January 8th, 2006

confused, buh?

On Conflicts of Interest

Yesterday, my father and I went to my grandfather's home to set up my step-grandmother's new computer. Also to try to teach my grandfather how to use the new digital camera he got for Christmas. (The upshot to the first is that my step-grandmother has no trouble at all adapting to Windows XP Media Center Ed'n from Windows ME, and my grandfather- a PhD of physics, with a nontrivial amount of material published and used as standard references- cannot figure out how to use a digital camera within his irritable attention span and it has been shifted for use by anybody in the family who wants to borrow it for any reason. Our family has a lot of things like that.) Anyway, we got it set up and running, but we later discovered (via a phone call) that some settings still weren't the way she wanted them, so we came back today to reconfigure her system. It also gave us a chance to clean a set of DVDs (the complete collection of The New Yorker) that came pre-smudged and, more importantly, head back down to campus (they live about two blocks away from Washington University) and buy textbooks for next semester.

Dr. Swartwout hasn't changed his tune any, and the books I had from Selected topics in Space Engineering last semester are still good now. I got the one book each for Switching Theory and Embedded Systems- the latter looks reasonable, and the former looks really darn nifty. I think I'll enjoy Switching Theory.

My Abnormal Psych books, as I had been previously notified via e-mail, weren't available and wouldn't be until the second week of class. (Bleah to that, I say.) But the really interesting part was observing the author of the textbook and the name of the professor for the course side by side: there was just a bit of a congruency. Okay, it looks like Dr. Oltmanns is teaching us out of his own textbook... that explains how he knew about an edition that hasn't yet been published, I suppose. I suspect he's doing a short run and we are his proofreaders.

I will therefore be taught a class from the same person who wrote both textbooks for the class. Does anybody else think this is a bit of a conflict of interest, or perhaps some form of academic incest? It worries me, because in all my past classes, my professors have covered for the inadequecies in the textbook and the textbook has covered for the ineadequecies in the professor. I've only got one source now.

This means that my professor is extremely good at what he does, extremely full of himself, or both. I'm hoping for the first or last of those options; the second option without the first poses some worry to me. The class will either be exceptionally well-taught from a respected professional in the field, or it will bear a closer resemblance to the second book in the Harry Potter series in which Dr. Gilderoy Lockhart has assigned textbooks written only by Dr. Gilderoy Lockhart... no way of knowing which.

Does anybody else find it worrying when a professor assigns only his own textbooks?
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