Archive for November, 2010

November 20th 2010
Hello, I’m Johnny Trash

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff & happy endings

More Sesame Street nostaligia from the 1970s:

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!


November 19th 2010
The origins of the casualization of academic labor

Posted under American history & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers

Jonathan Rees draws our attention to comments by Thomas Frank in a recent issue of Harper’s (sorry–no link) about why he left academia to pursue a career as an independent writer and journalist:

“Although it scarcely seems believable today, I originally came to journalism as a practical, responsible career move. It was the mid-1990s, I had just finished a Ph.D. in history, and I was toiling away as a lecturer at a college in Chicago. Thanks to an overproduction of historians and the increasing use of adjunct labor by universities, the market had become hopelessly glutted. Friends of mine all told the same stories of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A’s while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities. Our tenured elders, meanwhile, could only rarely be moved to care. What was a predicament to us was a liberation to them-a glorious lifting of their burden to teach. For the university, which was then just then discovering the wonders of profit-making, it was something even more fabulous: a way to keep labor costs down.”

I argued over there that his “tenured elders” weren’t the authors of this system–at least, not unless they were the Deans and Provosts who decided to use adjuncts instead of permitting departments to run tenure-track searches.  No tenured faculty in any department I’ve ever been a member of has cackled with glee at the prospect of seeing our ranks depleted and populated instead with adjuncts.  In fact, the faculty I’m on is always up in arms about the erosion in our ranks.  The chairs of my department, and the chairs of all other departments I know of in my college, have made the hiring of tenure-track colleagues their number-one request for the last several years. Continue Reading »


November 18th 2010
Thursday round-up: beating dead horses edition

Posted under fluff & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Let's give it a whirl!

Some random thoughts inspired by yesterday’s conversation about Cheatergate at UCF yesterday and other trivial events:

  • Liberal Arts majors are frequently subjected to the “but what will you DO with THAT degree?” question from parents, friends, and random busybodies.  (History majors often get the derisive punchline of “Teach??from the parents and busybodies, as though teaching were an undignified and completely unthinkable career.)  But do parents and the general public understand that business majors at some universities are offered “senior-level” classes with 600 students in them?  Speaking for my department only, our 100-level classes (still far too large IMHO) are capped at 123.  We have no 200-level classes, nearly all of our upper-division (300-400 level) courses are capped at 44, and usually end up with fewer than 35 students if they require even a modest level of work on the students’ part.  Our senior seminars are built around writing research papers and are capped 15.  I’m not saying that any of these numbers is optimal–but my bet is that my department’s classes are classes in which faculty know students’ names and have time to talk to them (in class discussions and outside of class), design creative syllabi not focused around a damn textbook, give them constructive advice on their reading and writing, and focus on their development as students.  In the end, which do you think offers the better education? 
  • I did a little research on the internets:  my uni offers eight sections of “Strategic Management” (BUS 479) next semester that are capped at 50.  However, there appear to be some senior-level topics courses (BUS 405A and 405B) that are capped at 90 and 100.  And “Legal and Ethical Issues in Business” (BUS 205) is capped at 130! Continue Reading »


November 17th 2010
A wicked cheat

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings

Is there something I’m missing here in this outrage over widespread cheating in a business class at the University of Central Florida?  Here’s the issue, according to a story at Inside Higher Ed: 

The revelation that hundreds of University of Central Florida students in a senior-level business class received an advance version of a mid-term exam has exposed the widening chasm in what different generations expect of each other — and what they perceive cheating to be.

“To say I’m disappointed is beyond comprehension,” Richard Quinn, instructor in the management department at UCF, told his students last week as he announced that all 600 of them would have to retake their midterm exam in his strategic management course. The discovery that at least 200 of his students received a version of the test prior to the exam shook Quinn deeply, leaving him “physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, trying to figure out what was the last 20 years for,” he said in a widely distributed Web broadcast of his lecture, which a student posted on YouTube, after appending his or her own captioned commentary (a more complete version of Quinn’s remarks is here).

The “perception” problem alluded to in the intro graph above is this:

What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test. Continue Reading »


November 16th 2010
Tuesday morning fairy tales: Mr. Tod’s Big Scheme for the Non-Profit Forest

Posted under art & fluff & unhappy endings & weirdness

Once upon a time, there was a non-profit forest of happy animals.  The deer ran the Deer Department, the squirrels, mice, and chipmunks cooperated in the Rodent Department, and the bunnies administered the Department of Lapinography.  Each department was sovereign, but they cooperated in self-governance to ensure that the forest remained a safe and productive forest for them all.

Unfortunately, drought struck the forest, and a great famine ensued.  The famine went on for a few years, and the head of the forest animals, one Mr. Tod, a Vulpinologist, told all of the animals they needed to sacrifice for the good of the forest.  The animals were alarmed, but they made their reduced rations go around for a few years while they tried to wait out the drought and famine.  Although the numbers of their young continued to grow, they were given no more food.

One day, Mr. Tod told the animals that they could have some extra food from him, on one condition:  they needed to demonstrate that by taking the extra food, they’d be able to generate a profitContinue Reading »


November 15th 2010
Peggy Pascoe, 1954-2010

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Peggy Pascoe, one of the most important feminist historians of the American West, died July 23.  Estelle Friedman has a lovely obituary in this month’s AHA Perspectives describing her career and the importance of her intellectual work and feminist teaching and service to the profession:

Born in Butte, Montana, in 1954, Peggy Pascoe received a BA in history from Montana State University (1977), which later named her one of the school’s 100 most outstanding graduates. She entered the women’s history program at Sarah Lawrence College, studying with Gerda Lerner, and earned her MA degree in 1980. That year she began the doctoral program in U.S. history at Stanford, where I had the great fortune to serve as her advisor and then to become her colleague and friend. Her cohort—which included David Gutierrez, Valerie Matsumoto, and Vicki Ruiz—pioneered a multicultural and gendered history of the West. Pascoe’s revised dissertation, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874–1939 (Oxford University Press, 1993), set a high standard for these fields. Through careful case studies of female missionary campaigns throughout the West, she explored the ways that white Protestant women attempted to uplift Native American, Asian American, working class, and Mormon women. Her balanced and subtle interpretation both credited the opportunities to challenge patriarchy and exposed the ways these efforts reinforced racial hierarchies.

Pascoe’s last book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Oxford, 2009), was completed while she was enduring treatment for ovarian cancer and was awarded many prestigious prizes:

Pascoe was part way through the manuscript for her book on miscegenation law when she learned in 2005 that she had ovarian cancer. Initially she did not think that she would be able to complete the study. In 2007, at a panel held in her honor at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, several colleagues commented on her draft chapters, which helped inspire her to go back to work on the book even as she endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Continue Reading »


November 13th 2010

Posted under American history & happy endings & jobs & local news & publication

Yeah, babies–I got my first royalty check from my publisher for Abraham in Arms.  (For a while there, I was just getting statements because of the advance on royalties I got years ago when I signed the contract.)   When Fratguy opened the mail and said I got a royalty check, I thought he was joking, because the last statement I remember suggested that I would get royalties in the year 20-notinmylifetime. 

This royalty check won’t change my life–it won’t make up for two years of no raises and no merit pay–but it’s a non-trivial amount of money.  it could buy me a very nice pair of shoes (that is, much more expensive than I ordinarily buy), or it could cover dinner for two, including wine and the works.  (It won’t cover the a$$-kicking cowgirl boots I bought last week, however. . . )

So now I have just one question: 

Continue Reading »


November 11th 2010
“America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” will extend tax cuts for the rich

Posted under American history & bad language & unhappy endings & wankers


White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts.”  (Via TalkLeft.)  But, I guess this is what we get because Democrats fell for a marketing campaign instead of someone with a resume and forty years of experience.  Top White House adviser David Axelrod:

“We don’t want that tax increase to go forward for the middle class,” he said, which means the administration will have to accept them all for some unspecified period of time. “But plainly, what we can’t do is permanently extend these high income taxes.”

In other words, the White House won’t risk being blamed for raising taxes on the middle class even though, arguably, it is the GOP’s refusal to separate the categories that has put Obama in this bind. The only condition, at least initially, seems to be that the tax cuts for the wealthy not be extended “permanently.”

A student of history and a onetime political reporter, Axelrod expressed curiosity and even some optimism about the tea party, suggesting that Obama could work with them on matters such as a ban on spending earmarks and on winding down the war in Afghanistan.

If so, Obama would turn the Clinton-era triangulation strategy on its head, reaching out not to the moderates in the other party but to the new breed of conservatives who could bring the ideological arc of Congress full circle.

Letting tax cuts expire is now–in the mouth of an alleged Democrat–a “tax increase” or instituting “high income taxes?”  As Big Tent Democrat said, “This is, of course, insane. The Obama White House seems to have lost its mind. At this rate, unless the GOP nominates Palin, Obama may very well be a one term President.” Continue Reading »


November 10th 2010
Patriarchal equilibrium: we’re doin’ it rite!

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

Check out this story from Inside Higher Ed about the effects of gendered language in letters of recommendation submitted for applicants to faculty positions:

You are reading a letter of recommendation that praises a candidate for a faculty job as being “caring,” “sensitive,” “compassionate,” or a “supportive colleague.” Whom do you picture?

New research suggests that to faculty search committees, such words probably conjure up a woman — and probably a candidate who doesn’t get the job. The scholars who conducted the research believe they may have pinpointed one reason for the “leaky pipeline” that frustrates so many academics, who see that the percentage of women in senior faculty jobs continues to lag the percentage of those in junior positions and that the share in junior positions continues to lag those earning doctorates.

The research is based on a content analysis of 624 letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at an unidentified research university. The study found patterns in which different kinds of words were more likely to be used to describe women, while other words were more often used to describe men. Continue Reading »


November 9th 2010
Futoriann presents fashions and news headlines of futures past

Posted under American history & art & the body & weirdness & women's history

This Pathetone Weekly newsreel is a late 1930s look at what “Eve, 2000 A.D.” will be wearing:

I’m really struck by how accurate the predictions are–not the actual look of the clothing, but the general outlines of the fashion priorities of early 21st century people:  in a world in which denim is worn for evening wear and velvet and satin are worn in the daytime, women’s wear does in fact move seamlessly from day to night (with a little accessorizing, always).  The dress of transparent net highlighting trim that looks like the foundation garments is very Madonna-esque, ca. 1987, and the “cantilevered” heels are nearly identical to shoe styles I’ve seen all over the place in the past decade.  The menswear look is of course spot on with the phone, the “radio” (a.k.a. i-Pod), and the slouchy leisure wear pioneered in the late 1980s by M.C. Hammer.

Speaking of uncanny futorian (the opposite of historian) skillz:  Continue Reading »


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