Archive for August, 2011

August 18th 2011
White women’s political work: still impulsive, never strategic

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


One feature of Ryan Lizza’s very good intellectual biography of Michele Bachmann from The New Yorker last week contains this curious explanation of her development as a politician:

For many years, Bachmann has said that she showed up at the convention on a whim and nominated herself at the urging of some friends. She was, she suggests, an accidental candidate. This version of history has become central to her political biography and is repeated in most profiles of her. A 2009 column by George F. Will, for example, says that “on the spur of the moment” some Bachmann allies suggested nominating her.

But she already had a long history of political activism—the Carter and Reagan campaigns, her anti-abortion and education activism, her school-board race—and she had been targeting [former Minnesota State Senator Gary] Laidig for a year.According to an article in the Stillwater Gazette,on October 6, 1999, Bachmann was talking about running against Laidig months before she went to the convention. “I tried to present information to Senator Laidig on Profile of Learning, he was not interested,” she said. “And I told him that if he’s not willing to be more responsive to the citizens, that I may have to run for his seat.” She told the St. Paul Pioneer Pressthat she had decided to run against Laidig a year earlier.

Once again, we have white women’s political activism cast as a “whim” or “spur of the moment” decision, rather than the result of careful planning and strategic thinking:  “Oh my heck, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout politics!  I just care so deeply about the children that I had to get involved!”  Very cannily, Bachmann’s signature issue in Minnesota state politics was activism on behalf of home schoolers and charter schools–in other words, as a concerned mother.  She is smart to rewrite her biography this way, and I’m sure Will grasps that it just wouldn’t do to have a female presidential candidate who looked at all ambitious, or even scheming–even though she threatened Laidig with a primary several times:  According to Lizza, “Laidig defended the education laws in the State Senate, which made him a target for Bachmann. “Michele came to me on several occasions and to my face said, ‘If you don’t vote to get rid of School to Work and Profiles, I will run against you,’ ” he said.”

Not very ladylike!  Continue Reading »


August 17th 2011
Grad students of color and white faculty FAIL

Posted under Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students

Via Inside Higher Ed, Karen Kelsky at The Professor Is In has a riveting post about the challenges facing graduate students of color and in overwhelmingly white departments, which is to say, the vast majority of academic departments in any discipline you can think of in the United States and Canada.  She’s been affiliated with three public research university Anthropology departments, and she details the ways in which the faculty in two of the three failed to respond effectively to the questions that graduate students of color posed to them, their discipline, and to their way of conducting business. 

The whole thing is worth a considered read, especially if you serve as a professor or advisor of graduate students and/or if you’re interested in dysfunctional departmental dynamics.  (Like most of us, she’s like a neurologist:  more certain on the diagnosis than on ideas towards a cure.)  While it won’t be a surprise to any nonwhite readers, perhaps some white readers will be taken aback by her frankness in discussing white privilege among so-called “white allies:”

Here’s what I want to say. I learned through these interactions that the vast majority of white people in the academy are absolutely clueless when it comes to race. Not race as some abstract category of analysis “out there,” but race as it is manifested daily in their/our own subject position and actions.

One archaeology colleague remarked to me at a cocktail party, . . . “Too bad for you cultural anthropologists. You should be like us in archaeology. We don’t have any race problems. Because all of our students are white!” I gamely tried to explain to this colleague that the absence of students of color in her program was actually a more profound sign of a “race problem” than any visible conflict could be, but she was unmoveable. Continue Reading »


August 14th 2011
Lecture capture: this year’s moonbeam and sparklepony technology?

Posted under American history & art & jobs & students & technoskepticism

Artwork by Stefani Rossi and Chloe Leisure

Over at The Clutter Museum, Leslie M-B has a great analysis of the moonbeams and sparkleponies of something called “lecture capture.”  What is “lecture capture?”  It sounds like a digital recording of a professor’s lectures that has all of the pitfalls and no advantages beyond old-fashioned video taping, except that the “product” can be posted on proprietary software.  It doesn’t take a technoskeptic like myself to see “lecture capture” as “intellectual capital capture” that can contribute mightily to the further adjunctification of our profession and the dumbing-down of public higher education.  Leslie explains:

This past week I received an e-mail alerting me that, because I teach in a particular classroom, I can have access to lecture capture this fall.  The e-mail, from the campus’s tech folks, reported that of students with access to this technology, 70 percent watched at least one capture per week, and 78 percent of students said they would like more classes to use lecture capture.  The lectures get posted to iTunesU and also to Blackboard (emphasis Historiann’s here.)

Those of you who know me well know that I have been an evangelist for the use of certain kinds of technology in higher ed–particularly blogs, wikis, c0llaborative mapping, and certain uses of mobile devices–but I’m deeply uneasy with lecture capture technology because I think it’s a step backward from the best uses of technology for instruction.

Lecturing and lecture capture are by their nature unidirectional. Yes, both lecturing and lecture capture could be made interactive–lecturing by peppering the class period with questions and activities, and lecture capture by adding some kind of commenting or discussion function wherever the audio and video are posted.  I have yet to see anyone use institutionally sponsored lecture capture in this way.

The lectures can be shared most easily within corporate repositories–Blackboard and iTunesU–rather than to open-source, not-for-profit educational repositories.  Yes, iTunesU has some fabulous stuff on it, but I’m not ready to share there.

It’s also too easy for the university to repurpose content in online courses that could be adjunctified. I’m not sure what the policy is at my current institution, but I signed away a lot of intellectual property rights at my last one.  In an age where people seem to think that education is just a matter of “delivering content” that translates into mad workplace skillz, I’m uneasy about providing the university with any multimedia content that could be aggregated into a enormous-enrollment course taught by a grossly underpaid and underinsured Ph.D.

Just go read the whole thing.  (I would just reprint it all here if it weren’t for my pesky respect for Leslie’s intellectual capital, my disinterest in “capturing” it for my own profit, and for Fair Use doctrine.)  In particular, instructors considering a flirtation with Satan Hirself should read this part: Continue Reading »


August 13th 2011
Hey, good lookin’

Posted under American history & art & fluff

What’cha got cookin’?

Is anyone else struck by his resemblance to this guy, back in the day? Weird.  I must have Texas on the brain.

Speaking of looks: Continue Reading »


August 12th 2011
Michele Bachmann: submission for thee but not for me?

Posted under American history & Gender & wankers & women's history

It is so easy to find a flattering photo of Michele Bachmann!

Over at RealClearPolitics, there’s video from last night’s Republican debate in which she is asked by a debate moderator, “as President, would you be submissive to your husband?”  Now, this was not a question out of the blue–when she was running for congress in 2006, she made a comment on the record that she only studied tax law because her husband told her to, and that she found the strength to do this by reviewing her biblical principles, explaining that “the Lord said, be submissive.  Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.”  Here’s her answer, in which she sidesteps the question entirely by giving a completely implausible definition of “submission” as the equivalent of “respect:”

“Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this Sept. 10,” she responded. “I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him, and both he and I — what submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful godly man and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other, and I’ve been so grateful that we’ve been able to build a home together. We have five wonderful children, and 23 foster children. We built a business together and a life together, and I’m very proud of him.”

Now, that’s a fine definition of a companionate marriage, the kind of marriage that most Americans believe in.  It’s not at all a definition of wifely submission.  There is in fact a large evangelical literature out there by both women and men that defines wifely submission as something totally different from respect, let alone an egalitarian marriage, but I’m sure that Bachmann is right to be confident that the secular media won’t bother to do their research and the Christian media will give her a free pass on this one. 

Interestingly, if you go to the video, there’s a strong chorus of jeers and boos after the moderator asked this question–as though it were an inappropriate question.  I don’t think it’s at all inappropriate to ask her this, because presidential candidates have had to answer questions about the nature of their loyalties throughout history.  John F. Kennedy famously delivered a speech in Texas in which he explained that American Catholics do not in fact get their orders in the mail from the Pope.  I’m quite certain that the first viable Jewish presidential candidate will be drilled on hir loyalty and ties to Israel.  And of course, right wingers have made a cottage industry about President Obama’s Kenyan father and his supposed (in the words of another presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich) “Kenyan, anti-colonial mindset.” 

Is it necessarily a sexist line of questioning or an unfair standard applied only to conservative women?  I don’t see it that way.  Continue Reading »


August 11th 2011
Surname follow-up: Flavia crunches the numbers and says “wev.”

Posted under Gender & happy endings & women's history

Run, don’t walk, over to Flavia’s place to read about the data-crunching she’s done on surnames of married women whose wedding announcements appeared this summer in the New York Times:

So this weekend, my dears, I decided to do some valuable procrastination in the service of collecting cold hard marriage data. I skimmed the 500 most recent NYT wedding announcements, from May 1st until yesterday, and recorded how many women in heterosexual partnerships kept their last names, took their husbands’, or did something in between. I also recorded their ages.

.       .       .       .      .       .      

[A]rmed with a primitive spreadsheet, I decided to investigate. I can break the numbers down in detail in the comments if anyone cares, but the short version is this: of 450 heterosexual marriage announcements, 75% clearly indicated whether the bride was changing or keeping her name. Of that number, 30% kept their birth name outright, with an additional 10% “continu[ing] to use [their] name professionally”; hyphenating their last names with their husbands’; forming a new shared surname; or indicating that they would be using their maiden name as a middle name, à la Hillary Rodham Clinton. The remaining 60% took their husbands’ names.

Moreover, from this sample, there is not a strong correlation between the age of the bride and her decision to keep or change her name. Women who got married at age 26 and younger showed almost exactly the same 40/60 split as the data set as a whole. Continue Reading »


August 9th 2011
Tips for toads: no one votes for smartypants

Posted under American history & bad language & class & Gender & race & weirdness

Both the enemies of Republican presidential candidates and the enemies of Democratic presidential candidates are indulging in yet another predictable, pointless food fight about intelligence:  who haz it?  Who don’t?  And why do we care about college transcripts from 40 years ago?

First of all, let me be among the first to confess that I was a smug smartypants back in 1999-2000 who just couldn’t believe that anyone with a C-average had the chutzpah to run for President of the United States in the first place, let alone that anyone else would vote for him.  Was my face red–for the next eight years!  Much to my surprise, I discovered that in the end, the smug disapproval of college professors didn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to political opinion in this country.  My bad!

Well, liberals as well as some conservatives are getting in on the action this time around.  First, Tenured Radical alerted me to the leaked Texas A&M transcripts of Texas Governor Rick Perry.  I completely agree with her that college grades are a foolish thing to prattle on about, especially considering that most Americans haven’t gone to college at all.  (It’s almost as clueless and pointless as noting that a candidate used the wrong fork for the salad course, or that he doesn’t know how to tie his own bow ties.  Maybe so, but the complainer looks and sounds like an insufferable snob.)  Then I read an article by Bret Stephens that suggested that President Obama is perhaps kind of dim because he keeps insisting that his policies are working when plainly they haven’t.  I don’t agree with the author that Obama is “stupid,” but I think it’s fair to wonder what’s up with a presidency whose main policy objective seems to be full employment only for Tim Geithner and friends.  Continue Reading »


August 4th 2011
Matt Damon goes all Good Will Hunting on some glibertarians

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & students

Enjoy! (Via Blue Jersey): UPDATED BELOW, later Thursday morning.

Love it. Damon has always struck me as significantly brighter than your usual big-time actor. Of course, this clip recalls this scene in Good Will Hunting when Damon’s character totally faces the Harvard jerkoff. Apparently MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell picked this up and ranted about it, and Reason responded with their usual complaint that “we’re not right wingers, because legalize pot and fight police brutality, how dare you!”

(Confidential to Reason magazine: Continue Reading »


August 3rd 2011
Watching our languages

Posted under jobs & students

U iz a persn of lettrs?

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who’s going to become the Graduate Studies Chair of his interdisciplinary humanities department (bless his heart!), and we talked about his plan to introduce a foreign language requirement for their Ph.D. students.  I expressed shock that his department didn’t already have one, which is why I guess he wants to implement one.  He doesn’t know how the rest of the faculty will react to his ideas, and he confessed that his plan might go nowhere.

We talked about the tragic irony of universities cutting foreign-language departments while simultaneously encouraging the faculty to “globalize” the curriculum, collaborate with international researchers, and admit more non-U.S. students to our programs.  (I guess it’s the privilege of the Empire to insist that its language is the new lingua franca, but it sure seems obnoxious and anti-intellectual to me.)  I had to learn two other languages at least to the functional reading level in order to earn my Ph.D., and never thought that I’d need them for my research.  But then, my research crossed the border into Quebec, and I surely was glad that I had at least some rudimentary French language skills.  Continue Reading »


August 2nd 2011
At home on the range

Posted under American history & local news

A friend and her husband invited me out to go shooting at a local range.  My friend–I’ll call her Calamity Jane–is a blog reader, and she sees our gun politics as very different.  With the exception of concealed carry permits, I don’t think they’re all that different–I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns unless they’re clearly mentally disturbed.  But her family owns guns, and mine doesn’t and probably never will.  Since this is Colorado–a place where Marxist feminist college professors as well as right-wingers enjoy their guns–I figured that after ten years here, it was about time for me to go shoot up a canyon.  Until last Tuesday afternoon, I had never even touched let alone fired a gun in my life. Continue Reading »


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