Monday, October 29, 2007

Life in a WarZone

How Bad Could It Be?

That's the question I've jokingly asked myself more than once in the last few days. First in reference to my darling Mr. Field Notes sending me an an alert that the American University in Iraq has an opening for a psychology prof, and most recently, in reference to us not even watching my beloved Red Sox win the World Series last night (I wish it had been a war, or at least a little bit of a battle, c'mon!).

I'm still thinking about teaching and Iraq.
Iraq?! I know he wasn't suggesting that I should apply, I mean, if I really wanted to join the Modern Crusades, I'd have done it the right way a long time ago. After high school, I would have gone to West Point, done OCS, become an officer, gone to medical school on the gov's dime, and worked in a medical unit fixing people up. Or maybe I would have become a sharp shooter. I had some talent there, maybe still do.

Anyway, in the middle of a war zone is not where I want to be, physically or even metaphysically.

I suppose that's why I've kind of giving up on the idea of working long-term at a SLAC. My field, discipline, perspective, whatever you want to call evolutionary psychology, is a marked man in the realm of SLACs. Nearly everyone is unfavorable to it and won't touch someone with a CV as marked as mine is by Darwin's Dangerous Ideas. After all, I teach people that because it's in their DNA, men can't help themselves when they rape a woman, have an affair, molest a teenager, or brutalize their domestic partner. Right. Yeah, that's what uninformed outsiders think because that's what they've heard in the media or from equally uniformed women's studies groups.

It's emphatically not what I teach, and it's not what real evolutionary scientists teach either. Responsible evolutionary scientists, like me, go out of their way to make sure that students do not come away thinking those things. They teach them to be critical readers and consumers of evolution research and news reports. There is so much inaccuracy and misunderstanding of evolution as applied to the human condition that I really think everyone should take a course in evolutionary psychology that is taught by someone who is moderate and circumspect enough to help students sift the wheat from the chaff.

I ought to be that person, but I don't think I am up for fighting the good fight in the midst of a SLAC. That's a long haul war and I'm only packing a civil war era pistol while everyone else has an arsenal of Uzis and semi-auto rifles. With those odds, I'd be lucky if I even manage to blow away enough of the competition to get an interview for a tenure-track position at a SLAC. Plus, I am a little snooty. I want to work at a good one. But then there's my strong sense that I'd provide the most educational value at a school that doesn't overwhelmingly serve a bunch of privileged rich white kids.

So, I need to find a well-respected SLAC that is open-minded about evolutionary psychology and that serves under-privileged students with potential. Did I mention it has to be located in an affordable to live town (not city, no one here wants to commute) in an area with a mild climate that has a good newspaper and is not too socially conservative?

Know of any of those?
Me neither.

And that is why I am looking into other career choices.


DancingFish said...

I read an article yesterday (Newsweek, I think) about how 1% of high schoolers in California want to be military snipers. It is the 'new Top Gun' military career.

Must you be in a psychology department? Could you be in a biology department? Your proximity to Darwin wouldn't be a problem there and depending on your research/background you could be a novel candidate for an animal behavior position...

Field Notes said...

That statistic's good news for the war machine I think.

I also think I might be able to get into a bio dept but it would be a stretch... worth looking at I suppose when I have time to kill, just in case there's one that is especially open minded. Bio depts. expect you to study nonhuman animals :-)

Twice said...

As an evolutionary psych person (male) I know says "Evolutionary psychology is not an excuse for men to be assholes". He has good luck with this line in talks.

Have you considered comprehensive colleges? Faculty at these often have the same type of balance of teaching/research responsibilities as SALCs, but are just bigger. I used to be at a comprehensive with about 20,000 students. Now I'm at a SALC with about 3000. At both places, I've had mostly smallish classes (2-12), with maybe one larger one (35-60) once a year or so. At the comprehensive, I had some release time for research, so my teaching load was a little lower. As a consequence, I got more research done without the expectations being unreasonable. The comprehensive had some of worst and best students I have ever seen. At my "selective" SALC, I have yet to see any students who come close to two of my best students at the comprehensive "less selective" institution.

Field Notes said...

I'm not even sure what a comprehensive college is :0

Is that a satellite branch of a state university?

PonderingFool said...

In biology departments there would be issues of dealing with adaptionists v. pluralists politics (not that there is a hard line but people that gravitate more towards adaptionists explanations vs. those who are more skeptical of them). You can read Larry Moran's blog and see how intense that can get.