Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day, Fellow Creatures.

hold these
to be self-evident, that all men are

Friday, July 03, 2009

Generational Growth of Legacies.

An interesting finding from the Centre alumni survey:

29% of the respondents claimed a relative who had attended Centre. Of them, roughly:
10% claimed a relative in the grandparent generation
20% claimed a relative in the parent generation (including aunts and uncles)
30% claimed a relative in the respondents own generation (siblings or cousins)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Alumni Survey

I have begun to post the results of the Centre College alumni survey on a new website,

Your comments are most welcome.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What to Do With Engineers?

This is always a problem in the professions and "knowledge class" discussion. Engineers apply a body of knowledge to problems in a way that can not readily be routinized. This is the starting point for considering a profession. Yet they are often the outliers in other cultural measures of professionals.

Alvin Gouldner, in The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class made a distinction between "intellectuals" and the "technical intelligentsia." They differ in the kinds of knowledge they use. They are both part of the "new class" - what later came to be called the "knowledge class" - because they both make their living from knowledge that is essential to running the economic system. That is the Marxist part of Gouldner's determination of a class. They are also both part of the knowledge class because they rise to the defense of knowledge and reason when they are under attack. When the thugs burn books, the engineers join the barricades. When rationality, or even science, are under attack, engineers and cultural specialists stand shoulder to shoulder.

I think what unifies all professions is that the body of knowledge they must apply is vast, so applying the right bit of knowledge requires judgment. What unifies most professions is that they apply knowledge to people, and people are infinitely various. A vast body of knowledge applied to varied people makes for lots of judgments. Engineers apply a vast body of knowledge, too. This requires judgment. But for the most part, the problems they apply that knowledge to are not people. That makes their knowledge work different in kind from that of most other professionals.

Nonetheless, I am counting engineers as professionals.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dividing the Professionals

I am working on a survey of the Centre College alumni. One of the models that I am using is Joseph Soares' The Power of Privilege, which includes surveys of Yale and Wake Forest alumni. He divided the professionals from everyone else among the top income group as part of a test of class reproduction in elite colleges.

Dividing out which occupations are professions and which are not is a tough job these days. As Andrew Abbott demonstrated in the excellent The System of Professions, occupations compete with one another to claim professional status. New jobs invent official credentials in order to professionalize.

I try to stick to the classic professions: clergy, military (officers), doctors, lawyers. The teaching profession derives from the clergy. Librarians do, too. The hard decisions were about bankers, finance types, and computer tech jobs. I see them as derived from manufacturers and merchants.

I will test this clustering against other theories to see if it is illuminating.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fertility Tourism

European countries have different restrictions on fertility treatments. This has created a market in shopping countries for better fertility deals. The National Health Service in Britain, for example, has many restrictions on in-vitro fertilization treatment, including a low total that donors can be paid for eggs (about $400). Other countries pay more, so eggs are more available. Infertile British women over 40, therefore, are likely to go to countries with a larger supply, such as the Czech Republic (where donors get $750 per egg) or Spain ($1250 per egg), for IVF treatment.

Anyone going to Reno for a divorce?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Civil Religion Music Pantheon

Michael Jackson is being inducted into the musical pantheon of American civil religion. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't care much for his songs. This puts me out of step with some of my peers (Jackson is my age).

Actually, I have a similar reaction to Elvis. Elvis was a big star for the generation before me, so it is not considered as much of an oddity that I am not a big Elvis fan. I actually appreciate Elvis more to sing along with than I do most popular performers, because he sings in my range. Most male lead singers are too high for me.

Frank Sinatra occupies a similar position for the generation before Elvis. There are moods when Sinatra is just the right background, but I rarely embrace the sentiment of the song. And "The Lady is a Tramp" is as offensive as any rap song when you listen to the words.

Among the living, I think Bob Dylan is the most likely future inductee, as a writer, despite his terrible singing. I think Leonard Cohen is worth a look on the same grounds; perhaps he will make the Canadian pantheon. There was an interesting discussion on the excellent website Booker Rising on whether Jay-Z has succeeded to that place of honor with Jackson's passing.

My vote, though, goes to Bruce Springsteen. For my demographic, he is shaping in the way that an icon should be. I think he is sane enough to age well. 20 years after his peak as the biggest performer in the world, events called on him to write the best 9/11 album. I expect there will be hard times in the future for which he may produce another Rising.

I have thought about teaching a course on the class significance of iconic performers called "The King, The Boss, and the Chairman of the Board." Perhaps the self-styled King of Pop deserves a day - maybe a week - in that class, too.