Archive for April, 2010

April 20th 2010
Holiday snaps, part I

Posted under bad language & fluff & Gender & unhappy endings

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some of the most interesting things I saw on my spring vacation (at last)!  Here are two:

For those of you who read this language, I can only ask, “well, is it, punk?  (For those of you who don’t, I can translate loosely:  Is our work valued the same?, and underneath is says To eliminate the wage gap between women and men, and directs readers to this website.)  Apparently in this country, they haven’t yet closed the wage gap between men and women, and the government presumes that the citizenry would like to do something about it!  Sacre bleu!  Continue Reading »


April 20th 2010
The Donald: still unaccredited

Posted under fluff & students & wankers

Via Inside Higher Ed, we learn that “Trump University,” the “Donald Trump creation that offers courses for those who want to emulate the real estate guru, has been ordered by New York State officials to stop calling itself a university.”  (Full story here:  “‘Use of the word ‘university’ by your corporation is misleading and violates New York Education Law and the Rules of the Board of Regents,’ wrote Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education Joseph Frey.”)

Well, you can see why he thought it was OK to call his program a “university.”  After all, he probably calls that stuff on his head “hair.”


April 19th 2010
Late April watching and waiting

Posted under American history & captivity & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings

Stanley Fish reminds us that today is the fifteenth annivarsary of the Oklahoma City bombings, and that April 19 is significant to domestic terrorists for many reasons, but most of all because it was also the day of the invasion and burning of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas in 1993:

For those who fear government and hold fiercely to the motto of New Hampshire — “Live Free or Die” — April 19 is both a holy and an unholy day; unholy because it marks the naked exercise of state power (at least in the case of Waco and before that of Ruby Ridge), and holy because it serves as a rallying cry for those who wish to “take back” their country from the socialists, communists and one-worlders who, they believe, have hijacked it. Blogger Eric Boehlert declares on that “April 19th remains an almost mythical date among dedicated government haters.”

For the government, April 19 is a day to worry about. When F.B.I. agents arrested nine members of the Christian militia known as the Hutaree in late March, they acted because of information indicating that the group was planning an attack on police officers sometime in April. The betting is that the date they had in mind was April 19. Continue Reading »


April 18th 2010
The blame game

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Susan Scarf Merrell offers some interesting insights into the case of the little boy returned to Russia last week when his American mother decided that she couldn’t parent him any longer.  Merrell is the author of a book about a troubled adoption:

When I set out to write my 2001 novel, A Member of the Family, I wanted to find an answer to one simple question: What kind of mother could give back a child she had sworn to love? In researching the novel, I met many families struggling to do better than survive, families that wanted to compensate for the early life tragedies that had beset the children they now called their own. Whether the child’s scars were psychological or physical, a question of malnutrition or attachment disorder or serious mental illness, these families were committed, no matter the cost of endurance to their other members.Through these conversations, I did eventually construct a portrait of a fictional family that adopted a child, did their best to raise him, but ultimately sank under the pressure and released him into the foster care system. I let my characters live out their tale. Like any novelist, I had done my homework and built my fictional case.

Because I was publishing a piece of fiction, I was unprepared for what followed. After the book was released, I was shocked to open my local paper to find a letter from a neighbor, an adoptive parent, stating that she would never read a book like mine and hoped nobody else would either. I was accused of a variety of odd things in the months following publication, of constructing a damning portrait of a fellow villager—someone I had never heard of, or met—and of fictionalizing and justifying my own behavior with my own children. Continue Reading »


April 17th 2010
Honesty: honestly?

Posted under jobs & students

As you climb the ladder of success, don't let the boys look up your dress!

Notorious, Ph.D. hosted a “listening session” at her blog this week in which she asked, “What do you wish we were doing/not doing with respect to our grad students?,” among other questions, and asked students to weigh in and faculty-types to stand down.  She summarizes the results in this follow-up post, and then asks faculty-types to respond.  Honesty is what the students want–honesty about their work, their talents (or lack thereof), and honesty about their job prospects. 

Of course, there may be such a thing as too much honesty.  “Honesty” can of course feel very aggressive, and can be used as a cover for aggression.  Female Science Professor also has a post up about grad student culture, and the degree to which grad students talk about research and even collaborate.  She credits a conversation with a fellow grad student with perhaps saving her career: Continue Reading »


April 16th 2010
Grade deflation + student frustration = Proffie’s early vacation!

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings & wankers

Have one on me, Professor!

Wow.  Having high standards will apparently get you yanked from teaching your own course at Louisiana State University (h/t Inside Higher Ed).  Yes, that’s right:  an introductory course (!) for which the faculty member volunteered (!!!).  Well, as they say:  no good deed goes unpunished, right friends? 

Dominique G. Homberger won’t apologize for setting high expectations for her students. 

The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn’t use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn’t want students to get very far with guessing. 

Students in introductory biology don’t need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university’s administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor’s right to set standards in her own course. 

But, “[t]he class in question is an entry-level biology class for non-science majors!”  Who said that–a complaining student?  An outraged Sophomore who’s sure this grade is going to screw her chances for med school?  No–it’s a quote from a statement by Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Basic Sciences at LSU!  Awesome!  Who the hell thinks that “entry-level” classes for “non-science majors” should mean “gut class?”  If low expectations weren’t a clearly articulated expectation of the biology deparment and the College of Basic Sciences for their entry-level courses (which of course always have more non-majors than majors), then I call bullcrap on this. Continue Reading »


April 15th 2010
Today in “postfeminism”: career advice from your worst frenemy!

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

Reader BW sent this on to me yesterday, Penelope Trunk’s “The Terrible Career Advice Women Give Each Other.”  Her advice to women professionals boils down to:

  1. Don’t listen to older women, look for male mentors because older women give terrible advice.
  2. Prioritize marriage and baby-making, because if you wait until 30 you’re doomed.
  3. Don’t bother reporting sexual harassment–everyone knows it happens all the time, so learn to deal with it.
  4. Don’t read advice books on how to lead.  “You want to know what book was most helpful to me in my career? The Sensuous Woman. Continue Reading »


April 14th 2010
Judicial review, “originalism,” and bad metaphors

Posted under American history & wankers

Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, explains very crisply in the New York Times today why liberals need to break away from the terms of debate set by the right wing on the purpose of the federal judiciary.  (Hint:  it’s not to call fair balls and strikes like an umpire!)

So, how should judges interpret the Constitution? To answer that question, we need to consider why we give courts the power of judicial review — the power to hold laws unconstitutional — in the first place. Although the framers thought democracy to be the best system of government, they recognized that it was imperfect. One flaw that troubled them was the risk that prejudice or intolerance on the part of the majority might threaten the liberties of a minority. As James Madison observed, in a democratic society “the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended … from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.” It was therefore essential, Madison concluded, for judges, whose life tenure insulates them from the demands of the majority, to serve as the guardians of our liberties and as “an impenetrable bulwark” against every encroachment upon our most cherished freedoms.  [Excuse me--does anyone read Federalist No. 10 any more?  That whole part about controlling the effects of faction?  No?  I didn't think so.]

Conservative judges often stand this idea on its head. As the list of rulings above shows, they tend to exercise the power of judicial review to invalidate laws that disadvantage corporations, business interests, the wealthy and other powerful interests in society. They employ judicial review to protect the powerful rather than the powerless.

He even defends President Obama’s call for empathy last year in candidates for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court! 

I always thought that Chief Justice John Roberts’s vision for his role on the court as that of an umpire at a baseball game was astonishingly stupid and disingenuous, as is the whole pretend philosophy of “originalism.”  (Although I realize the utility of stupid metaphors and similes when trying to survive Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.  Who here really thought that Roberts and his cronies were impartial observers who would just “call ‘em as they see ‘em?”  Raise your hands, please!)  Continue Reading »


April 13th 2010
And now, an important announcement brought to you by education, not by Twitter, faceBook, clickers, any i-crap, “Centers for Teaching and Learning” (ugh!), standardized curricula, or “assessment.” (But maybe by a blog or two.)

Posted under art & European history & happy endings & jobs & students & technoskepticism

402? He doesn't look a day over 21!

Just go read Flavia, and weep.

As I said in the comments, education works:  pass it on.  All I can say is thank dog she was teaching Paradise Lost and not Toni Morrison or Virginia Woolf.  Otherwise, she’d be accused of infiltrating the high schools with her subversive Marxist-feminist agenda ZOMG1!!1!111!!!  (And as we all know, that’s Historiann’s bailiwick.  Pass that on, too, willya?)

Speaking of dangerous subversives:  has anyone else out there actually read Milton?  Areopagitica was some pretty left-wing stuff in its day:  “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.”  In the words of the immortal Vanilla Ice:  word to ya mutha.


April 13th 2010
Tuesday round-up: Hell’s Bells edition!

Posted under American history & art & bad language & class & European history & fluff & jobs & unhappy endings & weirdness

Come and git it!

It’s warm as hades here, although they say a storm might be brewing in the mountains later today.  I’ve got to get back to my day job–you know, the one that pays the bills?–but here are a few tidbits that might amuse you while I’m out:

  • A friend of mine is teaching La Divina Commedia this term, and found a quiz online that will tell you which circle of hell you’ll wind up in for eternity.  You can join Historiann in Limbo, with the virtuous un-believers (I’m shocked I rated that high!), or you could do worse.  Take the test yourself, and please report your results below.  Quite frankly, based on this website’s description of Limbo, I’d be quite happy there, with “rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. . . . the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad” among the “virtuous pagans” and unbaptised children.  (But, Limbo is what you make of it, right?  So long as the company’s good, anyway.)
  • For those of you looking to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of Dodge City, here’s a story about airline travel that will burn your shorts (via Shakesville.)  Seriously:  United Airlines executives should have to spend eternity in the Malebolge (that’s circle 8 out of 9, friends) with others “guilty of fraudulence and malice.”  Once upon a time I had to travel with a family member who needed assistance, and the United flight attendants were the least helpful and accomodating of any I’ve ever encountered.  (Denver is a United hub, but fortunately so is Frontier, whose employees seem a heck of a lot friendlier and happier.  Plus, the United planes all feel much more crowded and the seats are the worst of any U.S. airline I’ve ever flown.  Given the choice between United and Greyhound, next time I’ll ride the dog!)  Continue Reading »


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