There’s a great post at Justice Everywhere by feminist philosopher Anca Gheaus on the pros and cons of using reference letters in a job search. Some of the pros: they give us a better idea about the kind of philosophical training the candidate received and allow search committees to usefully supplement the details they can glean from a candidate’s c.v. Some cons: reference letters can reproduce biases and hierarchies within the discipline.
Considering dozens, sometimes hundreds, of applications for one position is an onerous task, so it is appealing to take pedigree into consideration because this is an expedient method to decide whom to short-list or even whom to hire. […] But this is unfair to candidates: those who weren’t supervised by influential letter-writers, or who otherwise didn’t make their work sufficiently know to an influential letter-writer, have fewer chances on the job market. Moreover, relying on letters of reference can also be bad for quality, to the extent to which letters fail to closely track merit. This kind of problem will not entirely go away just by eliminating reference letters – the prestige of a candidate’s university will continue to matter – but [its] dimensions would be more modest.
For a change, it’s worth reading not only the original post, but also the comments, where a lively and thoughtful discussion on the matter is unfolding.
From The Economist, “OVER the years, pregnant women have asked Donald Redelmeier, at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, about the dangers of scuba diving, hot tubs, flying, mountaineering, cycling, bear attacks and all sorts of other exotic risks. But they never worry about road accidents. His new study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests they should.Dr Redelmeier and his colleagues wanted to know if pregnancy makes a woman driver more likely to be involved in a car crash. So they examined data from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, which records health visits for the Canadian province’s 13m residents. The researchers looked for women who, in the months before giving birth, visited a hospital emergency unit after a car accident in which they had been driving. They then looked at those women’s hospital visits in the three years before becoming pregnant and for one year following the birth.They found that being pregnant made the women 42% more likely to be in a serious car crash. The risk peaked in the fourth month of pregnancy. It seems that being pregnant is about as dangerous for drivers as having sleep apnoea, which causes people to snore and choke themselves awake throughout the night, leaving them tired during the day.”
Read the rest here.
I don’t know whether I’m more worried about the facts of this story or how those facts will be taken up in our society. As a friend nervously joked about a future in which pregnant women are banned from driving, women might have to take a breathalyzer test and pee on a strip.
Has anyone read any critical analysis of this story, either about the research itself or about the way it’s being framed? It certainly can’t help in countries in which women’s right to drive is controversial.