Sunlit Water

December 31, 2010

The Year Of Few Cities

Filed under: Job Search,Personal,Urban Living — by teofilo @ 3:20 pm

I didn’t travel much this year, compared to the past two, but here’s my annual list of cities I stayed in overnight:

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Highland Park, NJ
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA

I keep thinking I must be forgetting something, but I’m pretty sure those are the only cities I’ve stayed in.  School’s been taking up a lot of my time.

In other news, I’m finally going on Birthright next week.  I’m getting close to the age limit, and my mom’s been strongly encouraging me to do it, so I figured while I’m in school and have this convenient break I should just do it.  I remain skeptical about Zionism and I doubt the trip will change that, but I’m currently rationalizing my choice to go by saying that I don’t agree with the Zionists’ ideology but I’m willing to take their money.  In any case, I think it’ll be fun.  The trip leaves on this coming Sunday.  Since it’s right in the middle of my break, I didn’t go back to New Mexico but was here in New Jersey for the break so far.  It was a nice, restful vacation, and we got a big snowstorm which added some excitement and snow.

Overall, 2010 was a very good year for me.  I feel like I’ve developed much more of a sense of what I want to do (and, perhaps more importantly, what I don’t want to do) with this degree once I get it.  I’ll start applying for jobs in January, since I really want to have something lined up before I graduate in May.  Right now I’m mostly looking at federal jobs, and maybe private-sector environmental planning stuff.  Geographically I’ll be looking all over the country, partly because while I know I’m tired of living right where I do now I’m not quite sure what I would most prefer instead (and also to keep my options open, of course).  Sometimes I think I would prefer to live in a bigger city, on the east coast or elsewhere.  Other times I think I would prefer to go back west or somewhere else entirely.  So I’m mostly just leaving it up to chance and following the jobs wherever they lead.  Other aspects of my life are also very positive, and I’m much happier and more confident than I have been at some points in the recent past.  So yeah, things are pretty good for me right now.

December 1, 2010

Mandarinism And Cheating

Filed under: Academia,Culture,Planning — by teofilo @ 1:04 am

Tim Burke has some interesting thoughts on a cheating scandal that casts into stark relief the gatekeeping function of so much professional education these days.  I think he’s definitely right that churning vast numbers of students through low-value-added degree programs that provide little more than a credential that serves as a ticket to a white-collar job practically invites cheating, and that it’s probably a bad way for these professions to be selecting their members.  His proposed solution is to improve the education in these programs so that their graduates actually come out of them knowing something.  I wonder if it might be better, as long as we’re talking about wholesale restructuring of the higher education system, to just get rid of these programs entirely, at least in the universities.  If the professional organizations want to institute training requirements as barriers to entry, maybe they can set them up and run them themselves.  That might have the additional benefit of making what professional education there is more practical, as it would probably be taught mainly by practitioners rather than by academics with little connection to professional practice.

I think in a lot of cases, though, it would just mean lower barriers to entry to a lot of professions.  Some of the more ridiculous pseudo-professions could do with a lot less of this credentialing.  Planning is a prime example; I’m almost through a masters-level program at a well-regarded planning school, and while I’ve enjoyed the program and learned a lot, I don’t feel like I’m going to be much more prepared to do actual work in a planning job when I graduate than I was when I entered.  The degree is basically a credential, and while that’s fine with me personally I do wonder if there’s any real reason for programs like this to exist at all.  Planning is the sort of field where it’s very close to literally true that anyone could do the job with or without any formal education, and efforts to “professionalize” the field over the past several decades have had only limited success.  It’s still quite possible to get a lot of planning jobs without any formal education in planning, although it’s more difficult than it used to be.  While it’s obviously in my personal interest to keep the credentialing system in place, I don’t see much reason for anyone outside the field to support that.

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