Archive for August, 2009

August 31st 2009
Who wants romantic advice from a two-time Stepford loser?

Posted under art & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history


Surrender, Dorothy!

Via Phila posting at Echidne, here’s a priceless bit of auto-humiliation by novelist Fay Weldon, who has lots of advice for us straight girls on how to live a happy life with a man:

She says, for instance, that there are some things that women should simply not try to get men to do – such as make coffee, pick up their socks or clean the loo.

The 77-year- old author – best known for The Life and Loves of a She-Devil – also criticises the strident approach of early feminism for encouraging women to believe that all men were stupid and useless.  [Ed. note:  I think the belief that "that all men are stupid and useless" is actually the philosophy of modern conservativism, not feminism--but Weldon ain't an intellectual historian, is she?]

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

‘At work, gender should not come into it. Women are right to refuse to make the coffee, but when you get home I’m afraid you have to make the coffee.

‘It’s such a waste of time trying to tell your husband to pick up the socks or clean the loo. It’s much easier just to do it yourself.’

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

She did, however, have a warning for working women, saying: ‘They (men) just don’t want to commit to you, and why would they when you are a busy working woman who can look after yourself and probably goes to bed easily with them?’

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

‘The thing is, you need to find a man who is cleverer than you, or at least not let him know that you are cleverer than him,’ she said. Continue Reading »


August 29th 2009
Historiann has a man-date. . .

Posted under fluff & jobs & local news & students


Dr. Mister Historiann

. . . and unlike other Democrats, who shall remain nameless, I sure as heck know how to use it!  I’m off to a lovely weekend in Boulder with Dr. Mister, who is taking me out to the fab “new” restaurant we’ve been talking about going to for years now, but have never thought far enough in advance to get a darned reservation.  Well, this summer he did–and yum!  I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d let you know that the discussion about “Outcomes Assessment” this week inspired by Clio Bluestocking has spurred some other contributions.  Sisyphus at Academic Cog questions the value of quantitative information in evaluating humanities teaching.  She asks, “[s]o is outcomes assessment just another part of the factory university speedup? The whole point of humanistic study is to read and think in depth and then to talk about it, and to train our students to read and think in depth as well —- and then to communicate what they have discovered through writing and speech.* That’s it. It’s a model that doesn’t lend itself well to Taylorization, rationalization and efficiency.”  Continue Reading »


August 27th 2009
Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Posted under American history & jobs & students & unhappy endings

assessmentClio Bluestocking is cranky, again.  Why?  She has to “get dressed, drive up to the self-proclaimed ‘main campus’ (they aren’t, they just like to think they are) and sit in on one of those hideous Outcomes Assessment meetings run by the OA Borg, a group of True Believers who get paid a lot of money NOT to teach.”  Yeah, that’s a loser of a proposition twice-over:  1) a meeting, run by 2) “Outcomes Assessment” fraudsters. 

Oh, Historiann!  You’re just an old crank too, you might be thinking.  (You might be right.)  For those of you who remain blissfully ignorant of “Outcomes Assessment,” allow me to explain:  academic departments are asked to invent new tests and measures by which to measure their students’ progress, outside of all of those papers and exams we’re assigning to them in our classes to prove that our students are learning something.  That’s right, friends!  It’s redundant work for everyone, except for the “Outcomes Assessment” administrators who are paid to make $hitwork up for faculty and students who would prefer to be left alone to get on with the business of studying physical anthropology, or engineering, or zoology, or Romantic literature, or something else that has actual interest and value to people other than “Outcomes Assessment” administrators.

Why do I call “Outcomes Assessment” a fraud?  Let Clio B. tell the tale:

Meanwhile, at our college, in our department, we all settled on a truce. Do what they ask, generate the data and hand it over with as little disruption to our own teaching as possible. After all, the OA Borg kept telling us, “You are the professionals. You know your subject. We trust you to come up with the most effective assessment instrument. We will accept what you come up with.” If we didn’t comply, then, “THEY will come in and create one for you.”

Someone actually told that to me yesterday. I wanted to tell her, “c’mon! You are far too old to believe that, if we are good little professors, and do exactly what is expected of us, then THEY are going to leave us alone.” I did tell her, “THEY are going to take it over if THEY want to no matter what we do.” She has become assimilated. She honestly believes that she can limit the impact of the system by becoming part of it. Our pity for her prevents us from holding her in contempt.

THEY are actually already taking it over. All of that “we trust you” and “you are the professionals” and “we will accept what you come up with” is just smoke. You see, we came up with ours, and they kept sending it back to us. At first, it was just tweaking the language. “Students will understand the causes of the American Revolution,” had to be “Students will demonstrate an understanding of the causes of the American Revolution.” That sort of thing. Then, their revisions became more detailed. “How does this question show that students are demonstrating the causes of the American Revolution?” they wanted to know.

Ultimately, what they wanted from us was an essay-based exam. Ultimately, we refuse to give it to them.

But, as we know from long experience with stray cats, ex-boyfriends, and telemarketers:  if you feed it, it will just keep coming back!  If you engage with them, they’ll never let you go! Continue Reading »


August 26th 2009
“The dream shall never die:” Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history


teddythekMassachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy died last night, as I’m sure you’ve heard already–I heard it as I lay sleepless this morning about 3 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on the BBC.  Interestingly, the Beeb was much more eager to talk about Kennedy’s failures and flaws than the U.S. media I’ve seen and heard so far this morning.  NPR has eulogized him with paeans to his legislative record and his family history, and has steered clear of the famous scandals.  In an interview with Christopher Hitchens, a BBC  interviewer kept pushing him to address Kennedy’s spectacular flameouts and criminal actions–his ill-fated challenge to President Jimmy Carter for the Dem nomination of 1980, and the 1969 car crash that caused the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a young Bobby Kennedy volunteer, at Chappaquiddick on Martha’s Vineyard.  Hitchens’s sensible although vague reply was, “we are not entitled to ignore his flaws.” 

Kennedy was a very flawed man–but you Christians in the audience, particularly if you’re of the Calvinist stripe, believe that we’re all deeply and essentially imperfect.  I lived in Massachusetts in 1994-95 and again in 1996-97, and voted for Kennedy in his rough re-election campaign against the young, handsome, and popular moderate-to-liberal Republican newcomer, Mitt Romney.  (This was long before his personal Conservative Revolution of the mid-2000s, but in the 1990s he said he supported abortion rights.)  1994, if you’ll recall, was just 3 years after the Palm Beach rape trial and acquittal of Kennedy’s nephew, William Kennedy Smith.  Various witnesses to the events of the night of the rape reported that the Senator was partying hard with his young relatives, and wandering around without his pants on.  The Senator was even called to testify.  Rumors about Kennedy’s drinking were legion in Washington and Boston as well as Palm Beach.  When it looked like Romney could actually beat him, he cleaned up his act, lost weight, and got married again, to Victoria Reggie. 

The men in the Kennedy family had always used and abused women as they saw fit, as have wealthy and privileged men throughout history, and they’ve left not just private injuries behind them but several deaths as well.  Continue Reading »


August 25th 2009
That’s gotta hurt!

Posted under American history & jobs

Since August 9, Barack Obama has had lower job approval ratings than George W. Bush had on the same days in August 2001.  So far, that is–but the trend lines have been pretty clear over the past few weeks.  It also looks like since early July, Obama’s job disapproval ratings have been higher than Bush’s comparable numbers from the same days in the summer of 2001.

Go see the chart–it’s interesting, because my memory of August 2001 was that Bush’s approval ratings were tanking too, and that the common wisdom was that his famous speech cancelling federal money for most stem cell research failed to stanch his fall.  Continue Reading »


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