“Building Bildung,” and Other Improbabilities among German University Undergrads

  German has two words for the English word “education.”  Erziehung describes the school system, and the mechanics of what is taught and conveyed from the world of adults to that of children in order to “bring them up.”  Focus is on skills adults need like literacy, numeracy, history, and the factual basis citizens need … Continue reading “Building Bildung,” and Other Improbabilities among German University Undergrads

Vanity as an Occupational Disease–Of Politicians (and everyone else)!

My wife and I recently completed re-translating Max Weber’s classic essay “Politics as Vocation” which is part of a book Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society. The essay is about how the nature of politics, which is about the exercise of power, creates the type of human-being who is accustomed to telling other people what to … Continue reading Vanity as an Occupational Disease–Of Politicians (and everyone else)!

Language Learning, Stigma, and Protecting a Potentially Spoiled Identity

This blog is about why ethnographer Erving Goffman’s observation of stigma are important not just to ex-cons, but also to professors like me on foreign exchange programs. Goffman, as many sociologists and anthropologists know, observed the maneuvers of the marginalized and stigmatized in society, and then wrote about how they thought about their disability. He … Continue reading Language Learning, Stigma, and Protecting a Potentially Spoiled Identity

The Eyewitness Fallacy: Are Studies of China Best Done in China, or the British Library?

Ethnographers love to travel.They will always assert that travel is necessary to understand a culture.You need to travel, to feel the culture. And without such exposure, we reason that what is written is less valid because it cannot possibly be written with the critical perspective that local context provides.Or as Bronislaw Malinwoski himself once wrote, … Continue reading The Eyewitness Fallacy: Are Studies of China Best Done in China, or the British Library?

“Notes on the Murders of Thirty of My Neighbors”

Writer Jim Myers wondered why 30 of his neighbors were murdered just one mile east of the United States Capitol building during the 1990s. In an investigation of the conditions that led to such a high toll, he found that there was a wide range of circumstances, including, “drive-by killings, run-by killings, sneak up killings, … Continue reading “Notes on the Murders of Thirty of My Neighbors”

Speaking German Like You Work at McDonald’s (or are a Hollander)

German is a strange language for English speakers to learn. In part this is because in most German for Foreign Speakers classes, there is a strong emphasis on the use of correct use of articles (16 ways to say the definite article “the”, and 16 more ways to say the indefinite article “a”). There is … Continue reading Speaking German Like You Work at McDonald’s (or are a Hollander)

Walkabout 2: My Diverse Classroom in Thailand

This post part of my continuing “Walkabout in Thailand”, after leaving my regular position at Chico State in northern California in January 2016. The subtitle for this series might be: “free unsolicited advice for university administrators.” My walkabout has landed me far from Chico State, at Payap University in northern Thailand. My third semester teaching … Continue reading Walkabout 2: My Diverse Classroom in Thailand

Something from Max Weber to Think About as Americans Consider Trump and Clinton When they Vote

      Max Weber uses a great German noun Stimmvieh to describe unthinking voting behavior.  Literally translated into English, it means “voting cow,” or “voting livestock” which Weber wrote in 1918 or so.  At the time, he had this love-hate relationship with the United States, so two of his illustrative examples of "voting cows" … Continue reading Something from Max Weber to Think About as Americans Consider Trump and Clinton When they Vote

When is Peer Review the Gold Standard, and When is it Only Tin?

Fair warning from an anonymous peer reviewer on one of my recent articles… "The author is hampered by an inaccurate, naïve, and highly simplistic understanding of the basic principles…which leads him to make ludicrous statements like the following…" As is well-known, “peer review” is the gold standard of academic achievement. It is assumed that peer … Continue reading When is Peer Review the Gold Standard, and When is it Only Tin?

The College Status Game: Why I Think Chico State is a Better University than UC Berkeley  

College is not just about learning, it is about status and hierarchy, too. So what do the fine nineteen year-olds at UC Berkeley think about us at low ranked Chico State? And how do we think about the snobs at UC Berkeley? Dismissiveness, preening, and sour grapes are part of the ranking game. Status is … Continue reading The College Status Game: Why I Think Chico State is a Better University than UC Berkeley