, and would be expected to feel gratitude." The proposal indeed reveals negative beliefs about people in poverty.

Annie Lowrey's 60 questions on Twitter about the proposal serve as an effective take down. A sample:
Lowrey followed up with an article in The Atlantic entitled "President Trump's Hunger Games".

I'm reminded of Tressie McMillan Cottom's writing on how poor people are looked down upon. Her piece focuses on the purchase and display of status symbols. It's an excellent essay about how poor people get scrutinized and harshly judged for the clothes and accessories they purchase. She writes: "At the heart of these incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars." As part of her conclusion, she says: "You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor." The cruel views and hostile beliefs about poor people that she identifies in her piece can be applied to the Harvest Box proposal.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Video of the Day - God's Plan by Drake

Drake, I liked that you helped folks out with $$$, toys, scholarships, food, clothes, etc. I tend to be a cynic but I choose not to be cynical about everything. If you want to be a guest speaker in my Social Stratification class this semester, or if you want to fund a new scholarship for Sociology majors/minors that will go to low-income students, let me know. Serious. I'm at Niagara University just 90 minutes from Toronto.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gaining Understanding about Mass Shootings in America

America is a Violent County - Kieran Healy

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts - German Lopez

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2018: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation - Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen and Deanna Pan

The sociological explanation for why men in America turn to gun violence - Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

Masculinity and Mass Shootings in the U.S. - Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober

Masculinity, mental illness and guns: A lethal equation? - Michael Kimmel

The Infamy Game: Thoughts on How Not to Cover Mass Shootings - J.J. Gould

The Virginia Shooter Wanted Fame. Let’s Not Give It to Him. - Zeynep Tufekci

We've Seen This Movie Before - Roger Ebert

Sexy Rifle Bluebirds

Part of my job as a sociologist of everyday life is to take pictures of magazine covers at grocery stores. I only have two things to say:

1. Sexy is a social construction
2. I just might subscribe to Birds & Blooms

Immersed in Suburbia - Proud To Stand For Our National Anthem Edition

Lately in my travels around town, I've seen this bumper sticker numerous times. Took this picture yesterday. There's also a sticker for the National Rifle Association.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picture of the Day - Oprah 2020 (!!)

Took this a few minutes ago while driving through my town.

Song of the Day - Teenage Riot by Sonic Youth

It's been a long, cold winter. The sun rarely shines this winter. It's doldrums, the blues, you name it. Sleep okay, eat okay, love okay, work okay, but stuck in blah mode. Then, finally, the sun breaks through, blasts you, warms you, gets into you, and then you hear it. And you turn it up. And turn it up more. Because this song sounds special in the winter sun and deserves to be on the highest volume.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How Many Hours Do Professors Work?

I suppose it can be an honest question, depending who asks it. My good guy neighbor across the street is in sales. If he's curious about comparing our work days, that's a good conversation. We could trade examples of our "busy times," talk about the flexibility of our schedules, discuss our degree of autonomy on the job, explain to each other how we're supervised and held accountable, etc.

If I'm talking with a family member we might get into deeper details like pay, promotions, the reward structure, retirement plan, and the like.

I like talking about work so if anyone takes an interest in my work schedule or how I go about my work, I'm happy to chat about it.

My goal is to do the job and do it well, not work X amount of hours. A college professor can be at their office all day on a Saturday. That's dedication. One such professor might take 4 hours to write a paragraph and another might spend that time grading a batch of papers.

Some of the chatter around professors and their work life comes with a built in assumption that work should be miserable. You should have to toil and grind and be exhausted. Why do we assume work should be that way?

The chatter is also based around our incessant need to quantify everything. Tell me exactly how many hours you work and provide evidence of what you produced in that time. My barber can easily do this. I know because we shoot the shit about work and he can tell me how many hours he works and how many haircuts he usually gives on a Saturday, for example. His haircuts per day would look good on a spreadsheet. Do you want to see my book pages read per day on a spreadsheet?

College professors work a 100 different ways at various speeds. All of us can quantify how much time we spend in the classroom and in our office for office hours (if we have an office and hold office hours). The rest it difficult to quantify, if we want to quantify our work, and I challenge the expectation that we should have to do so. The job for a full-time professor like me is to do high quality work in teaching, scholarship, and service. An NFL team must be good at offense, defense, and special teams. Those are the three phases of the game. College professors work hard at being good at all three phases of university life. People bring different skill sets and preferences to the tower. So one person thrives in service while another busts it with scholarly activity. Others rock it in the classroom every year their whole career. I have many colleagues who are superb teacher-scholars and make meaningful service contributions. They are all-stars.

What does it matter if Good Professor works 30 or 40 or 60 or 80 hours a week? Can they do the job and do it well? That's more important to ask, in my opinion. And if we really care about people and professions we should ask professors if they are satisfied with their lives. Do they feel good about the work they do? Do they have enough time outside work to pursue other interests? Do they sleep enough, do they feel in good health? How do they feel emotionally and spiritually? How is family and friend life? How are their finances?

Maybe there is a sneaking suspicion that professors don't work hard enough. Would the critics feel better if Professors reported spending exactly X hours in meetings and exactly X hours in class preparation and exactly X hours in e-mail and exactly X hours in grading and exactly X hours in reading and exactly X hours in writing and exactly X hours in advising and exactly X hours in teaching and exactly X hours in creating and exactly X hours in thinking? Yes, creativity and thinking are part of the job and you can't quantify it and shouldn't have to. You also can't quantify how much a professor cares about students. I am fortunate to work with people who care a lot about students and show their care and concern by teaching hard, writing recommendation letters, mentoring, doing career counseling, listening, cheering, encouraging, and working with students in countless other ways.

Most of us care a lot about our jobs and put in the work to do our jobs well. Working 80 hours a week shouldn't be the goal unless that's someone's personal goal.

Author's note: I'm a full-time associate professor who is writing from my experience as a full-time professor. I consider myself fortunate to make a good living working securely at one place. This piece does not address the precarious situation of adjunct faculty. Here are links to pieces that examine the experiences of adjunct faculty:

Adjunct Project Reveals Wide Range in Pay
‘The Great Shame of Our Profession’
The College President-to-Adjunct Pay Ratio
When a college contracts ‘adjunctivitis,’ it’s the students who lose
Background Facts on Contingent Faculty

One more note: To gain understanding of the experiences of faculty from marginalized backgrounds, read the Conditionally Accepted blog.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Photo of the Day - Resist

In my travels, immersed in suburbia, I often see pro-Trump stickers and decals on autos, especially trucks. I'm less likely to see a political message like this one. Caught my eye while walking through the parking lot of a grocery store I frequent.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Annette Lareau - Class Differences in Family Life (Video and Article)

Showing this 6 minute video in my Social Stratification class today. Annette Lareau talks about her research on class differences in family life.

Click here for a related article in The Atlantic, "Explaining Annette Lareau, or, Why Parenting Style Ensures Inequality."

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cold Take: That Was A Boring, Uninspiring Halftime Show

Like guacamole using an unripe avocado. It didn't taste right.

What McDonald's has done to a hamburger. You get used to it. It passes for a hamburger.

The not hungry superstar with no chip on their shoulder. Showing up becomes enough.

It was Justin Timberlake's Pepsi version of what a Super Bowl show is supposed to be.

It was Pepsi. Sometimes you are thirsty and you drink what's on the menu.

JT was like a driver barely interested in his Monday morning commute.

It was like Dunkin' Donuts take on donuts.

It was a college professor not updating notes and just teaching what they've always taught and going through the motions.

Like being a rat in a cage without rage.

Like being in Weber's Iron Cage and saying hey this isn't so bad as long as I get paid.

His manner of dress was Bill Belichick-ian. Each man wore what they would be expected to wear. But the occasion calls for more.

This was soup out of a can.

A waffle from a box.

It was the meteorologist not believing their own forecast.

The car salesperson barely trying to sell a car.

This was Amazon Prime not delivering on time.

When kids go trick or treating on Halloween, they want the good candy.

This was not the good candy.

The end.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Presentation of Lunch in Everyday Life (Perfect Sandwich Edition)

Here we have a modified caprese sandwich. I skipped the basil and balsamic this time. We're featuring a ciabatta roll from Wegmans to host the sliced tomato and mozzarella. Salt and pepper on the tomato with a little olive oil and you're ready to go. I could eat this every day of my life.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hell No

Just had my Dove chocolate for an energy boost. What is this propaganda about dressing up when you have no place to go? If you have no place to go, your right options are sweatpants, yoga pants, no pants. That's it.