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 »


August 25th 2009
Historiann presents an After-School Special: Young Goodman Wood

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & weirdness

wingedskullgraveyardVery scary stuff, kids–don’t let it happen to you!  Seriously, go read Timothy L. Wood’s dark tale about someone assigning him the authorship of a fairly stupid-sounding essay about Barack Obama that goes straight from zero to Godwin’s Law.  There was our innocent young Assistant Professor and expert in puritan studies last winter, thinking about anything but net-famousness as he plodded his way through marking final exams:

One deleted e-mail marked the beginning of my ordeal. It was finals week, just before Christmas break, when I received a strange message asking me to comment on some kind of online political essay that I had supposedly written. Since I’m not a blogger and make it a point to avoid the many rancorous political forums on the Internet, I immediately dismissed it as spam and hit delete.

But the notes kept coming, increasing in their fervor and frequency, until I could no longer deny it: I was receiving “fan mail.” Some writers called me courageous. Others hailed me as a visionary. A few suggested that I was predestined to play a pivotal role in the apocalyptic events foretold in the Book of Revelation. (Seriously.) Now, over the past 12 years I have published a scholarly book and eight journal articles on various historical topics, but I have to admit that through it all I never even attracted one groupie. So with my curiosity very much piqued, I began an online quest in search of the mysterious article.

I suppose it was inevitable that I was not going to like what I found. There, prominently displayed on a rather extreme Web site, was an essay (information about it can be found here) that likened President Obama to … Adolf Hitler. Underneath the title was the inscription “by Tim Wood.”

Awesome!  Imagine that our Professor Wood is both the duplicitous, Satanic husband and the innocent bride in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.”  His own secret identity was so devious and so secret that even he didn’t even know about it!  Continue Reading »


August 24th 2009
One big happy “Community?”

Posted under American history & art & jobs

communityAs many of you have heard, NBC has produced a comedy series called “Community” that will premiere next month.  It looks to me to do for colleges what “The Office” has done for office culture.  (New Kid on the Hallway has a clip here, which I actually thought looked pretty promising.  It shows a Spanish professor warning his students in no uncertain terms about deploying racial stereotypes about him–not exactly standard fare on broadcast TV, or really, anywhere on TV.  Just click and watch people–it’s a free laugh!)  Inside Higher Ed has a roundup today of (mixed) reviews from community college administrators, faculty, and students.

I’ve long observed that in spite of what I see as the near-limitless comic potential of academia, our workplace is rarely the setting for TV shows or movies.  Our profession is never examined, romanticized, or glamorized the way that law enforcement, medicine, or even high school education are.  (This is not necessarily a complaint, just an observation.)  Maybe we should be happy, because when a college professor is a major character, ze is often unattractive and/or revealed to be a corrupt or devious person.  Continue Reading »


August 22nd 2009
Scenes from a more dangerous childhood

Posted under American history & childhood & fluff

kidsmokingI’ve had a lot of conversations this summer with friends around my age that are saturated in nostalgia for our lost childhoods in the 1960s and 1970s.  We survivors of this era of no seatbelt laws (and in some cars, no seatbelts at all!), no carseats, no helmets, knee-pads, or elbow-pads, of forts and long summer afternoons in the woods, and of all of the soda we could drink (plus as many cigarettes we could steal out of our mothers’ purses) had childhoods that must look like science fiction to the children of the 1990s and 2000s.  Whereas most reminicences about childhood rely on the trope that the past was a more innocent time, this childhood looks downright dangerous by comparison to that of the children I know today. 

I came across this blog, Found $hit, when googling images with which to illustrate a post this week, and thought you might enjoy some of the ephemera of childhoods-gone-by.  These images appear to me to date from 1946-1955ish or so–maybe some more expert in midcentury ephemera will correct my guess here.  Warning:  some of these images are NSFMPWTTTS (Not Safe For Modern Parents Who Take Themselves Too Seriously), so can the sanctimony and enjoy the laffs, m’kay? Continue Reading »


August 21st 2009
Tales of money, gender, and the ruling class: Nantucket, 1994

Posted under American history & class & Gender & jobs

nantucketShortly after Dr. Mister Historiann graduated from medical school, we moved from Baltimore to Somerville, Massachusetts so that he could start his residency.  We had that golden month of June, 1994 before he needed to go back to work, and back in the day when we had more time than money, we decided to hop a ferry over to Nantucket with a couple of bikes and a reservation at the Youth Hostel there.  We enjoyed a couple of days hiking, biking, and lazing around on the beach.

For both of us, I think, the most memorable thing about that trip was talking to our fellow youth-hostellers, most of whom were young Irish men and women who had come to Massachusetts on a special visa that permitted them to work for a summer and then return to Ireland.  The trick for most of these kids was to move to a resort area and to find a day job there, so that the beach was right there on their days off.  Most of the young men sought construction work–which as I recall offered decent (although illegal, under-the-table) wages of $15-$20 an hour.  Most of the young women interviewed for restaurant jobs and summer nanny jobs, and the money people were offering for the latter was truly appalling.  Families who were spending $2,000 to $4,000 a week (or more, perhaps much more) to rent a summer house on Nantucket were offering these young women $150 a week to stay with their children 24/7, because of the supposedly fabulous “perk” of having room and board with the family.  (As if having a live-in nanny were more of a favor to the nanny than to the parents, who also had on-call 24-hr. child care.)  I was appalled–talk about your patriarchal equilibrium.  There was no question that the women working as summer nannies, even without the room and board, would never earn them $15-$20 an hour.

Isn’t it fascinating to see what people are willing to spend their money on, and what they’re not willing to pay for?  Continue Reading »


August 20th 2009
We can haz pony now?

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

clauderainsThe Nation is shocked–shocked!–to find that gambling is going on here, with the chief croupier “America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” 

After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. [Ed. notedon't you read your own magazine, dude?  "Suddenly," my a$$.]  That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president’s abrupt retreat on substantive heathcare reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a “public option” health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he’s okay with that.

The White House quickly added confusion to the outrage by insisting the president didn’t really say anything new. He’s just being flexible. He still wants what most Democrats want–a government plan that gives people a real escape from the profit-driven clutches of the insurance companies. But serious power players will not be fooled by the nimble spinners. Obama choked. He raised the white flag, even before the fight got underway in Congress.

(Via the awesome vastness and leftyness of vastleft at Corrente.)  In the past few days since this article was published, the confusion has only grown about where the White House is.  (One thing is for sure:  they thought they put a stake through Howard Dean’s heart, but he lives!  He lives!)  Well, suxxorz:  I love to say I told you so, don’t I?  Continue Reading »


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