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Hi Marcus,

in regard to the second quote you mention, namely that "you would be infinitely better off by teaching at the top university of a developing country, than by teaching at an average US college", what exactly is the stereotype you're worried about? The comment isn't meant to say anything about the quality of the faculty (as you seem to infer, based on your later comments), but about the quality of the students.

After all, the quote continues with: "Intelligence and philosophical talent has no nationality. You are more likely to find very smart and highly motivated philosophy students at the top university of, say, Peru, than at most places in the US."

To me, this seems like a sound argument. I would also expect the students to be better (ok, that's problematic I know, but I mean here something like smarter, more ambitious, etc.) at a top national university than at a lower ranked (by any standards) US university.

Yours, 3rdEyeX

Marcus Arvan

3edEyeX: what is the argument supposed to be, exactly? Is it supposed to be that because the students are likely to be better, it is (infinitely!) more likely to result in one becoming (A) a better researcher and/or (B) a better teacher and/or (C) better TT job-candidate? If so, I have to confess that (aside from popular stereotypes!), I have no idea how to evaluate the relevant claims. In my own case, I believe I made far more progress both as a researcher and teacher (at least to my own satisfaction) working at an SLAC than I ever did in an R1 (either in grad school or my first job)--and for a variety of unexpected reasons: (1) teaching a wide variety of courses required me to read far more widely than I ever did at an R1 (vastly increasing my knowledge base), (2) teaching undergrads effectively requires (in my experience) developing a kind of jargon-free clarity not always incentivized in professional circles, (3) working at a teaching school can give one ample teaching experience and pedagogical skills attractive to TT search committees at teaching schools, (4) working at a teaching school can give one time to develop big research programs instead of seeking to publish an article per year in Top Journals (which, while it may be prestigious, should not be considered the be-all/end-all of philosophical research), etc. Indeed, while I was at an R1, my reading interests were so narrow that I had only one--relatively narrow--research program. In contrast, within a couple of years of starting at a SLAC, I had four research programs--mostly because of new courses I had to teach. So, while the stereotype is that it is (obviously!) better for one's research to be at a research school, I don't think--as someone who has actually worked in both types of environments--that it is obvious at all.

Alternatively, is the claim supposed to be that one is more likely to get lots of interviews at an R1 but not a "crappy" teaching school? If so, I would once again want to see some evidence, as I've known people at R1s receive few (or no) interviews and people at teaching schools get over a dozen interviews (in a single job season).

Again, I don't doubt that it is a stereotype is that it is far better to get a job at one type of place rather than another. Nor is my point that if someone has to choose one job over another, there are no reasons to prefer one to the other (one admittedly does have certain resources at R1s that one doesn't have elsewhere, one may not like teaching, etc). My claim, rather, is that we shouldn't deal primarily in stereotypes when evaluating people, as there is much more to one's philosophical identity and track record than one can simply read off from a person's institutional affiliation. That's all!


I had people tell me I was "committing career suicide" when I left my first uni for my present one. (Though often changed what they said when I told them the reasons.) as a profession, we're often very concerned with appearance and prestige when it comes to candidates rather than the qualities we say we care about in our more reflective moments.

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