Criticism

The Torture of Giving Critical Feedback at Work

ands down, my worst work experience to date was trying to tell someone they have a bad attitude. This someone was my coworker, Ruth, and technically, I was her supervisor even though we were the same age. My boss directed me to give her this feedback during her annual review. Ruth was actually terrific at many parts of her job, but according to my boss she had a “negative attitude.” It was a combination of an unfriendly and unhelpful demeanor (that I think was accidental, e.g. that she frowned when her face was at rest), and a tendency to avoid taking on additional work (mostly pretty boring stuff that I wouldn’t have wanted either).

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The Tricky Business of Criticizing Big Philanthropy

Dissent has published a smart primer by Joanne Barkan on “how to effectively criticize big philanthropy.” The piece uses education reform as a way to talk about how unregulated mega-foundations can exert influence on policy outside of the democratic process. Barkan talks us through a few common “challenges” you might hear when, say, you have a little too much wine at a dinner party and decide it’s time to be that guy.

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Fronting

At The Root, Demetria Lucas writes about a phenomenon that is happening among young adults: “fronting,” or running up deep debts to project the professional success they aim to achieve (“fake it till you make it,” “dress for the job you want,” etc. etc.). Lucas tells the story of a friend who wanted to launch himself as a nightlife entrepreneur.

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Diversity Hiring and the Concept of ‘Fit’

In the newsroom diversity debate, some of the criticism has centered around this idea: that the reason why these new media ventures have such monochromatic, sausagey mastheads is that they are insulated from the wider culture, and therefore dependent on mostly white, mostly male, and mostly coastal networks for their hiring needs.

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In 2014 Our Government Is Still Filing Retirement Paperwork by Hand

In Boyers, Pa. there are 600 people who work in a limestone mine, but they’re not digging out natural resources or anything like that—they work for the Office of Personnel Management, and their job is to process the retirement paperwork of U.S. government workers. They work in a mine because they need the space, and they need the space because they need room for 28,000 file cabinets. Though it’s 2014, the majority of the paperwork is still processed and filed by hand. David A. Fahrenthold explains how this came to be in his appropriately titled story for The Washington Post, “Sinkhole of Bureaucracy.”

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Here Is Your Open Thread

Julie Ann Horvath was the first female developer at GitHub, a hosting service for software development projects, and she recently quit over allegations of being harassed at work. At the Daily Dot, Aja Romano writes about “How to Suppress Women’s Coding“.

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Discussing the “Crisis in the Humanities”

As someone who studied the humanities and not a STEM field (to the horror of my tiger parents), but has built a life and a living off of having higher education degrees in the humanities, I am always interested in reading pieces about “the crisis” in this particular field (as an aside, the crisis in STEM has been mostly revolved around how it lacks women).

This piece comes from our neighbors up north at the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE). Stephen Slemon, the president of ACCUTE, recently gave this speech in his opening remarks while on a panel at Ryerson University.

We meet tonight in the darkening shadow of a humanities crisis industry, and here are just a few of the recent headlines. “Humanities Fall From Favour.” “Prestige of Humanities at All-Time Low.” “Oh, the humanities. Big trouble, but there’s still some hope.”

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The Controversy Around the #AmtrakResidency

Amtrak’s new residency application, which will grant a lucky 24 writers a free train trip of 2-5 days duration in which to focus on their projects, has caused a stir in the literary world. One source tells me that nearly 7,000 proposals have swamped the train line; even if the number is half that, however, the chances of being given a ticket to ride (.6%) are slimmer than getting into Harvard (6.3%).

To laypeople, this perhaps sounds crazy. Who competes for the opportunity to take a long-distance train trip, without even a city like Rome or Prague to greet you on the other side? Remember that episode of “Sex and the City“? (Sidenote: God, Carrie is insufferable.) But writers, especially fledglings — and in this economy, we are almost all fledglings — have so little. No funds, no structure, no support. Everyone is always telling us to get a real job. Writers’ residencies, which offer crucial time, space, and community, can be a boon, but most of them have associated costs, making them prohibitive for someone just scraping by. Amtrak is filling a need by offering writers a temporary, mobile Cabin of One’s Own. So why are people so angry?

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Your Money, Your Morals: When Should You Boycott a Publication?

The 2013 VIDA: Women in Literary Arts count is out! For years, VIDA (which is not an acronym and does not stand for anything, except justice) has created brightly colored provocative pie charts to illustrate the gender disparity in publishing. Maybe you’ve noticed that the New Yorker‘s table of contents is dominated by dude-writers? In 2013, the disparity was pronounced: a whopping 75% of contributors to that august publication, and several others of its ilk, were male:

Drumroll for the 75%ers: The Atlantic, London Review of Books, New Republic, The Nation, New York Review of Books (actually holding steady at 80% men for four years) and New Yorker. We get it: you’re mighty, unmovable giants.

Some titans have made progress, such as the New York Times Book Review and The Paris Review, so forward-movement is possible! And to speed such movement along, VIDA encourages those of us who care about keeping America’s intellectual life diverse to vote with our pocketbooks:

Support presses that support women writers. Cancel subscriptions to publications that have no real interest in women’s voices.

Which is where I pause. I mean, yes, totally, of course! Except …

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President Apologizes for His Burn Against Art History Majors

Last month, President Obama talked about how he hoped more young people would consider trades and skilled manufacturing as viable careers—that they could make more money in those jobs than they could with an art history degree. “Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history,” he said. “So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.”

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The Ivy League Churn

In Forbes, Michael Gibson writes about “the path” a majority of Ivy League graduates take into the industries of finance and consulting, and why it might be problematic: Too many smart, talented people heading to places like Goldman Sachs after college and not to, well, the rest of the labor market looking for smart, talented individuals not heading into the financial services industry. Well, it’s a good thing smart individuals also exist at non-Ivy League Schools who have decided not to take this path!

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The Problem With Financial Literacy Is That It Doesn’t Work

Second to health, money is probably the second most popular thing Americans think about this time of year while everyone is making resolutions. This is the year I’m going to be better with my money, we say to ourselves. It’s a wonderful goal: We all want to be the kind of people who are good with money. And I used to believe that financial literacy was one of the keys to that—that if only we all took some kind of class about money and budgeting while we were young and impressionable in school, we would have been in a better position to avoid so many of the financial mistakes we make today. I’ve since changed my mind about the effectiveness of financial literacy classes.

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