Archive for April, 2011

April 15th 2011
Seminal developments: entitled sexist a$$holes divide surgeons’ group

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & the body & wankers & weirdness & women's history

This would actually be a pretty funny story for The Onion, if it weren’t in fact true (h/t to my horrified physician friend KV):

A Valentine’s Day editorial in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons has set off a firestorm of controversy that has divided the largest professional organization of surgeons in the country and raised questions about the current leadership and its attitudes toward women and gay and lesbian members.

The editorial, written by Dr. Lazar J. Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, extols the mood-enhancing effects of semen on women. It begins with a reference to the mating behaviors of fruit flies, then goes on to discuss studies on the menstrual cycles of heterosexual and lesbian women who live together. Citing the research of evolutionary psychologists at the State University of New York, it describes how female college students who had been exposed to semen were less depressed than their peers who had not, concluding: “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

The organization has more than 75,000 members (I am one). Roughly 10 percent are women. There are five women on the organization’s 22-member governing board; this month, they issued a letter requesting that Dr. Greenfield step down as president-elect. The entire board is set to vote on the issue on Sunday.

Seriously.  Re-read those paragraphs again.  Especially the part about how this was published in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons.  And click on the link, too, to be informed by the headline “Sexism charges divide surgeons’ group.”  That’s right:  sexism charges are dividing the group, not the disgusting sexist behavior itself. Continue Reading »


April 15th 2011
Big news from Williamsburg!

Posted under American history & Dolls & jobs

How many times have you seen that in a headline in this century? 

First of all, there’s a Visiting Assistant Professor position in early American history for academic year 2011-12 “with the possibility of renewal.”  The job carries a 2-3 course load and a wonderful community of other early Americanist faculty and graduate students.  One year in Williamsburg seems just about right.  (It reminds me of that old W.C. Fields joke:  “First Prize, one week in Philadelphia!  Second Prize, two weeks in Philadelphia!”)

Secondly, we see that the deadline is nigh for short-term fellowships from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for projects that are closely related to the collections of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, “with its distinguished collection of primary and secondary sources relating to eighteenth-century Williamsburg, the colonial Chesapeake, African American studies, decorative arts and material culture through 1830, archaeology, architectural history, digital history, and historic preservation. An important component of the work of the Foundation’s Division of Research and Historical Interpretation, Rockefeller Library fellowships primarily support research on topics related to British America, the American Revolution, and the Early Republic.”  Continue Reading »


April 14th 2011
Newsflash: Excellence Costs Money!

Posted under American history & class & jobs & students

So says Sarah Lawrence College President Karen Lawrence about her college’s rating as the most expensive in the U.S.:

That’s partly because over 90 percent of all Sarah Lawrence classes are small seminars (with an average of 11 students) and every seminar includes a “conference” component in which each student designs an independent project and meets biweekly with the professor to confer on progress. This is essentially a tutorial in the Oxford-Cambridge tradition. Also in that tradition, we assign each student a don, a full-time faculty member who serves as his or her adviser, mentor, and intellectual guide. Donning is necessary because Sarah Lawrence students are accountable for designing their own education in a curriculum with concentrations instead of majors, so the don’s expertise and individual knowledge of each student is consequently invaluable in helping chart the best possible academic course.

Like much at Sarah Lawrence, donning may be difficult to justify on a purely economic basis, as is our refusal to use graduate students as teaching assistants or our insistence on providing extensive written evaluations of each student in each course in addition to grades. But we maintain these standards because we believe the customized, “handcrafted” education we provide helps ensure that each student achieves his or her greatest potential. And like anything handcrafted, it is significantly more cost-intensive, and thus more costly, than what’s produced on an assembly line. Continue Reading »


April 12th 2011
A thrilling apotheosis of the multi-millennia struggle against douchehounds

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

Today I give you Richard Cohen’s frustrations with Barack Obama’s Post-Partisan Unity Schtick:

The trouble with this non-doctrine doctrine is that it lacks poetry. It is up to the president as leader to provide that poetry. He has to make us connect his values to our own. Obama could do that in the presidential campaign because he was the thrilling apotheosis of the multi-century struggle against racism. You could not vote for Obama and not have felt that somehow you had fired a shot in the Civil War or ridden a freedom bus into the Jim Crow South. That was a revolution, just as grand as this year’s in Egypt — and it will, for sure, end better.

Yes, that’s right:  voting for Obama was the functional equivalent of serving in the Civil War, being a freedom rider, or risking imprisonment, beatings, and rape for standing up to the Mubarak regime this year.  That’s funny–it didn’t seem all that dangerous or dramatic down at the Lutheran church fellowship hall where I waited in line to cast my ballot back in 2008.  And I’m sure it’s just a complete accident that Cohen dreams that his vote is the equivalent of doing very tough, d00dly things like going to war or confronting violent regimes.

It’s almost too easy  to point out how hopelessly fatuous this is.  What I find more worthy of note is what a striking contrast Cohen’s fantasy offers to the fantasies that many so-called liberal white men harbored about Hillary Clinton in 2007-08.  Continue Reading »


April 12th 2011
Alienation and anomie about a job

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs

It tolls for thee!

Associate Professor Angela writes:

Do you ever wake up in the morning 100% ready to quit your job?  Not to look for another job, but just to walk the hell away?

That was me, at 7 a.m. today.  Do you have any advice on navigating mid-career?

If you post this on your blog, I’m quite sure that some responses will be along the lines of “Hey, I’m a grad student/adjunct/non-academic, and I’d be *happy* to have your problems.  Boo-f^(king-hoo.”  There’s some justification there, to be sure.  But, as I said to recently to a former mentor, I try to be grateful that I have a job.  I’d hate to be on the market in these times.  But “I’m not unemployed” seems like I’m setting the bar too low.  It’s like evaluating someone you’re dating by saying “Well, he’s never been in prison.”

Heh.  I’ve never felt like resigning, but I can relate, Angela.  I was close to where this correspondent is about a year ago, but the advice I got from you readers was really helpful.  In short, in the comments on my post about my mid-career slump, many of you told me to Continue Reading »


April 11th 2011
Monday movies: Paddle to the Sea

Posted under American history & art & childhood & Dolls & happy endings & O Canada & students

All of this talk about elementary school makes me remember one of my favorite movies from my school days: Paddle to the Sea (1966). We saw this annually in Great Lakes country where I grew up. And of course, it stars a doll–Kyle Apatagon’s clever creation, “Paddle to the Sea.”

Do you know this movie, or does it stir a distant memory? I find it mesmerizing still–it’s a glimpse of an experience that’s something new for most urban or suburban children. If you have young children in your life please share this movie with them.


April 10th 2011
American slavery in the elementary school classroom

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & race & students & unhappy endings

I’ve been visiting a second-grade classroom this year and talking to the students about early American history.  Back around Thanksgiving time, I gave a talk about Pilgrims and Wampanoags–that was pretty easy for elementary school consumption.  I put together a bunch of PowerPoint slides sixteenth and seventeenth-century drawings and photographs of the re-enactors at Plimoth Plantation, and I invited them to tell me about the similarities and differences they saw between English and Indian material culture:  housing, clothing, and food.  My talk in February was more difficult, because I talked to them about slavery in American history.

First, I drew a timeline from 1600 to 2011 on the board, and showed them exactly how long Africans and African Americans lived in slavery in Anglo-American and U.S. American history (1619-1865).  I drew another line to show the years of segregation and Jim Crow (1865-1964).  That pretty well covered the whole timeline, which was impressive and quite literally jaw-dropping information for them to take in.  Then, I read them a wonderful picture book that illustrates the institution of slavery in terrifying terms that children can understand immediately:  the theft of children from parents.  Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is based on the true story of Henry “Box” Brown and his self-emancipation from slavery in 1849.

I was unprepared for the question-and-answer session afterward, when the students really wanted to know why.  Continue Reading »


April 8th 2011
NYC School Chancellor with no experience $hitcanned after 95 days

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & students & unhappy endings

No kidding. I’m just shocked that someone with no experience whatsoever in education was incapable of effective leadership of one of the largest public school systems in the country!  At least Cathleen Black was on the job for mere months and not years.

Clearly, education is far too important to be left to the educators. Continue Reading »


April 6th 2011
Wednesday round-up: How-to edition

Posted under American history & art & bad language & book reviews & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & students & women's history

Howdy, friends.  I’ve got lots of readin’ and writin’ for my day job to get done today, but fortunately there are other paths to enlightenment on the world-wide non peer-reviewed internets:


April 5th 2011
Tuesday Tunes

Posted under American history & art & happy endings

Chet Baker, “Look for the Silver Lining:”

Happy Tunesday! I’m looking forward to a big event locally, Continue Reading »


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