Sunday, December 16, 2007

A People's Economist

A recent article by Joseph Stiglitz, a noted economist, provides a concise and directed critique of the havoc created by the Bush administration. He details the economic mismanagement and financial audacity that has damaged the U.S. and will require significant effort to redact. He provides a good starting point for a discussion of the steps to be taken to fix this problem.

As far as economists go, I find Stiglitz to be one of the one's I admire most. He doesn't accept many of the "facts" spun out by economists and has worked to increase nuance among economic analysis of the "invisible hand" by identifying informational asymmetries and their role in markets.

While he still represents a more mainstream view than I would ascribe to, I find value in his analysis and his work for social change and justice. His recent involvement in the independent film "The Big Sellout" was excellent. In this film he commented on the commodification of goods and the negative effects that it had on various countries. It was a really good movie and provided some clear examples where the Washington Consensus was failing those it claims to be "developing".

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Coming Up For Air

I am beat. After grading eleven 15-20 page quantitative methods papers for one class, twenty 30-40 page papers for another quantitative methods class, entering forty-three 175 variables surveys, and grading 20 essay final exams in the course of a week I think I am ready for the holiday break. This is the first day in a while I haven't had to have 6 things on my mind at once. Luckily we leave tomorrow for Fargo. It will be a nice break and I look forward to seeing my cats. The first leg of the trip is a long one for me and I am hoping to get in some good pleasure reading time (despite the fact that the books I read for pleasure are on my thesis topic).

In other news, after invigilating (that is what they call proctoring up here) one of my classes' exams, I was informed that they were all heading to the bar on campus and begged me to come. I was honestly sad to decline, but I had to because I needed to get grading otherwise I wasn't sure I would get done in time. I also felt bad saying no because the students were saying things like "but you'll never see us again," "just one drink," and "don't worry we will help you grade at the bar." Ok not so much the last one, those sneaky little bastards. Overall, I would say it was my favorite class that I have TAed for. It is also the last time (probably) that I will TA quantitative methods.

Next semester I have decided to TA a new course: intro to research methods (seriously I think the department is in love with me, I always get first choice of the TAships while everyone else bitches about their assigned courses). From what I hear, the course is about 80% qualitative and 20% quantitative. I think it will be a good switch. My undergrad experience was definitely mixed methods and it will be enjoyable to get back into that sort of work. I enjoy TAing because it requires me to gain a certain level of expertise in a fast amount of time in a subject that I may only be familiar with. I have to be able to know the stuff well enough to have multiple ways to explain it and answer tough questions on the spot. It's a challenge that I think has made me understand why people enjoy teaching. Another big difference with SA 255 (intro to research methods) is that I will have three two-hour tutorials. In the Canadian university system for big classes it is common to have one lecture during the week and then a bunch of tutorials led by grad students.

So my advisor Fernando De Maio, is the professor for the course. He will hold a two hour lecture on Mondays and then there will be six two hour tutorials spread out around the week. He will take one, I will be responsible for three, and the other TA for the course will have two. In the tutorials you lead discussion and help them engage with the material in a more collegial atmosphere. A lot of people say they get really nervous about their tutorials but I am kind of excited to see how it goes. I am just hoping I don't end up regretting asking for the three tutorials instead of the two.