Archive for September, 2010

September 19th 2010
Little things mean a lot

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Not every American woman gets raped or sexually harassed every day.  We don’t all get overcharged on cars or appliances we buy every single time.  (Most of us are chronically underpaid for our work relative to our male peers, however–that is something of a constant, I’m afraid!)  But sometimes it’s the little things about being a woman that add up to teh suckity-suck.  Exhibit A, from Suzie at Echidne’s place:

I received a party invitation that read: “Please bring a dish to share – a bottle of wine or soft drink will be acceptable from male guests. :-)” Because this was sent to students mostly from other countries, the host may have felt the need to spell out what many Americans already acknowledge. Women are expected to cook or, at the least, buy a side dish or dessert for a potluck. Men get less criticism for bringing less.

What a helpful lesson in the different care work expectations for American women and men!  (And I just love the little smiley face, which seems to acknowledge the unfairness of it all but also remind us that it’s all in good fun!Continue Reading »


September 18th 2010
E-textbooks: still inferior to the codex versions

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism

Unimpressive in actual classroom applications

Did anyone else hear this story on NPR last night about how allegedly the iPad is finally going to end the suckitude of e-textbooks?  Except the content of the story seemed to undermine the headline–it was all about how badly the Kindle sucked and how students were reluctant to buy their own iPads because they still kind of suck.  (They were happy to use the free iPads offered in trials for e-texts, though.)  The interview with Reed College Political Scientist Alex Montgomery-Amo is pretty much what I would have predicted:

Last year they tried out the Kindle and this year they’ve been given free iPads to test. Montgomery-Amo says they’re hoping to have better luck with the iPad than they had with the Kindle.

“That went … I think horribly would be a good way of putting it,” he says. “The problem is that the Kindle is less interactive than a piece of paper in that the paper, you can quickly write notes in the margin or star something or highlight something, and the Kindle was so slow at highlighting and making notes that the students stopped reading them as scholarly texts and started reading them like novels.”

The result, according to Montgomery-Amo, is that his students didn’t understand the material as well as they did when using a traditional textbook.

To make matters worse, he says the Kindle proved unable to keep up with the class discussion — it would take half a minute to load a page and by then, the discussion would have lost its momentum.

I absolutely understand the allure of e-texts.  Codex textbooks are heavy, expensive, and they use a lot of paper–there should be a better way, shouldn’t there be?  Except:  the “better way” has to actually be better than the codex edition.  Continue Reading »


September 17th 2010
Disney’s Pocahontas reconsidered

Posted under American history & art & Bodily modification & childhood & fluff & Gender & students & women's history

Fifteen years ago when Walt Disney’s Pocahontas was released, it was the Princess movie everyone loved to hate:  feminists were appalled by the buxom babe makeover of the title protagonist, who was in fact only a little girl when John Smith was part of the Jamestowne settlement.  Conservatives saw a disturbing anti-growth environmental message with the simplistic contrast of ecologically harmonious Indian villages versus rapacious English despoilers of the North American environment.  Historians were appalled that John Smith’s self-serving fictions were spun once again into a historical romance with Pocahontas. 

I was in graduate school in 1995 when the movie was first released, and since I didn’t have any young children in my life, I never got around to watching it until about five years ago.  I like the movie a lot, and find a lot of the criticism of the movie at the time it was released too literal-minded.  I’ve even used clips of it to illustrate points I want to make in my undergraduate classes at both the introductory level and in upper-division classes.  The movie’s distortions are mostly in the service of fitting the Pocahontas legend into the Disney Princess mold–for example, the romance with Smith (we have to have a handsome prince, right?), the rebellion against her father (think about the wicked Queen or stepmothers, or King Triton in The Little Mermaid), the supernatural Mother Willow (fairy godmother, anyone?) and the adorably mischievous raccoon and hummingbird companions (Snow White’s forest friends, or the mice in Cinderella).  And although Pocahontas looks like she might have had breast implants, her costume is no more revealing than Ariel’s clamshell bra.  Continue Reading »


September 16th 2010
Now they tell us!

Posted under American history

Sorry about the blogsilence–I’m getting what’s known as “my job” done, offline!  More fun tomorrow, I promise, but in the meantime, here’s a headline that could have been written in 1998, or 1994, or 1980, or 1964:  “Extremists Are Taking Over GOP.”  Now he tells us!  Continue Reading »


September 14th 2010
Where the girls are: not so much in the Arts and Humanities as other fields!

Posted under Gender & jobs & women's history

Women earned the majority of Ph.D.s in the U.S. for the first time in 2008-09, according to an analysis by the Council of Graduate Schools–50.4 percent to 49.6 percent of men.  Of course, sex parity is only the case in a few subfields–women are dramatically underrepresented in Physical and Earth Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Engineering, and Business, and are overrepresented in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Public Administration, Health Sciences, and Education.

Interestingly, the two subfields that are very close to equal in terms of women and men Ph.D.s are the Biological and Agricultural Sciences and the Arts and Humanities, at 51 percent and 53 percent respectively.  (For all of the numbers, see the table below.) 

Percentage of Women Among New Doctoral Recipients, by Field, 2008-9

Field Female Graduates
Social and behavioral sciences 60%
Public administration and services 61%
Physical and earth sciences 33%
Math and computer science 27%
Health sciences 70%
Engineering 22%
Education 67%
Business 39%
Biological and agricultural sciences 51%
Arts and humanities 53%

Yet, the first commenter on Inside Higher Ed‘s article, someone who identifies himself as an adjunct in English, ignores the evidence and announces that “I am a man working in the humanities and the pay is abysmal. While it MUST get better, university admins, I am sure, fall asleep at night wondering how to make it worse. Women paradoxically both demand less money and yet work harder than men do. Given the economic conditions at universities, is it any wonder they’re more successful?”

I count at least six falsehoods or assumptions in those four sentences. Continue Reading »


September 13th 2010
Late summer treats

Posted under fluff & happy endings & the body

I’ve been cooking a lot lately–mostly because we belong to a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) that delivers us a giant box of fresh veggies every week, and we have to either eat them or decide how to preserve them for eating later.  Here are a few treats I’ve formulated to help us deal with the bounty of late summer produce out here on the high plains.

First, inspired by a cocktail I had a few weeks ago on my birthday night out, I’ve figured out how to make cucumber and mint-infused gin and tonics.  (The photo at right really doesn’t do the drink justice–in real life, the drink has a kind of absinthe-greeny glow.)  Here’s the recipe for one–double, triple, or quadruple as you wish:

Cucumber and mint-infused gin and tonic

  • 5 slices cucumber
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 shot gin
  • tonic water

Muddle the cucumber, mint, lime wedge, and sugar in a cocktail strainer or large glass.  Really mash it all up to extract the cucumber and lime juices and mint oils.  Add a shot of gin and stir to combine.  Strain mixture into a highball glass with a few ice cubes in it, and fill with tonic.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint, and serve.  Cheers!  Continue Reading »


September 12th 2010
The net effect of the “high cost of higher ed” argument

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & local news & students & wankers

This is the first of the 2010-2011 academic year’s series, Excellence Without Money(a term coined by the b!tchez at Roxie’s World in their series on the high cost of not funding higher education.)  For the full archives at both blogs, click away on those links, darlings.

I’ve been doing a little thinking about the effects of the arguments we’re seeing everywhere about the high cost of higher education.  Complaints about the cost of college, and the rate at which it’s increased in the past two decades, are always a major part of the argument in the slew of books published recently urging major reform of American universities.  Strangely enough, none of these books suggest that the federal and state governments should once again subsidize higher education at the rate it did during the Cold War, nor do they advocate ripping out computer labs and IT departments, which are the two biggest reasons college costs more than it used to.  (From 1986-90, my “laptop computer” was a $2.99 multi-subject notebook that I bought at the beginning of each semester.  If you started college before the mid-1990s, I’m betting that that was your “laptop,” too.) 

Instead, their arguments boil down once again to attacks on the faculty–especially tenured radicals who absurdly expect to be paid a living wage for their years of education, work, and expertise.  Oddly, all of these books have chosen to ignore how universities have slashed the costs of faculty labor by turning tenure-track and tenured jobs into positions held by adjuncts, who are paid as little as $3,000 per course and are at-will employees.  Distressingly, because of some recent resignations and regular faculty on leave, my department is this year an adjunct-majority department.  (But because it’s been years since regular faculty produced more student credit hours than our adjuncts, so perhaps this is less of a milestone than I suggested in the previous sentence.  For several years, it’s my understaning that two popular lecturers in my department produced fully half of the entire department’s FTEs.)

The problem with these articles–aside from their one-sided arguments that somehow faculty are the big piggies at the trough, not the NFL and NBA farm clubs (a.k.a. the “football teams” and the “men’s basketball teams”), not CEO-level multimillion-dollar salaries for university presidents and football and basketball coaches, and not the luxury condominiums that now pass for stadiums and dormatories–is that they’re written by upper-middle class journalists and writers who all attended and sent–or aspire to send–their children to the top 5 or 10 percent of the most selective, and usually private, colleges and universities.  Now, if the only universities you’d consider sending your children to cost $30,000-$55,000 a year, your world is very different from the world the vast majority of Americans inhabit.  But these are the people who are driving this “debate” in the op-ed pages of the New York Times and your local newspaper.

Take look at Baa Ram U.’s fee schedule for the 2010-11 school year, where tuition and fees are still less than $7,000 a year.  At an average courseload of 10 3-credit classes per year, that’s less than $700 a class.  How strange that the low cost of higher education in universities like mine doesn’t drive the debate!  Continue Reading »


September 9th 2010
“Don’t give them the keys back?”

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & wankers

What keys?  House keys?  Boat keys?  ALAN Keyes? 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tim Kaine
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

(H/t to Profane for sending this on to me, and keeping me current with what I’m missing without cable teebee.)  What Einstein came up with that one?  “Yeah, yeah, ‘don’t give them the keys back.’  That’s the ticket–just slap that on a ‘Baby on Board’-type yellow sign thingie, and make it into a key ring, and we’ve won ourselves another election!” 

Tim Kaine is a totally overrated one-term former Governor of Virginia.  (One term’s all they can serve there–so that part’s not his fault.)  That this d00d was asked to be the DNC Chair is all you need to know about the leadership and direction of the Democratic Party, and about its likely electoral fate in November.  Continue Reading »


September 8th 2010

Posted under American history & book reviews & captivity & Gender & happy endings & O Canada & publication & women's history

To paraphrase Sally Field when she won her Academy Award:  “They like me!  They really like me!”

I’ve been dying to tell you about this for more than 18 months now, but I’ve been waiting for the publication of Women’s America:  Refocusing the Past (7th edition) to announce that editors Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton have included a substantial excerpt from chapter 4 of Abraham in Arms in this latest edition of their American women’s history reader. 

I’m especially pleased about this, not just because Women’s America is one of the top two women’s history readers*, and not just because I’m in the company of leaders in my field like Sara Evans, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Mary Beth Norton, Jennifer Morgan, Carol Karlsen, Carol Berkin, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sharon Block, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, and Jeanne Boydston, not to mention Dayton and Kerber themselves.  I’m also especially thrilled because they picked a chapter about women that I was particularly proud of, and which has gone largely unremarked upon by my reviewers, most of whom have been military historians who are much more interested in my chapters on guys and guns.  (Go figure!  They have all reviewed the book favorably, for which I am truly grateful.)  I wrote what I thought was some pretty interesting women’s history too–and I’m so gratified to know that top scholars in my field like Kerber and Dayton find value in my work.

From the editors’ introduction to “Captivity and Conversion:  Daughters of New England in French Canada,” p. 103:

Ann Little’s essay introduces us to the geopolitics of the second half of the colonial period.  Protestant England and Catholic France, along with their independent-minded Indian allies, engaged in a succession of imperial wars involving North American territory from the late seventeenth century through the Seven Years’ War of 1756-63.  In 1700, English settlers far outnumbered the 15,000 French soldiers, missionaries, fur traders, and habitants(farmers) clustered chiefly in settlements along the St. Lawrence River.  However, the English occupied only a narrow sliver along the eastern seaboard, while the French claimed authority (and established mutually adventageous relations with native groups) from Louisiana to Canada along the Mississippi River and around the Great Lakes.  It was not at all clear if one European power (France, Spain, orEngland) could gain ascendancy over the continent as a whole.

The author takes us on a detective’s journey to recover the voices of and find out what happened to the children, teenagers, and grown women who were captured from New England towns and farms in wartime raids by Abenaki allies of the French.  Continue Reading »


September 7th 2010
Tuesday roundup: drunken a$$hats edition

Posted under art & bad language & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & wankers

Kiss my chap$, little boys!

Howdy, friends:  I was away for a long holiday weekend, but now I’m back in the saddle and ready to ride on out.  Lots of great news and views in the blogosphere–so I’ll let your fingers do the clicking while I catch up on my day job!

  • First, Tenured Radical has a great post up (and a great comments thread) about the “culture” of campus drinking and the curious blindness or acceptance we adults have for the very real personal and financial consequences.  We like to think it’s the under-25s, but it isn’t.  I can attest to that–this weekend in Denver it was the annual Rocky Mountain showdown between in-state rivals, the University of Colorado and Baa Ram U.  When we were out and about on Saturday night, it wasn’t just the under-25s making the 16th St. Mall Ride smell like a brewery.  There were plenty of middle-aged people literally stumbling around town in their Buffs or Rams jerseys.  (Sometimes even with their grade-school aged–or younger–kids!  No joke.  That kind of shocked me.)  Pathological drinking doesn’t come from nowhere–and I’ve heard that local hospitals go on Red Alert in many college towns during Parents’ Weekend–not because the student drinking is any worse, but because a lot of parents drink themselves into stupors that require hospitalization! 
  • But, at least the more dedicated and experienced drinkers among us know how to be reasonably discreet.  One thing I think that has changed about student drinking since I was in college is the sense of entitlement today’s students have not just to drink on campus or in their houses and dorms, but to behave as though the campus extends to wherever they happen to be, subjecting innocents to public drunkenness and really trashy behavior.  I had the unfortunate experience of swimming in a rooftop pool Saturday afternoon at what I thought was a pretty swank hotel, when I found myself in the middle of some a$$holes’ beer commercial fantasy:  Continue Reading »


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