torsdag, oktober 19, 2006

Elections, Hiring Decisions

Fall's frozen colors. Madge, Wisconsin, October 12.

A Quote

If you survive childhood, you have enough writing material for life. - Flannery O'Connor

Tres Randoms

Am I the only one who hears two distinct cowbells in the opening percussion of Toto's "Africa"?

Dear Gregory Gerg, my apologies on the limping speed of your site hosting service. I've tried to comment recently and couldn't stand the wait. Regardless, please keep writing! We're still reading, friend.

Lol, this entry at your blog cracked me up. Nice spot.

The Lure of Office

I don’t recall whether I “held office” once, twice or thrice in grade school, but I recall wanting to and I recall campaigning. I don’t recall a single duty of office. I don’t recall a single meeting. And maybe that was all a grade school’s elected office was: an exercise in the democratic process but not actual legislation or execution. Perhaps the council voted on whether the class would eat hot dogs or pizza during a field day. Perhaps we decided that, yes, we would have an extra art class (but only if it involved clay) rather than gym. Maybe we had power like that.

Campaigning involved a brief speech before the class or grade, depending on how high an office you sought. You had to identify something you would do for the class/grade, but what that might be, I can’t say. Less homework? I don’t recall having any. I even signed up for EC (“Extra Curricular”), a group that did extra work FOR FUN. Holy nerds.

My campaign posters contained puns developed exclusively by my parents. I recall one drawing I made of a boy fishing from a row boat. The sign said something like, “Reel in a vote for Chris!”

My memory tells me that elections happened only in grades three through six. (Apparently, one should be at least nine before being granted political power.)

In sixth grade, if not also in fifth, I was pitted against a boy named Doug. I recall his last name but withhold it for Google reasons. The name is almost comically Italian, primarily because it’s associated in my mind with a family of relentlessly hard luck. It was as if a farting trumpet followed each one of them around. Doug wanted desperately to hold an elected position.

He brought baked goods and handed them out to everyone. He was ready with compliments. He cared about people. He had similar pun posters. I recall them getting better every year.

But countering all the effort and annual hope was just that bad luck.

Certainly we were reminded, each year, that elections were not popularity contests, that elections were serious. We all had to care about choosing our leadership. (This is perhaps part of having been in grade school during the Regan administration’s final propaganda offensive against the Soviet Union. I recall social studies textbooks that flatout stated the Soviet people weren’t bad just misled. Now that’s objective!) Yet, it was clear that Doug would never win.

He didn’t. And in sixth grade, which I believe was a year I served as a grade officer, after so many defeats and so much want, he cried after the election results were announced. He had no more opportunities.

Jesus Christ.

Choice By Chocolate

I was reminded of all this on Tuesday when I read that chocolates are part of the bribes being offered within the UN as men vie to take over Kofi Annan’s position as Secretary General.

Chocolates. Our world’s most vital negotiator’s role is being decided by chocolates and warm fuzzies, hot tea, a bottle of wine. Everyone's a friend here, yes?

Sadly, or should it be happily?, I find that no less compelling than their resumes.

And, honestly, whenever I’ve been asked my opinion on hiring decisions in academia (for the three years I was there) or publishing (either for the company I worked for or other outfits which called me to discuss applicants due to my committee work), I never advised based on what I knew of anyone on paper. I operate entirely on first impressions, and in all honesty I don’t think I’ve ever been wrong.

Or maybe I just don’t believe the outcome would have been any different, save for my own enjoyment of the time invested or perhaps spent together.
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