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Mike Munger provides some common-sense wisdom about this business of ours.
Posted by Peter Boettke on November 29, 2012 at 08:34 PM | Permalink
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Mike Munger's advise is, no doubt, absolutely sound and even essential for the young economist to establish himself within the halls of academia, with a good salary and chances for promotion over time.
But notice one thing missing from this description of a successful career path:
There is not one word about the significance or importance of being an articulate, persuasive, and challenging teacher in the classroom.
I am not in any way questioning Mike's clear and accurate account of success for an economist ("Austrian" or otherwise) in the academic community.
I am merely observing that the conclusion from this account would be that in the halls of institutions of higher learning an individual's teaching abilities either do not count for anything in pursuing an academic career, or is an afterthought following demonstration of one's publishing ability.
In terms of a wider "philosophical" reflection on the nature and role of institutions of higher learning, what are they for?
Clearly from Mike's accurate account of the academic world as it exists now, it is not, in general, to place any great importance on the job for which one would think people would be hired, evaluated, promoted, and retained:
An ability to convey ideas, to make them alive, meaningful, and of value to the young minds that are placed in the intellectual care of those who stand at the class podium.
Again, I am not questioning or challenging Mike's description. I am merely suggesting that, to me, this is a sorry state of affairs in the world of teaching.
Richard Ebeling |
November 30, 2012 at 10:04 AM
My advice is simple: Make sure you are having fun (defining "fun" as intermediate-run sense of satisfaction without alienation). Then write about what you think is important. Better to have half as many very good articles than twice as many mediocre ones. If your colleagues can't recognize quality, then you are in the wrong place.
If you get tenure, fine. If not, get rich.
*If you prefer teaching to research, make sure you are in the right place for that.* Ask before you take the job.
I agree, as usual, with Richard Ebeling on the undervaluing of teaching. Recently, a student told me that many professors at NYU are "experts" but it is not possible to learn much from them because they are bad teachers. I wanted to tell her that NYU doesn't give a damn. But now that she is here I tried to guide her toward better teachers.
Mario Rizzo |
November 30, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Probably nobody reading this needs to be told this, but I shall say it anyway: the higher ranked the uni, the less they care about teacing and the more what counts in research is scoring pubs in the top 4 or 5 (I have not previously heard of a "top 3" in econ). The standard top 4 are AER, JPE, QJE, and Econometrica, with the standard #5 being ReStud.
As one goes to LACs, teaching counts more and where one is publishing also becomes less important, although publishing still counts, unless one is at a community college or barely above.
Barkley Rosser |
November 30, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I guess we all agree that teaching is undervalued. I suppose it's a multitask problem. You know, teaching is hard to measure, but we can count the lines on your CV.
I think there are a few mitigating factors, however. The best researchers teach in the best schools and are less likely to teach undergrads. You can't be a good PhD professor if you are not a good researcher. It's all about collaborative inquiry, learning what is and is not an argument, and so on. As you go down the status hierarchy for undergrads, the students learn less from each other and more from the classroom instructor. They have, therefore, an increased need of instructors who will craft clever exercises to help students grasp abstract points, use jokes or tricks to keep the students interested, and so on. So we have something like positive assortive matching between students and teachers in which researchers are more likely to teach students who benefit from instruction by researchers. Overall, I'm with those who think research and teaching are complements, not substitutes. If there is a point at which that complementarity breaks down, it's probably fairly low down on the status hierarchy.
Roger Koppl |
November 30, 2012 at 04:13 PM
"So we have something like positive assortive matching between students and teachers in which researchers are more likely to teach students who benefit from instruction by researchers."
This may be true since a different kind of student goes to the top research universities. But I would not play down the problems even there. Often times, the student really has contact mainly with the graduate-student instructor who is new to teaching. You might be surprised about how many of those graduate students in economics do not speak English well. I also think that many researchers teach undergraduate courses as if all of their students were being prepared for graduate school in the field.
"Overall, I'm with those who think research and teaching are complements, not substitutes."
I have heard this argument often from those who love research! It may be true that good researchers have the *ability* to teach well, but do they have the incentive? Why bother preparing your class when that takes time away fvrom research. And you won't get a salary increase because your lectures are good.
In my own case, I simply try to lecture as clearly and precisely as I can. I do prepare. I encourage questions. But I do not engage in heuristic techniques like class experiments. I do not give assignments geared to making sure the students keep up with the readings.
Oops. Sorry. I put things off track.
If you want tenure at research-oriented places, you will do "well" to let class preparation suffer for the sake of research. You don't work for the students. You work for the Department and University which speak with forked tongue about teaching.
Mario Rizzo |
November 30, 2012 at 06:01 PM
NB: None of this is true in political science. Even if you are doing empirical political science, to get tenure at, say, Yale, my understanding is that you need a few articles in top-three journals, not a zillion articles in good journals; OR a single book with a top university press.
To get tenure in political theory at elite liberal-arts colleges (as opposed to elite research universities), you often need just a book at ANY university press, not just a top one. This, I know for a fact.
In political science, quality matters more than quantity. And so do teaching evaluations. Michael, correct me if I'm wrong.
Why would young Austrians want to become political scientists???
This is one reason.
Jeffrey Friedman |
December 01, 2012 at 10:59 AM
If only the "political scientist" could be called a "political economist" or a (Scottish-type) "Moral Philosopher," it might seem like a friendly home for the "Austrian"-oriented economist.
But I'm not sure if that is what most political scientists, nowadays, would consider doing mainstream political science.
Richard Ebeling |
December 01, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Richard, there is in fact a large group of political scientists who do what is explicitly called political economy. Political economists from Johns Hopkins and Michigan vied to get Wladimir Kraus--who coauthored a book with me on the epistemological dimensions of the financial crisis--to attend their Ph.D. programs in political science. Wlad is now at Michigan.
As for "moral philosophy," I don't see Austrians as being competent moral philosophers except accidentally. The comparative advantage of Austrianism, in my view, is its focus on epistemological questions. These, too, of course, are alien from the econ mainstream, but there's no reason to think they would be alien in political science. Off the top of my head, I can think of prominent tenured political scientists at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Berkeley, and Illinois who are explicitly interested in epistemology, and another branch of political science studies nothing but public opinion, which is inherently an epistemological concern. Indeed, one of the hottest trends in political theory right now is "epistemic democracy."
However, for those who want to do "moral philosophy," there is a canon of political theorists, starting with Plato, who are taught in every political science department in the land. The list does not usually include Hume or Smith, but (depending on the professor) sometimes it does.
A theory dissertation about Adam Smith would be perfectly mainstream, just unusual. In fact, there's a political theorist at UCSD whose disseration and subsequent work were on Smith. In political science, doing the unusual is not a death sentence.
Jeffrey Friedman |
December 01, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I forgot Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, and Stanford as schools that have tenured political scientists who are interested in epistemological questions.
Lest this seem like the whole discipline is teeming with interest in the subject, it isn't. But the question of where people get their ideas and how fallible they are is an obvious one to think about in any social science. And in political science, unlike econ, there is no orthodoxy that keeps people from thinking about it.
Jeffrey Friedman |
December 01, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Returning to Munger's post, his specific advice about writing some ppages daily is valid if one is writing a book. However, if one is writing articles that involve mathematical or empirical results, particularly the latter, his is bad advice. One must get their results solved, which writing daily will only distract from. Then finally after this is done, possibly taking months or even years, one writes rapidly to finish a paper within days.
Barkley Rosser |
December 01, 2012 at 11:19 PM
One must work on one's projects daily, whether that be reading and taking notes, writing, calculating, researching, etc.
Troy Camplin |
December 04, 2012 at 03:23 PM
dissertation writing services |
December 05, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Wrong, dissertation writing services. The conclusion as stated by at least me is that it varies across institutions, with the more highly ranked research oriented graduate institutions caring very little about teaching, but that as one moves to primarily undergraduate institutions, particular the smaller liberal arts colleges, teaching is counted much more heavily. Try to read more carefully next time before you pronounce such supposedly definitive conclusions.
Barkley Rosser |
December 05, 2012 at 02:39 PM
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